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View Diary: I am a pro-gun-control Democrat. (66 comments)

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  •  Wrong target. (none)
    I don't buy the argument that gun control is a bad idea because it won't "solve" the problem of gun violence.  All I'm talking about is marginal improvements.  I don't know how many guns are in circulation now in the U.S. , let's just guess that it's 50,000,000.  That number won't be reduced to zero under any scenario, even if all the guns still in private hands are buried in backyards and national forests for when the black helecopters come swooping down.

    So, let's assume that as a result of new restrictions there are only 40,000,000 guns in private hands.  I accept the fact that 40,000,000 guns in private hands can cause a lot of harm.  My point is simply that if there are 10,000,000 LESS guns in circulation that will mean that there will be some cases where there won't be a gun in the nightstand when there is a domestic fight or somebody is feeling depressed.  It seems reasonable to think that a 20% reduction in guns in circulation might result in some reduction in deaths by gunshot.  Maybe a 20% reduction in violence.  Maybe only a 10% reduction in gun violence because we won't do a good job getting guns away from gang members and drug dealers.  Maybe we'll get a 30% reduction if we can do a good job of screening out the people who shouldn't have guns.

    One way or another, it's not crazy to think that less guns would lead to less gun violence.  Even if we can't eliminate all 30,000 gun deaths every year, reducing 30,000 deaths down to just 25,000 or 20,000 deaths sounds like a start.

    You broke it, but you can't fix it. It's time to go home now.

    by Tod on Fri Aug 26, 2005 at 11:00:47 AM PDT

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    •  Unfortunately it's not that simple (none)
      There are over 100 million firearms in private hands in the US. The magnitude of the law enforcement effort to make even a dent in that number is mind boggling. Consider that tons of drugs cross our borders every single day; the government is helpless to stop it. Make the black market firearms trade as lucrative as gun prohibition would, and guns would flood across the borders.

      The idea that reducing the number of guns in private hands will reduce crime collapses in the face of the facts. The US experienced falling crime and homicide rates in the 1940s, 1950s, and early 1980s, all periods during which per capita gun ownership, especially handgun ownership, rose.

      The guns that would be collected by a gun ban are not the guns causing the problem. Although it is popular to hysterically claim that American society is "armed to the teeth" it isn't really so. Owning a gun doesn't make you armed, any more than owning a guitar makes you a musician. The folks who have Granddaddy's old shotgun gathering dust in the closet, or a hunting rifle that only comes out of the cabinet in season, are not armed. And those guns aren't causing the problem. If guns cause crime, then mine must be defective.

      Taking the guns of the law abiding won't have any affect on the problem. And those are the only guns you are going to get.

      •  Bingo! (none)
        You identified EXACTLY the gun violence that I think we can do something about.  The problem with the "only criminals will have guns" argument is it assumes that "criminals" are this separate class of people that we can distinguish from everybody else.  That is not always true.  My point is that sometimes the difference between a law abiding citizen with a temper tantrum and a criminal with a murder conviction is the ease with which a handgun in the nightstand escalates the situation from one to the other.

        My brother's best friend got into a fight with his girlfriend's ex.  Without ready access to a handgun he would have had broken glasses, a bloody nose, and a bruised ego.  Because there was a gun in the nightstand the ex is dead, brother's friend spent a year in jail, lost his life savings, lost his career.  He got off on self defense grounds so the NRA would say this was a good thing, but he would have been a lot better off with a bruised ego and broken glasses.

        A high school kid a few miles away from me stole a plastic jack o' lantern off a guy's front porch.  Without a handgun in the nightstand the guy would have shaken his fist at the kid and bought himself a new jack o' lantern.  With a handgun in the nightstand, the guy had to waive it in the kid's face.  The gun went off.  The kid is dead for stealing a plastic jack o' lantern.  The guy is in prison.  This was a nice, middle aged, church going, guy.  Not a career criminal.

        These examples are the norm, not exceptions to the rule.  If you have a gun in the house the odds are 22 to 1 that the gun will be used on a family member or friend rather than on a burglar.  

        Only one third of all handgun deaths are murders.  Almost two thirds are suicides.  A teenager is seven times more likely to kill himself if there is a gun in the house.  Yes, people can kill themselves in other ways, but they tend not to as much.  Teenagers aren't seven times more likely to kill themselves if there is a rope or sleeping pills in the house.

