How we approach gun laws is a reflection of how we approach government. The standard line from conservatives about government is that they want small government, limited government, drownable-in-a-bathtub government. The background to their zeal is the idea that citizens must be protected from the dangers of government, and the key to protecting us is to keep government as weak and small as possible.
Of course, conservatives discredit the position by going big on military spending, on law enforcement and prisons, and on forcing pseudo-Christianity on everyone by government mandates against abortion, against gay and transgender people, and so on. But it’s a position that can be examined separately from their failures to steward it.
The rules to protect society against weapons, or against anything, can be broken down along the same lines as protecting against bad government. You can seek to shrink the quantum of harm posed, as conservatives claim to want to do with government.
In the case of guns, that would mean rules to limit ammo capacity and type, rates of fire, ease of use (concealability, mechanism of firing, etc.). You shrink the guns down so they don’t pose the same level of threat even if they are broadly available.
The other argument is that government shouldn’t necessarily be small, but it should be run by people of good character, and we should do more to ensure that we elect and appoint people who have the national interest at heart. This is what Democrats try to run on. They try to appeal to reason and sanity, compassion and science.
Of course, it can be hard to detect bad actors, as the wolf disguises itself as a sheep. But that’s the other method: ensure that people are educated and wise and that they will not try to be abusive jerks.
And again, in the case of guns, you have that other way of making them safer: background checks, licensing requirements including training and safety classes. You add red flag laws and follow the military method of disqualifying people who have shown flawed morals or dangerous behaviors.
I want to reiterate these two methods both work for other problems, be they financial fraud (limit access to funds, vet those with access), drugs (limit potency, vet those with access), or whatever problem you might seek to solve.
But in every case, the answer is obvious enough: do some of both. Adjust over time based on changing needs and circumstances. That’s what the founders did. They tried and failed with the Articles of Confederation, so they tried again. And they elected George Washington the first president, picking someone of (by that day’s standards) good morals and a commitment to good government.
I don’t particularly care about the guns themselves. But I do buy the argument that changing the types of guns available will shape what is done with them. I also think licensing makes sense, particularly if well-maintained licensing cuts some of the red tape for honest folks so they can buy or sell guns with less bureaucracy. But if that’s not possible, if the pain of bureaucracy is required to keep citizens safe from guns, that seems worth it.
And I do care when the ATF can’t use computers to trace gun crimes. I care when any organ of the government is made to act stupidly because it helps get idiots elected. It’s a stain on our nation that we would intentionally fund stupidity because Republicans can’t be honest with their voters and legislate reasonable government.
We have problems with law enforcement. Among the many problems is that we send them out on the streets to deal with gun crime, to effectively bail water from a boat with an unpatched hole that the Republicans know about and won’t lift a finger to deal with. It’s throwing cash into the graves of citizens.
We need to change the laws, but the Republicans hold a veto. The media should never let them pretend there weren’t options to protect people in the face of these massacres. It is Republicans’ choice if America does nothing. I once again ask you to register to vote. Please register to vote (Vote.gov). Please vote for candidates who will fight for smarter rules on guns.