11 January 2013

Addressing Gun Violence

I was sent a survey about gun violence today and wanted to share my responses. This is a variation on the theme I developed in a previous post called "Guns are dangerous fun, so are cars and drugs."

Tell us a bit about yourself:
Other: I'm a citizen who is concerned about violence.

Please tell us more about why you are concerned about gun violence:
Guns are one of the tools of violence, so how we treat them may be indicative of our understanding of the ultimate problem. If guns are the problem, then controlling them is vitally important. But if guns are only a symptom of a larger problem then we need to ensure that controlling guns does not waste energy and resources that would be better spent on addressing the real problem.

Have you or anyone in your immediately family been affected by gun violence?

Please tell us more about your story:
My dad accidentally shot himself in the leg when he was a kid. I don't count that as gun violence, but as a gun accident. Violence requires either intention to harm or intentional neglect of the power to prevent harm.

Is there anything else you'd like to add?
Gun violence is just one manifestation of the deeper problem of violence in our society. Children die in motor vehicles on a far larger scale than by fire arms. Our society has intentionally neglected to use the power of regulation to prevent children form dying in motor vehicles. That's violence by my definition and we are not banning any motor vehicles.

We register all motor vehicles and also license drivers for different kinds of vehicles to ensure they can demonstrate safe and law abiding use. That should be the case with fire arms. I am reluctant to support bans on particular classes of firearms in the same way that I would be reluctant to ban whole classes of motorcycles, cars, or trucks. We have a functional set of rules about what counts as street legal and that still allows lots of people to own and operate vehicles that deviate from those norms. So, in my view the regulation of guns should be brought into closer alignment with the regulation of the other major weapon of violence that kills children on a massive scale in our society, motor vehicles. And the regulations should focus on classifying firearms according to various uses and ensuring that owners can demonstrate safe and law-abiding use for whichever classes of firearms they choose to own.

The following occurred to me after I submitted the survey:

And in anticipation of those who think that firearms are critical to citizens being empowered to maintain a check on the power of the government: consider the strategic value of your means of transportation as compared to the strategic value of your firearms. As far as I can tell they will both be critical to any chance of success in the event armed insurrection is necessary. And the most devastating attack on our government by a citizen in recent times was via motor vehicle not firearms (Murrah Federal Building bombing).

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