On Gun Control and “Getting Smart”

Over at The Atlantic, Molly Ball has a gushing post praising the gun safety movement for scaling back its ambitions, by calling for closing loopholes, not opposing handguns, and proclaiming that the Second Amendment is about the right to own guns (it’s not, by the way). Because of this scaling back, Ball argues the new breed of gun control advocates might win.

But what does winning in that context actually mean? If you view gun-related deaths as a public health problem, most gun deaths are suicides (pdf). Most homicides and suicides are caused by handguns, not long-barrel weapons (‘assault’ or otherwise). Having guns in the home is a huge risk factor for gun deaths:

Owning a gun has been linked to higher risks of homicide, suicide, and accidental death by gun.
• For every time a gun is used in self-defense in the home, there are 7 assaults or murders, 11 suicide attempts, and 4 accidents involving guns in or around a home.
43% of homes with guns and kids have at least one unlocked firearm.
• In one experiment, one third of 8-to-12-year-old boys who found a handgun pulled the trigger.

Would closing the gun show loophole, limiting clip sizes, and banning semi-automatic military-style rifles be bad things? No. But I don’t think it will do very much, as handguns, especially in the home, are the problem.

The other problem with Ball’s article is that it treats public opinion as static (a common technobrat/pundit fallacy). It’s worth remembering that, until the turmoil of the mid- to late 1960s (and the white backlash), banning handguns was very popular–in 1959, a majority of Americans wanted to ban them.

If what the ‘new gun control advocates’ (who remind me a lot of the ‘New Democrats’) call victory, we are still going to have too many dead people.

And that doesn’t seem very clever at all.

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7 Responses to On Gun Control and “Getting Smart”

  1. Sean says:

    That’s not too dissimilar to what I’ve been saying for years and years: What is the primary purpose of a handgun if it is not for killing people? I have yet to hear a real answer to that.

    Yes, one can target shoot, but, on average, the vast majority is specifically for killing another person. Long guns’ primary purpose, on the other hand, is not this, whether for shooting clay pigeons, hunting, or target shooting, they are not primarily for killing people.

    I’ve been applying similar logic when it comes to high capacity magazines (that is, greater than 3-5 rounds in my mind – who needs more than 2 followup shots?): why would anyone need these other than to kill a lot of people? Here, the target shooting crowd may be able to score some points, but I would have to weigh the lives of many over the happiness of a very small segment.

  2. The 2nd is not about the right to own a gun? Seems to me that is exactly what the SC [i]just said it was about[/i] – the rights of an individual to possess and carry.

    • Prof.Pedant says:

      You might want to read the links.

    • No, ‘bear arms’ means an organized military force (read the Wills link). And the militia clause is about preventing federal control over state militias–George Mason and Patrick Henry were clear about that. I do put the links in for a reason.

      • Your opinion doesn’t mean much – the Supreme Court has interpreted these phrases, after all, it is their job. And they say you have it wrong.

        So when you say “the Second Amendment is [not] about the right to own guns ” you are indulging in wishful thinking, not sharing meaningful information.

  3. Hypocee says:

    “If you accept my conclusion, then my conclusion is inescapable!” Wow, really? What if I don’t care in the least what particular method a suicide uses, and instead want to make progress on saving the lives of people who don’t want to die?

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