Friday, April 12, 2013

A first (and probably last) comment on gun control

It is hard to make an intelligent comment on the gun control issue.   I am one of those people who is not bothered by some reasonable restrictions on possession of firearms of immense power.    But when you get to the brass tacks of exactly how that would work, it gets a bit more complicated.  Ultimately the goal should be to make sure that guns don't go to people who would use them wrongly - simple idea but almost impossible policy.

As I understand the compromise bill going through Congress it begins to require background checks (to figure out whether the potential purchaser is a felon or a loon) and extends those checks to gun shows and internet purchases.   But there are some holes in the notion.   According to a 2004 survey (re-published in a lot of  places) of people who were in prison for gun crimes - 39.5% of the responders said they got their guns from family or friends AND 37.5% said they got it from black market or street sources.   Thus, more than three quarters of the people in prisons got the equipment to commit their crimes from sources which would not be covered (and arguably the policy could not be extended to these sources) by the proposal.   The WP article on this claimed that the proposal would go "a long way" toward curbing gun violence.    One researcher found that the Colorado law which does checks in a way similar to the proposal before Congress, has not found any clear effect on crime or illegal transfers.

So what should we do?   Nothing does not seem like a good alternative.   The problem I have is that a lot of the somethings proposed (after you get rid of the emotional definitions like "assault" weapons - which have no basis in defining threatening weapons) would either be counterproductive or ineffective in reducing the possibility that there will be no more incidents like Sandy Hook.

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