CONTROVERSY LEVEL: 10 of 10. The title alone is going to get clicks. I know it’s controversial; BRING IT ON! The overall mission of this blog is to cut the crap with partisan “logic,” rhetoric, and to completely ignore any of the derailing propaganda out there. And this means that no topic is off the table; including guns.
As a note, I don’t use statistics or other stuff to justify what I say. In general, the only empirical claim is that there are lots of gun deaths in the United States every year; and that’s a fact. Generally, I just want to cut crap to see problems and/or solutions; so you won’t be getting into a crazy study advocating one particular solution or the other. I prefer to write thoughtful, insightful, and moderate stuff.
So, in the name of brevity, today’s blog is going to investigate the American GUN PROBLEM(S); and I think you’ll find a few ideas that don’t fit the traditional regulate vs. non-regulate debate — which is essentially the only solution that is floating around out there. … As if it’s either all or none. So, to you gun nuts, stick with it, and you MIGHT end up seeing potential solutions without restricting the liberty of purchasing guns.
WHAT is the PROBLEM!? Well, there’s more than one problem, and I think saying it’s one problem is misleading. Again, keep in mind American principles of life, liberty, and property. And, yes, we all know the second amendment allowing guns, so no need for me to scream it out.
BUT: Don’t listen to me. Read the text:
“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”
TRUE! 1) A state needs to defend itself, and that’s an inherent right of a state. THUS, states have National Guards. 2) “The people” can bear arms. Individuals are guaranteed arms, sorry hippies. Americans can have guns, and that’s pretty definitive.
There are a few problems with guns when media (and politicians) tend to lump these concerns together into one problem. The real challenge in all this mess is balancing individual life, liberty, and property while overcoming the gun-death problem. But the main problem is in fact that lots of people die from guns in the United States, and addressing it is more-complex than a one-size-fits-all approach.
I’m going to go ahead and separate this into three issues: 1) The Constitution doesn’t formally define “the people.” 2) Illegal/illicit gun flows are all over the place. 3) Uniform regulation is presented as the only solution. Keep in mind that the second two components are more-important than the first.
PROBLEM 1: Who is “the people?” Traditionally, “the people” is interpreted as individuals; and this is consistent with Supreme Court rulings. HOWEVER, are there limits to that?
Can we assume that the entire population of the United States is legally ready, capable, and responsible enough to handle arms? This hasn’t been addressed. Obviously the defense for a free state is the National guard.
But that phrase “the people” is pretty vague. It’s difficult to generalize across groups of people to say that ALL mentally ill people are restricted from weapons; similarly, you can’t say that ALL hispanics are restricted from weapons. Why? That would target a minority group, which is not cool and certainly not in line with the Constitution. But, there are restrictions on the term “individual.”
For example, nobody is a legal “individual” until they’re 18 (21 if you count the ability to drink booze). Also, there can be “legal guardians” for mentally incapable or ill people, so are they truly “individuals?” Finally, felons have limited freedoms because they “broke the rules.” There is lots of propaganda that uses fear to induce action from citizens, because the gun market is one run primarily through fear.
The hope is that propaganda will spur people to demand something (or buy something), and thus put pressure on representatives to take action. For example, conservative messages instill the fear that the “evil” Democrats are out to take their guns, which sparks pro-gun sentiments and increased buying. Conversely, “evil” conservatives are out to saturate society with high-powered weapons — and look at all the gun deaths! This, in turn, spurs anti-gun rhetoric.
The gun market fluctuates according to this synthetic fear. News stories and propaganda still doesn’t address who should and shouldn’t get guns. Instead, it perpetuates “us” vs. “them” ideas.
So who should and shouldn’t get guns? Well, some felons are automatically ruled out according to various laws. After all, since some felons can’t vote, so we might as well take guns away as well (again, you can make logic for which crimes fit the bill). Second, there probably should be thresholds of mental stability to get a weapon. Also, can all children have guns? These are all unresolved questions. The problem comes when you try to screen for who should and shouldn’t get a gun. How are you going to do that? Tests? Some kind of database? Too many checks and you’re risking cutting people out based on the checks themselves. Background checks are pretty weak for anything other than checking for felonies.
