As most readers undoubtedly know, there was a mass shooting at a country music festival in Las Vegas on Sunday. At this writing, 58 people lost their lives and over 500 people were injured. This is a terrible, terrible tragedy.
Of course, immediately after the shooting there were politicians who started using this tragedy to advance their own political agendas. Hillary Clinton tweeted the next day about how silencers should be banned, despite the fact that they would have had no impact on what happened. Congressional Republicans have said that there’s no reason for a “knee-jerk” response to what happened (Chris Collins, R-NY; many others have echoed this sentiment). Basically, the two parties have made up their minds and are advocating the following:
- “It’s premature to be discussing legislative solutions, if any.” (Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. This viewpoint essentially says that it’s unreasonable to expect people to behave rationally in the immediate aftermath of a massive shooting.
- “This must stop – we must stop this.” (Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-AZ). This viewpoint believes that this shooting should be a call to action to gun control.
They’re both right.
The Republicans are correct in saying that we shouldn’t make important policy decisions when we’re emotional. Emotional people behave irrationally, and irrational people have the tendency to make irrational decisions. This helps nobody.
The Democrats are correct in saying that we need to do something. People are talking about the role of guns in society, and to deny this fact is to deny reality. Plus, does it really matter when a mass shooting happens? Does the issue change in importance as time passes?
So, what do we do?
I propose the following solution:
- Set up a firm date around the start of next year to discuss gun control in a definitive way. We’ll make a commission, etc.
- The commission should consist of people who are accepted as impartial by both parties. When the commission has spoken, neither party will be able to claim that the vote was rigged.
- Most importantly, the commission will consist of people who are kind of confused about the role guns should play in our culture. We don’t want people who are rabidly pro-gun and we don’t want people who have spent their lives trying to ban them. In short, we want people who aren’t sure where they stand and can be convinced by impartial evidence.
So, who are these commission members? I nominate myself for the job. I don’t know whether guns should be legal, and if so which guns should be legal. My resume includes the following items:
- I think guns are kind of fun: If you’ve never held a gun in your hands and fired it at a range, you really don’t understand why gun owners have such an attachment to their guns. It’s truly fun to put little holes in targets while making a lot of noise. On the other hand, I don’t feel any particular need to make shooting a big hobby of mine. It’s fun, but not really worth the money to do it.
- I don’t own a gun: I kind of want a gun, but my wife said I didn’t need one. She’s right – I live in a safe neighborhood without armed marauders. I don’t feel any need to go behind her back and get a gun, but if she changes her mind I’d be OK with it.
- I think that a lot of the people arguing for and against gun control are missing the point: The NRA wants to repeal the “Safe Students Act”, which designates schools as gun-free areas, while gun control activists try to avoid saying “second amendment” whenever possible. Both groups have their agenda and neither is interested in trying to see the other’s side.
In short, we don’t need experts to decide what’s right. We need people who are both smart and impartial to decide gun policy.
Just as important as the commission members is the questions they’ll have to answer in the course of their investigations:
- How many people are killed or injured in an unjustified manner with firearms? If somebody is breaking into your home and you shoot them, this would qualify as justified. If you get mad at the guy who steals your paper and you shoot them, this would not. you get the idea.
- How many people are saved through the intervention of guns in the hands of private citizens? How many violent crimes are prevented either through the use or threat of use of firearms?
- What guns should be allowed? Are rocket launchers OK? How about .22 squirrel guns? Or the .50 cal Desert Eagle? Or suppressors? Or hunting rifles?
- How many guns should one person have? One gun? Five guns? A gun collection? A huge armory?
- Who should be allowed to have guns? Everyday people? Convicted felons who have served their sentences? Soldiers who have been treated for PTSD? People with a history of mental illness? People under the age of 21?
- What effect would bans really have? Let’s work under the assumption that a particular bit of legislation was passed. If this were to happen, how would it affect the answers to the questions asked above and how would that change our feelings about gun ownership?
It’s pretty obvious that an impartial committee such as this will ever be formed. For that to happen, people on both sides will have to admit that there’s room for compromise on this issue, and that some of their beliefs may not be right. Doing so would probably cause politicians on both sides of the aisle to have huge heart attacks. Unfortunately, I think we’re stuck for now with posturing over reason.
See you at the next mass shooting!