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Fri Jan 18, 2013, 05:16 PM

Thinking broadly about gun control.

The US is unique in the world when it comes to guns: we have a lot more guns, and much looser gun laws. In a sense, it is an experiment, to see if a modern developed society can handle high gun ownership rates and easy access to guns. And right now the experiment is going very badly. We have far higher rates of homicide and gun violence than any other developed nation, where gun control is much tighter.

What Obama is proposing is a step in the right direction. The most important thing is the universal background checks. However, even that may not be enough to really bring down our homicide rate in line with places like the UK or Canada. The question I have is what would it actually take. Here is a rough scale of gun laws that are in place around the world in different places:

1) No gun laws -- guns are like hammers
2) Anyone can buy a gun, but they need to pass a background check first.
3) Gun ownership requires a license, and all guns are registered (or at least all handguns).
4) Owning certain kinds of guns (i.e. handguns) requires special approval, and you need to provide a reason (e.g. a specific threat to your life)
5) Handguns are banned.
6) No civilian gun ownership.

Right now we are somewhere between 1 and 2: in principle, we have background checks, but it is easy to avoid them in a lot of states. If Obama's proposal becomes law, we will move up to 2. The gun control laws in the rest of the world generally range from 3 to 6 on this scale.

In my opinion we should have the lowest amount of gun control possible, without suffering the epidemic levels of gun violence that we currently see. I hope that universal background checks will be enough, but my sense is that licensing and registration (#3) is probably the minimum amount of gun control that would really start moving our homicide and gun violence rates towards international averages. But maybe even that wouldn't be enough.

If we draw an analogy between healthcare and gun control, a handgun ban (#5) would probably be the gun control equivalent of single-payer healthcare. It works great in some countries (i.e. UK), but it's not politically feasible in the US, and it might not be appropriate here. Still, even though it's not going to happen, it is still worth discussing. Indeed, while it's not clear that universal background checks will significantly reduce gun violence, there is little doubt that a nationwide handgun ban would save a large number of lives.

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Response to DanTex (Original post)

Fri Jan 18, 2013, 05:29 PM

1. We need to get up to at least #4.

 

Works for Canada.

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Response to RC (Reply #1)

Fri Jan 18, 2013, 06:46 PM

4. I agree with you whole heartedly

I am willing to work for incremental and cultural change.

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Response to RC (Reply #1)

Fri Jan 18, 2013, 08:35 PM

6. At some point though, you start running up against the 2nd Amendment, and

while I'm in no way a Constitutional scholar my guess is that point starts to appear somewhere between #3 and #4, especially when the 'special approval' is applied to broad, common, and basic categories of firearms like 'handguns' or 'semi-autos'...

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Response to petronius (Reply #6)

Sat Jan 19, 2013, 10:22 AM

8. Yes, but that is a political issue, really.

A few more liberal judges on the supreme court, and the second amendment goes back to being about militias. The bigger impediment is political: there is no way that even licensing and registration would pass through congress.

But the question I am asking is what would it actually take to really bring down our homicide and gun violence rates.

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Response to DanTex (Original post)

Fri Jan 18, 2013, 06:04 PM

2. What do you mean by a nationwide handgun ban?

 

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Response to dkf (Reply #2)

Fri Jan 18, 2013, 06:24 PM

3. I mean just that -- a nationwide handgun ban. What's not clear?

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Response to DanTex (Reply #3)

Fri Jan 18, 2013, 08:29 PM

5. So no grandfather clause?

 

What kind of effort would be used to remove them from the public, legal and illegal?

Or is this an utopian "if only no handguns existed we would be safer"?

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Response to dkf (Reply #5)

Sat Jan 19, 2013, 10:18 AM

7. I was talking about the regime rather than the transition.

The transition would probably involve amnesty and a buyback period, kind of like Australia. It wouldn't get them all, but a lot of them would be off the streets, and given that the manufacture and importation would be banned, eventually there would be far less handguns floating around.

I'm not saying it would be quick and easy, and obviously it's not politically feasible at the moment. Like I said, it's roughly analogous to single-payer healthcare, which also would require drastic changes and also has no hope of passing any time soon. But I think that, both for a handgun ban and for single payer, it is worth discussing whether, in the long run, those are good alternatives for the US.

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Response to DanTex (Reply #7)

Sat Jan 19, 2013, 10:27 AM

9. I think you would turn a lot of people into law breakers who resent the Government which is not good

 

And apparently thinking of grabbing guns makes a person "delusional" and possibly a tool of the right wing or so I've been told, because its only an NRA myth that anyone would even consider "grabbing guns".

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Response to dkf (Reply #9)

Sat Jan 19, 2013, 10:34 AM

10. Like I said, I'm talking about the regime, not the transition.

Sure, there would be some transition issues. With any major change of policy that would happen. I'm sure if we switched to single-payer healthcare the transition would be rocky, and a lot of people would protest and resent the government and all that. I mean, even Obamacare is causing right-wingers to lose their heads and resent the government.

But none of this should prevent us from having the discussion. You never answered the question in the OP. What gun laws do you think would be needed to get our gun violence rates down in line with the rest of the developed world?

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Response to DanTex (Reply #10)

Sat Jan 19, 2013, 10:57 AM

11. Well there are definitely several aspects to this...crime vs personal

 

For criminal activity, a no tolerance policy with automatic long term jail sentences (including trafficking), gang crackdowns using the latest technology and information gathering techniques and automatic deportation of illegal immigrants. We need to make the downside of using a gun in a crime absolutely enormous such that it is a deterrent.

And studies have shown most mass killings and even suicide terrorist bombings are actually murder-suicides by depressed individuals. Mass killings need to be addressed through mental health channels and personal intervention because it really doesn't take a gun to do this. But it seems to me that doing it with a gun is the best way of getting a whole lot of attention.

And really...getting rid of guns is politically impossible, mostly because gun owners absolutely believe there are people who would pass laws making their guns illegal. If they didn't believe such a thing and relied on their perceived rights, that is when they are vulnerable.

But with the number of guns we will have in our society, even if we did pass laws, we won't get to other countries rates. We don't have enough law abiding citizens and our enforcement is so lax that the citizenry doesn't take our laws seriously anyway, whether its gun control or immigration or any other number of things.

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Response to DanTex (Original post)

Sat Jan 19, 2013, 11:01 AM

12. Local editorialist from Montreal.

Bit of tongue in cheek satire from a Canadian perspective...

[link:http://www.montrealgazette.com/Josh+Freed+Texas+Josh+trusts+says+everyone/7841771/story.html|

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