I’m really trying not to get into political topics here in 2018. Everything is so rancorous and there’s so much bad information and bad argumentation out there that it’s depressing when it’s not completely infuriating.

But this massacre of school children in Florida has me and a lot of people talking.  There are a LOT of opinions and arguments and debates raging.  And although it probably won’t help anything, I am feeling compelled to offer some of my thoughts on the issue.

Here it is: I have no solutions for this problem. I’m not even going to offer any because I think this is a pretty difficult issue and I don’t feel like I have a strong enough grasp of the principles, the law, the technical details, and the statistical information to offer anything that could move us in the right direction.  So, this is a bunch of thoughts I’ve had while watching this debate.

Murder is a problem, y’all. That’s why we have laws against it.  Mass murder of school children is a problem that is almost too terrible to contemplate. “Almost” because we’ve seen it happen so many times that we’re forced to contemplate it.

I am fine with people owning guns. I grew up around guns. I’ve shot guns before.  I’m not particularly bothered by the thought of people around me having guns.

But there are some people out there who are simply opposed to guns. All guns.  They hold the view that no civilian should be permitted to own them.  I don’t agree with that view and I’ll hint at why in a moment.

But this debate isn’t about guns per se.  It’s about how to stop crimes that are committed with  the guns, specifically mass murders. If there were some solution that would reduce mass murders to near zero, but would still allow people to own guns, then most folks would be happy with that.

The reason people are talking gun control is because it’s obvious. The problem is crimes with guns; therefore, take away the guns.  Since taking away the guns is not really an option, control how people get the guns. Control what the guns can do by limiting magazine size, who can use the gun with biometric safety controls, etc.  These proposals aren’t crazy or stupid.  Give gun control advocates some credit: these proposals are clear and directed at one of the key factors involved in the problem that we’re trying to solve.

What’s the problem we’re trying to solve? Once again: how to stop crimes that are committed with  the guns, specifically mass murders.

I think the people who own guns should be educated in their proper use and maintenance as well as the main legal considerations in using their gun against another human being.

I once considered buying a gun so that I could practice shooting at a range. I am not particular concerned about my safety. I don’t think I have to justify my decisions, but it’s just fun to shoot guns and build a skill like marksmanship.  But the concealed carry class that I took in TN barely scratched the surface of what I felt a person should know before being allowed to purchase a gun, let alone carry it concealed in public.  So, I ended up not going forward with that, but maybe I’ll revisit that in the future.  My point is that the required education was, in my view, woefully inadequate to the task.

I think violent criminals should be prevented from owning guns.  If you commit domestic violence, rob convenience stores, or whatever, you should be prevented from buying guns.

I think some mentally ill people should be kept from guns, but I don’t think ALL people who have ever struggled with some form of mental illness should be kept from guns forever.  A recent court ruling by the 9th Circuit prevents people who were issued medical marijuana cards from owning guns.  Although I think this is a legitimate use of state power, I think the limitation is overly broad, capricious, and uninformed. (But that description also sums up the federal government’s attitude toward marijuana in general, doesn’t it?)  This reminds me of how we handle sex offender and do not fly lists and I don’t like it.

I don’t think there’s a real problem with asking people to wait a bit before being allowed to own a gun, but I don’t know what an appropriate waiting period would be. Surely there’s a point of diminishing returns on that.

I don’t love the idea of national databases of law-abiding citizens, but background checks against a consolidated list of criminals seems reasonable… assuming appropriate restrictions to prevent government overreach are in place.

No one actually believes guns are jumping up and murdering school children on their own. Everyone knows there’s a person behind the gun, but I see a lot of pro-gun people making fun of gun control advocates by suggesting that this is their belief. This argument is strawman and it’s extra annoying because it belittles the seriousness of the discussion.

No reasonable person actually supports the mass murder of school children. But I’ve seen some gun control folks talking as if this is what the pro-gun crowd believes. This argument is a strawman and it’s extra annoying because it belittles the seriousness of the discussion.

Although I am inclined to agree with the argument that gun ownership is part of one’s natural right to defend one’s self against similarly armed criminals when the police aren’t available to help (I like this argument that I read recently over on John McCaskey’s site, but I would be willing to listen to a reasonable discussion about it.) I haven’t seen any good arguments that support the claim that a specific proposal that would control the sale of firearms undermines that right.   It seems to me that a lot of people are relying on a form of the slippery slope argument to support this.

And don’t get me started on all the problems with police violence.  That’s a separate issue, but no less important than stopping mad men from shooting up schools.

But I often see some of the gun control proposals

I don’t believe the Constitution is a perfect document and I don’t think our institutions are perfect or even ideal.  Remember: slavery was seen as constitutional.  I think if someone is going to rely on the Second Amendment as their defense of owning guns, then they need to be prepared to explain why the Second Amendment represents a protection of our individual rights.

The notion that a group of scrappy, but well-armed citizens could overthrow an overreaching US government is pure fantasy.  Here in 2018, any group of revolutionaries even if extensively armed with the best available civilian arms would be easily crushed by the US armed forces.  I’m deeply sympathetic to the sentiment behind this argument, but our context is such that any such revolution cannot succeed on the basis of gun ownership.

Again, I like what John McCaskey presents in the link above.

On a related note, I think the pro-gun side of the argument needs to offer some clear, principled guidelines about what would represent a reasonable “control” on guns and what does not.  Where are the boundaries here?

Absolutists will say that the second amendment says “shall not be abridged,” but most gun control doesn’t control OWNERSHIP, it controls ACQUISITION. Further, pointing to the second amendment is an appeal to authority and not a principled defense of the claim.

The Second Amendment was not put into the Constitution to preserve slavery.  Some states did — and I have no doubt that they planned to when ratifying the amendment — use the militia power named in the second amendment to preserve slavery. (Because is anyone surprised at how awful racists were and are? No, we are not.)  But the argument that this was the primary driver for that amendment is just not historically accurate.

Another aspect of our situation that compounds the difficulty here is that we have such a huge mess of laws, regulations, and channels across different cities and states.  Internet sales, gun show sales, store sales.  This city has a wait time of X and the one next door has a wait time of Y.  States don’t necessarily honor the licensure of other states. And so on and so forth.

Some people insist that if a particular proposal doesn’t address ALL of the problems, then it should not be considered.  That is an unreasonable expectation that will never get us to any solutions.

So, yeah.

I don’t have any solutions. I see a lot of problems. I see a lot of bad arguments. I see a bunch of dead children.  I don’t demand perfect safety from criminals, but it does seem reasonable to take a good, long, hard look at how we can reduce and prevent deaths at the hands of criminals (sane and insane) with guns.

Unfortunately, so far, I haven’t really seen anything in the discussion that leads me to think there are any very good solutions forthcoming.

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