So, the debate is pretty much at a stand still. BUT, the challenge is to define “the people” in a coherent, legal, and logically consistent way, and that isn’t being addressed. Instead, it’s a debate induced by fear. While this is one component of the overall gun debate, I would say it’s less of a problem than others.
In reality, massive gun deaths, I would say, have more to do with how the guns were obtained than who has guns themselves. Instead the media focuses on low-probability events that include obviously mentally unstable perpetrators. There is always random chance incidents where a psychopath can get a gun, and that is a real threat; but why are we focused on high-intensity, tragic, and low-probability events?
Probably because they actually spur public debate on the overarching topic of guns. But, the debate should surround thresholds of “the people” to reduce the probability of those extreme events. Realistically speaking, that is a bigger problem than guns alone, and has more to do with mental health, society, and lots of other things; so it will take input from a lot of different people to come to clear conclusions. Regardless, it probably would be useful to clarify “the people” in the amendment language; or at least debate it.
PROBLEM 2: Illegal and illicit guns! I would say this is probably the biggest problem in gun-related deaths. It’s not the people who legally get permits and go through the minimal checks to get guns who are the problem most of the time (with exceptions); because most of the time those crimes are limited to passion killings (adultery and the such).
In other words, legal gun owners probably commit a crime based on actual self-defense, or some passionate freak out based on their personal life. And those crimes go to court, justifiably so.
It’s the people who DON’T want to go through the checks and still get the weapons who are the problem. After all, if a person goes through significant trouble and work to get a weapon outside the minimal checks, then obviously that person has an intense need for a gun either for survival or to commit some crime.
Again, we all agree that individual rights are the number one priority in America, but there are limits to absolute freedom. That being said, voting and majority opinions can shape policy in the United States. So, there are in fact guns that can be called illegal (against the law) or illicit (this isn’t explicitly against the law, but probably should be) based on consensus; and states and the federal government provide guidelines on this based on political agreements.
So felons are restricted because they broke the rules. If you can’t follow the rules, then you aren’t in the game. Similarly, extremely high-powered weapons are either illegal or tightly regulated, because they really don’t have any practical use unless your neighborhood has some serious arms races. If that’s the case, I would suggest moving.
Illicit weapons, to contrast illegal, would be something like ridiculous like weapons bought from the mysterious Ukrainian at the local gun show. You know, that dude who has five Russian AKs in the back of his Jeep … the kind of guy who some of my friends would know. In that case, the AKs were probably part of hijacked stockpile left over from one of the many Russian-supplied rebels in Latin America or wherever. It could also be a shady American who went to Latin countries and secured American-made, semi/fully-automatic weapons only to smuggle them back in, and sell for a profit. In Africa, AK 47s (or M16s in the Middle East) can be bought for 15-100 bucks; these weapons can in turn be sold in the US for several hundred dollars. So it’s a lucrative market, and there’s lots of profits to be made. … Shady arms dealers.
Complications in the American system: Each state (50!) has a separate set of rules governing guns (this is a reserved power of the state); some are more-strict, others are more-lax. So what happens when one state has tougher restrictions and sits next to another state with lax restrictions?Increased illegal or illicit weapons flows. And those people who want to get guns outside of minimal checks can have more ways of obtaining that gun.
So interstate transfers are a problem. Especially in this tight economy, selling guns will ALWAYS yield cash in the US. If I live in a lax gun state, all I have to do is buy a whole bunch of cheap, easy-to-get weapons, and drive to another nearby more-tightly controlled state and either conduct a straw sale, or sell them in some shady alley. Either way, I get the cash. I would hence become a capitalist of the illicit and illegal arms market.
