Thursday, June 16, 2016

Precise demands

The shooting in Orlando is a tragedy for so many reasons.  First off, there is the direct disaster of losing 49 people.  Then there are all the secondary problems, like the Latino and queer communities feeling terrified, unsafe, and hated after they were targeted by this attack.  It is a sad thing, but if you want to read about emotional responses to it you shouldn't be listening to me - there are a lot of people directly or indirectly affected who have lots of things to say.

I do have things to say about some of the fallout of these sorts of events.  There are always long discussions about guns, and specifically banning guns.  I get that people are angry about gun laws (on both sides) but when we talk about these things we need to separate feelings and policy.

Being angry at people who own big guns like the one used in the Orlando massacre is expected.  Wanting to get rid of those guns is normal, and useful in my opinion.  However, when we talk about how to do that we should be careful and precise about what we say so that our outrage has a real chance of accomplishing something.

Saying that we should ban 'assault weapons' is not useful.  As the linked article says, there isn't a definition of assault weapons.  Banning the specific model of gun used in the attack is equally ridiculous.  One problem with these debates is that people get fired up advocating for things that are vague enough to be totally impossible to implement, and that is an impediment to getting it done.

Banning all firearms?  Not likely, but at least specific.  Banning all weapons capable of firing more than 8 rounds before reloading?  Again, decently specific, though unlikely.  The trick is that we need to figure out what we actually want before we have debates about implementation.

The main thing in my mind is to separate emotional reactions from action items.  Hating big, rapid firing guns in the hands of civilians?  Yup, totally on board with that.  But that is a feeling, not a policy.  Totally worth having, worth sharing, but let's not have arguments about the specifics until we actually have specifics.  Far too often I see these debates get bogged down in people yelling about banning assault weapons and then other people yelling about how assault weapons aren't defined and them getting called gun nuts and things go absolutely nowhere useful.

You can see this problem in other situations too.  When the Liberal government was elected here last year they promised marijuana legalization.  Which is good, but there are all kinds of ways that could be done.  They could have a government monopoly on pot, sell it only at a few locations, raise the price to ludicrous levels, and still prosecute people getting pot other ways.  This would be a really crappy solution because most people would get their pot cheaply and illegally and we would have nearly as many problems as now.  On the other end of the spectrum they could just remove all restrictions whatsoever on pot, which is a really different situation entirely.  Personally I am hoping that they restrict pot sales to people 19 and over and require informative packaging but otherwise don't worry about it - much like tobacco is now.

Just as the two extreme cases of pot legalization are completely different, there are many gun restrictions that are completely different, and they have vastly different outcomes.

If we want changes to our system, it pays to be precise, to know what our terms mean, and to advocate for policies that might actually get passed and which will do the thing we want.  Our discussions will be more productive and those that might pass laws will be a lot more willing to take our positions seriously if we have put time and thought into them, whichever side they are on.

1 comment:

  1. "The main thing in my mind is to separate emotional reactions from action items"

    This is something that you're really good at (cause you work hard at it) and that most people really don't manage. I wish this is something we could teach at school, because it is useful in so many situations. Parenting and politics are the two that spring immediately to mind.