DC Guns

So here’s my take on guns; I don’t get them.  I don’t get the abject fascination that so many people have with them, I personally don’t get what’s so entertaining about them, and they pretty much result in one great big shrug on my behalf.  If I’m going to shoot something for fun, I’d rather it be a video game or water guns or something, you know, the kind of shooting where hitting the target doesn’t irrevocably make them dead.

But that’s just me.

Still, this, along with the wording of the Second Amendment, partly informs my more official stance on guns.  Basically, I don’t want to take away the right of people to own guns, but I also think that it is not unreasonable to expect rigid and strictly upheld standards and controls in their ownership and use.  We do this for any number of items, most notably automobiles, and yet none of these things, like a gun, are specifically designed to kill.

Now, we’ve heard the arguments before, “Guns don’t kill people, People kill people”, or less obnoxious, “guns are merely tools”.  All well and good, except guns happen to be tools whose primary purpose is to eject a small slug of metallic material at lethal velocities in order to cause damage.  I’m sure you could drive nails with the butt of a gun, but I’m equally sure that doing it with a hammer will be easier, quicker, and safer.

The point is, I’m all for gun control.  I’m on the gun control bandwagon.  The NRA, in my opinion, are so vehement in their defense of a vaguely worded amendment that they impede the right of more level headed folks to enact reasonable gun control that will make us all significantly safer.  But I’m not for an outright ban of guns.  I realize a lot of people love guns, and I also know that when treated responsibly and with respect (like most NRA members actually do), guns are safe and enrich the lives of many Americans (I just don’t understand how or why).

But with the gun ban in DC likely to hit the Supreme Court, the effectiveness of the ban is likely to stir debate around the country and spark new life into an age old debate.

It’s a pity, too, because I don’t think what was done in DC was characteristic of any kind of reasonable gun control action, nor could we say that the results were in any way definitive of, well, anything.

First, I do think the DC ban went too far and was thusly unrealistic.  The idea that you’re going to have all guns recalled and reregistered and then tell the owners they must be placed under lock and key, well, you’re just about asking for people to sidestep that little law right there.  Further, I’m not sure

Second, the law was largely unenforceable, a construct that DC was getting no help from its neighbor states of Maryland and Virginia.  I don’t know about Maryland much, but good luck trying to get Virginia on your side in enacting stricter gun control.  Thus, while people may look at DC as a failure of gun control philosophically, the truth of the matter is that the physical reality of DC being an extraordinarily open system is the ultimate cause of the failure.

Not that you can ever have a perfectly closed system, but when it comes to DC, there’s not even a question.

Thirdly, a law is only as effective as it is enforced, or enforceable.

And then we have the ambiguity of the data available in assessing the effectiveness of the restrictions put in place.  Largely, we know that to a major degree the gun ban failed considering the fact that DC continues to be one of the most dangerous places in America, however, there is no control group, and so any conclusions based off of the past thirty years would be unscientific.  Nor could we run to the opposite side of the issue, completely deregulate gun ownership and use for the next thirty years, and expect that to act as an adequate control group because there are significant factors, such as the crack boom, that are not likely to be replicated.

All in all, what we have is that DC becomes a terrible test case on whether gun control is a good thing or not.  It reached too far, was too difficult to enforce, and its successes and failures could never be adequately measured.  It will reach the Supreme Court as a constitutional issue, and maybe it should be, maybe it shouldn’t.  But I think it would be doing the entire gun control issue, from either side of that particularly barbed fence, a great disservice to to point to DC as definitive on anything.

It’s not.

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