Slippery Slopes?

The other day, I had a discussion, if one could call it that, with a friend who loves his guns, and who, while not a member of the NRA, worries about gun control just like the NRA does. His basic point was that responsible gun owners aren’t the problem. He’d be perfectly happy with background checks, and requiring a gun operating permit/license and an exam requirement, but he thinks that prohibiting “assault rifles” wouldn’t do that much because there are other “sporting rifles” that can do the same thing. They just don’t look as ominous and don’t carry the name of “assault rifle.” He feels the same way about limits on clip or magazine capacity. And that means, in his view, that one limitation or restriction on weapons and/or ammunition will lead to another and another, because those restrictions won’t be all that effective.

Leaving aside the obvious point that it would be difficult enough politically to enact more than one assault rifle or magazine/clip size restriction, let alone a series of such measures, this line of argument leads back to the NRA claim that guns don’t kill people, but people kill people. In a way, proponents of background checks are agreeing with that NRA claim, because they’re saying that a restriction on who can carry firearms will reduce deaths from guns. So… if that’s true, why don’t we just avoid the issue of which guns are more lethal and should be prohibited and go the other direction – require a state or federal gun operating permit, which includes gun instruction requirements and passing a federal use/safety exam, as well as firearms insurance? Perhaps it also, like a driver’s license, should have licensure levels.

After all, right now, one of the largest problems with guns is that people who shouldn’t have such weapons do in fact have and use them. There really are only two effective solutions – either remove all the guns or regulate the people using them.

In peacetime, at least, cars kill more people than guns do, and we haven’t banned cars… but we have put restrictions on drivers, and required automobile registration, insurance, and safety features. So why not do the same for guns? As my friend, the gun-lover, pointed out, a truly responsible firearms user shouldn’t have a problem with such an approach.

7 thoughts on “Slippery Slopes?”

  1. Frank says:

    For context, I am not a gun-lover, however, I am not a gun-hater either. I believe that right to own firearms is important for our Country, as I think there is a connection between freedom, personal responsibility, and tools (such as guns, education, mobility, etc.) and (in a non-dramatic form) patriotism. I own one gun, a 12 gauge pump action shot gun that I have only recently acquired, with enough ammunition to defend my household and self from most non-military aggressions (basically either random criminals or animals such as bears or bobcats, etc. (maybe a total of 50 rounds or less).

    That said, my friends that are more of the gun-lover types, many of which are on the extreme Right, would probably object to restrictions similar to driving, on the basis of having “them” (aka “the government”) know who owns which guns and where they live. There seems to be a certain amount of worry (paranoia?) that the government will “call in all the guns” when the evil extreme Left takes over and begins the historical path of oppressive States that, it is true, often begins with such measures.

    I disagree because I believe that since it is deemed a “Constitutional right” that is dealt with by the same guarantees that the rest of our rights enjoy. I don’t think the right to bear arms is at a higher level than the others, nor is it a lower level.

    I agree with the idea of restricting it for safety similar to the driving analogy, if, hopefully, administered more efficiently. But I believe this objection is at the root of most of the concerns that the law abiding mass of us who aren’t interested in anything other than home/personal defense, sport shooting or hunting have. Gun organizations and manufacturers may have other ulterior motives, but, then when does anything that involves profit not get skewed by greed?

    1. Derek says:

      Have you ever pointed out to your friends afraid of a list that if the government were totalitarian enough to disarm the entire populace, a registry for who has or doesn’t have guns wouldn’t matter? I mean, I’d just go door to door, and offer incentive to reporting your neighbor. A list really won’t change anything, because you’d have to go door to door in the end to get it done anyway.

      I mean, besides that, the other option is just looking at people’s very public Facebook posts. I could probably code a fairly rudimentary version of that right now by just skimming keywords on public Facebook posts, and have a list of people who very likely own guns.

