Ostracizing gun owners? Not so fast.

Ostracizing gun owners? Not so fast. February 24, 2018

It’s all over the news lately — or all over twitter, anyway:  the reports cheering various companies’ announcements that they are pulling out of NRA discount programs.  And there are calls to repeal the Second Amendment and proposals that the right path forward to end the scourge of gun violence is a gun confiscation program like that of Australia or Great Britain, plus “modest proposals” to succeed in the long term by, in the short-term, placing a stigma on gun ownership similar to that of cigarette smoking, as something no civilized person would do, with the end goal that gun owners become the minority and, as such, no matter how politically active they are, lose their power, so that, eventually, Congress can implement all gun control regulation that the Supreme Court sees fit to permit and, eventually, either by means of 2A repeal or by placing on the Supreme Court justices who overturn decisions that find in favor of an individual right to gun ownership, can ban gun ownership entirely.

Now, I don’t have links — for as much as I’ve seen on facebook and twitter, nothing’s popping up as google-search hits.  And maybe this just means that a few fringe posts/tweets are getting passed around, and it signifies nothing.  Maybe the ones who win the day will be people who simply believe background checks should be tighter and uniformly applicable, and something akin to a “gun violence restraining order” should be put into place.

But CNN’s nonstop promotion of the gun control activists’ cause has me spooked.  My worry isn’t even that we’ll have some sort of mass confiscation effort.  And the Second Amendment isn’t something that I’m particularly passionate about — in a way, the idea of repealing it and establishing gun control legislation worries me more insofar as it would signal a dramatic change in the very character of America.  But my greater worry is that the impact of the new energy the gun control movement now has will produce greater divisions in American society.  Rather than legions of American gun owners, who use those guns for hunting, recreational target-shooting, or who carry them or keep them at home for self-defense, re-committing themselves to safe gun storage or choosing alternate hobbies, will they instead feel threatened by “gun grabbers”?  Will this be yet another unbridgeable divide, as gun rights supporters believe their rights are under attack, and gun controllers believe that gun owners, by refusing to surrender their weapons, are doing wrong and deserve condemnation?

I’ll go back to Megan McArdle’s concluding thoughts in her column on Friday:

Which means that whatever Danish-style institutions you like, you can’t get them by angrily vilifying the half of the country that disagrees with you. These institutions, it turns out, can’t be built with policy papers or political activism. They can only be built through better interactions with each other, one neighbor at a time.

Maybe it’s just the middle child in me — I really don’t like confrontation.  But it worries me that this new “listen to the students” activism could end up marginalizing a significant portion of the population and categorizing them as “people whose well-being doesn’t matter because they are wrongthinkers,” in the same way as the white working-class Bubbas had been discarded as not morally worthy because of their (presumed) racism.  And it has the potential for creating another us vs. them division, or magnifying existing divisions, when we really need to begin to repair them.

So what do we do, then?

Anti-gun types are saying, of the proposal to allow teachers to be armed, “it wouldn’t do any good.”  But I’m not convinced there would be any harm in allowing that subset of teachers, however small it is, who already concealed-carry and have a good grounding in gun safety, to choose, if they wish, to carry at school, perhaps with some additional certification requirement so as to ensure that they have an appropriate level of training.  Claims that they might injure someone in the cross-fire, or that they wouldn’t be able to take down a well-armed shooter, or that they would put their own life at risk — well, the last of these is the point, really, isn’t it, to allow those teachers who view themselves as protectors to have a greater chance, at least, than without any arms at all?  And in a situation such as that in Parkland, every life counts, and if, instead of 17, only 16 might have died, it’s still “worth it,” isn’t it?

At the same time, gun-rights supporters are saying, of proposals to ban high capacity magazines, that they would do no good, because (a) there are too many out there already, (b) it’s possible to fashion such a magazine with a 3D printer, and (c) skilled marksmen can change magazines quickly.  But I’m not persuaded that such a ban would actively do harm, and maybe, at the margins, there would be some benefit.

Likewise, anti-gun folk say that we need to require background checks for every single gun sale or transfer, even among private parties?  Is this really such a terrible idea — if the system could be set up to be minimally burdensome, rather than maximally so?  And the pro-gun-rights folk say that we need to get a lot better about enforcing existing laws, and to be honest, it’s not clear to me whether failures in enforcement are due to generic bureaucratic incompetence, or fundamental indifference, or an intentional decision to avoid imprisoning people.

So it seems to me that we need a “both/and” approach, at least at the margins, no?


Own image – from the post, “My husband, gun owner.”

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