America Needs Internal Arms Control
Twenty first-graders were killed in their school on Friday. Children should be safe in school. This isn’t Nuclear Diner’s usual topic, but it demands addressing.
The first is freedom of speech and expression -- everywhere in the world.
The second is freedom of every person to worship God in his own way -- everywhere in the world.
The third is freedom from want -- which, translated into world terms, means economic understandings which will secure to every nation a healthy peacetime life for its inhabitants -- everywhere in the world.
The fourth is freedom from fear -- which, translated into world terms, means a world-wide reduction of armaments to such a point and in such a thorough fashion that no nation will be in a position to commit an act of physical aggression against any neighbor-- anywhere in the world.
Or, translated back into local terms, which means that teachers should be able to teach children without having to be ready to shoot a gun at an intruder, one of the “solutions” that is being proffered by the gun community. That parents should not fear for their children when they send them to school.
Behind the scenes at Nuclear Diner, we’ve considered addressing conventional arms control, but that problem is even larger than nuclear weapons. Billions (trillions?) of weapons are being traded by all countries. They are essential for wars and the more local killings that America is coming to specialize in.
One person is dead and three injured in Birmingham, Alabama.
A child was killed and several others injured in a shooting in Heflin, Alabama, and there is possibly another shooting in Oxford, Alabama.
Three, possibly four, people were injured in a shooting in Oakland, California.
And that’s just this morning. Probably others committed suicide with guns and others were terrorized by family members threatening violence with guns.
Deaths from guns now exceed deaths in automobile accidents in some states.
In 2009, there were 310 million guns in America. In the mid-1980s, there were 70,000 nuclear warheads in the world. Now there are fewer than 19,000. Still too many, but less than a third of what there were, reduced over 25 years. Getting the gun numbers down in that way would be a great improvement, particularly if automatic weapons were eliminated, just as the Soviet Union and America eliminated the highly dangerous, rapid-fire intermediate-range ballistic missiles completely.
But the Soviet and American governments had it easy: they could appoint their officials to carry out the negotiations. Congress faces a stew of individuals and interests with a wide range of ideas on how to deal with guns; some propose still more guns.
There are many first steps that can be taken; guns are currently less regulated than cars. The Second Amendment refers to militias, not individuals. Switzerland and Israel arm citizen militias, but more and more they are insisting that guns be kept in a repository, not individuals’ homes.
There are many, many good suggestions out there. Here are a few.
Sarah Kliff (Wonkblog):
More extensive background checks.
Ban certain types of firearms.
Increase waiting periods.
Increase public health funding.
Josh Sugarman (HuffPo):
Comprehensive regulation of the firearms industry and its products could include: minimum safety standards (i.e., specific design standards and the requirement of safety devices); bans on certain types of firearms such as "junk guns" and military-style assault weapons; limits on firepower; restrictions on gun possession by those convicted of a violent misdemeanor; heightened restrictions on the carrying of loaded guns in public; improved enforcement of current laws restricting gun possession by persons with histories of domestic violence; more detailed and timely data collection on gun production, sales, use in crime, involvement in injury and death; and, public education about the extreme risks associated with exposure to firearms.
Nicholas Kristof (NYT):
So what can we do? A starting point would be to limit gun purchases to one a month, to curb gun traffickers. Likewise, we should restrict the sale of high-capacity magazines so that a shooter can’t kill as many people without reloading.
We should impose a universal background check for gun buyers, even with private sales. Let’s make serial numbers more difficult to erase, and back California in its effort to require that new handguns imprint a microstamp on each shell so that it can be traced back to a particular gun.
I’ll summarize my way:
At least what is required for a car: registration, tested capability to operate, liability insurance.
Make every gun identifiable and associate the serial number with its owner in a registry.
Place liability for damage resulting from the gun’s use on the gun owner.
Ban the sale of assault weapons and their magazines and ammunition. Encourage their being turned in to the authorities.
End gun sales on the internet and at the gun shows that now fly below the legal radar.
Tax gun and bullet manufacture and sales.
Improve mental health funding.
Enacting some combination of these, or all of them, or additionally some that I didn’t catch in other people’s suggestions, would begin to diminish the number of guns and would make those remaining less available to people in the throes of emotional misery.
Some more resources that I found worth reading.
Did you know that the NSA has persuaded Congress to enact laws prohibiting the Centers for Disease Control and the National Institutes of Health from researching the connection between guns and violence? McClatchy, Salon
Photo: Newtown Bee.
Cartoon: Morin in the Miami Herald.