I had a brief, but interesting, Twitter exchange with one of my favorite Sci Fi authors, Jennifer Foehner Wells (@Jenthulhu), involving guns and gun control. I responded to a tweet of hers putting down the National Rifle Association, to which she responded in turn.
Of course, the spark for this exchange was the horrible event in San Bernardino, California, today, when two or three people shot up a conference at the Inland Regional Center, killing 14 and wounding about 17. Jen issued several tweets in response to this event, but the one that I responded to was this:
- @Jenthulhu: What is it going to take for us to rise up as a country and say NO MORE to the NRA? — 1:40 PM – 2 Dec 2015
- @Cyberherbalist: @Jenthulhu you really feel the NRA is to blame for this shooting? Calif has STRONG gun control. Knees jerk, but brains should think 1st. — 3:51 PM – 2 Dec 2015
- @Jenthulhu: @Cyberherbalist It doesn’t make sense to me that it’s easier to get a gun than a driver’s license. You will NEVER convince me otherwise. — 3:51 PM – 2 Dec 2015
Now, full disclosure, I am a member of the NRA. I know that to some people (who like to repeat mindless mantras), that admitting membership in the NRA is tantamount to admitting membership in Al Qaeda. Even though nobody in the NRA have any ties with any terrorist organization. It’s just because the NRA stands against useless and even counterproductive gun control laws. If you want to ban all guns, and the NRA opposes you, then obviously the NRA is in a favor of school shootings. That’s the usual cracked logic. I suppose that if the country were to rise up and say NO MORE to the NRA, would it be too much to wonder “no more what?”
Even when the NRA is in favor of a particular piece of gun control legislation, it gets excoriated. After the Newtown massacre, Congress acted to make certain provisions in federal gun control law permanent, which were previously only renewed on a year-to-year basis. The NRA was in favor of this change. But did the NRA get thanked? Of course not! The “progressives” out there were outraged and claimed that the change to permanent status was a weakening of federal firearm law, even though the laws had been in force for TEN YEARS! Only “progressives” can turn logic on its head like this and not feel embarrassed.
This is why blaming the NRA for gun violence is nonsense: guns do not shoot themselves, and the NRA has historically promoted workable gun control laws which do not detract from Second Amendment rights. Laws that don’t materially interfere with law-abiding citizens obtaining firearms, while preventing criminals from legally acquiring them. And it has worked! Criminals normally get their guns through illegal means, which are by definition hard or impossible to regulate. This is not appreciated by those who want to ban private ownership of firearms. For if we were to ban them, only law-abiding citizens would give them up — but law-abiding citizens would be the only ones disarmed! The crooks would still have them, and then would have a virtual monopoly on deadly force.
I don’t think that even the gun banners would be in favor of that outcome — but it would be the unintended consequence.
And this is where I get to attempt to convince Jennifer Foehner Wells that making it as hard to get a gun as a driving license is not going to help much. Although I note that if someone says they can NEVER be convinced, this indicates more of an emotional conviction than a rational one. Which is by its very nature a tough sell, even if it is valid.
Let’s compare Illinois (which has the city of Chicago) with Washington state (including Seattle). Illinois requires a Firearms Owner Identification Card to buy a rifle or pistol, and getting one of those can take up to 75 days, and includes background checks. It is therefore much much easier to get a driving license in Illinois! But Washington state doesn’t require a special license to buy a rifle or a shotgun. The firearms-related death rates in both states in 2013 were 8.67 for Illinois and 9.07 for Washington. Virtually the same, and just under the national firearms death rate of 10.64.
One place that I am aware of which has highly restrictive gun laws preventing citizens from owning firearms without special government permission is Mexico. All I am saying is that more gun control does not equal less killing! If more gun control were effective, places like Mexico would be very safe. But it isn’t. Just try to take a sightseeing drive though Sinaloa state sometime.
Ultimately though, the reason why we regulate drivers of automobiles through licensing and detailed rules of the road is because most adults drive and they drive every darned day. And with good reason: there were 35,200 traffic fatalities in the United States in 2013. But most firearms owners leave their guns at home in their gun safes, and only occasionally take them out to go hunting or target shooting. Except for those of us who have concealed carry permits and who exercise that privilege regularly. And of the 30,000+ firearms-related deaths in the US, the vast majority of these involve either criminal acts of will, or suicides, not accidents. You can’t genuinely compare them. And you can’t buy a new firearm any longer without going through an instant background check. But you can buy an automobile without any kind of background check.
Another thing that is important to consider is this: driving is a privilege; firearms ownership is a right. And it is a right which may not be infringed. You could just as easily pass a law requiring registration of typewriters (which was done in the old Soviet Union), and require government licensing of journalism. Free speech is likewise a right, not a privilege. Just like firearms ownership.
I doubt I have convinced anyone. But perhaps I have doled out some food for thought.
And may I point out that the shooters were breaking every law on the books? The weapons they were using, if they were fully-automatic AK-47s, are completely illegal to possess in California, and illegal to possess in the country without a special ATF license. Obviously, those who intend evil don’t care about laws. Surprise!
More About the Incident in San Bernardino
At the time I am posting this, there is information that one of the three shooters in the case is named Syed Farook. It is clear that this act was carefully planned out, and given the name of the one named shooter it is probable that this is a act of Islamic extremist terrorism. Why these particular people were targeted is mystifying to me — the best I can come up with is that they were reckoned as “soft targets”, unlikely to fight back effectively. A preferred state of affairs for any level-headed coward.
But doesn’t this remind anyone of what happened in Paris a couple of weeks ago? And doesn’t France have strong gun control laws? It does! Surprise! Evil people don’t care about laws. Pass all you want — they will break every one, without compunction.