I try to start every conversation about gun control acknowledging the good intentions of the gun control movement and disavowing myself of the NRA. But I have doubts that we are not about to replay the same old script.
Before I present a roadmap for real change, again, please:
- Stop using the elitist “common sense”. Take a deep breath, gun rights advocates who actually understand how a gun operates think you are hopelessly misinformed not the other way around.
- Please have Mayor Bloomberg stop saying this is not about taking away people’s guns. That is precisely what this is about. You cannot on the one hand say this is not about gun bans, but ban guns in the City and support the assault weapons ban.
- Do not lead with the same old assault weapons failure. That is the measure that will meet the most resistance with the least effectiveness (see videoblog). Mayor Bloomberg and Senator Feinstein should just be honest, they want to ban semi-automatic rifles.
And they do not have the votes in either the House or the Senate and it is difficult to read Heller that specifically found a right to own a semi-automatic handgun to support banning semi-automatic rifles.
If and only if we can create an environment of mutual respect and we focus on facts and data, I believe you could pass the following as a start:
- Making background checks effective. The background checks should provide a substantive review of all the items currently listed on the federal firearms buyers form. It is no small challenge. The constitutional issues are much larger than just the second amendment.
Reforming our mental health treatment system which is largely voluntary today into a more interventionist regime invokes complex equal protection and due process challenges. Changing the incentives for mental health professionals to do more than form committees when they have doubts about an ill person in need of treatment means tort, defamation, and privacy law reform. Forcing all the states and their subdivisions to populate the databases for the background check will raise serious federalism issues.
In Colorado all firearms transactions including gun shows, but not private sales require a background check. The sun still comes up. But getting more than a hundred million existing US gun owners to comply with a new private sale system that regulates when they can give or sell a gun to a friend or relative will be a challenge.
Do you trot down to the DMV with your firearm to transfer it to your friend or cousin?
- Fund real social science research and a non-partisan led commission or congressional hearings to hold public hearings on the data.
I have read much of the science on gun violence. What is startlingly is how shallow and thin the social science really is. Most of the studies focus their data on a central hypothesis – if you have exposure to a gun in a home or elsewhere you are more likely to get shot in a suicide, accident, or some petty dispute. The point is to justify a ban or a recommendation against guns in the home.
Earth to the social sciences – after Heller we are going to live in a country with guns. We need your science to at least include if not focus on how to make gun ownership safer. One of the recent studies cited in the New York Times actually asserted that trigger locks and keeping guns locked in a safe had no effect on gun safety. Many of the others dismiss training as ineffective. Really, after Heller that is a message we want to just dump out on the public?
What we need is to understand how to prevent suicide, how to react to a person with mental illness, what gun training works, what gun storage works, and how to make gun ownership safer and more responsible.
I vote for doing something effective over doing nothing yet again.