Guns Are Not the Problem


Fear smothers rational debate. It is meant to. – The Economist

Guns are a problem. To say that guns are not a major contributor to the problem of gun violence is kind of like saying toothbrushes do not contribute to better teeth. They have not solved the problem of cavities, but they sure have helped to reduce them.

It is because guns are part of the problem that we need to do something to change our relationship to them as a society.

Today, it’s common sense that people with DUIs should severe restrictions on driving, car ownership, and insurance. These restrictions are there because drunk drivers are at high risk to kill people. All of us are affected by these laws. New Year’s Eve checkpoints are one example. We tolerate them out of refusal to tolerate drunk people driving because of the risk to others’ lives. We have consented to these laws because the consequences of getting caught while driving under the influence help reduce driving fatalities. Some will argue that these consequences and restrictions should be much tighter as even while the number of drunk driving fatalities has been reduced greatly over the past 30 years, 50 to 75 percent of drunk drivers are driving with a suspended license.

These laws have not stopped drunk driving. But we have placed restrictions on driving because it saves lives, and saving lives is worth the limits we have chosen for ourselves. On top of these restrictions, there are various state inspections, registrations, a clear paper trail of title transfer, insurance, and so forth. Cars are a major expense and a dangerous risk and we consent to these regulations because they protect the public and protect individual investments. The public shares the risk of driving in these ways. While cars are not a Constitutional right, they are an economic necessity for most people. In 2015, in part from low energy costs and cheap credit, the auto industry in the US had a banner year. Regulations on driving and manufacturing have not hurt the auto industry at all.

Restricting the transfer of firearms has nothing to do with the Constitution and does not open the door to government theft of personal property. The only people who should be worried about their firearms being taken are criminals who can’t meet the requirements of a background check (i.e. you haven’t robbed a bank, beat your wife and kids, or attempted suicide). Just because we have rights protected by the Constitution does not mean that these rights should be unregulated. Every right is regulated. The only question is how much regulation is legal. Demanding a background check for every firearm transfer is perfectly within legal limits and is as reasonable as demanding a title transfer for a car.

This is a question of values. If waiting a month or two to get a gun is a symptom of saving the life of one person who decided suicide was the only idea left, isn’t it worth it? If you are that passionate about owning a firearm, then a few more pages of paperwork should not be a problem. A nuisance, yes. Mortgages are awful, but we work through them because homes are that important. Neither waiting in line at the DMV nor signing your initials 50 times and hiring a lawyer to complete a house transaction is clean or pleasant. They are often inefficient and frustrating processes. But we sit through them because the reward is greater than the frustration and stress we experience.

So lawful gun owners, yes, what President Obama is suggesting will make it harder for people to transfer ownership of a firearm. But it won’t be that much harder than it currently is and there is nothing that has been said or done to even suggest that guns will be taken away from law-abiding citizens. Brush your teeth, pay your auto insurance, and consent to the necessity of strict background checks to obtain a firearm.

Guns and Mental Health

Numbers to chew on in the wake of another school shooting:

  • 70% of all homicides are firearm related.
  • There are about 26% of adults with a diagnosed mental illness.
  • 6% have a “serious mental illness.”
  • Only 3% have a serious mental illness and are not institutionalized.
  • Violence is not even a symptom of something like schizophrenia. Mentally ill people are most likely to harm themselves by an overwhelming margin. Suicide is the most lethal form of violence.

Yes we need better attention to mental health care. But no, this will not make a dent in gun violence. The numbers just don’t support witch hunts for the mentally ill as a solution to gun violence. The beast to slay is looking at how to cut down on homicide in general.

  • Young men between the ages of 25-36 are doing 95% of the killing.
  • 99% of killings occur away from school grounds.
  • American children die from gun inflicted wounds in the US up to 12 times more than in other industrialized nations.
  • The US has the highest child poverty rate among the most industrialized nations.
  • Drugs, poverty, unemployment, race, culture, gender inequality, and weak social systems and support are ALL correlated with different forms of homicide.

None of these data are new!

No folks, more guns won’t solve the problem. Following the example of other nations that seem to have found ways to solve the problem will. Finding ways to reduce economic inequality and poverty are two huge factors to mitigate gun violence. We can also focus on harsher penalties for breaking gun laws if we actually enforce them. But that is a band-aid for a massive social sickness in the US. As we become poorer and more afraid of people taking our liberties and stuff (real or imagined), this violence will continue.

Equality, health, and education can overcome violence.

Those who want more guns on the streets and who are also cutting funds to education are partially responsible for the disproportional rate of homicides by gun violence.