Thursday, January 17, 2013

Gun Control and the Possible

Now that President Obama has revealed the list of changes he wants to make to the way we manage gun ownership in this country, the flap has begun.  A number of very loud people are screaming that "they're going to take away our guns."  I wish. But in fact, his major proposals are very simple:

  • Background checks every time a gun changes hands
  • No more semi-automatic rifles, aka assault weapons, sold
  • No more high-capacity magazines sold
The second and third items have just given gun sellers their biggest month ever, as people line up to buy guns "while we still can."  The paranoia is overwhelming, despite the fact that nothing in any of this suggests any plan on the government's part to "take away our guns," in fact, no action on any guns anyone currently owns.  

But I'm seeing a very interesting consensus building on universal background checks.  The link won't be up until tomorrow, but in today's San Francisco Chronicle, the editorial "Real gun laws at last" quotes an Associated Press poll that showed 86% of respondents in favor of background checks at gun shows.  If you review the general coverage of the SHOT show in Las Vegas this week (Shooting, Hunting, Outdoor Trade Show), you'll see that even the attendees (largely gun dealers) are generally in favor of more and better background checks.

So I have a recommendation for Mr. Obama.  Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good.  Far more people are in favor of expanding background checks (over 80%) than favor banning assault weapons and high-capacity magazines (just over 50%, which is still amazing).  Push the background checks separately, as a single bill that does nothing else.  Then you have a sporting chance of getting it passed.  If you bundle all the changes together in a single bill, as everyone in Washington loves to do, you give anyone with any objection to any small section the excuse to vote against it.

And it would help.  I regularly hear gun supporters argue that because these measures won't "solve the problem" - and they won't, if "solve" means "make it stop entirely" - we shouldn't even bother.  That's a straw man.  No law will "solve" any problem of human behavior.  But regular background checks will make things better. California has some of the strongest gun laws in the country, but Oakland, California is drowning in illegal assault weapons trucked in from Reno, Nevada, where you can  buy any weapon you want - especially at that gun show this week.  Background checks would reduce the flow of guns from Nevada to California, and that would help.  A lot.  Let's do it.

1 comment:

  1. Very good point. Separating the issues will make room for progress!
    Sarah Raphael