Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Good Law/Bad Law on Gun Reform

Another public policy fight, another war of semantics.  "Gun owners" do not own guns.  They own firearms, rifles, pistols, semi's, and full automatics.  "Guns" are things talked about by the uninitiated, or at least those who haven't watched Full Metal Jacket ("this is for fighting").

And you can't help but feel like the "gun control" debate in Maryland is being controlled by those talking about "guns".  I've heard very little substance and a lot of lazy arguments (i.e., if [insert famous shooter's name] had had to reload, he would have been stopped).  For at least the past two sessions, our State has been in a policy race with Governor Andrew Cuomo in New York, which doesn't allow for too much "wait, why are we doing this again?"

Here's the law I like - require a license to buy a handgun.  This is the type of reform that puts a minimal burden on law-abiding owners of firearms and has significant policy follow-through in terms of who is eligible for a license, how it is tracked, and what happens if you are found owning a handgun without a license.  No, criminals will not start buying licenses for handguns, but the license creates an enforcement mechanism to address trafficking.

The other significant proposals shift the focus from the gun-buyer to the gun -- what weapons can be sold.  Before we get into this discussion, let's look at a very simple chart from the Washington Post:
This is the data behind any effort to limit or curtail what weapons may be legally sold in gun shops, gun shows, and Walmart.  It is inescapable that we're not talking about "making guns criminal so that only criminals have guns."  We're talking about what the bad guy has strapped across his back when he walks into your family member's school, shopping mall, or place of worship. 

The chart we can't show is the persistent threat of freedom.  (It feels weird to use that word after George W. Bush used it as a crutch for 8 years.)  We are a free society, which is necessarily terrifying and empowering.  If we want to stop gun violence, we just need to make guns illegal.  All of them.  Everything else is a half measure policy creep towards ultimate abolition.

Abolition is not the answer.  And please stop saying "mental health" is the answer.  Violence is a tragic cost of freedom.  Centuries of policy attempting to control it have shown that punishment is a much easier proposition.  I wish our policy-makers would stop using phony arguments about a neutered public left vulnerable to an armed criminal class or, even worse, the government using gun control as a means of oppression.  Stop.  The government is trying to stop the Mississippi with a poster-board.  It doesn't have to be malicious to be bad policy.

The universe of freedoms we enjoy will always find a way to hurt us.  The sooner we acknowledge that, the sooner we stop trying flimsy laws that do more to hurt the law-abiding public than prevent tragedy.  I wish there was a scalpel like ban on weapons that would prove to have a significant effect on gun violence.  I've yet to see data to support one.

That's all for today.  Have a great Wednesday doing what you love!