A Dialogue on the Gun Debate, and why I support Full Disarmament
Updated: Jan 10, 2020
This topic is one that I find myself discussing far more often than I'd like, because we have mass shootings so regularly in this country it is seemingly impossible to avoid staking out a position on guns. Even though I do enjoy trolling the Right Wing and Centrist Dem's on Twitter my stated positions rarely deviate from the majority of progressives, at least insofar as policies currently on the table. This issue is an exception, because I stake out not just the most extreme position but a position that conservatives have used for decades to drum up support and fear monger about; I'm in favor of repealing the Second Amendment and Banning Guns.
I'd been planning to write out this post for some time but laying out an argument for a position that the majority of conservatives, moderates, and even my leftist friends disagree with is challenging. What spurned me to finally put my thoughts down was a Twitter thread I had with someone else, a leftist who was interested in why I felt this position was the correct one because they themselves disagreed with it. The link to that thread for the curious is here. My goal is to save as many lives as possible, that is my guiding light when occupying a position. Whether we are pushing for universal healthcare, an end to US Imperialism, stopping the failed War on Drugs and granting Amnesty to anyone convicted of a non-violent drug offense, the goal is to save and improve the lives of everyone and the Gun Debate is no exception.
There are a variety of arguments that get raised when I bring up guns, so we will just take them one at a time. To begin, we will start with why any gun control is necessary. This may seem idiotic but remember there are those that think the NRA is to soft on guns, so the starting line should reflect that. Why regulate weapons at all? Simple answer, no one needs an atomic bomb for self defense. We agree regular people shouldn't have access to Napalm or vials of Anthrax because they're weapons of mass destruction. Personally I'd rather no one and no government have these laying around but we will get to that later, for now we will just leave it as a given that ordinary citizens don't need world ending items for personal use. But why stop there? Ordinary people don't need Apache Helicopters or Tanks for self defense either so of course we keep those out of civilian hands as well.
We accept these basic regulations as a given, even most of the Right Wing does which is odd given their stance on the Second Amendment is that the government is not supposed to infringe on our right to bear arms. If their interpretation is so absolute than they should be rallying to legalize Hydrogen Bombs and protesting our lack of Ebola Viral Glass shops, Free Market and whatnot. But let's ratchet down the insanity a bit, 3D printers allow us to 'print' basically anything if the right schematics and materials are provided so where is the Rights support for 3D printed guns? There are those who have pushed for this but they've been met with strong resistance from Republican politicians, Trump himself said he discussed it with the NRA and that it doesn't make sense.
This hypocrisy is one of the biggest strikes against the Rights entire position of guns being necessary to preserve freedom, they only defend the Right to Bear Arms to the extent that they can profit off of it and so long as it doesn't challenge the authority of the Federal Government. The reason 3D printed guns are illegal and the schematics are banned has nothing to do with saving lives, its to keep the gun manufacturing industry intact. Freedom and choice always boils down to this truth in Capitalism, Capitalists love competition until they have to compete. Cheap firearms produced by individuals would break the Industry so they're banned, and Weapons of Mass Destruction would threaten the sovereignty of the State so they too are banned. I do not lament this ban, but it is worth noting how the loudest proponents of gun rights don't even believe their own rhetoric.
Moving along to the debate about how much regulation we should have, the actual debate. Common sense gun reform is the term I hear thrown around by leftists and moderates alike, 'we need to close the Gun Show loophole' or 'institute mandatory 5 day waiting periods'. These are good measures and I support the initiatives to see them enacted, Bernie himself supports measures in a similar vein. So why do I go a step farther? Because I view these measures in the same way I view the difference between Liz Warren and Bernie Sanders, you cannot regulate a broken system. I have no doubt that these measures will pass long before my stance becomes the norm, but that doesn't make them the best solution. Liz Warrens signature achievement during the Obama years was the creation of a new watch dog agency the CFPB, which returned billions of dollars to defrauded consumers. Then Trump and Mick Mulvaney destroyed it from within, because regulations are only as permanent as the administration that enacted them.
Imagine Medicare for All, Bernie's flagship issue. If we settled for some kind of private industry compromise like Australia for instance, the obvious issue would be the threat of Private Healthcare industry lobbyists slowly but surely rolling back those regulations and undoing the rules we have set in place. This is why Medicare for All is so important, its not just that we want to provide quality healthcare for all but the mechanism by which we will do it completely destroys a private industry. That is how you achieve a permanent program, we need to remove the profit incentive entirely by ending the private market. Profit is a caustic poison that erodes morality, just look at the recent issue with how we distribute and package Pork. Big Food producers lobbied to remove the regulations to save money, got their way, and now our pig products will come with an added dose of fecal matter.
When people talk about the merits of the Private Industry and what it does well, I always roll my eyes. The Private Industry is the height of inefficiency because it factors for and sustains a parasitic entity that absorbs a disproportionately high amount of income relative to their input. If we accept that we need to remove the Private Industry from Healthcare because it is literally killing us, then why do we not view the Private Gun Manufacturing industry the same? Any Gun Regulations we enact that leave the Industry intact are subject to lobbying efforts that will roll them back. We have now finally arrived at the first point the leads me to this position, Private Gun Manufacturing is a threat to long term change and any proposal that leaves them in place is inadequate.
