I am lucky to have a lot of diverse friends. Because they each have different opinions on gun control, it helps me understand the perspectives of both ends of the gun debate.
Some of my friends favor gun control do not understand why, in the wake of events like the Sandy Hook shootings, that people would go out and buy guns. To them it sounds completely counterintuitive. This would be like having a friend die in a motorcycle accident and then running out to buy a motorcycle. They believe that it only contributes to the problem. More guns equal more gun related deaths.
To my gun owning friends they feel that this is a natural reaction due to their distrust of the government. They don’t see themselves being some kind of gun toting hero, they just know what the reactions tend to be on such maters. They want to avoid higher prices, and more red-tape. They also feel victimized by the press because it is implied that all gun owners are somehow responsible by proxy. They wish to rebel by showing that they are responsible gun owners and buy the most dangerous device possible. Well, maybe that is just my friends…
Anyway, I have been thinking about this a lot lately. Mostly due to our governor signing into law two new laws that were written as a reaction to the latest mass shootings.
The first law is an attempt to reduce the magazine size of assault rifles. The lawmakers placed this limit at 15 rounds. Which is a nice clean number if you think about it from a regulators point of view, but a stupid number from a gun nut perspective. I believe that they set the limit at 15 rounds is because most popular semi auto hand guns hold this many rounds. For a hand gun this is considered a high capacity magazine. I have a Ruger pistol with two 15 round mags, and two 10 round mags. California limits magazine size to 10 rounds so when I visit california I leave the two 15 round mags at home. But from the perspective of owners of so called assault rifles 15 rounds is ridiculous. Most AR15s come with 30 round mags, and 20 round mags are very common. It is hard to find 10 round magazines, and 15 is just about unheard of. Since this law is grandfathered, and there is no plan for confiscating existing magazines, this law is virtually unenforceable. I believe that it will only used after the fact to add more charges to a crime that will have much more harsh consequences. Like adding a charge of J-walking to a bank robbery conviction. It may have a deterrent effect, but I doubt it.
The second law is an attempt to ensure that people who should not have access to a gun are prevented by mandating background checks for every transaction. This is another unenforceable idea that will fall short of its intended goal while making criminals out of a lot of innocent people. But the intention is good. People who are a danger to others and to themselves should not have access to the means of destruction. The question is not only how this can be enforced, but by whom. Is the federal government the right tool for the job? How about State government, or maybe it would be best if family members simply keep crazy uncle Joe away from the shotgun during march madness.
Or are we doing enough already? We currently have background checks in place for both retail outlets and gun shows. The gun show loop hole is a misnomer, inside the gun show they have to do background checks, but assholes who sell each other guns in the parking lot ruin the intent of the law. Making that against the law won’t stop it, because they are assholes. It is difficult to outlaw assholes, but wouldn’t it be nice if we could? Anyway background checks are a good idea, however it will be virtually impossible to enforce this when it comes to individuals selling to individuals. Sure you could make it illegal and I am sure that most law abiding people will follow the new rules if they can figure them out. However, I think it will encourage a black market in gun sales that may not be as prevalent before the law was passed. Who knows, maybe it won’t be a big deal at all and spur a new business model in gun ownership transfer. It will be interesting to see how this unfolds over the next few years.
I guess what concerns me is that our legal system is based upon the idea that people are innocent until proven guilty. But our gun laws are moving in the direction of guilty until proven innocent. The media is also banging this drum. More and more people see assault weapons as a serious threat to society. What they don’t see is that the real assault weapon is the idiot behind the gun not the gun itself. Also assault weapons are only used in a very small percentage of crimes where rifles are used. And rifles are used in a very small percentage of crimes. However they make up one of the most popular weapons in America. So from a gun nut perspective this is like outlawing chevy trucks to combat drunk driving. From the perspective of a person living in New York, who needs a chevy truck?
So the debate goes on. Where is the limit on how dangerous a weapon the average citizen should be allowed to own? How do we find out who should have access to these weapons? Do people have the right to use lethal force in self defense? Where is the line between weapons for sport and military grade artillery?
These are the questions that will be addressed over the next few months and years. I just hope that when law makers decide what legislation they put into place in an attempt to make society safer, they work towards increasing both individual freedom and responsibility. Don’t ban stuff, just make it hard for ass-holes and criminals to get them. You would think that with the speed of communication we currently enjoy here in America it would be easy and quick to identify who the criminals are and make sure they don’t have guns. Then leave the rest of us alone.