Saturday, December 15, 2012

Is it finally time for a conversation about guns?

Well, if not now, when? Anytime there's a high profile gun crime, we're sold this line about the importance of mourning and that politicizing the event to further a gun control agenda is improper. I think The Washington Post's Ezra Klein has a good take on this strategy:
Let’s be clear: That is a form of politicization. When political actors construct a political argument that threatens political consequences if other political actors pursue a certain political outcome, that is, almost by definition, a politicization of the issue. It’s just a form of politicization favoring those who prefer the status quo to stricter gun control laws.
Jon Stewart and the folks over at The Daily Show had a similar take, though a bit more biting in its satire:

So to hell with this false decorum. Let's have a little dialogue.

As the Pew Research Center reports, support for protecting gun ownership rights is actually on the rise, despite the recent shootings in Colorado and now Connecticut. My guess is that reflects a desire to protect the right to own guns, not necessarily an opposition to stricter laws about the nature of gun ownership.

Americans do support some restriction, particularly on felons and the mentally ill, which ties in closely with background checks.

Federal background checks for firearm purchases stem largely from the Brady Act, implemented in 1994.

Unfortunately, that act only requires licensed dealers to conduct background checks. Private sellers aren't covered under that legislation, meaning many guns bought and sold at gun shows or online are sold without any meaningful paperwork. 

Simply put, gun laws haven't even caught up with the widespread public use of the Internet, which started almost two decades ago. 

I'm not saying we should ban guns all together. Hell, I own a gun. Still, I think there are some things we should consider. Obviously extending background checks is one. Limiting the sale of handguns, assault weapons, and high-capacity magazines are others. Requiring licensing and education for gun owners are others.

These are conversations that, as adults, we should at least be able to have -- even if we choose to take no action. But for some reason we can't even get that far. It's truly a sad state of affairs, and unless we find some way to address potential systemic causes of these mass killings, that sate of affairs will likely continue.

If you're interested in pressing Congress and The White House on beginning a gun control conversation, there are several petitions you can peruse and sign if you're so inclined. Thoughts and prayers only go so far, and action always goes further.