Monday, February 14, 2011

Thoughts on Reducing Gun Violence

I don't own a gun but I do consider myself a pro-hunting, pro-self-defense conservative.  I would not support a constitutional amendment to repeal the Second Amendment, but I don't think that is necessary to make significant progress in reducing the unacceptable danger from illegal and unsafe guns in America.  We should put reasonable restrictions in place like H.R. 308, which would prohibit the possession or sale of large capacity ammunition magazines.  The rate of firearm homicide deaths among people age 15-24 is four times that of people over age 25.  A 21 year-old can't rent a car from Avis but they can purchase a handgun.   More importantly we need to have a long-term strategy to reduce the supply of guns available to criminals, provide more non-lethal self-defense options and make guns safer for those who own them legally.

Just as we tax tobacco products to discourage its use and counter some of its costs to society we should be able to do the same with guns. For example, a tax policy could be created to both discourage gun purchases and push purchasers toward safer weapons. We have the technology to sell songs on i-Tunes that can only be used on a couple iPods. We can use similar technology to reduce the chances that a gun falls into the wrong hands.

“Personalized” firearms, also known as “smart” guns, are firearms that can only be fired by authorized users. Personalized guns are designed to prevent shootings, both intentional and unintentional by children and other unauthorized users. A 2003 study analyzing data from seven years of unintended firearm deaths or deaths of undetermined intent found that 37% of the deaths could have been prevented by a smart gun. Personalized guns also render firearms useless to thieves and criminals who gain access to law enforcement weapons during the course of an arrest or other encounter. (from

Taxes on gun sales could fund a national weapons buy-back program.  Local buy-back programs have limited impact because they don't stop the flow of illegal weapons into the city.  Only a national program would be effective.

Why are there so many guns?  Among those who own handguns, 75 percent reported in a national survey that self-protection is the primary reason for owning a firearm.7  Is there a misconception about the risks of crime and the need for self-protection?  In our 24/7 news cycle we are soaked in stories of crime even in places where the crime rates have declined significantly.   What percentage of gun sales are the result of news media programing that is equivalent to shouting "FIRE" in a crowded theater?  What can we do to drive down the price and increase the adoption of non-lethal alternatives to guns?  How about a stun-gun pistol that makes a loud bang like Colt-45 but fires a stun projectile?  Maybe we can get it featured in a remake of "Dirty Harry" and pay the top rappers to promote it.

How do we cut off the supply of illegal guns? The Washington post reported that 60 percent of the 6,800 guns sold in Virginia in 1998 and later seized by police could be traced to just 40 dealers (out of thousands of licensed dealers).  The majority of illegal guns are obtained through illegal straw purchases in which someone with a clean record buys guns on behalf of someone who is unable to purchase firearms legally.  

Here is an opportunity to bring accountability to the dealers and straw purchasers.  A national law to attach stiff criminal penalties for making straw purchases and require "at risk" dealers to carry large/expensive liability insurance policies. Pass a "whistle-blower" law that rewards anyone who reports an illegal sale.

The lack of a comprehensive national gun policy is costing us lives.  As Larry-the-cable-guy says, "Let's getter done."

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