This is a HUGE problem next to the Mexican border. Why? Because drug cartels buy weapons from Americans willing to buy and smuggle them for pretty good profits; after all, cartels deal with LOTS of money. Where do you think all the cartel’s weapons come from? They aren’t Mexican made.
The only real solution to something like this is to apply uniform state standards; which won’t happen. Why? The states (not to mention citizens in those states) would probably start fire bombing. Even if the federal government tried to apply some universal standards, it would take quite some time to actually become effective.
You won’t change the mind of some old country boy just because there are uniform regulations. BUT, there should be something done at minimum to target illegal weapons flows. Perhaps some form of state border controls, increasing targeted illegal weapons police task forces, more ATF activity, or the creation of a specific anti-illegal-guns branch of the FBI; or something of the sort.
PROBLEM 3: Regulations are the only perceived solution. OK, we have lots of gun deaths in the United States; like a ridiculous amount. It’s in the thousands per year, which is similar to the death rates during the entire Iraq War. So, if you think about it like that, each year, the United States is experiencing war-level casualties.
It’s a super-complex problem because there are 50 different states with different laws; and illegal and illicit weapons enter and leave the United States (as well as domestic interstates) every year; and the Constitution restricts what you can do. So, what’s the answer? Get creative.
First, uniform regulations are NOT the only solution. Other solutions include gun buy-backs, tracing (ammo or weapons), normative development (this takes a bit to explain), or public health campaigns. These solutions attack the environmental alteration or the standardization of weapons production and/or selling methods. These options, in effect, won’t limit who can and can’t purchase weapons.
Buy-backs: These are not very effective, but an option. The idea is that governments, non-profits, businesses, or any organization sponsors a program to collect weapons for destruction and so forth. The ideas is that citizens get paid for their weapons, and they are consequently collected.
Problems:1) This is expensive, and 2) people usually bring in non-functioning or outdated weapons (those typically not used in crimes). So, it’s a large investment with a mixed return. I know collection efforts in Australia had good results; however, that program had significant backing by people and the government, and it was very well-funded. In the US, programs probably aren’t as well organized.
In this option, there needs significant support, or probably needs to be a component of a larger campaign.
Tracing: This is a decent idea. Weapons typically have serial numbers and maybe some other distinguishing marks. BUT, what if each gun was marked (etched or something) with a specific identification every time it was sold at a store. That mark would be unique to each customer.
These records could be kept, and, at minimum, IF the gun were to be used in a crime, it could be traced back to the original source, and there would be a higher likelihood of catching the perpetrator of the crime in the transfer chain. Of course the mark could probably be filed off, but it’s an option. Really, at minimum, increased record keeping could trace weapons better, and could even provide a sketch of how they’re used. While the second amendment ensures weapons, it makes NO mention of how the weapons should be sold or manufactured.
This also would not go against search and seizures, because uniform record-keeping standards are a perfectly reasonable request when dealing with lethal weapons. Thus, you can target manufacturing and/or selling standards.
Another option is more-uniquely identifying marks for ammo (this would be far more difficult). When messing with ammo, things could get significantly complex, but is still an option.
Normative development: Norms are a bit difficult to explain in writing; but I’ll try.
Norms are what’s normal. So, it’s “normal” to shake hands with someone when you meet them; it’s “normal” to wear a suit to a job interview; and it’s “normal” to get married in a church. HOWEVER, these “norms” will change depending on where you are, and they change according to time.
SO, it’s not “normal” to shake hands in Japan; it’s normal to bow. It’s not “normal” to wear a suit to a Google interview. It’s not “normal” to get married in a church in a environment where people are increasingly less religious. These things change depending on time and place. In essence, the definition of normal changes. What’s normal in 1950 is not what’s normal now.
If the norm is owning a gun, can that change? Yes. For instance, making it “uncool” to have a gun could have impact. Action heroes obviously perpetuate the glamor of the gun, but so do leaders, celebrities, and other people that younger audiences listen to. So, the more people that speak against it, the more impact it will have. This is the same for anything; gay marriage, business dress standards, religion, or anything generally considered to be “normal” conduct or standards. So, here is an example: Take the norm that women have to stay at home and raise the kids. Imagine a community block in a small town during the 1950s. Back in the 1950s, it was the norm that women stay at home and raise children.
