Toward a More Rational Gun Control Debate

When the subject is guns, everyone just gets crazy sometimes. That’s cool; it’s a tough subject and it’s very emotional. And the reason it’s an emotional is because the purpose of guns is to take lives. Not just human lives, of course; a lot of people who love animals are also emotional about the concept of hunting.

The problem with the gun “debate” is the same as with all other political arguments, in that it seems to be dominated by the extremists on both sides.

On the one hand, you have gunloons, who make up an alternate “Second Amendment” out of whole cloth and who characterize gun control as “gun grabbing” and act as if we’re directing our efforts at the guns themselves. These are the same people who love to say, “guns don’t kill people, people kill people” and other meaningless platitudes, just because they worship the gun more than human lives. If you think I’m exaggerating, consider this Tweet from the NRA last night:

One of these measures would have prevented the shooter at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida from easily getting a gun and killing 17 children and injuring a couple dozen more.  Of course, the ban on bump stocks may have at least reduced the number of people who were killed and wounded in the massacre in Las Vegas. And how many people are killed because they can just go out, buy a gun and shoot someone while they are pissed off? However, the important thing to understand about the issue of gun control is, this isn’t about “preventing crime,” it’s about SAVING LIVES.

To be fair, there are many on our side who can be just as emotional and irrational, however, which is why the gun issue sounds more contentious than it has to be most of the time. We are not going to ban all guns, nor is there a need to ban all guns. There are currently close to 300 million guns out there among us; to think that we can ban them all and just melt them all down defies logic and good sense.

And yet, that’s the debate, if you listen to it passively. One side argues about banning all guns and the other side argues a non-existent absolute right to own and carry any type of gun they choose. One side argues that guns are “the problem,” while the other side argues that guns are “no problem.” Neither of those positions makes any rational sense.

Obviously, when the debate is between two irrational arguments, it’s going to be contentious because both arguments fail to deal with the actual problem, which has to do with responsibility and saving lives.

Yes, that’s right. The entire gun debate really comes down to two very logical concepts, neither of which are addressed by either side in the gun debate we always hear about. They are:

1. Guns are killing machines. 

2. How do we make sure those who have guns are responsible for them.

Before we can have a rational debate on gun policy, we have to actually agree on what the issues are. The first thing we have to agree on is the purpose of a gun, which is to kill something. If you’re a hunter and you like to shoot certain animals, you may actually be providing a service. Hunting thins populations and actually prevents animals from dying in the most gruesome manner possible. If everyone stopped hunting, deer and elk populations would far exceed the food supply, and many would starve to death. However, while hunters are providing a service, in a way, they also have to recognize that shooting other beings, like their fellow hunters, is always a possibility. Therefore, it is necessary for them to be responsible with their gun. Going into woods with a shotgun and drinking a case of beer before and during the hunt, is a recipe for disaster, for example. That gun and that ammunition are designed to tear apart the flesh of living beings, and all gun owners should understand that and act accordingly.

When someone picks up a gun, they are responsible for whatever happens with that. There are simply no accidents with guns. If you have a gun and you point it at something and pull the trigger, you are responsible for whatever happens. If you are cleaning the gun and it goes off and shoots someone, even you, that is because you were irresponsible with it. If you forget to check the chamber before cleaning, you shouldn’t be able to avoid responsibility.

It’s like any other consumer product. When Takata Corporation decided to use ammonium nitrate in their inflators and that ammonium nitrate turned out to degrade and spray shrapnel all over the cabin, thus killing people the airbags were supposed to keep safe, they don’t get to avoid responsibility by claiming “they didn’t know,” and a gun owner can’t do so, either.

Negligence is not the same as an accident. And yet, gunloons love to point out accidents and suicides as proof that guns aren’t really dangerous.

And that is the heart of the real gun control argument. We simply have to recognize that guns are killing machines and regulate them accordingly.

