Tuesday, November 3, 2015

If the discussion is not reasonable, neither will be the outcome

Sent to Editor, Santa Fe New Mexican (11-6-15)
Published in somewhat edited (by the New Mexican) form, 12-19-15 

If we want buy-in from the gunsport community to reduce gun violence, we need policies drafted with their help. Careless legislation and rhetoric ensure a continued standoff.

We squandered an opportunity to strengthen background checks after Newtown due to New York Sen. Charles Schumer’s poorly drafted legislation. At face value, it would have criminalized honest sportsmen swapping guns while target shooting in the woods and would have created a back-door gun registration system, a poison pill to gun owners. Thus, nothing happened.

A NY Times piece reprinted here in the New Mexican threw out numbers without a context, suggesting concealed weapons (CCW) holders are reckless.  The editorial carefully omitted that if one actually runs the statistics, they show that CCW holders have far lower homicide rates than the general population. CCW holders are, statistically, safe.
If you don't think we have a problem, ask Gabby Giffords
Pic here of Gabby re-learning to shoot pistol
with her non-paralyzed arm

Here are some ideas I think worth discussing:

CCW training in New Mexico includes safety and violence prevention modules.  Reduce its cost and encourage enrollment. Society benefits (less crime, fewer trauma victims from CCW holders) so let’s expand such programs and offer violence prevention and gun safety classes to all gun owners via every law enforcement department, free or with a nominal cost.

Don't just pass a universal background check law and think you solved anything. Instead, make it easy for any private party to obtain a background check when selling a gun to someone they don’t know well. Perhaps, with proper legislation, this can be done on the laptop of the nearest county sheriff’s deputy.

Support the background check bill introduced by Texas Sen. John Cornyn and supported by the NRA that would close some of the reporting gaps that have caused spectacular failures.

The National Shooting Sports Federation’s “Don’t Lie For The Other Guy” program can work alongside Federal prosecution of straw purchasers. Add jail time to straw purchasers whose actions lead to gun crime.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms must clearly define “engaging in the business” of selling firearms,  thus who needs a Federal Firearms license. This provides a level playing field for background checks. The “gun show loophole” is not about gun shows, but resellers who manage to fly below the radar of a Federal firearms (vendor's) license.

Trigger locks should be handed out by police. Gun safes or locking cabinets should be a staple of responsible gun ownership. Theft and accidents can be reduced.

Through counseling, peer awareness, and better mental health programs, divert people from becoming mass shooters.

Eliminate the “revolving door felon program" that is responsible for much violent crime. Add much tougher penalties for using guns in the commission of a crime and for felons in possession. Make it stick.

Defuse a culture that, whether with cars or guns, is ready to elevate any petty dispute into lethal violence and rage. There are reasons New Mexico has higher gun crime than WY or VT and its not because we have more guns. Its a lousy essay, but I had some ideas in this notion of a fire triangle applied to gun crime.

Banning "assault weapons" with millions already sold would penalize millions of honest citizens. But if we cannot prevent rare but catastrophic misuse, we must consider the risk these weapons pose even if it is a rare event.  Perhaps a graded regulatory approach between low capacity semiautomatic and fully automatic weapons (regulated under the 1934 National Firearms Act) can be designed. Keep them out of immature or raging hands.

End the failed War on Drugs and revitalize our urban economies, thus providing options other than crime. As Charles Blow recently wrote in the New York Times, gun crime has less to do with gun availability alone as it does with the linked issues of poverty and race coupled to gun crime in America. Small wonder that white, middle America doesn't see this as their problem:

"...As Richard V. Reeves and Sarah Holmes of the Brookings Institution pointed out last month, 77 percent of white gun deaths are suicides while 82 percent of black gun deaths are homicides....In 1978, poor blacks aged twelve and over were only marginally more likely than affluent blacks to be violent crime victims — around forty-five and thirty-eight per 1000 individuals respectively. However, by 2008, poor blacks were far more likely to be violent crime victims — about seventy-five per 1000 — while affluent blacks were far less likely to be victims of violent crime — about twenty-three per 1000, according to Hochschild and Weaver.” - Charles Blow, NY Times

Mr.. Blow further tells us "...There is now precious little political will to further inhibit the largely white gun-buying population... in order to help reduce the scourge of homicides among poor black people..." but fails to make a link between how inhibiting white folks with guns will keep black folks from dying at the hands of other blacks. Maybe we would make some progress if we honkies attacked black poverty instead of worrying about attacking gun owners.The political right needs to work to make our inner cities something other than war zones in return for the left not constantly attacking honkies who own guns. Indeed, well off people with jobs have better things to do than engage in inner city shootouts. The GOP can't have it both ways--lots of guns and no inhibitions about misuse of them.

There is no magic bullet, but with enough normal ones, some having nothing to do with gun control, we can reduce tragedies and preserve rights.  Rights and responsibilities are different sides of the same coin. Until we meet each other halfway, we will not create reasonable policy, nor will we reduce the level of gun violence.

Further Reading.

 Mother Jones: Our Country's Cartoonish Gun Debate Isn't Just Idiotic. Its Really Damaging.

Mother Jones: No, There Has Not Been a Mass Shooting Every Day This YearThis inflated stat all over the media isn't just misleading—it's stirring undue fear.

Commentary: Just what could lower the body count?

Mass shootings. How many are there?

Factcheck: Gun Rhetoric vs. Gun Facts (2012) 

Ben Peterson: Gun Availability Isn't Gun Culture

(I posted a longer discussion along these lines a couple weeks ago. Click here if you have not had enough already!)