A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life

A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life
I do not seek to understand that I may believe, but I believe in order to understand. For this also I believe, –that unless I believed, I should not understand.-- St. Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109)

Friday, December 04, 2015

Let's Talk Gun Legislation

Yes, I have decided to weigh in on the matter in light of recent events. Up until now, I have kept my powder dry on this one (pun intended) because this is one of those subjects in which there is often more heat than light, and logical fallacies abound in the discussion. But I have been doing some thinking about the subject and so I am offer the following for your consideration.

First, I have no problem if people want to own guns, either for hunting or for personal safety. I will confess I dislike firearms personally, but I have no interest in outlawing all firearms, and those who believe that it is possible to do so are out of touch with the reality of the situation in the United States.

Having said that, I am in favor of tighter gun legislation because I think it makes sense-- more on that in a little bit. I simply cannot understand the logic of those who oppose what are common-sense measures designed to lessen gun violence in our culture.

Second, no one who is serious about stricter gun legislation has ever suggested that it will stop all gun violence in the U.S. and the NRA needs to give up this shibboleth. No law on anything prevents all crime. We have speed limit laws because accidents at higher speeds are in general more deadly, but that doesn't prevent some people from driving too fast. You don't hear anyone say, "Well, since we can't prevent all speeding accidents, let's not have speed limit laws. So, why do some say we should not have stricter gun laws because people will get guns anyway? If we follow that logic we should legalized drugs and prostitution-- after all, people use illegal drugs all the time and there seems to be no shortage of people willing to pay for sex. We must stop using this all or nothing fallacy.

Third, the political left needs to stop spreading the fabrication that deaths from gun violence have increased in the United States. While the number of mass shooting incidents has increased, the number of shooting death has dropped markedly over the years, as the Washington Post indicates (see also this from the New York Times). That is not to say there is no problem, but some of statistics given in the last few days are, I think, purposefully misleading. In this and in every matter, all of us need to tell the truth.

Third, stricter gun legislation will not take guns out of the hands of law abiding citizens, not only because the electorate will not stand for that, but no legislation that has ever been proposed is designed to do that. All the stricter legislation I have read will prevent no law abiding citizen from buying a rifle or a handgun.

Fourth, that means the argument that if stricter legislation is passed only criminals will have guns is a red herring and a distraction from the real argument. Plenty of law abiding citizens will have access to firearms.

Fifth, the assumption that armed law abiding citizens will reduce gun violence is a myth. No matter how liberal the gun laws, most citizens do not and will not go about their day out in public packing heat. As we see clearly in such cases where mass shootings happens, no one is armed regardless of the law.

Sixth, there is no good reason for assault weapons to be legal. The purpose of assault weapons is to do nothing more than wreak destruction and perpetrate killing on a large scale. No an assault weapons ban will not keep all assault weapons out of people's hands, but it will reduce the number of weapons that may prevent some mass shootings.

Seventh, the argument against stricter gun legislation because killers will find other ways to kill is also a distraction from the argument. Yes, people can use knives, box-cutters, poison, and other things, but guns are a much more effective killer, and we are right to focus on them. This argument is as fallacious as #2-- we should do nothing because we cannot stop people from using other things as weapons.

Eighth, those who argue that stricter gun laws don't work because states that have such laws-- e.g. California-- haven't prevented such heinous crimes, miss the point. The reason that such state laws are so ineffective is precisely because they are state laws. If you can't buy an assault weapon in California, you can in Nevada; and since we don't have border checks between states, it's easy to bring weapons and ammo across state lines. The city of Chicago has very strict gun laws, but has one of the highest murder rates of any city in the country. That is not proof that strict gun laws don't work, it demonstrates that strict local gun laws in general don't work, and federal gun legislation is needed. Most of the time, I am big on states policing their own territory. I more often than not want the federal government to stay out of the states' way when it comes to many issues; but this is one of those places where the law can only be effective if it is passed and enforced by the federal government.

Ninth, I'm sick and tired of hearing such ridiculous memes as "Guns don't kill people; people kill people." This comment too is a distraction. This is equivalent to saying such things as "Suitcase bombs don't kill people; people kill people," or "Anthrax doesn't kill people; people kill people," or IEDS don't kill people; people kill people. Stricter gun legislation is nothing more than an attempt to keep guns (the tools) out of the hands of people that might use them to commit violence.

Tenth, the comment that stricter gun legislation puts an undo burden on law abiding citizens makes no sense whatsoever. It is interesting to note that this is the same argument the left uses to oppose requiring photo IDs to cast a vote. (Ahh... politics makes such strange bedfellows.) The truth of the matter is that laws are made for those who would break them, and that means law does place a burden on those would not break it in the first place. When I go to the bank to make a withdrawal, I have to show a photo ID. Is that an undue burden on me because the bank is forcing me to remember to bring my driver license? To say that we cannot have stricter laws because it penalizes law abiding citizens is nonsensical. All law is in some sense a burden on those would would not disobey the law in the first place.

So, what do I propose?

1). I think all background checks need to be expanded to include denying firearms to persons on the terrorist watch list and those on the no-fly list. I would also make it a requirement for states to share information with other states. As it stands now, a person diagnosed with mental illness and denied a gun in one state, can purchase a gun in another state because that person's mental health history is not available across state lines. And to those who say, people with criminal backgrounds will simply go to the black market, I respond see my comments in my second point above. No one is naive to believe that this will stop all gun violence, but it just may stop some and save some lives.

2). We should renew the assault weapons ban. Hunters don't need them and there can be no good reason to own one. No, let me say again, it will not keep all assault weapons out of the hands of those who would commit mass murder, but it will lessen the opportunities. And if you are going to argue that law abiding folks need them for protection, I respond again see my comments above in point five. Most law abiding citizens don't go running around town carrying an AK-47.

3). Make gun trafficking a federal crime. Any gun owner who is law-abiding should support this. I fail to see why this is so controversial. Drug trafficking is a crime. Why not trafficking in guns?

4). Gun loopholes must be closed. Why is a background check not required on private sales of guns? It's these private sales that contribute rather significantly to illegal activities. Again, if your going to respond, "Well, there will still be people who get such guns privately without a check... I say again... well if I have to say it again, you haven't been listening.

5). We should end the sale of high capacity magazines across the country. Just like assault rifles, these magazines serve no useful purpose other than to shoot up places and cause much death. Again, some in the criminal element will modify firearms to produce makeshift semi-automatic weapons, but this ban will at least reduce the options for some.

6). We must stop perpetrating the myth that gun control legislation will not reduce gun violence. In countries where such stricter laws have been enacted, it has indeed reduced the number of deaths and incidents in other countries. Those who say otherwise are in denial of reality as this video I link to demonstrates. http://on.msnbc.com/1PDQiiN

So, we desperately need to cut through all the terrible arguments and the hysteria and begin to be proactive in the hope that all gun violence, including mass shootings will be lessened, while hunters can still go hunting and those want a gun for protection can purchase one.

The question for us is... what do we love more? Our guns or the lives of others?

What do you think?

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