While a lot of gunloons love to point out (rightfully) that most gun owners are responsible, that is beside the point. We don’t regulate to account for normal use of anything, we regulate to account for the exception. We have OSHA laws not because most employers want their workers to die, we have OSHA laws to account for those who simply don’t care or who place profits above lives. When the assholes at the NRA claim a few extremely minor measures passed by the Florida legislature last week will not prevent crime, they miss the point. The issue is not “preventing crime,” it’s saving lives. Guns are lethal when used properly, and our Constitution mandates that government do all they can to keep us as safe as possible. And the fact is, our governments do almost nothing to make sure these killing machines are not misused or get into the hands of the wrong people.

The issue is safety. If I want to buy certain types of allergy medicine, I have to go to a pharmacist, who then has a legal obligation to swipe my driver’s license, which then goes into a database to make sure I don’t buy “too much,” which means enough of it to make shitloads of crystal meth. Yet, while I can’t buy Sudafed without making sure I can’t buy enough to get people addicted to meth, an 18-year-old sociopath who has been a trouble maker since at least middle school is able to go into a store and buy an AR-15 with enough accessories to get it to shoot 45 rounds per minute, enough magazines to go on shooting for an hour and enough ammunition to kill and/or maim almost three dozen students at a high school and give hundreds of other students a level of PTSD comparable to war veterans who have seen battle.

This is what gun control is about. It’s about recognizing that the only rational reason to own any gun is to kill something when necessary, whether that’s a deer during a regulated hunting trip or a home invader. When used properly, guns kill and they have no other useful purpose. And let’s be clear; military-style assault weapons have no place in any civilized setting. An unadorned AR-15 is a single-shot rifle, but it’s possible to accessorize it to become an efficient killing machine.

As you saw from the statistics I posted yesterday, about 200 people are shot in this country PER DAY. And about 96 of them are killed with guns PER DAY. When Takata Corporation-made airbags claimed a half-dozen victims, we started recalling and replacing them in cars. When the number of deaths from crystal meth reached 3,000 per year, the government started controlling access to pseudoephedrine to reduce the possibility of making meth. When deaths from PPA, a drug that was once used to treat hay fever, rose to a few hundred over a few years, they banned it from the over-the-counter market.

Yet, today, 100,000 people a year are shot with a gun and about 33,000 of them die from it every year, and we have one side calling for an impractical ban and the other side claiming we can do nothing because of their ignorant misinterpretation of the Second Amendment and a gun lobby that only cares about sales figures and doesn’t care one whit about saving lives.

Because both sides are completely irrational, the rational among us have to take control of this debate and insert logic into it. Having more guns does not mean greater safety; that is completely illogical. At best, more guns means more “accidents,” and that means more unnecessary deaths. The more guns there are, the more guns will be left lying out where a toddler can play with it and shoot himself or someone else.

On the other hand, most farmers and ranchers are armed with shotguns and pistols, and there are few incidents in which a farmer has gone into a school and shot several dozen students. I have been around gun owners most of my life and I have never felt threatened, therefore, the idea of getting rid of all the guns is equally as insane.

We need common sense. This is what we need, in my opinion:

  • Every gun buyer should be subject to a thorough background check.
  • Every gun should be registered and tracked. Think of it as a “pink slip” for each gun, so that we know who owns what at a given time.
  • Every gun owner should be licensed, to make sure they know the basics of gun safety.
  • Every gun owner should be held responsible for the firearms that are registered to them, including keeping it in a safe and out of the reach of others, especially small children and the mentally ill.
  • Every gun owner should be held responsible for the damage done by their gun, including insurance.
  • Every gun owner should have to report a stolen gun immediately. They should also have to record every transfer of ownership and background check the person they’re selling to.
  • Gun owners should be subject to limits on ammunition. No one should be able to easily accumulate thousands of rounds of bullets without law enforcement knowing about it.
  • And all gun makers should be subject to the same level of liability as the manufacturers of any other consumer product. Right now, the makers of toasters have more stringent standards than the makers of guns and that is also insane.

The only way we should all be talking about guns is rationally and with common sense. Everyone needs to be responsible, not reactionary.

Also published on Medium.

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