Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Gun Logic Part 5 - You Can't Control Guns, So Don't

People who like guns say the U.S. shouldn't enact stronger gun control laws because the weak gun control laws that we have don't work. The basic premise, that gun control laws don't work, is questionable. Our experience with gun laws indicates just the opposite. In states where people aren't allowed to carry concealed weapons, hardly anyone does. In states that barely control guns at all, lots of people have guns, and lots of people get shot. When there was a ban on assault weapons, hardly any such weapons were in circulation. As soon as the ban was lifted, gun dealers reported that they sold large numbers of the weapons.

Obviously gun lovers know that gun control laws can work. If gun lovers really thought that gun control laws didn't work they wouldn't care if we passed all the laws we could think of, because they would still be able to get and carry all the weapons they wanted.

Gun lovers argue that gun control laws only keep law abiding citizens from getting guns. That wasn't the case with the assault weapon ban. It kept just about everyone from getting the guns. Sure, a few of the banned weapons slipped through the cracks. No law is perfectly enforced. But we haven't gotten rid of stop signs just because some drivers don't always stop at them. Instead, we try to educate people about the importance of obeying the law, and we step up enforcement when we see that there is a problem.

The gun lovers also oppose gun laws because they believe that every such law is simply a step towards totally banning all guns. Because of this opposition, laws that would prevent accidental shootings of children by requiring safe storage of guns have been blocked, laws that would reduce the number of impulsive shootings by requiring waiting periods for buying guns have been blocked, and laws that would prevent defective guns from unintentionally discharging have been blocked. In their zeal to stymie laws that would make guns more safe, gun lobbyists have put their own lives and their family's lives at risk.

From a political viewpoint, the gun lobby's strategy has been to force gun safety advocates to work for every advance, and then, when the public's furor over some shooting tragedy has died down, to try to repeal whatever gun control laws got passed and make the gun control side work for that same law all over again. It is the equivalent of forcing an enemy to keep fighting for control of a hill. It exhausts and discourages the opposition and results in a stalemate where neither side wins. In the context of the gun control debate, this war of attrition has resulted in maintenance of the status quo, which means almost no control over guns.

The argument that gun laws don't work is directly contrary not just to the concept that the government should strive to make laws that represent the will of the people and further their general welfare, it is a rejection of the whole idea of work. “If at first you don't succeed, try, try again” is replaced by “Give up, don't bother, what's the use?”

The most peculiar argument that the gun lovers make is that we don't need more gun laws, we just need to punish people who use guns to commit crimes. They assert that tough sentencing will discourage people from using guns to commit crimes. Isn't that pretty much admitting that gun control can work?

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