June 29, 2014 Leave a comment
Very nice Q&A with a gun policy expert in TNR: Hits some key points and completely undermines the NRA’s counter-arguments:
Why should we believe guns per se are the problem? Isn’t it true that guns don’t kill people—people kill people?
Guns are not the sole reason why the U.S. has such unusually high homicide rates, but our lax gun laws may be the most important determinant. Rates of non-lethal violent crime, adolescent fighting, and mental illness in the U.S. are average compared with other high-income countries. [emphasis mine]
A major, major feature that gun supporters ignore is that most all these illegal guns began is legal guns. That’s what we need to crackdown on:
OK, so we’ve never really tried to make background checks truly universal. Why should we believe that will work?
When criminals get guns, they get them from friends, family, or from an underground market source. Without universal background check requirements, there is little deterrent to selling guns to criminals or gun traffickers. State laws mandating universal background checks deter the diversion of guns to criminals. The most comprehensive screening and background check processes, where potential gun purchasers apply in person for permits to purchase handguns, are associated with lower homicide and suicide rates.
But won’t there still be a whole bunch of guns out there, being sold illegally and falling into the hands of criminals?
Yes, some criminals will be able to steal or purchase guns already in circulation. But many of the estimated 300 million guns in civilian hands can’t be easily acquired by criminals. Lots of gun owners lock their guns in safes or have other ways to secure their firearms, practices that can be increased by laws and educational campaigns. And it’s not as easy or risk free for criminals to buy guns in the underground market as is commonly believed. Duke economist Philip Cook has studied Chicago’s underground gun market and said, “there may be a lot of guns, but there is a shortage of trusted sellers.” With greater accountability measures and choking the supply of new guns into the underground market, street prices will rise and fewer dangerous people will have guns.
And, of course, contrary to what the NRA says, this does not really hurt legitimate gun owners:
I’ve heard the NRA say that gun control takes guns away from law-abiding citizens, not criminals. Isn’t that true? Aren’t we better off allowing people to defend themselves with a firearm?
This is a bogus argument that has worked extremely well for the gun lobby’s fundraising and been instrumental in its success in fending off common-sense gun laws. Requiring a background check of prospective purchasers does not take away guns from law abiding people, nor does close regulation and oversight of gun dealers.
The gun lobby says that background checks will lead to registries of gun ownership—and, eventually, the confiscation of weapons. But federal law forbids anything resembling a federal gun registry, we’ve had background check requirements for sales by license dealers since 1994 without registries or gun confiscation, and states that do have their own gun registries have never used them to remove guns from law abiding citizens.
Sorry, this is not just some agree to disagree kind of issue. There’s smart policy on one side versus NRA/gun-nut hysteria on the other.