The Argument Against “More Guns, Less Crime

19 10 2015

is essentially this: “The problem… isn’t that criminals don’t follow laws, but rather that criminals aren’t dissuaded by weak laws. And gun laws in all but a few states are decidedly weak.”

The full article from The Trace is here. It’s long and complicated, as the truth often is. A simple sound bite like “only a good guy with a gun stops a bad guy with a gun” can have the ring of truth, because we want the world to make sense. But the world is messy and often counterintuitive.

What really drives me around the bend (and if you’ve been following my Twitter feed you’ve seen it happen) about people who argue that the only solution to gun violence is to turn everyone into an armed vigilante is this: not only are they living in an infantile old west fantasy, they are perpetuating the same fantasy that drives mass shooters.

(I’m going to exit the realm of facts for a bit, and express my own intuitive speculation. This is just for my own emotional well-being. We’ll come back to reality in a moment.)

Who are these men and boys who go into public places and randomly open fire? They are disempowered people, who imagine that shooting others will make them stronger. The only difference with the would-be vigilante is they are waiting for the other guy to shoot first. Or so they say. At a Detroit Home Depot, a vigilante recklessly endangered bystanders in the parking lot by firing at shoplifters who posed no threat to her. How is that different than a shooter using deadly force in response to petty or imagined slights from coworkers or fellow students?

A lone gunman waiting for their Dirty Harry moment, watching the crowd for some punk who feels lucky, is separated from the mass shooter by a hair’s breadth, by the tiniest or even illusory concession to social conventions which the murderer has completely abandoned.

I realize that I have very strong feelings about this subject, which lead me to make gross generalizations. I also realize that it is one of many issues that polorizes America into seemingly irreconcilable camps. If anyone from the opposing camp reads this, I hope they will take away an understanding of what their arguments mean to my side, so that we can communicate better. When you say we should all carry guns to stop shooters, I picture a world full of shooters. Therefore I find your argument horrifying, personally threatening, and infuriating.

And now, the promised return to reality. The fact is, mass shootings are not committed by career criminals, with connections and expertise at breaking the law. Mass shootings are committed by desperate, disturbed people, whose bloody visions tip into real life only because deadly weapons are so accessible.

A modicum of sensible regulation is necessary. Not a ban on guns. And no, it won’t eliminate gang violence or mob hits or armed robbery. But it will go a long way toward solving a specific problem that is getting tragically, tragically worse every day.

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