However, that can change. Imagine that the wives get together and start gossiping about how the neighbor daughter or wife was going to college. *Women in school! GASP!* These ideas could be internalized by the women, and some of the women could even start thinking about “what if” scenarios. It really only takes initial actions and examples for an idea to gain momentum.
Perhaps the housewives start voicing a preference to go to school. Either the husband can accept it or reject the idea; and there would be a mixed bag of both reactions. Some housewives would end up going to work or school while others continue their domestic duties. … It’s like drops of water in a bucket. Eventually there will be a critical point on the block where it’s a 50/50 ratio of working or educated women and housewives. The norm effectively changed. It is no longer considered “normal” to be a domestic housewife. … and this actually happened in general during the 1960s. Women rejected traditional roles, embraced what “could be,” and consequently are now able to be professionals as well as mothers (though less so in rural areas).
The same thing is possible with gun ownership. It’s amazing how well-formed ideas in conjunction with actions can start monumental changes. The drawback is that development of this kind takes time to achieve, and there are no immediate payoffs. Also, because most people reject new ideas as they get older, it’s best to target younger audiences.
Public Health initiatives: This could be a public-information campaign aimed at changing norms.
Because thousands die each year from guns, it is in fact a public health issue; also a public safety issue. So, this is a PR campaign aimed at informing people about the dangers and statistics of guns and their violent effects. This way, you can induce individualized and localized change, which fosters, and maybe speeds up, overall normative development.
Specifically, I would suggest initiatives highlight the damaging effects of illegal weapons movements. For example, you could produce reports about deaths by illegal weapons. Maybe each newspaper article reporting a gun death could report where the weapon came from (I bet a lot were from out of state). This way, in the back of people’s minds, then can understand where the problem is.
If this is so, then there could be increasing pressure and demand to target illegal weapons sales. I do see the CDC putting out reports. There are also non-profits and other stuff.
But remember, this is a PR campaign, and each campaign will be mirrored with another opposing campaign … probably NRA-funded. The NRA even advocates at the international level, and they severely limit any development in international weapons control. How did ISIS get weapons? They stole them, and most of them are American-made weapons … yet there should be nothing done about that according to the NRA. I’ll go ahead and say the NRA is awful; what could be a legitimate and respectable organization has devolved into a ranting, raving, and illogical organization meant to work people up into a mob frenzy to support arms manufacturers.
OK. I know there is a lot to digest here, and it probably got plenty of people riled up. BUT, at least I framed actual problems, and ignored the “restrictive-regulation-only” policy debate. As a side note (and to address some extreme gun nuts), in a world where everybody has a gun, nobody is more safe. Because the more weapons there are, the probability for accidents, random chance, and misinterpreted intentions increases as well; so it won’t work.
Saying all people need guns is like saying every country in the world should have nuclear weapons … it’s a stupid idea. The United States has to figure out a way to ensure individual freedoms in this mess. Included in these freedoms is the principle of individual LIFE, and the fact is that individual life is being limited by guns on a daily basis. So there’s a conflict there, and it needs to be addressed. Liberty and life are conflicting, and new solutions need to target those problems.
If you can’t regulate uniformly, then alternative and creative efforts need to be applied to the gun-death problem while also ensuring a citizen right to own weapons in a safe and responsible way. Regardless of how you interpret it, the amendment is pretty clear that people can own guns. However, it doesn’t say anything about how to set standards for weapons manufacturers or sellers; nor does it define “the people.” Additionally, people do have the ability to alter their environment given actions and the will to change exists.
So, I’ve highlighted a few alternatives. In the future, I’ll write about this problem on an international level, which is pretty frightening. Until then, think about the gun stuff you political freaks. OUT.