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Friday, June 27, 2008

So, Guns.

In case you don't write for a DC-focused media outlet or socialize almost exclusively with political journalists or didn't watch the news or read a paper or something yesterday, you may not have heard that the SCOTUS overturned the District's ban on hand guns and trigger lock requirement. As a result, everybody is talking about gun control. While I agree with Ryan that overturning this particular law probably won't have startlingly strong repercussions, I am in favor of just about any gun control law. I simply do not understand the line of thinking that putting more guns into more hands will have a net result of less violence. Statistics back me up. Ezra's post pretty much sums up my opinion: you want to defend yourself and your family, but that moment, when you're awoken and find yourself face to face with an already-armed intruder, isn't the moment when you'll have the time, the wherewithal or the ability to reach for your own protection and face off.

I was talking to Spencer about this over IM this morning, from a more personal perspective. I've always favored gun control. I remember writing opposing editorials on the subject in the high school newspaper. But since my close friend was killed by intruders in November, who came to her house at night, knocked on her door, and shot her in the head in order to steal her car and computer, my feelings on the matter have intensified a bit, as you might imagine. There was nothing Jayne could have done. Having a gun in her home would not have kept her any safer. People fancy themselves action heroes, who'd hear an intruder coming and have the quickness, the agility and the skill with a gun to get to them before the intruder got to their children... or something. It just doesn't seem to me that that's a realistic perception of how things would happen. It's not how things have happened in any real life story I've ever heard. I'm sure there are cases of success, they're just not in my personal sphere of experience's majority. And if guns weren't so easy to buy in Virginia, they might not have ended up in the hands of the men who killed Jayne. Here are a few more things on the subject that Spencer said over IM to me, that are intelligent and worth sharing:

"One of Pelecanos' books is about gun violence. About how stupid anti-gun control arguments neglect the basic fact of how much more lethal all street crime is when guns are available versus when they're not. Basically, it's only an argument made by people for whom actual gun violence is pure abstraction. Those who do tend to seek a total abolition by whatever means necessary,
or are gangsters."

I have lots of friends and loved ones who feel very strongly in opposition to gun control, but this is one issue I just can't see the other side of. Fewer guns, and more tightly controlled guns, mean fewer opportunities to use them and injure or kill people. That seems pretty clear to me.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

"...putting more guns into more hands will have a net result of less violence."

I think it's interesting (and crucial to its popularity) that this very common formulation abstracts from an important aspect of the problem - how does gun control affect the distribution of firearms? It's not reasonable to assume that gun control simply excises some constant fraction of guns from every subgroup.

I'd also like to point out that your more sophisticated gun control opponent does not typically argue that removal of controls is likely to reduce crime. Personally, I think the empirical difficulties here are almost insurmountable; even when you do have reasonably clear identification of the effect of some gun control law (ha!), it's unlikely to allow estimation of some deep structural parameter (what would that even mean in this case?) Anyway, you need to at least do some very serious econometric thinking before saying anything like "statistics back me up".


9:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There is currently plenty of legislation in place that outlaws acts of violence. In effect, that legislation also serves as gun control legislation.

Peter Oslin

2:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I really do not know my stance on gun control. I am not overly for it or against it. My parents wanted me to get rid of a semi auto handgun and a semi auto shotgun my father had inherited from his father. There is a child in their house and they felt unsafe with them inside. I just keep them in my house since I live alone. Somehow the handgun has crept from closet to my side table. I used to keep the clip in the other side table, but now the clip is right next to the gun. I don't know if I will end up putting the clip inside the gun. I do feel a little safer sometimes, but I have never even shot it and it might not even shoot. My theory was that if someone did break in it would be easier to actually use it. I don't think I would have a problem living without a gun, but I think there is nothing wrong with responsible gun ownership. It is just one of those polarizing debates in which you can't convince someone to switch sides. Sadly, statistics can be made to favor either side. I guess I am just a neutral man who happened to inherit a couple guns.

7:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The argument against banning firearms isn't that it will decrease crime (although despite your claims, the case can be made). The argument is that disarming the populace is not good for the long run status of a liberal society. Banning guns is the easy way out, but it means turning a blind eye to the history of the world, where societies eventually equilibriate into totalitarianism. I don't mean tomorrow, or even twenty years from now, but don't we have just as much responsibility to pass down to our children a world where they are free to act in accordance with their own wishes, just as much as we have a responsibility to pass down a livable environment? The second amendment is in place purely to raise the cost of oppression.

Imagine what a power hungry administration might do if there was another terrorist attack. I think it is reactionary to risk our liberty on laws that by all accounts are ineffective at reducing crime in the first place.

10:16 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

To the blog author:

There are somewhere between 200 million and 280 million guns in the United States. Suppose we were able to pass your preferred gun control law tomorrow and there were no pesky 2nd Amendment challenges.

How would you collect the 200-280 million already-existing guns?

What would make this law more effective than the one that prohibits illegal drugs?

5:14 PM  

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