We have another shooting: two days ago in Wisconsin a white neo-nazi named Wade Page killed 6 and critically wounded three, including a police officer who was shot 9 times. Page used a legally purchased 9 mm handgun and had five pistol permits he got in North Carolina in 2008. It sounds like he was a racist, but still fairly mild-mannered. This sort of violence was not obvious from his background.
My thinking on gun control continues to evolve since I wrote Mass Murder’s Bright Future, in no small part thanks to the comments of some of my conservative friends. I have never had a position on this issue, but my thinking seems to be leading me to somewhat solid ground.
First, guns have a unique psychological draw; they make you feel powerful and invincible, even sexy. This draw affects the mentally unstable—and me. As a kid, I certainly felt that way walking around my house with a nerf gun, or a cheap-plastic western-style revolver, randomly pulling it out and pointing it at things while striking dramatic poses. If I were to go insane and felt like my life was careening out of control, I can imagine a scenario in which I might be attracted to that boyhood fancy.
Certainly a lot of combat troops in the USA all-volunteer army likes guns, and plenty of cops do as well, and that inclination played a role in many early career decisions (and almost did in my own). I know my military friends would agree. Perhaps this personal perspective is anecdotal, but perhaps insanity would result in less violence if gun violence specifically was not so damn attractive.
Second, I hate regulations that create black markets. I personally experienced how bans on drugs and prostitution supported gangs, blight, and economic ruin in inner city USA. In fact, I would go so far as saying we should legalize prostitution, allow sex-workers working rights, protections by the courts, a measure of workplace safety. etc. We should tax it and pay for job training to transition them into other fields, etc. (Alicia recently converted to this position!) I also think most narcotics should be legal. All this is to say, I am sensitive to the notion that banning can create a black markets and can be counterproductive. However, banning guns seems different than drugs, prostitution or even alcohol. Unlike prohibition, banning guns could work:
- Alcohol is easily distilled, says all of my beer-making friends. Prohibition proved that you cannot ban alcohol, because it is simply too easy to make. Guns are not as easy to make. But it’s harder to create make-shift guns: you can’t go to your local hardware store and easily assemble a gun. Sure it’s possible, but it’s harder, and that is a significant difference. You aren’t going to supply a criminal underground with creatively conjured handmade guns.
- It’s harder to manufacture illegal guns en masse as they are complex manufactured goods that require lots of parts from lots of places. The parts of a pencil, for instance, are taken from all over the world. Hundreds of companies are usually involved, while drugs require only one source and one preparation site. Marijuana and other drugs can be grown/prepared in basements and whiskey stills are small and can be operated in a small hidden spaces.
- Prostitution is simpler than drugs or alcohol; you just need another person and a few minutes. Women throughout the country are willing to be paid for sex, and men, also ubiquitous it seems, are even more likely to be willing to pay for it. I don’t think we are going to ban either gender soon, or separate them, in massive male or female only cities. Also, what about same-sex prostitutes? Banning guns certainly makes more sense than banning the exchange of currency for sexual pleasure.
- Guns need to be resupplied; they need ammunition. Even if people can get guns, we can make it increasingly difficult to get compatible ammunition. While you would have to ban potatoes if you want to ban vodka, or corn if you want to ban whiskey, ammunition is not a basic food.
- It’s harder to smuggle guns than drugs: guns cannot be shoved up your ass so you can carry them on a plane.
- Finally, we all know gun bans work, right? Countries around the world are already banning guns and quite effectively keeping them out of public hands. Why not the US too?
Of course their are obstacles, but they all seem surmountable:
- There are already tons of guns that are out there (400 million?). We would have to find a way to get them back. Maybe we could offer a period of a few months where the government would buy them back before they become illegal. I’m sure there are better ideas out there…
- We would have to amend the constitution.
- We would have to, I believe, continue to allow hunting. Maybe the government can encourage more bow hunting. Maybe single shot rifles should be allowed. After all, that was the firearm technology that the 2nd amendment was talking about.
So I guess I have to admit it: I think a comprehensive gun ban would be good. I might allow single shot hunting rifles (any shot after the first are usually misses anyway), but I could be persuaded to lose them too. Of course, cops and and military people would still need guns, and perhaps Alaskans in Zodiak country.
Maybe I’ll hear some good arguments and change my mind tomorrow. Truthfully, even though my position has solidified, I still think this is a relatively unimportant issue compared to, for instance, the worldwide food sovereignty movement and prison reform. But still, there it is.
Note: I made up these lists off the top of my head. It is complete fancy and could be misguided, but I find them interesting. I mention this because a few times lately I have been accused of regurgitating democratic talking points. I am fine being wrong, changing my mind based on argument, and laughing at jokes regarding my idiocy or large nose; I do that all the time. But please know that my arguments and reflections are always mine. I am honestly compelled or intrigued by them and would like your help making them better. The implication that I am unquestionably regurgitating lines from politicians is likely the quickest way to piss me off. Anyone who knows me knows that I guard my intellectual independence jealously, perhaps even too much.