Tuesday, January 5, 2016

The smallest of victories

President Obama is pushing through some new gun regulations in an attempt to curb gun violence in the US.  While I am fairly sure this won't hurt, I think we can safely say that it won't help in any significant way.

The first issue is that the things Obama can do without support from the other parts of the government are really limited.  He can redefine some terms and expand the groups of people who need to perform background checks before selling guns, sure.  But how much is that going to matter?

How many people on this list of gun assaults / murders / tragedies would have been prevented by adding a background check?  Probably none.  This only means that a small subset of the population is banned from buying guns legally, but many of the people on that list are banned because of criminal behaviour, which often means that they aren't going to bother buying guns legally anyway.  The US already has so many guns and they are so widely available that this new initiative isn't even going to be noticeable.  *Some* gun sellers will have to give background checks, which will prevent *some* of their clients from buying guns.  Legally.  From those sellers.

Let's face the facts.  Gun violence declines when people believe that they shouldn't have guns around.  They need to be convinced that guns are dangerous, kill tons of innocent bystanders, and get pulled out in moments of anger that are swiftly regretted.  When the people believe this, gun control will follow, but it is that belief that is the ticket, not the laws.

Unfortunately the debate surrounding guns in the US has become so polarized that real change looks nearly impossible.  When every Republican candidate is worried about their pro gun score generated by the gun lobby, how can you expect the culture to shift?

A lot of pro gun activists correctly point out that gun control laws are limited in efficacy, especially if you live in a country where there is a basic right to own firearms in place.  The limitations that the government can place on that are hardly a barrier to anyone with a tiny amount of patience and planning.  What the US needs, and what the rest of the world needs to a lesser extent, is the belief that problems are not solved by shooting.  When the people believe that, the violence comes to a near stop.

I believe.

You should too.

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