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.