Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Guns to Gardens on 11 August

A sub-600 word version of this was printed in the Santa Fe New Mexican on 7 August.

In August, the New Mexicans to Prevent Gun Violence will hold a fund raiser for the Guns to Gardens program, in which unwanted guns are fabricated into garden tools.  I'll be there.

Gun buybacks make some nervous; seen as an attack on the Second Amendment. But these are not mandatory buybacks, i.e., the "Australian Solution" that raise Constitutional issues. Voluntary buybacks held in some cities do not abrogate the Second Amendment as recently affirmed in District of Columbia v Heller and MacDonald v Chicago. It appears they have a minor impact on reducing crime (discussed here, and here). They still serve an important purpose, operationally and philosophically. Not alone in thinking so, either.

The idea is not to melt down one's prize handgun or rifle but provide a means for people to safely and securely dispose of unwanted, abandoned, or unused firearms. Those which end up in the back of a closet or in a drawer and more likely to be misused, forgotten, accidentally discharged by a child (sometimes at a person), or stolen. Such efforts as these also provide a convenient disposal mechanism for people who have inherited or otherwise own guns but who are not part of a firearms culture, may simply not know what to  do with guns or how to use them effectively, nor are interested in learning. The First Amendment is a right too, but not everyone writes letters to the editor. Its our choice.

Someone who is unsure of the value of a firearm can also take it to a gun shop for a knowledgeable appraisal and then decide what to do with the gun. It would bring tears to my eyes to see someone melt down a pre-64 Model 70 Winchester in good condition. But in such a case of disposing of a gun with a lot of value, please sell it via a background check.

The Guns to Gardens program is a rational political statement about reducing civic violence and putting guns in a proper perspective, i.e., ensure we do not see guns as the only tool in one's mental toolbox.  Guns should not be America's Maslow's Hammer, i.e., if all you have is a gun, everything looks like something to be shot. Solving social ills with firearms is rarely a good idea, whether disgruntled blacks in Dallas or Baton Rouge, political protestors performing armed occupations of wildlife refuges over federal land policy, disgruntled spouses, road ragers, gang members in poverty stricken communities, or disgruntled employees.

A gun buyback program must be part of a greater context. Violence reduction requires focused efforts; a target rifle rather than the scattershot proposals of some gun control advocates. Some efforts can involve carefully vetted laws to keep guns out of the hands of prohibited persons. Mass shootings are low likelihood, high consequence evens; we need to minimize their occurrence by controlling lethality or minimizing the desire to be a mass shooter or some combination. A larger effort needs to address why people commit crime. Andrew Papachristos' work, studying cohorts of violent people, is a good place to start. Papachristos has shown that much urban violence is not random but highly concentrated in networks, transmitting similarly to STDs. It is thus is predictable, and potentially controllable (and not primarily with gun control). Article about that here.

I reject abridging folks Second Amendment rights, including my own. I favor reducing gun violence, and thus reducing both the cost to society of shootings and the perception that citizens cannot be trusted with their 2A rights. Lets build bridges to reduce violence rather than burn bridges fighting across the ever widening gun control moat.

Note added later. I've added a few links from Mike the Gun Guy.

Actual Event Brite Link to info below here.