OK, so lets say I've kept you up to this point and we agree the Gun Manufacturing Industry is incompatible with regulations. That still doesn't address the Second Amendment and a full ban on Weapons. So lets say we do end Private Gun Manufacturing, the next logical point is what do we replace it with? If we do not take my stance to simply Repeal the Second Amendment and institute a gun buyback program as other nations have done then the only remaining options are some type of government run gun manufacturing institution (Medicare but for Guns) or to allow for easy access to the 3D printed weapons nation wide (this second option is pure insanity and I won't dignify it with a response).
To flesh this point out we're going with the assumption that this hypothetical institution is beholden to just the common sense regulations already proposed but minus the private industry. Pistols, Magnums, Shotguns would all be produced by this Hypothetical Institution however assault weapons have been banned nation wide. Costs would go down as the for profit motive would be removed, but that reduces a barrier to entry so I'm not cool with that. However, if this agency has a mandatory waiting period and operates locally like an ABC store checking gun licenses at the door would this reduce gun deaths? Most likely, yes. Would it reduce the number of deaths more than banning the weapons altogether? No, and that's enough of an argument for me.
Now whenever this topic comes up I always hear about how most gun owners are responsible so why should I punish those law abiding citizens by taking away their guns? Here is another question, why are those gun owners allowed to punish us by maintaining a system for their benefit that kills upwards of 30,000 per year? The albeit imperfect metaphor I use is 'My hobby is driving on the wrong side of the road. My family grew up doing it and I'm teaching my sons how to drive on the wrong side of the road properly. We go to tracks to practice twice a week, so why are you outlawing my favorite hobby because of a few bad apples?' The answer is that some hobbies are to dangerous for a cohesive society to tolerate.
I appreciate the fact that most gun owners will never commit a crime, but in terms of mass use according to Pew Research Center only about a quarter of Americans own firearms. If we evaluate just that quarter, the average gun owner owns about three guns, however more than half of gun owners only own one or two firearms. The average is three because 14% of gun owners, which is roughly 3% of our population, own between 8-140 guns. So when so little of our population has a concentration of weapons so vast it comprises the majority of all owned firearms in the US is it really worth setting up our laws to benefit that 3% to the disadvantage of the many? I think the answer is an obvious, no. I support all methods of gun control because anything is better than nothing, and an 80% reduction in gun deaths per year would be a significant change, but to drop our numbers to the levels of Japan we must do more.
We can quote statistics all day about how this proposal could cut gun deaths nation wide by a third or half or even 80%, but statistics mean nothing to the individual and I'm not going to defend a civilians 'right' to a device that kills another civilian. I do not acknowledge the Right to Bear Arms, I acknowledge the right to basic human Happiness so long as it does not unduly infringe on another persons right to Happiness. We call this the Golden Rule, 'do unto others as you would have them do unto you' for those unfamiliar with that term. From my point of view the Right to bear arms is not a Right, it is a law and a poorly worded one at that written by men long dead in a very different era. So for me repealing the Second Amendment is nothing more than some over due democracy maintenance, when a law no longer applies you change or remove it.
Would this apply to the police and the military, yes absolutely. We already spend far to much on our military as it is and all it does in create more global strife, as I'm writing this an assassination our President unlawfully carried out on a foreign leader could threaten another conflict in the Middle East and perhaps beyond. Our police murder innocent men and women, usually Black or Hispanic Americans, with impunity so when I'm asked why we would disarm the citizens if our government is still so armed, the answer is to disarm both. Many developed countries do not allow their police to carry firearms nor are they trained by Israeli Special Forces, and their police violence is unsurprisingly far lower. Disarming our Nuclear Stockpile and rolling back our militarist global footprint would bring far more stability to the world than maintaining or increasing weapons reserves.
According to Giffords Law Center approximately 36,383 Americans die from gun violence each year, with gun suicides making up 22,274 and homicides making up 12,830. The remainder is Accidental Discharge and Police Homicides but I wouldn't be surprised if that last section suffers from frequent under-reporting. If we reduced that statistic by 80% with common sense gun control, which would be a resounding success for that kind of initiative, there would still be 7,276.6 casualties per year. I'm not content with that number, and I never will be. There but for the grace of god goes me or someone I know, so how can I look at that as a success? For context here's us versus the rest of the world compliments of Vox:
Japan had just three gun deaths in 2017. We are orders of magnitude higher because we tolerate a law that is being abused by a Capitalist Industry. They've cultivated a culture of support that borders on religious, and that support has driven the narrative on guns for decades. Which brings us to the last argument that is normally raised when I discuss this topic, 'Taking away guns from the Right Wing would lead to mass violence and potentially a war'.
I hear this last point from Right Wingers (and Leftists concerned about Right Wingers), as if this is supposed to be a real argument. This threat is not an argument and were these Right Wing fascists to commit acts of mass terror in response to Repealing the Second Amendment it would only further prove why this has to be done. Ignoring for the moment that they arguably already killing and terrorizing us, there is no guarantee they would accept any form of gun control passively so this argument has no place when discussing gun policy. The Right Wing is wrong on every topic so when they scream about how X (whatever X may be) will ruin America it is almost assuredly going to improve the lives of ordinary Americans. So if this issue triggers them, good.
My hope is I've represented my views clearly enough that even if you walk away disagreeing with me you can understand the logic behind my point of view. The freedom to own a gun, is less important to me than the freedom of living peaceably. Free of fear that someone may attack your child's school, or a concert you're planning to attend, or open fire on an elected official in public. In life we make these compromises and concessions all the time and they go largely unremarked upon. A hobby is only worth maintaining if the rest of us don't live in fear of it.