Clarifying a Point on Gun Politics

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I noted earlier that we need a real conversation about guns in this country. And a real conversation requires those who think we have too many guns in society and too much ease in buying them to think seriously about what our preferred policy is. Not just marginally, what we think might be possible and so forth – but what is preferred. I think many people believe that there should be dramatically fewer guns in United States, that it should be harder to purchase guns, that they should be licensed and regulated as you would regulate other extremely dangerous objects. Just speaking for myself, I think you could do all of this and still not interfere with people’s ability to hunt. But that’s just me.

But there’s a premise this argument relies on that I didn’t make explicit in my original post.

As long as it seemed possible to pass regulations limiting the most egregious abuses of gun ownership, there was some political logic to accepting the gun culture basically on its own terms and advocating for specific fixes. These include limitations on weapons designed for or less exclusively mass violence, basic background checks on gun purchases, perhaps waiting periods for purchasing a firearm, etc.

Getting those sorts of limited, incremental restrictions passed would certainly be harder if gun advocates knew that the gun control supporters actually wanted or were building toward more dramatic efforts to take guns out of circulation, require licensing – in other words, to fundamentally change the nature of gun ownership in the country.

In that context, pushing for ‘common sense’ reforms might make sense.

Only that context clearly has no bearing on present reality.

It’s now clear that even the most innocuous restrictions on guns – simply requiring real background checks, restrictions on big magazines which let you snuff out more people before someone at your school massacre tackles you – are not even up for discussion or any good faith bargaining. No restrictions are allowed. Period. This present reality has to be accepted and understood.

Indeed, not only are all restrictions now beyond the pale. The real movement is pushing guns into more and more places. So now we’re debating permission for almost anyone to carry a concealed weapon, not being allowed to ban guns in your restaurant, the right to take semi-automatic weapons into businesses or restaurants with children and families.

In other words, hedging and setting pragmatic limits on what you want to accomplish now demonstrably make no sense. They are completely illogical. Because again, no restrictions at all can be contemplated.

I’m under no illusion that there’s any political will at the moment to dramatically reform private gun ownership in the country. But precisely because no reforms are possible today it makes perfect sense to flesh out the alternative – not minor restrictions on the margins but a society which has dramatically fewer guns, where private ownership was limited and regulated like how you would in a civilized society and one in which we took seriously limiting the needless deaths and suffering guns cause today.

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