Tuesday, January 11, 2011

No, the Problem Isn't Gun Control....

Save perhaps to the extent that existing gun laws that are supposed to keep firearms out of the hands of the mentally ill were not adequately applied, perhaps because Jared Loughner managed to avoid diagnosis and treatment. Bob Herbert suggests,
If we were serious, if we really wanted to cut down on the killings, we’d have to do two things. We’d have to radically restrict the availability of guns while at the same time beginning the very hard work of trying to change a culture that glorifies and embraces violence as entertainment, and views violence as an appropriate and effective response to the things that bother us.
Richard Cohen focuses, more accurately, on handguns:
But rather than going on a national guilt trip, we should turn our attention to the one element in this tragedy that can be controlled: easy access to guns. After all, enough ought to be enough. Rifles can kill (John F. Kennedy, for instance), but most homicides committed using firearms - more than 70 percent - are the work of handguns (Robert F. Kennedy, for instance). The handgun is wonderfully effective. It's little and it's lethal.
I say "more accurately" because, back when I lived in Canada, about half of the homes in my province contained firearms but, due to gun control laws, primarily long guns. And although frequently the "Murder Capital of Canada", the city I lived in was actually quite safe. I do recall a double homicide involving a handgun, but the honor of being "murder capital" was earned primarily by virtue of having a relatively low population (it doesn't take many murders to skew the "per capita" statistic), and a subculture that all-too-often brought knives to knife fights.

Do I think Loughner would have been deterred from going on his rampage if he had to shorten the barrel of a shotgun, or learn to shoot with a rifle? No, not really. It's a bit like the argument over his extended magazine. Yes, he was disarmed when trying to reload. Yes, it's possible that had his magazine emptied sooner he would have been disarmed sooner with less carnage. It seems to me that such laws are more apt to make somebody like Loughner modify his plans, as opposed to abandoning them. Arguments about handgun control make more sense when directed at opportunistic crime or robbery of retail stores and banks, where the offender is carrying a gun with profit in mind, than they do when directed at somebody like Loughner.

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