  2. Amy says:

    I am one of Frank’s gun-lover types, and he would say I’m on the extreme Right (I would counter I’m more Libertarian and just prefer small government intervention in our lives.)

    I am a concealed weapon carrier, properly trained and permitted in my state. I carry for personal safety, and I target shoot for fun. I believe anyone who owns a weapon should be trained to handle the weapon safely, however if legislated, it will only serve to slow down a law-abiding citizen’s ability to procure and utilize a gun.

    These laws up to and including government confiscation of weapons will not eliminate deaths of innocents. Bad people will always find a gun. People with mental illness, if determined to harm others, will find a gun. And either one will find something else to kill with if a gun is not available.

    Just yesterday 4 police officers were stabbed to death IN THE POLICE HEADQUARTERS in Paris. In April 2018, London instituted a ban on knives because their bans on guns didn’t work – people changed weapons.

    I agree with the NRA, the problem is with the people. And to be more specific, with people who lack morals, an appreciation of life, and no understanding of personal responsibility and consequences of actions.

    1. Derek says:

      Got it. The solution is telling people, “Be better.” Our job is done! Great work people!

      I mean, gods forbid we do anything about the convenience of our access to guns. Having to wait or fill out paperwork is clearly infringement.

      1. Alan says:

        The problem is people.

        Filling out more paperwork, licensing, insurance, whatever you want to add to the LEGAL gun owners won’t stop the problem. That is the crux of the issue. Legal gun owners, by and large, are not the ones committing mass murders or even individual homicides.

        Most reasonable gun owners I know, including myself, could give a fig for having licensing. You want licensing, fine, let’s fill out more paperwork. We’re willing, if grudgingly, to do so just to shut up the other side. When licensing doesn’t reduce the number of mass shootings or homicides, what is your next proposed step?

        This is where the car analogy comes into play. In Ohio alone there have been more car deaths than mass shooting deaths all year long. Nation wide there have been twice as many deaths due to distracted driving/DUIs as there have been gun related homicides. Cars are licensed, alcohol is regulated. So where’s the cell phone regulations that stops people from using them?

        Has regulating driving helped? Drivers licenses and regulations have been in place since the 20’s. Death’s per 100M Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) have declined steadily since the 20’s, plateauing in the last 20-ish years. You could use that as an argument for licensing, I suppose. But the real source of decreased deaths by VMT is that cars have become safer. Without improvements in vehicle safety these numbers wouldn’t exist, so maybe the root cause was not what licensing? So maybe the best way to gun violence reduction is not licensing after all?

        1. R. Hamilton says:

          Despite a slight rise starting in 2014, murder rates per 100,000 are still far closer to their lowest level since at least the early 60’s than to the high in 1980, notwithstanding the publicity of mass shootings and other more atypical murders due to 24/7 news cycle – and also notwithstanding that the most troubled areas that account for far more fatalities than mass shootings receive very little more than local attention – and that not effective. Such areas also typically have very high levels of gun control legislation, with little enough to show for it. They of course blame the fact that the rest of the country doesn’t have such levels, and firearms are portable. Well, they can also be made by a reasonably competent machinist, or mostly with a 3D printer (expensive but not necessarily prohibitively so). And anyone can find instructions on how to make weapons other than firearms capable of causing mass casualties from commonly available materials, not generally even age-restricted, that require some skill to assemble (esp. without being obvious), but little enough to deploy and use.

          Some modest measures, not restricting specific firearms more than already done, but closing private transfer background check loopholes etc, may be useful. Some concise training in the legalities and regulations might be appropriate, preferably with an online option. Almost any owner that uses a target range has had some basic safe handling instruction; and most ranges require specific practices, perhaps even the use of bright plastic empty-chamber flags/blocks during cycles when the range is not “hot”. A bit of additional context-specific training for hunting in all but the most wild of areas might also be wise (some areas limit deer hunting to shotguns, since their projectiles won’t travel as far; and requirements for orange vests are common – the presumption being that they’re more obvious to other humans than to e.g. deer).

