Saturday, January 26, 2013

Gun Control, Demystified

Or, We are more together than apart

With so much hate and divisiveness being used in this debate, my goal rooted in love, is to point out a few observations, hopefully build a framework for real dialog, and challenge each side to come together.

All gun control laws can be grouped into one of three categories. Laws that punish criminals, laws that attempt to limit criminals’ access to guns, and laws that attempt to limit everyone’s access to guns. (There is a fourth, laws that track all guns. This is a non-issue as no one has made any real headway in trying this, so we will leave it out of this discussion.)

The first, laws that punish criminals, is obvious. We have laws on the books for sentencing law breakers with time in prison, even the death penalty in some places.  The very basis for our criminal justice system is rooted in the idea that corrective discipline is normal and works.  It works as a deterrent to crime, and as a corrective system for those who have committed crime. The effectiveness of this model is outside of the scope of this discussion, but generally this is an area where people are in agreement. We want “easy wins” where we can make “real change” with "bi-partisan support"; this is where we can have it. Enforce and make stricter gun crime punishments.

The second, laws that stop criminals from getting guns, there is also large support from both sides. While I am disappointed at the NRA for not backing proposals in this category like universal background checks, etc., I am not surprised.  The NRA is a lobbying group, and you would expect them to take the far position.  However, more and more pro-gunners are following their lead and buying into this position of “give up nothing!” "I can sell my gun to anyone I want" just does not work today. As gun owners we need to recognize that we have a crime problem, and that we have a responsibility to limit access to criminals.

The last, laws that limit everyone’s guns, is where the majority of the division is happening.   On this topic, we are polarized.  Laws in this group include the so-called assault weapons ban, and the high capacity magazine ban.  The problem with these laws is that they are actually limiting the rights of law-abiding citizens.  Now those rights are limited all the time, and there is precedent to do so, but the negative reaction from the gun community is based on the idea that we see no real benefit to society as a result of these changes. I have discussed this at length, so I do not want to do so here.

The problem is that all of these topics are getting lumped into one big group of “upcoming gun control laws” and because we do not have the proper framework to discuss them, we fall into all or nothing discussions.

Instead, lets work to understand each proposed law.  Classify each in one of these categories. Universal background checks are not at all designed to limit law-abiding citizens access to guns, therefore we should support them.  Those who support banning certain guns need to understand that you are squarely in the third section which has dangers, and yelling about it wont help. If law abiding citizens are going to give up more of their rights, there needs to be a solid discussion on the benefits of doing so before you will convince anyone.  Educate yourself. Its hard for the gun community to take seriously calls to ban “assault weapons” when you still think they are “spraying bullets into a crowd.” Even better, show some measure of respect for the people that actually have knowledge of the topic. Their, our, opinion should matter to you because we own these devices, and we understand them. Recognize that this is and will be the hardest aspect of these types of proposals, and you should expect pushback. Ignoring that pushback puts you no better than the change nothing crowd.

If we come together, we can gain real traction on the first and second groups of laws.  If we have open and healthy discussions on the third, there may be some compromises that can be reached.   However, if we continue to argue from opposing viewpoints with all or nothing positions, we are no longer on the same team fighting for the same goal. We have instead embraced us versus them, battling each other, instead of crime.

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