Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: What! You too? I thought I was the only one.

-C.S. Lewis

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Gun Control

Gun control is one of those issues that embodies completely the urban/rural split of the modern major political parties. The rationale on both sides makes perfect sense. Why should a law-abiding, gun-owning individual (living in an area where police don’t exactly show up 15 minutes after you call them), have to answer to politicians from far away when it comes to perfectly legal recreation or protecting their families. Especially when the U.S. Constitution itself supposedly guarantees this very right. From where that guy is sitting, it’s just one more example of how an busybody government tries to interfere with his life. On The Other Hand, what is an urban congressman to do after hearing pleas from his constituents to stop the gun violence that plagues their neighborhood? After all, no one’s doing any hunting with those Colts, Glocks, and Tek-9’s. When a ten year old boy is shot through the head while waiting for his school bus or a little girl is killed in her bed by a stray bullet, it sort of spurs people into making sure that kind of thing doesn’t happen again.

Even though most of the pro-gun arguments are ridiculous (i.e. the totally silly scenarios they come up with where wouldn’t you love a gun right about now – they really don’t need to go much past 2nd amendment/privacy), I think the GOP/rural side of this issue has the more merit, if only because urban violence isn’t as much gun centered as it is drug centered. Gun control seems to be an imperfect response to a very real problem of urban violence. The negative rural (for the most part, there are many urban opponents as well) response to gun control efforts is borne of the fact that they see all the imperfections in the policy, without being aware of the impetus to act. My response is not to abandon any attempt at alleviating the problem, just to take an approach that strikes more directly at the root of the problem. After all, I have the same right to a gun as any of the gang bangers out there, yet I don’t climb into a car and spray bullets at anyone. Why not? Because I happen not to be involved in the multi-million dollar drug business. In legal businesses, when a rival shop opens within your market radius, you advertise, develop a new product, have a sale, etc. In illegal businesses, when a rival shop opens within your market radius, you shoot at them until they die/go away. Banning guns doesn’t really get at the heart of the problem with city violence. It just makes it a bit more difficult to do what they will still want to do anyway. I would argue that the problem with urban drug-based violence will not be solved until rivals have no incentive to shoot at each other. At the moment, it’s good for business, so pardon me if I predict it will continue.

The first step in moving towards a more effective policy is disassociating from the old one. What Keynes had to say about ideas certainly holds true here: “The difficulty lies not so much in developing new ideas as in escaping from old ones.” Listening to Dean recently about how the Dems will talk about issues leads me to believe that this step might be coming sooner than later (although I have no illusions about drugs being legalized anytime soon). He said that Dems should take a position that government should stay out of the private decisions that individuals and families make. He was referring to a more effective way of framing abortion and end-of-life issues, but I think a new Dem perspective on gun control could be included. Indeed, I’m not sure how you could remain consistent on privacy and government interference when it comes to moral issues, but not gun ownership. I hope the Dean and the Dems realize this, because I think it’d be the first step to actually solving urban violence problems.

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