Yes, I know this is a sensitive topic. Wade forward with care.
If you’ve been around here for a bit, you know I enjoy listening to things about how one should think about the world. This means I tend to enjoy (and link to) things like Freakonomics podcasts. This is one of those posts. And this one is probably going to get you … well … this one is on a tough topic.
I’ve been thinking about guns for some time. I’ve considered posting some form of rant several times, but, you know, in these things I feel like I’m just yelling into an already filled echo-chamber.
But then I ran into this podcast. I thought it was interesting because it’s a fairly non-denominational perspective that examines elements of the situation from several perspective, including a few I hadn’t really thought of much. It asks, for example, the question “How would we be handling guns differently if they had just been invented today?”
I think that’s a remarkable question. Let me re-frame it only slightly. If guns had never before been invented, and were suddenly invented today, would Congress enact a constitutional right to bear them?
The podcast also puts forward information about the magnitude of the problem, or lack thereof, depending on your point of view.
Definitely worth a listen. Of course, you have to take my recommendation with a grain of salt because after its 30 minutes it boils the situation down into a very few bullets, all of which I agree with.
- 1) The changes to the laws being discussed as a result of all our mass shooting (in the US, of course), have essentially a zero probability of working.
- 2) Laws that will work IN THE SHORT TERM consist of either (a) making punishments for doing a crime while in possession (in any way) of a gun so incredibly large that they either reduce gun ownership or make people think twice about committing violence, or (b) removing all the guns
- 3) Since neither of the options in #2 above seem even remotely possible in our political environment, we will need to learn to live with what we have today, and focus on long-term societal changes.
What #3 effectively says is really “just live with it.” Which is, admittedly, an extremely tough position to take, especially given that the overall gun picture is incredibly depressing. A fact that appears to check out. The third solution is a bit of a cop-out, seeing as it doesn’t help anyone today, and relies upon people in the future to do a better job of managing themselves than we have managed ourselves today–which seems both unlikely as well as a shade, shall we say, selfish? It’s like the ultimate game of kicking the can up the road. I do not believe the third option has any logical chance of working, either.
In the end, this is a really complex problem, made even moreso by the idea that a person’s handgun or semi-automatic, or whatever, is going to help them protect their home turf from the very government itself. I get that. I get the whole of the second amendment.
I need to be above board, though, and also admit that I think the scenario described by those who view the second amendment as protecting them from government aggression has been overcome by events. If for example, the Joint Chiefs of Staff ever decide to throw a coup, it’s unlikely that a local militia could stand up to the marauding government. Up until maybe the 1980s (or maybe the 90s), I would have said they could–that a local group could stand a real chance against a renegade governmental force set upon taking my little town, but that’s pretty much not happening given the gap between today’s sophisticated weaponry in the military and what the vast majority of the population carries. The closest you can come is to say that your gun puts you on ever terms with the police–which is, really, not quite right, either. My opinion is that the second amendment, as an anti-government clause, made sense when it was written, and continued to make sense until just recently. Obviously, some folks will disagree with that statement. But it seems pretty simply true to me. Still, if you’re one of those people who disagree with my assessment, that’s all good. I understand your position, even though I don’t agree with you. Shrug.
As I said at the beginning of the post, I’ve been thinking about this gun thing for a long time now–much longer than Newtown, or Virginia Tech, or Columbine, or whatever. I’ve been thinking about it since the late 80s, really. I can still remember making a talk in front of a group of people in a public speaking class regarding the merits (or lack thereof) of handgun control back when I lived in Indianapolis–so, yeah, it’s been awhile. After all that thinking, this podcast has finally made my opinion clear, and that’s this:
In America, the problem will not be solved.
For all the reasons in the world–good, bad, indifferent–because of the very foundation of how the country operates, this problem cannot be resolved. There are two solutions that will work, but they are both so politically draconian that neither have any chance of actually being instituted. So in my mind, I’m moving on. It’s not worth spending more time thinking about.
All that said, listen to the podcast. Take in what it says. Maybe it won’t change your mind, or maybe it won’t cement your thoughts as it did mine.
But it might. And in the end, maybe I’m wrong about solution #3. Maybe, if enough people actually think about it, and if enough people push our politicians into that camp, solution #3 might eventually yield something. You never know. It might just work.
Not sure why, but the question of “what if guns had just been invented today” reminds me of an anecdote I heard a while back about how if aspirin was discovered today, it wouldn’t be approved for even prescription use by the FDA because of all the heinous side-effects.
Yeah, I understand your thought. But a lot of drugs are approved despite some pretty big side effects. Of course, they don’t get written into the constitution. 🙂