People kill people. With guns

One of these days I’m going to get around to doing a nice long post on gun control.  For now, I simply want to point out that, perhaps, “guns don’t kill people; people kill people” but it’s a heck of a lot easier with a gun and that is the tool most often used in this country when people kill each other.  I guarantee you that if spoons were effectively and severely restricted, there’s be a lot less soup eaten in this country.

A great principle in public health is that of “harm reduction.”  Perhaps you cannot eliminate a problem, e.g., illegal drug use, but you can find a way such that the problem causes less harm.   This can certainly apply to guns as well.  No, we’re not going to get rid of crazy (or evil) people.  And, in this country there is clearly no political will to dramatically limit the supply of guns (and only a dramatic limit would really help).  What we can do, however, is dramatically limit the harm the comes from combining crazy people and guns.  No civilians need assault rifles, 30 bullet clips, etc.  None!  It still would’ve been a tragedy if Loughner showed up with a 6-shooter, but not nearly as bad.  Furthermore, it was far too easy for a guy with serious red flags to get a gun.  I’ll throw it to Big Steve again:

Anyhow, we are not going to stop all crazy people from doing crazy things.  But we can limit the harm such people can do.  This is a lesson we have learned again and again at great cost.  Jared Lee Loughner did not have to go out of his way to find this gun, but just went to a store.  Let’s make it hard for these guys.  Let’s separate out the dedicated, disciplined people with mental problems from those who are less motivated.  Let’s make it just a bit harder for them.  Yes, banning various kinds of guns does not make it impossible for people to get these kinds of weapons, but it increases the likelihood that the next person who decides to assassinate someone will have harder time getting the means to do so and perhaps will do far less damage.

True dat.

About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State

One Response to People kill people. With guns

  1. MIke Barr says:

    But Steve, you are not thinking correctly! What if clips were limited to 10 bullets? What about the scenario where a non-professional who was defending his family from a criminal popped off the entire clip without getting a kill shot against the perp. This allows the criminal to kill the entire family. But, what if the 11th bullet that would have been the one that stopped the assailant? Well? Your restriction just killed a family!

    Such was the argument put forth by Alan Gura today on the Diane Rehm Show. This was his response to the argument that no hunter or marksmen needs 30 rounds in a clip.

    So what we have here is a scary hypothetical situation that has occurred probably once a year or less for the past 100 years. On the other hand, we know that the shooter in this incident was tackled when he stopped to reload. That is an N of 1 in 2011. How many times has this happened in the past 10 years? And more importantly, how many times has some street thug squeezed off 30 rounds into a crowd or a car instead of 10 rounds? It seems to me that the benefits of limiting the size of the clip far outweighs the costs.

    Finally, I wish someone could change the gun control narrative to something that parallels the way we control cars (or more accurately, driving). Cars are deadly weapons when used recklessly. So we have all sorts of law and regulations that impact the right to drive freely. There are speed limits. You can’t drive while inebriated. You stop at red lights. There are inspections to make sure your brakes are functional. All of these things curtail individual freedom in exchange for a social good. Yet we don’t see the government taking away our cars. And people can still buy and sell cars even though they have to be registered, and there are car shows, and people collect cars, and so on. Why can’t the same be applied to guns?

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