Gun Safety vs. Gun Control

Nicholas Kristof has an excellent piece in The New York Times on what he calls “inconvenient facts” surrounding gun violence and gun laws. These include:

  • “The number of guns in America has increased by more than 50 percent since 1993, and in that same period the gun homicide rate in the United States has dropped by half.”
  • “A 113-page study found no clear indication that [the assault rifle ban] reduced shooting deaths for the 10 years it was in effect.”
  • Overblown fears regarding open-carry and conceal-carry laws.
  • “One poll found that 74 percent even of N.R.A. members favor universal background checks to acquire a gun.”
  • “New York passed a law three years ago banning gun magazines holding more than seven bullets — without realizing that for most guns there is no such thing as a magazine for seven bullets or less.”
  • “Some public health approaches to reducing gun violence have nothing to do with guns. Researchers find that a nonprofit called Cure Violence, which works with gangs, curbs gun deaths. An initiative called Fast Track supports high-risk children and reduces delinquency and adult crime.”[ref]This may be particularly important given that, statistically speaking, gun violence is experienced differently depending on race.[/ref]

Kristof concludes, “In short, let’s get smarter. Let’s make America’s gun battles less ideological and more driven by evidence of what works. If the left can drop the sanctimony, and the right can drop the obstructionism, if instead of wrestling with each other we can grapple with the evidence, we can save thousands of lives a year.”

Give it a read. And then give Nathaniel’s piece on the subject another read.


3 thoughts on “Gun Safety vs. Gun Control”

  1. The article was actually very well written. I felt it was at least more balanced than almost every other article that talks about the problems involving gun violence and it also tossed in some really good information. The links are important as so many articles spout numbers but don’t provide any reference as to where they came from. The fact that he points out specifically that the number on deaths from guns “… includes suicides, murders and accidents,…” in many cases they do not, which is misleading.

    Sadly, the writer still falls into some of the anti-gun tropes that abound and are assumptions not based in reasoning. For example, “New Harvard research confirms a long-ago finding that 40 percent of firearms in the United States are acquired without a background check. That’s crazy. Why empower criminals to arm themselves?”

    Now, to be fair I’m not refuting the number from the research. What I am refuting is the assumption that all of those acquired without a background check are criminal interactions. I can assure you that is not the case, though I would definitely agree that is one of the main methods of acquiring a gun that criminals use. Private sale of guns is legal. Knowingly selling a gun to a prohibited person is illegal. Acquiring a gun when you are a prohibited person is illegal.

    Of the fire arms I have sold, all 3 of them were sold without a background check. At the same time all 3 of the buyers were conceal carry permit holders, and one of the three is an NRA certified instructor. To obtain a conceal carry permit in my state requires a background check. Now, not everyone is going to follow the law, and I realize that.

    Thus comes the whole ‘universal background check’. There’s a problem with that though. First the reference given above “One poll found that 74 percent even of N.R.A. members favor universal background checks to acquire a gun.”

    I found the article that provides that information:

    “As noted in a January 2013 fact check by our colleagues in Washington, Republican pollster Frank Luntz’s organization, Luntz Global, conducted a May 2012 poll of 945 gun owners nationwide, half of whom were gun owners who were “current or lapsed” members of the National Rifle Association and half of whom were non-NRA gun owners. It had a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.”

    Further on in the article:
    “That poll found that 82 percent of gun owners were in favor of required background checks, including 74 percent of individuals with current or former memberships in the NRA.”

    The problem I have is that many, even among gun owners the proper understanding of ‘universal background checks’ isn’t very high. While background checks can prevent existing prohibited persons from acquiring a gun, they do nothing for future intentions and there for even if ‘universal’ will not stop crazies who haven’t done anything wrong or been flagged for anything.

    Second, ‘universal’ means regulation of private sales even within states, which is federally prohibited by the Constitution. Along with that, the only way to regulate private sale is universal registration. This means there will be a list of every single reported gun, but it won’t include any not reported and it certainly won’t include any that come into the US illegally. Again, we’re at a ‘not really going to help’ point.

    It also mentions barring people who have a restraining order. The only problem I have with this is that once you’re on the list, it’s costly and near impossible to get off that list. I admit fully that in many cases this is actually a good thing, however we should not be treating someone who is on there temporarily as if they are a lifetime member of the ‘no guns’ party.

    I agree that we absolutely should look more into what the evidence shows works. The problem so far is simple, the admission and evidence that gun control has served to have no significant impact for the last 20 years on reducing gun violence, so why would we add more gun control? Our initiatives should focus on groups working towards reducing violence in other areas which does have evidence of working. The ‘obstructionism’ that is being pushed from pro-gun people is there because we have already compromised, time after time after time.

    Can we work together? Absolutely. Want more gun control? You’re going to have to provide evidence that what you propose works. Otherwise we can go back to obstructionism because compromise isn’t what is being sought when you have no evidence that what you want works.

  2. The only thing I can add to this discussion is to say that if you are a gun enthusiast and gun advocate, and you don’t think there’s a public health issue around gun violence in the U.S., you’re part of the problem. I’m not saying that anyone participating in this discussion falls into that category, but I know many people who do–both those hyped by the media and those who are not. At minimum we should fund the study of gun violence in America, but we can’t even get Congress to do that.

  3. I agree there is one, especially when the CDC numbers from 2013 show over 21,000 death by suicide using a gun, added to the murders. There is a health problem, though I think the Congress thing is misleading. Congress won’t fund a study, but there have been studies.

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