        Everybody worries about guns in the hands of mafia hit men and drug kingpins.  I understand that any reasonable gun laws won't make a difference there.  All I'm saying is that there are lots of gun deaths that don't have anything to do with mafia hit men, drug kingpins, or any other career criminals.  Maybe some sensible laws could do a little something about depressed teenagers and spouses having temper tantrums.

        I also understand that going door to door collecting all firearms is just not in the cards.  That concept is only good for NRA fundraising.  My question would be the opposite.  Isn't 100,000,000 guns enough?  Some very gradual controls on the manufacture and sale of even more wouldn't seem likely to end civilization as we know it, and might over time gradually reduce a lot of unnecessary deaths.

        You broke it, but you can't fix it. It's time to go home now.

        by Tod on Fri Aug 26, 2005 at 02:06:13 PM PDT

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        •  Whoa (none)
          So, you think these shootings are the "norm"? Step back and think for a minute what that would mean.

          Are you saying that normal people normally handle everyday disputes with gunfire if a gun is present? Really? A person like that is what you call "normal"? Boy, the definition of that word has sure changed since I was in school.

          Is that how you handle your disputes? If your spouse/significant other upsets you, you'll shoot if a gun is handy? You're probably shouting "NO!". Well, what makes you so special?

          Consider too the number of guns in circulation. If this was really the "norm" this country would be pretty much depopulated by now.

          Re the "22 to 1": those figures are based on discredited studies that use cherry-picked data. The most egregious trick used is to exclude self-defense use of guns where no shots are fired, where the attacker upon finding his would-be victim armed surrenders or retreats. I would call that successful self-defense, wouldn't you? And that is the norm, well over 90% of the time.

          Whether 100 million firearms is "enough" is irrelevent. Firearms are purchased by individuals, not by some aggregrate entity. In any case, why don't you check the rates of gun ownership over the last 100 years with crime, suicide, and firearms accident rates? You will find that they do NOT correlate!

          In the end, I don't base my support for individual rights on the Lowest Common Denominator, i.e. the idea that government must take away any right that can't be entrusted to criminals, lunatics, or morons, and that the rest of us must suffer for the failings of the few.

          •  Not so sure. (none)
            I'm skeptical about your statistics too.  The assumption is that every time a gun owner waived a gun around it prevented a serious crime that would have otherwise happened.  I very much doubt that assumption is accurate.  More likely, just turning on a light is enough to prevent a burglary.  If you tell me that a gun owner waives a gun around every 13 minutes I'm not convinced that is a good thing.  The hypothetical "prevented a crime" test depends completely on the eye of the beholder, so there is abundant opportunity to "cook the books" to support whatever conclusion you want.  Remember the case of the stolen Jack O'Lantern I told you about?  That was a "good" use of a gun according to the NRA since it prevented the kid from stealing a $10 plastic ornament.  The other case was a "good" use of a gun according to the NRA as well.

            My point is simpler, and easier to verify objectively.  Out of the roughly 30,000 firearm deaths every year, how often did a career criminal pull the trigger and how often did someone who is NOT a career criminal pull the trigger?  The overwhelming majority of the time, the person who pulled the trigger is not a career criminal.  Obviously that is the case with suicides.  Even for murders, the statistics are overwhelming that most murders are committed by someone the victim knows, not a career criminal stranger.  That is consistent with my premise that the people who commit violent crimes are not this separate class of "criminals" we could identify.

            I understand that there are "only" 30,000 gun deaths a year, which means that there are millions of gun owners who didn't shoot anybody last year.  Still, 30,000 gun deaths seems like a lot.  I understand that most people don't use a gun to solve their domestic disputes, but more than a few people did.  

            There's a joke going around that we should give Bush a pass on invading Iraq because the media is ignoring all the other countries Bush could have invaded, but he did not.  The fact that there weren't 300,000 gun deaths last year doesn't really mean that 30,000 deaths aren't enough to at least think about whether that number could be reduced.

            The Bush White House: Where being right gets you fired and being wrong gets you the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

            by Tod on Mon Aug 29, 2005 at 12:03:09 PM PDT

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