A Research Subject that I know only as a commonsense layperson

I had a long discussion with my neighbor yesterday, a 40 year NRA member.  I realized that we had a great deal in common regarding gun regulations.  He is sick of watching innocent people die in random acts of violence.  I agree and think that we may have crossed a tipping point in which people realize that our current trajectory does not lead any of us to the society that we idealize.

The Gun Supporters Cartoon

Later that day, I saw a Facebook note with a poster showing 25 Good Guys on one side and an equal number of Bad Guys on the other side.  Both sides had guns.  The second picture showed good guys with no guns and bad guys with guns.  The third caption said, “What part of gun control don’t you understand”.  The implication and clear message for decades has been that the criminals are going to break the law anyway, so we must defend ourselves.

What I realized is that the pictures show one of the ways that the two sides of gun control continue to talk past each other.

A More Accurate (Yet Still Cartoon) Version of Our Society

What sensible gun control advocates desire is not to eliminate all guns, to stop hunting and target shooting, or to make everyone defenseless.  But let me paint a different picture from the one above.  First, let’s not make the good guys and bad guys equal in number.  I truly don’t think that this is the society we live in.  What should it be 2 to 1, 10 to 1, 100 to 1?  Let’s say 4 good guys for every bad guy, which seems absurdly low to me.  At this point, everyone still has their gun.  Now we have 25 bad guys with guns and 100 good guys with guns.  But this still isn’t a fair picture of society.  Let’s add in the “innocents” – maybe we just want to include kids in this category.  Roughly 25% of our society in the US is under 18.  So let’s add 25 kids with no guns to the “Good” side of the picture.  This seems to be a closer view of our society than the original poster.

A Reasonable Starting Vision of Gun Control

Now, let’s start with our poster with 125 good folks on one side (100 with guns) and 25 bad guys on the other side (also with guns).  Let’s say that there are some restrictions put in place.  At this point I won’t enter the debate on what this should be – maybe something with assault rifles, automatics, large-capacity clips, whatever.  Let’s assume at minimum that people will be able to keep their hunting stock, sport-shooting guns, etc.  But let’s say that this reduces levels of gun ownership hugely, say 50%, which I don’t think anyone is actually discussing.  Now the good guys have 50 guns.  The bad guys ignore the rules, but maybe it’s a little harder for them.  Instead of 50% reductions, there is a 5% reduction.  The bad guys only lose 1 gun.  Clearly, the original vision of the gun supporters is untenable.  “Good Guys” still outnumber the bad guys.  And this doesn’t count law enforcement officials at all at this point.

Does this Achieve Anything?

This isn’t my area of expertise, and I’ve done no research beyond reading the papers occasionally.  However, it doesn’t seem to make the bad guys more powerful – the leading argument from the NRA, from Charlie Daniels “Take ‘em away from the criminals first, and I’ll gladly give you mine”, and others.

But what else does it do?  If the statistics are correct, accidental fatalities are 4-5 times higher in homes with guns.  Just removing some of these weapons actually helps.  Regarding those concerned with preserving the 2nd Amendment, I pulled a citation from an article by Gregg Easterbrook, a columnist for a number of publications and no left-winger “The Second Amendment creates an individual right of gun ownership, including an individual right of lawful handgun ownership, but also stipulates that gun ownership be “well-regulated.”  Note, this is a Supreme Court decision by a conservative court.  I agree with my neighbor, we should be able to have sensible gun control in place without fearing that our government is going to convert to a totalitarian state.   Concerns for a Mao-type communist take-over or a Nazi-style fascist state seem to warrant ridicule in their absurdity.

There are a number of other points from both sides that I don’t raise here.  The only comments that I wanted to raise are that:  1) it seems simple to take action here that will protect our kids without leading to a loss of all guns and 2) the argument about leaving innocents everywhere defenseless to a massive criminal onslaught doesn’t hold water.  Finally, I’ll freely admit that this isn’t my area of research or expertise, but let’s not pretend that most of what we hear and read in the media, on Facebook, or written online in general is either.

I hope that I don’t lose any friends or relatives because of this…

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One response to this post.

  1. Posted by Sharon Meachum on January 2, 2013 at 6:17 pm

    This should go viral!

    On Wed, Jan 2, 2013 at 4:34 PM, michaelscho

    Reply

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