Friday, January 11, 2013

A Problem with Priorities - Redux

We hate guns and have no interest in exercising our Constitutional rights to bear arms.  The odds of an accident occurring with any gun bought for protection, especially in a house with kids, far outweighs the odds that it will ever be needed for protection. 

But we respect the Constitution, and we respect the right to bear arms responsibly. 

Should a family have the right to own a handgun and a couple bullets to protect their families from home intruders?  Yes.  Do we think 30-round clips and GI Joe looking military rifles should be protected under the second amendment? No.  Do we think a ban on such weaponry make sense?  Yes.  Will it reduce the senseless acts of violence we have seen recently?  Doubtful.  

Does anyone honestly believe that if 30-bullet magazines were wiped off the map, that a deranged individual who is inclined to fire off 30+ rounds in a crowded area wouldn't just buy and load three 10 bullet magazines?  It’s like banning 24 ounce sodas – wouldn't a very thirsty individual just buy two 12 ounce cans? 

It’s a very emotional topic, particularly in the aftermath of some horrific events, but let’s set aside emotion for a minute and think rationally. 

For the sake of argument, let’s assume we throw out the second amendment and hover a huge magnet over the entire country and suck up every last gun.  Voila, our 30,000+ gun deaths per year just vanish right?  Perhaps, but it doesn’t mean we’ll have less tragedy.  Almost 20,000 of those deaths are suicides, and I’m guessing the vast majority of those individuals will have just as much courage (or lack thereof) to jump off a bridge or swallow a bottle of sleeping pills as they would have had turning a gun on themselves.  That leaves the remaining 10,000+ deaths which are primarily criminal homicides, most of which a result of gang and drug violence, and a very small percentage of which causes international headlines as “mass murders” of innocents.  Do we really think gang members, drug dealers and deranged individuals will stop being violent because one of their tools has been taken away? 

They won't...and that’s in the fantasy land where guns don’t exist.  That barn door has been open for hundreds of years and there are 300 million guns in homes across the US. When deranged individuals in the real world decide to commit mass murder, the worst of all crimes, do we really think they are more concerned with gun control laws than murder laws?  Will they just sit in their dark basements sulking at the fact that they can’t buy a GI Joe gun and abandon their psychotic thoughts?  Handguns are for all intents and purposes illegal in New York City, yet New York’s Finest still get murdered by criminals with illegal handguns.  Bad people will do bad things.  Legislating against one of the tools used by sick people to commit crimes is treating the symptom not the disease.  We need to treat the sick people.       

In the end, the best possible outcome of gun control legislation would be that shooting deaths will decline marginally, but would homicides decline?  If not, what’s the point?    

It’s also a cost/benefit question.  In 2012 it’s widely reported that roughly 150 people were killed in “mass murders.”  That's 150 too many, and while each innocent life lost is its own tragedy, spending enormous amounts of political capital, time and taxpayer dollars to craft, debate and enforce gun control legislation – legislation that is unlikely to reduce tragedies - is foolish.  

For some perspective on the problem, twice as many people die from falling off a ladder each year than in mass shootings.  Could you imagine Piers Morgan debating a crazy N.L.A. (National Ladder Association) member on Ladder Control or Congress spending enormous amounts of time, effort and money trying to reduce the number of deaths by ladder?  We have incredibly strict drunk-driving laws, yet those laws don’t prevent millions of people from driving drunk, nor do they prevent the 10,000 drunk driving deaths each year. 

Our gun culture is shameful, but we need to pick our political battles.  We have a country that is struggling to pay its debts, has millions unemployed, and millions more under-employed.  We need to focus on improving the economy by addressing the debt limit, spending cuts and our budget.  In fact, there is a strong argument to say that getting our fiscal house in order, growing our economy and lowering unemployment would do more to curb gun violence than any gun control legislation - especially any gun legislation that could pass the Republican and NRA controlled House.

Two years ago we urged Congress to fix their priorities, our concern is unchanged, as we said at the time:

Too many of our elected representatives believe it’s more important to debate and pontificate about issues that affect 0.01% of Americans, rather than focus on the tough issues that affect all Americans (high unemployment, weak economic recovery, exploding deficits and spending, etc.).

The legislative effort required to pass any form of gun control in the current Congress, while admirable, can wait.  


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