Whenever I get carried away on a comment response, I turn it into a post to make the most of the effort. And since I really haven’t been all that provocative the last few days, I thought I would share, more visibly, my Modest Proposal on the problem of gun violence in America.
On a previous post, Tom Fillinger complained thusly:
I find it disturbing that most of the time on this site – – anyone who disagrees with the majority perspective found on this site is an “ideologue”.
Good decisons are based on differing opinions (Peter Drucker).
So I responded as follows…
What “majority perspective,” Tom? Whatever it is, I don’t seem to share it, based on the arguments I have here with my friends on the left and on the right…
I wouldn’t go so far as to quote Ibsen’s Dr. Stockman and say, “A minority may be right; a majority is always wrong.” I really embraced that when I was 17, because the Raskolnikovian arrogance of the statement appealed to my young ego.
Still, all these years later, while I have greater respect than I did for a majority’s view (40 years will do that for you), I very often don’t share it. And even when I do agree broadly, I argue about the nuances. That’s because the finer points tend to get sanded away on the way to making an idea acceptable to a broad audience — lowest common denominator and all that.
I forget — what were we talking about? Oh yeah: Guns…
See, there’s one of those things where I can’t agree with the majority, if the majority is either the nuttier gun lovers (the ones who think more and more people should pack heat all the time) or the peaceful folk who seem to faint at the smell of gun oil.
Guns are dangerous as hell, by their nature (gun advocates say many things that make sense, but they are at their silliest when they try to deny the inherent danger imposed by the devices, a danger that all sensible weapons training is designed to minimize) — they are wonderfully engineered to combine maximum deadliness with minimum effort. (As Elvis Costello put it, “It only took my little fingers to blow you away.”) In this sense, the AK-47 is the most perfect gun (actually, a rifle) in history. For minimal effort (almost no maintenance, little upper-body strength, making it ideal for child soldiers in Africa) it puts out maximum firepower. Anyway, these qualities of modern firearms cause me to wish them to be in the possession of as few people as possible.
It’s like — back in the early 80s, I had this great, extended conversation with Al Gore, who at the time was styling himself an expert on arms control, and he borrowed my legal pad to sketch out the problem with MIRVs. The problem? They produce exponentially greater chance that a warhead — actually, many warheads — will hit targets. This increases global insecurity far more than if you have single-warhead vehicles.
Well, we exceeded critical mass on guns long ago, and I don’t think we can put that toothpaste back in the tube (hold on, maybe I can come up with one more metaphor to throw into the mix… mmmm… how about mousetraps and ping-pong balls?), which is why you don’t see me getting behind gun control efforts very much. They seem sort of futile.
The best gun-control efforts I’ve ever heard of is those where the cops buy up guns and destroy them. Because that’s the problem — too many guns exist. But those efforts are like trying to empty the ocean with a leaky bucket.
See, it’s not about law-abiding citizens having guns vs. criminals having guns. The problem is that there are too many guns. It doesn’t matter who initially buys a gun. As long as it exists, it is subject to being stolen (it’s a favorite item for burglars). The only way to keep guns out of the hands of criminals is for there to be many, many fewer guns — say, about 1% (just a wild guess, but I doubt I’m far off) of the number than exist now. Then, you’d have a true economic scarcity. The price on the street would go way up, but that would be because they were harder to obtain, and that would be a good thing.
But I see no way to get there. The political — and, yes, constitutional — barriers are way too steep. You can nibble at the problem, but how do you solve it? I have no idea.
Well, actually, I have one idea, which is not entirely original (although you don’t hear it much): Ban the sale and manufacture of ammunition. I don’t see anything in the Constitution about THAT. Then, of course, we may see the incidents of pistol-whippings go up, but shootings would eventually become a thing of the past. Anyway, a baseball bat is a better bludgeon than a gun. Ammunition is the problem. Take away ammo, and a pistol is a very awkward hammer. And since it’s a consumable, gun owners (law-abiding and criminal) would eventually run out.
Criminals — indeed, anyone who uses guns violently (and most people are shot by friends, family and acquaintances, not by the proverbial dangerous stranger, and of course the presence of guns in domestic disputes make the difference between battery and homicide) — tend to be impulsive. They’re not going to manufacture their own ammo, the way many serious sportsmen do. So this would quickly reduce, and eventually eliminate, most violent crime involving guns.
Of course, the political barrier to this idea would be just as great as the one with guns. The gun-lovers would go, “Hey! Wait a minute…” and then get really ticked at what they would perceive as an end run — we know this because, of course, I’m not the first to bring it up. But as for the Constitutional question — well, I’d love to see it tried in court, if only as an intellectual exercise.
Anyway, do you consider my position on that to be “majority?”