I’m probably going to get a lot of bad press for what I’m about to say, but it goes with the territory so I might as well say it right now: I don’t see anything wrong with talking about gun control. Not responsible, not reasonable, not sensible. Gun control. Control, control, control. And the reason I believe in gun control is very simple: It’s the only way we can hope to really make a dent in a public health issue that kills or injures more than 125,000 Americans every year.
Right now I am listening to a very good podcast from an online forum called The Other Washington entitled “Gun Responsibility,” which covers the events leading up to the passage of Initiative 594 in Washington State which expanded background checks to all transfers of guns. And the commentators point out that expanded background checks have overwhelming support, even among gun owners, which makes this kind of regulatory initiative ‘sensible’ because everyone thinks it should be done. But then the commentators veer off in another direction, justifying I-594 by noting that states with the ‘strongest’ gun laws have the lowest rates of gun violence.
Guess what? Know what the phrase ‘strong gun laws’ means? It means gun control, folks, period, end of story. And I happen to live in one of those states, Massachusetts, which is given a B+ rating for its gun laws, and if the gun laws in my state don’t amount to gun control, then I don’t know what does. In Massachusetts private transactions must be registered not with NICS but with the state, police have the arbitrary authority to deny or impose conditions on the issuance of a gun license even if the applicant passes the background check, and the Attorney General can determine which handguns can and cannot be sold based on whether the design of the weapon is considered child-safe; which means that a civilian can’t buy, among other products, a Glock. And by the way, the safe storage law, if violated, carries a four-year stretch in jail.
It just so happens, no surprise, that Massachusetts also has the second-lowest gun violence rates of all 50 states. So if ‘strong’ gun laws lead to less gun violence, and gun laws are usually ‘strong’ precisely because they regulate the movement of guns and the issuance of licenses to own guns, why do we continue to pretend that words like ‘sensible’ and ‘responsible’ mean something different from what the words ‘gun control’ mean? And if anyone actually thinks that by avoiding the term ‘gun control’ that somehow the NRA will hang an ‘out to lunch’ placard on the office door when a ‘reasonable’ gun regulation is being discussed, I strongly enjoin you to think again. Because Gun Nation isn’t interested in any law, any regulation, any kind of anything being done to change or redefine America’s alleged love affair with guns.
But, you counter, it’s not the NRA we are trying to convince. It’s all those undecided, decent folks in the ‘middle’ who could be brought over if we convince them that we aren’t trying to ride roughshod over the 2nd Amendment and push all gun owners down that veritable slippery slope. I think this is wishful thinking and I also think it denigrates the ability of most Americans to understand issues when they are given all the facts. The Surgeon General’s report on smoking risk was released in 1964, a time when less than 50% believed that smoking was a health risk. By 1980, more than 80% of Americans believed that smoking caused lung cancer, and since then no state has made smoking illegal, but 28 states have passed laws prohibiting smoking in most public places, including restaurants and bars.
Guns are lethal. Guns are dangerous. Guns are a risk to public health. Controlling guns is not sensible or responsible. Controlling guns needs to take place. And you won’t speed up the process by trying to somehow camouflage what it is you want and should do.