Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Shouting Is Not A Policy Position

It's depressing to think about, but it's nearly been 20 years since Columbine and we still can't seem to come together as a nation to tackle this problem. I don't think I have any answers. My position on guns has evolved over the years, as most of the people I know who own guns genuinely do use them for hunting and it's not trophy hunting, it's 'filling your freezer with deer meat' kind of hunting.

You know what I would like though? I'd like to stop posting the same articles and the same Facebook memes after every single one of these tragedies. It doesn't do anything. It doesn't advance a sensible conversation. It doesn't craft policy that can lower the number of gun deaths in this country. So, from the top, let's talk about what's unhelpful and what's not:

First: put down the cudgels. Guns are one of the many issues that the left and the right use to beat on each other in our ongoing culture wars and it needs to stop. (There are many of these cudgels that both sides use. The Right likes to ferment moral panics about a variety of issues. The Left likes to rail about guns, usually while knowing very little about them. Both sides beat each other up over abortion. The cudgels of the culture war never actually create compromise or solutions to any actual problems underneath the shouting.)

Second: let's talk about unhelpful things to say in this debate. "Fuck your thoughts and prayers." Not particularly helpful. "Guns don't kill people. People kill people." Also not helpful. (Another variation I saw: "I'm waiting for my AR-15 to jump up and kill me.") Mass shootings are also not because of the following: a lack of prayer in schools, not enough guns in schools, the changing culture because '30 years ago everyone could bring their rifle to school and work on it in metal shop,' violent video games, violence on television, a lack of faith in general, Muslims, Women, Feminists, Gays, single family homes, Men, Christians, white people or white nationalists.*

Third: let's talk numbers. The '18 school shootings in 2018' number that's floating around out there? Wrong- and before you think it's just right-wing propaganda pushing the notion- it is, in fact, The Washington Post that says so. The '33,000 gun deaths a year' number? Something of a misnomer... if you look at this data taken from 2014, some surprising things emerge: 2/3rds of those deaths are suicides and the overwhelming majority of those suicides are men. (So when people talk about 'mental health' it's not just a red herring. They kind of have a point.) That leaves about 10K homicides by gun, which is still seems pretty high, but mass shootings are, in fact a small fraction of even that number. The data tells me pretty convincingly that we don't have one overarching 'gun' problem, we've got about six or seven and yelling 'BAN ALL THE GUNZ' isn't going to solve it. (Oh and that data: sourced from FiveThirtyEight.com which includes links to where they got the data and the methodology they used. So see for yourselves.)

Fourth: before we rush into passing more laws, can we at least talk about why the laws we have don't appear to be working? A flaw in the background check system let this psycho get a gun. This other psycho shouldn't have been able to get a gun either. And while Dana Loesch may not be everyone's cup of tea, she raises a good point here. What's the point of the system if states don't fully conform to it? Senator Rubio pointed out that new laws wouldn't have prevented a lot of the recent tragedies and people jumped up and down on him for it- but The Washington Post had his back and pointed out that he was right. Am I going join the chorus on the Right calling for the head of the FBI to resign over this? No. But there is a problem somewhere in the system and it needs to be fixed.

In a perfect world, we'd ban the sale and manufacture of all semi-automatic weapons for civilian use and treat the rest the same way we do automatic weapons.We'd strip gun manufacturers of their legal immunity for their products and let the CDC and the NIH study the problem of gun violence so we can maybe come up with a solution. And then we'd take a page out of history and start designing the safest schools in the world so we don't have to send our kids to school at gunpoint.**

But we don't live in a perfect world, so at the very least can we fix the background check thing?

*Also not helpful: Repealing the 2nd Amendment is a nice dream, but if you can find enough states to vote for it, good for you. Ditto with 'ARM ALL THE TEACHERS'- that notion lasts until the first teacher's cheese slips off their cracker and they shoot up their own classroom- plus hey, there's this also that makes seem like a really good idea.

**The last time there was a school fire that killed ten or more kids was in 1958. As a nation, we came together and made our schools safe. And it worked. Something similar can be done for schools and psychos with guns. We've just got to stop shouting at each other long enough to decide what it is.

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