I heard Carolyn McCarthy, the U.S. Representative whose husband was killed in the LIR shooting in 1993, interviewed on Up with Chris Hayes on Saturday. She argued for changing the way we refer to gun regulation not as gun control, but gun safety. This struck me as a small but useful step to take.
In that vein, I thought I would lay out some thoughts on gun safety in the U.S., especially as to the publicized gun deaths from the past several weeks (and 2012 as a whole).
All guns are lethal
- The presence of even a single gun in a household is correlated with higher mortality. aje.oxfordjournals.org
Guns are not the root cause of any crime or incident, but they make each incident more deadly
- Treating a mass shooting and gang violence as if they are both caused by guns does not make sense.
- Concentrating on the fact they make both types of incidents more deadly does make sense.
Concentrating on so called assault weapons misses the point:
- How a gun looks has little to do with how lethal it is.
- High rates of fire and high magazine capacity effect mass shootings
- If a hunting rifle accepts a magazine, the practical difference between it and an “assault weapon” are negligible.
- A pistol with a high rate of fire and a high magazine capacity has been used very effectively in mass shootings many times.
Concentrating on mass shootings misses the forest for a few big trees:
- Suicide is the most common death by gun
- Murder of individuals, frequently of poor people by poor people, is a bigger problem than mass shootings by orders of magnitude
- Having “only” a revolver or a bolt action rifle would be enough to cause most of the deaths caused by firearms in the U.S.
Concentrating only on gun deaths also misses a forest:
- Taking away every single firearm homicide still leaves the U.S. with a higher homicide rate than most developed nations.
- The U.S. has poorer health outcomes than most developed nations, on a whole broad range of issues.
- These poor outcomes are highly correlated with poverty.
We can’t prevent gun violence through gun control, but we can reduce the harm caused by gun violence through gun safety.
- Publicize the negative effects of guns, much like smoking.
- Private sales of alcohol and cigarettes aren’t legal. Can’t guns be at least as well regulated?
- Mandate low magazine capacity maximums. Preferably as low as revolvers, but certainly lower than even the 12 or 15 which is standard on many pistol magazines today. Mandating low magazine capacity for one type of weapon but not another is much less useful.
- Mandated training on gun purchase.
- Saying we can “put a stop to this” over promises.
Limiting fire arms to bolt action rifles and banning handguns would be the most effective way of reducing gun mortality, but that would take a seismic shift of the Supreme Court and the nation as a whole. Given that our constitution provides for gun ownership, concentrating on broad public health and well being may be the best option for minimizing gun related mortality.