To the editor:
Guns, indeed, are at least part of the problem with gun violence, inaminate object though guns may be. Mental illness, bad character, sin, violent movies and video games may be the root cause of violent death in America but guns are the tool of first choice.
At first glance, the problem seems obvious, guns are readily available and easy to get, legally or otherwise. The solutions, however, are far more complex and difficult and will require real effort.
To begin with there are essentially three kinds of death or injury producing intentional violence, one-on-one violence, crime-related violence, and mass killings. The first is the daily drip-drip of domestic violence, arguments with the neighbors gone too far, accidents and suicides.
The second is largely confined to poor urban areas; much of it done by rival gangs of young men fighting over control of the drug trade. The casualties are the young men themselves and innocent bystanders caught in the crossfire.
Finally there are mass killings which shock us because they seem so random, unexpected, and, to be honest, because affluent white people have been the primary victims. So mass killings get the public attention and spark the usual gun policy arguments. We ought to look at this objectively and accept some hard truths.
It is absolutely true that any weapon can be used to kill en masse. Knives, spears, axes, swords and frying pans can all be used but they are slow, tiring and need a high degree of skill and strength. The most efficient, quick and cheap way to kill alot of people is to use a so-called assault weapon.
The NRA likes to play dumb with the definition of an assault weapon. It is not that complicated, these are compact rifles (made more so by telescoping or folding buttstocks), firing an intermediate cartidge that can accept large capacity magazines, generally 30 rounds. What makes them so lethal is the round, deadly at all practical ranges, but with mild recoil so that the shooter can fire very fast accurately with minimal training.
A rifle is a far better killing tool than a pistol if murder is your purpose, the rational killer keeps a pistol for backup only. The easiest assault weapon to obtain is an AR, either in 223cal or 5.56 mm or an AK in either 7.62 x 39mm or 5.45 x 39 mm. The AK is usually cheaper, requires virtually no maintenance, but the AR are more available, legally and otherwise.
On the face of it, the obvious solution would be an outright ban on possession of these military-type rifles. This won't happen for two reasons. First it is wrong morally. The vast majority of gunowners, including assault weapons, will not commit any crimes with these guns.
Page 2 of 3 - ARs are fun to shoot and can be used for hunting. Second, a ban and resulting confiscation are a practical impossibility. It is unenforcable in a democracy although that does not stop the NRA from stoking the fires of fear and paranoia.
So what can be done? Actually, one of the NRA's proposals has merit; armed guards in schools along with armed teachers. or in public places in general. The question is are we willing to pay for it? Without getting into tactics, arming teachers with pistols is the last-ditch classroom defense. Presumedly, teachers would rather not stand all day draped with ARs and chest rigs. Assuming that the attacking gunman will be armed with an assault rifle, the goal should be to stop him as quickly with minimum of shooting. That takes an AR-armed guard. Since the invader will have the advantage of surprise and will likely have done a recon, you will need two. That is per building. Now look at ending a shooting at a university with multiple buildings.
The NRA is right about another thing, gun-free zones are no deterrent. So if mass shootings are a problem and we can't curtail gun possession much there are two choices. One is more guards at every public place. Go to the supermarket and get frisked by the armed guard at the front door or the policeman at the entrance to the courthouse.
So where do all these guards come from? Old retired guys volunteering their time? Military retirees at no pay (not a bad idea)? Private contractors? Police? Do we train or at least certify these people or do we just assume that they know what they are doing? Will you pay higher property taxes to fund this? Higher federal taxes?
The other option is open carry. Open carry seems to mean carrying a firearm with no training or licensing requirement. Lets be honest again, when people support open carry they usually mean open carry for old white guys, not, for example, young black males. It is worth revisiting history. Back in the early 70s, the Black Panthers used to hold rallies brandishing a motley collection of guns, usually bolt action 22s and single-shot 20-gauge Sears and Roebuck shotguns, nothing comparable to what is available today. White America went into a panic. It didn't take long for the police and FBI to kill off as many of the Panthers as needed to suppress the "threat" of black insurrection.
Supposedly the other deterrent to gun violence is the armed citizen with the concealed carry permit. I will grant you that it is possible that an armed citizen can stop a gunman quickly with minimal shooting. It is also possible that the confrontation degenerates into a prolonged messy gunfight with lots of collateral damage, even armed citizens shooting each other.
Page 3 of 3 - There is no easy cure for gun violence. The ultimate solution will probably be local with varying degrees of restrictions. At the federal level the best we can do is to chip around the edges. Enforce existing gun laws more vigorously. Require background checks for all gun sales. Private sales between gunowners could be exempt. Sales at gun shows should not be; gun show sales are largely done by dealers. Limit the number of guns sold at one transaction. There may be other measures but the likely result will be that obtaining a gun will become somewhat more difficult. That may be enough.
To conclude, I'm sure of three things. The current furor will die down when the public loses interest. The NRA will never abandon its absolutist position. Nothing will happen until the body count of rich white people goes up substantially.