By Isaac Butler
First off, if you want some statistics about gun control, you couldn't do much better than Ezra Klein's "Twelve Facts About Gun Control" which can be found here. He then went on to do some yeoman's work mythbusting the claim that Israel and Switzerland are places with high rates of gun ownership but low rates of gun violence (which would seem to bolster the argument that our gun violence is largely cultural in nature). Those are both worth a read.
I'm going to hand over the metaphorical mic here to a friend of mine who shall remain anonymous. I e-mailed him yesterday to ask him about gun control and what could be done. My friend is a gun collector, a military nut, and a pro-gun control lefty. He also believes-- and, over the years, has convinced me-- that much of what Democrats think is good gun control policy is basically cosmetic bullshit.
I asked him given his views on gun control, and given the Supreme Court ruling that the 2nd Amendment provides for an individual positive right to bear arms, what could be done in the wake of the Newtown shooting to get a handle on guns? This was his reply. I think you'll note a lot of this stuff is done at the State level. So it might be a good idea for you to familiarize yourself with your state's gun control laws and work to strengthen them, should this be an issue you really care about:
Enforce the existing gun control laws and regulations. That would be a strong start. We have really good federal laws against gun possession by felons, transferring guns to those with mental illness, those who abuse drugs and booze, those with records of non-felony violence, those who have been dishonorably discharged from the military, etc., etc. But prosecutions for violations of these laws aren't all that robust. DAs will respond to incentives. If they're incentivized to prosecute drug offenses, they're likely to plea bargain away the gun charges. Change those incentives.
Massachusetts, California, and some other places have laws that mandate secure storage for firearms. That doesn't strike me as the world's worst idea.
The state laws allowing private parties to transfer ownership of firearms to others without a record of the transaction is something that should be examined. That will be contentious.
There are other places where failure to report the theft of a firearm has legal consequences. Again, I don't see what would be constitutionally threatening.
We've done a good job of pushing down fatalities due to mis-use and criminal use of vehicles by enforcing existing laws and educating the public on how to safely operate in a world full of cars. A similar approach to guns would show benefits. In states where state-standardized firearm safety course are required to get a concealed carry permit or a hunting permit there are significant public safety benefits. The Eddie Eagle program does great work educating kids in firearm safety.
And not to sound bitchy, but stay the hell away from highly technical definition-based regulations. Banning magazines based on how many rounds they hold or weapons with certain features is flat out stupid and ineffective. It's ineffective because such regulations are invariably written by people who don't understand the technical details sufficiently to focus on aspects that actually bear on the lethality of weapons. It's stupid since you burn political capital and make political enemies - rather than converts - all for zero actual effect (because it was ineffectively written in the first place).
But . . . you can't concentrate only on the tools. This is a problem with people. People are using inanimate tools to hurt other people. Identifying those people likely to do this is challenging, but it's worth concentrating on at least as much as limiting access to tools.
There are so many guns in circulation that you're never going to get them all under control. You can and should try, but it'll take years even if you get serious about it. So you have to accept that you live in a world where people do bad things with guns. You should build your systems of protection with this in mind. We understand that banks are inherently attractive targets to those who want to steal money. And we proactively protect them.
But now we also understand that places filled with defenseless people are inherently attractive targets to those cowards who want to harm innocents on their way out. Fine. We should proactively protect those places - not from the tools (guns), but from the predators (people employing guns to hurt people).