write this entry, the shooting on the Oregon college campus is just beginning to pass into memory. That, as I post it, there’s been another mass shooting (this time in Arizona), makes part of my point right away.Gun deaths are an issue. They are more than a problem; they are a plague on society. The issue, however, is more complicated than ‘guns = bad’. Evaluations of other nations that have passed gun laws have been met with…well, unimpressive results. The issue, however, is not the guns per say, but the gun-related deaths. It’s the shootings that need to stop. How do we do this?
Personally, I am opposed to guns outright. In a lot of ways, to me, it isn’t enough to pass gun control laws, I would prefer to see guns banned wholesale. I would prefer to see them limited to specific businesses (gun ranges, etc) and specific organizations (police, military, maybe gun clubs, the like). I feel like the general citizenry has little to no reason to have access to most, if any, firearms.
That said, I am also aware that defensive gun use (incidents where a gun is instrumental in protection of life and/or property) is a real thing. Many gun control advocates insist that this is a myth that occurs in circumstances so rare as to be effectively non-existent. Well, the CDC says otherwise.
In the wake of the Sandy Hook massacre, President Obama authorized the CDC to do a one-time study of gun use in the US (treating gun use as a public health matter, something the CDC has been Congressional banned from doing since 1996) and its findings were actually pretty noteworthy. Yes, there are nuances with the singular study that really dedicated gun control advocates could take issue with, but the bottom line is even people who have made a career of attacking gun ownership in this country acknowledged it was a well-done study.
And it hasn’t be repeated.
Congress just recently (and very quietly) extended the ban on the CDC studying gun use in the United States. To me, that needs to change first. The first step in better understanding the issues behind the frequency of these horrible crimes is information. It is not to pass knee-jerk legislation in the height of fear. It’s not to pine to some idealistic view of the world – be it libertarian or pacifist. It is to collect data. It is to gather real, meaningful, and reliable information on guns, their use, and their misuse. So much of the gun debate these days is ruled by citing incomplete surveys with small sample sizes and conducted years and even decades ago (and often times in other countries or by parties with bias) because meaningful gun-user data is simply and deliberately unavailable.
We need to stop being ruled by fear on this subject and we need to embrace knowledge. We need to let impartial science and social science experts examine just how guns are really used in this country.
Until then, pardon the pun, but we’re just taking shots in the dark.