How to fix the “gun issue” and why it won’t work
I recently read/listened to two excellent pieces that opened my eyes on the issues surrounding guns. Like many, I was an emotional wreck after the killings in Newton, CT. I am eager to act. Eager to make a change that will make America a safer place for everyone. Even setting aside partisan politics, it looks like the gun issue is more intractable than one would think.
Securing Guns – Gun Control That Could Work
A recent Wall Street Journal article does an excellent job at explaining “gun culture” to those that don’t have guns. Even though I carried various firearms as a soldier I’ve never owned a gun. The article goes on to make some reasonable suggestions on how America could actually improve the situation in ways that gun owners ought to support. The basis of the argument – guns used by young adults aren’t obtained at gun shows or gun stores. Young adults often get guns that are not well secured by adults. Mandating guns be locked and stored separate from ammunition would keep them safe from kids. In fact, 27 states already have such laws on the books. Many/most gun owners are already painstaking careful with their guns and keep their guns safe. Gun owners should accept, perhaps begrudgingly, laws that require safe gun storage. They’re certainly less invasive than other legislation being considered such as a ban on assault rifles.
Not storing guns safely needs to become socially unacceptable in the same way as smoking in another persons house and making lewd comments in public are. Legislature requiring safe storage is both achievable and provides meaningful results by keeping them away from troubled youngsters.
Which brings me to my second point. It won’t work.
The “Gun Problem” Is Intractable
When we step away from the partisan rhetoric and take a practical view of an economist, we see that the “gun problem” won’t be solved and in fact we’re better off spending our efforts on issues where we can make progress.
Some points from Steve Levitt, co-author of Freakonomics:
- When considering the number of guns in America, it’s surprising there aren’t more gun related deaths.
- Guns are non-perishable. If you’re not willing to take away the millions of guns away from Americans, you’re left with passing legislation on new guns only. This obviously does nothing for the hundreds of millions of guns already in America. Therefore little change can be made.
- Efforts to date, such as gun buy back programs do little to make communities more safe.
- Guns are not a deterrent to violence (as gun owners suggest).
- The minimalist gun control policies being considered will not have a significant impact on the issue of gun violence.
Levitt suggests that our efforts are better spent on opportunities where we can make measurable improvement. Like swimming pools. A swimming pool is 100 times more likely to kill a child than a gun.
So What Can We Do?
Where does this leave us? Gun culture is big part of American life and that is not going to change. Perhaps the best we can do is work with gun owners and keep guns away from kids. It’s a terribly frustrating situation.
Here are the pieces if you want to read them in full:
Photo Credit: David Kasnic for the Wall Street Journal