Front and center in the debate-storm over American Gun Policy is a standoff between variations on two polar opposite opinions:
- Arm Everyone, as a deterrent to those with intent to do harm/crime
- Disarm Everyone and remove the tools of these violent acts
We can see this in action between Piers Morgan and Larry Pratt.
On the first point you have a technological solution to the fear of victimization. In the second you have a technological solution to the fear of perpetrators. It is vastly more complex than that, but that is the bold heading that I see above each.
There is one obvious problem with the “mo’ guns, less crime” argument, not counting the statistical reality that it does not work at all: It does nothing to address the psychological impact of surrounding very young children with armed “teachers”. Much of the experience in formal education revolves around developing a working concept of authority and independence. An armed teacher is symbolizing a very different kind of authority figure. Full stop. The argument also falls flat when looking at the reality of armed intervention by regular citizens (vigilantism). For every successful deterrent there are many accidental shootings of friends and family, like the one in Oklahoma that happened on December 18. I encourage anyone to stop using Google for “Asian Ass Porn” for just a minute and search for “accidental shooting“, and feel free to add your city or state. The results are shocking.
On the “less guns, less crime” side you have a very different set of issues. First, there are a staggering number of assault weapons in the hands of Americans at this point in our history. Sales of AR15-pattern rifles surged after the presidential election of 2008, and at each and every twitch of anti-gun sentiment since. Freedom Group (parent company of Bushmaster) turned out more than 1-MILLION rifles (multiple makes) and sold 2-BILLION rounds of .223 ammo in the past 12 months. That is one company of many. I have personally witnessed the lines of gun buyers “getting theirs” before some threat of a “gun grab”. The sales spike in AR15 weapons in the immediate aftermath of the Newtown shooting should stand as a monument to our priorities as a society.
The second problem with technological solutions is that the human animal is an “apex” tool builder and tool user. Time after time we are shocked by both highly technical solutions, and the highly crude but effective solutions, that mankind turns to when faced with a “problem”. A “gun ban” is not as simple as some promoters of the approach would make it seem. As well as some gun-ban approaches have worked in other countries like Australia and Japan, they didn’t have a 0.88 gun/capita ownership rate (which I believe is a low estimate in the US), and they didn’t have the NRA pushing a mantra with the words “cold dead hands” front and center. As well, if you think the armed massacres we have endured are bad, wait until you have an endless stream of armed resistance faced by Federal agents. If you think I am joking you would do well to get out of the house more often. I’m not saying that restrictions won’t be effective, but I am saying that they won’t be easy and they have the potential of sizable blowback.
Not to lay the whole debate on numbers, but this is widely accepted as accurate data. I wish there was a better overlap of countries in the two graphs. I will work on finding a better dataset and report back.
So what about the “third way”? The third way is to rearrange our priorities as a nation, with a greater focus on physical health, mental health, fiscal security, jobs, and overall wellness. If you know anyone who has sought mental health treatment the odds are that they found very limited resources, long waits for treatment, and inadequate treatment once they made it in the door. They also may have feared the social and professional stigma of having been treated for a mental illness. If they ran the treatment gauntlet, they may have encountered a system heavily biased towards pharmacological intervention. That may or may not have provided any kind of real relief.
We also have issues with the role of simulated and glorified gun violence in our culture. The lack of realistic depictions and a “reset button” mentality toward killing aside, the greater message is “eliminate, not negotiate”. The widespread dispersion of this culture through television, cinema and video games makes it difficult to assess causation since it forms a kind of background noise. Still, you would not be faulted for thinking that a generation with heavy exposure to first person shooter gameplay, and access to real assault weapons, might be on a playing field biased towards gun violence.
Once again, we are in a nation with massive social and fiscal issues, and great damage inflicted as a result, and our socio-political system is proving to be too broken to move toward a solution. I hope that the bigger issue of “emotional infrastructure” gets a fair hearing in the coming months. I dare to dream, knowing that it is not much more than shadows of what could have been.