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Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Guns — the discussion continues

Posted By on Tue, Dec 18, 2012 at 5:58 AM

The death of 20 children has cleared the way for a national discussion about guns. It's overdue, as many have said.

Some points of interest:

* THE PARTISAN DIVIDE: Nate Silver reports a wealth of information on gun ownership and opinions about guns. First: Republicans are more likely to have guns in the home than Democrats. From this, of course, much of the political discussion grows.

* IS THE ANSWER MORE GUNS?: The Atlantic's monthly issue has a major article with incredible timing. Jeffrey Goldberg makes a case that more guns might make America safer.

As a liberal Democrat with a long-standing resistance to the proliferation of guns and easier access to same, I found myself curiously receptive to much of what Goldberg writes. For one thing, there is no turning back in a country with 300 million weapons and at least one gun behind every other residential door. The evidence is more in the correlation-not-causation category, but a decline in crime against a rise in gun availability and loosening of gun restrictions nonetheless exists.

I'm still thinking on this, but I certainly agree with Goldberg's companion premise that a more heavily armed nation should also be a nation with more gun control laws. For example:

* End the "gun show loophole." It's no loophole, but a simple absence of regulation of private gun transactions, which account for maybe 40 percent of gun sales.

* Consider a higher bar on purchases and permits — such as a longer waiting period, stiffer training for handgun carry permits and lots more.

* Take a hard look at requiring traceability for ammunition.

* Take a hard look at limiting if not banning high capacity ammo magazines. They are for killing, not hunting.

* Don't force guns on the unwilling. If, for example, the legislature decides it wants to end a ban on guns on college campuses on the part of staff, don't follow the NRA lead on local home rule legislation by not allowing those who wish to opt out of loosening gun restrictions. If the University of Arkansas wants a gun-free campus, don't mandate that it doesn't have that option.

To the extent that stronger laws would prevent some tragedies, the public interest has been served without removing the right of citizens to own guns.

I'm prepared to accept the U.S. isn't likely to become Japan, Britain, Canada or any of the other countries with tough gun laws and much lower gun violence rates. But I'd like to see the gun lobby and gun nuts meet me halfway with some useful measures that inevitably would prevent some disasters.

PS — Smart observation from an Ezra Klein post:

Perhaps the wisest single sentence I’ve read in the aftermath of the shooting came from Mark Kleiman, a crime specialist at UCLA. “Figuring out how to prevent the next gun massacre (or specifically the next gun massacre at a school) is a classic case of solving the wrong problem,” he wrote. “The right problem is gun homicide generally, or homicide generally.”

It’s a depressing thought, but maybe it shouldn’t be. Yes, in the aftermath of the massacre in Newton, we want to stop the next one. It is possible, and perhaps even likely, that we can’t.

...While we may not be able to stop every gun death, there are lots and lots and lots of gun deaths to stop. And if a deadly mass shooting like the one in Newtown is specific and idiosyncratic in ways that make it very difficult to confront through policy, the average gun death follows a much clearer pattern.

He cites a list of potential controls on gun sales, including some I've already mentioned, and concludes:

Even if we do all this, and more, we may still see rampage shootings, and we will still have to grieve for murdered children. But the shootings will be fewer, and the deaths rarer. We may not know how to prevent the massacre in Newtown, but we do know how to prevent gun deaths.

ALSO: Ernest Dumas takes up the subject this week, too. With satirical tongue in cheek, he writes: "Where is Huey Newton when we need him." Read it and you'll get it.

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