          But IMO, neither the cost nor time (or time delay) required for those measures should rise to the level of becoming unduly burdensome; not in excess of the benefit that could be realistically expected. Liberty should not be encroached on by restrictions that do not provide substantial results.

  3. Hanneke says:

    What mr.Modesitt suggests is sort of how it works in Switzerland.
    They have really high rate of gun ownership, but a really low rate of gun deaths, and the difference appears to be made by two things: 1) they have very strict licensing and regulations for gun owners, and 2) the mindset around guns there is based on the idea of defending their homeland in case it gets invaded, as a militia (as the second amendment also says, in fact); not on defending oneself and one’s family or property at a moment’s notice against any and all encroachments or attacks – that’s what they have the police for. The gun one owns is therefor not seen as something one can turn on the ordinary people around one, if they appear threatening, but as a weapon of (guerilla) war – not to be used on humans in peacetime.
    That mindset allows for stricter regulation, like guns must be kept in a locked gunsafe, with the ammo stored separately – they cannot be kept loaded in your nightstand or desk drawer. The added safety these regulations provide make a huge difference in the number of accidental gun deaths and successful first suicide attempts (a lot of whom, having failed the first time using some other method, get help and don’t try it again), and it slows down the execution of the hairtriggered homicidal impulse during a quarrel or fight enough that people are a lot more likely to use survivable alternatives.
    The two minutes it adds to get your gun when the militia alarm comes through that the Germans (or whoever) are invading is considered acceptable to avoid all those deaths.
    This means, because the guns and the people who own them are so strictly licensed, that it’s a lot harder for any criminals or mentally disturbed potential mass-murderers to get their hands on them.
    They can still murderpeople, but not as many in as short a time as is possible with an assault rifle or gun. What was it, thirty people in one minute, before the armed police on site shot down that gunman recently? Or all those people in Las Vegas, or in the Pulse nightclub, or in that church, or… Trying to do that much harm with a knife leads to a lot less victims at once, and a lot more chance of non-lethal damage if he does hit you; and as they have to get close to do harm there’s more chance of a potential victim either running away or fending them off succesfully, like those young kids in Belgium a few years ago who chased off an attacker with a knife by throwing their backpacks at him…

    Using a car as a weapon does have the potential to kill more people at once, but that only works (if numbers are your goal) in heavily pedestrianised areas, where cars could and probably should be kept out – but that’s a discussion for another time.
    Cars and drivers could be licensed and regulated a lot heavier than they are in the USA. The training and test for getting one’s driving license is a lot stricter in many western European countries than in the USA; the rules on roadworthy car design in Europe also contain limits and tests for how dangerous the external design is in a crash to a pedestrian, which makes car accidents (at low speeds) more survivable for pedestrians (no bull bars, too-high SUVs, etc. allowed); and the rules on setting speed limits are not based on highway norms and the 80th percentile as in the US, but on survivability of accidents in towns – about 70% of streets within city limits in the Netherlands are now set at 30 kmh maximum (18-20 mph), and most are physically configured to make fast driving imposdible, with narrow single lanes, no overtaking possibilities, and with bends and speedbumps if necessary. Together, this makes a difference to the percentage of people killed by cars. It’s not zero over here either, and still needs improvements, but it’s better than in countries where such measures aren’t taken.
    Saying regulation doesn’t work because US drivers are regulated and still kill ignores both the laxity of your driving regulations, and the already large decline in road deaths from the 1970s. Some of tgat decline came about because of safer car designs (for those inside the car, at least), but prohibiting and agressively going after drunk driving, i.e. regulating the drivers, made a big difference too.

    The last few years, phone drivers are the new drunk drivers – as this is not yet aggressively legislated against and criminalized, deaths by distracted drivers are rising again.
    Does the fact that earlier laws against drunk driving were made, make it a slippery slope if lawmakers now also make a law against phone driving?

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