I sympathize with the advocates of gun control but, just as I cannot envision any scenario in which the people’s possession of firearms can protect them from a truly tyrannical government, I cannot envision a scenario in which meaningful gun legislation could be enacted without the very act leading to greater violence than it was designed to prevent. For cities the meaningful way forward in reducing gun violence involves a change in our attitude toward narcotics, eliminating the drug prohibition which creates violence and benefits the violent.
Gun control cannot be enacted in a vacuum, it cannot treat the inevitable response to its creation as separate from the direct impact it seeks to have. Like it or not, for millions of people in the United States gun ownership is both viewed as a positive in its own right, and represents a bulwark of freedom. That the latter view may be a total anachronism is completely immaterial, for people respond not to objective reality, but to their perception of that reality. Not wanting people to have the perception they have of reality does nothing to change their perception.
There are by all accounts right now almost as many firearms in the United States as there are people, though the guns are concentrated in the hands of a fraction of the population. What limitations on gun ownership exist have already created an effective black market for their purchase and sale, and it is simply true that cities like Chicago and Washington DC have the strictest gun laws, and the greatest problems with gun violence. Obviously no city, no state or region for that matter can enact meaningful gun laws in a country where freedom of movement and privacy exist at the level they do in the United States.
Gun laws which would alter the present situation such that criminals would be hard pressed to acquire guns, and could also keep guns out of the hands of the mentally ill, would have to be universal. They would have to cover both every jurisdiction in the United States, and every type of sale. Any attempt at a state by state solution would merely lead to sales moving towards states where laws are more permissive. A lack of universality involving sale type (commercial, private, or Internet) will simply shift sales without limiting them. At the same time, having laws without any means by which to assess compliance is meaningless, inventories would need to be open to scrutiny, documentation of transfer of ownership would need to be maintained and verified.
Now imagine a scenario in which all gun sellers, from shops to private citizens are required to give to the government a list of all their weapons with serial numbers and the like, from coast to coast. Imagine not only banning particularly deadly firearms, but confiscating the ones already in private hands…or imagine banning them, but then grandfathering the millions already extant AND not enacting universal gun registration or limiting sales of every type. What would be the point beyond raising the price of those weapons? Be real. We live in a country where a sizable minority would view universal registration and ANY gun confiscation as indistinguishable from a coup d’état by a tyrannical dictator and would respond accordingly.
You can’t wish that away. That you don’t see, that I don’t see, the logic in a belief that an individual with a rifle would be able to seek redress against a government which controls a military that possesses the most powerful weapons on earth, and which has managed to occupy foreign territory in countries where AK-47s are ubiquitous for a decade, is immaterial. “They” truly believe it, and will act accordingly. The overlap between fundamentalist gun believers, and apocalyptic religionists is also such that any movement toward really effective gun control will awaken beliefs in end times scenarios which will lead to reenactments of Branch Davidian style stand-offs all across the United States.
The most recent acts of mass killings in suburban America seem to be inevitable given the ubiquitousness of guns, and the general openness our society affords. Urban gun violence, however, is completely different, with different causes, motives, and purposes. Even a superficial understanding of gun violence in cities reveals its connection to between the narcotics trade. It is exactly the prohibition of drugs which makes trading in them violent, as any market which cannot access the state judicial system demands that buyers and sellers self regulate. Just as the end of alcohol prohibition led to the end of the violence connected to bootlegging, ending drug prohibition would similarly disempower the drug kingpins who can only control their empires through the use of force.
Drug legalization, apart from freeing the resources now used to investigate, prosecute, and incarcerate drug criminals for use in helping those addicted to narcotics, would also create new tax revenues allowing for enhanced services or lower tax rates in other areas, would also, undeniably, END all of the violence connected to the trafficking of illegal narcotics in our society.
Our societal difficulties with firearms are, in my estimation, unresolvable given the pervasive belief that guns equal freedom and whatever other cultural pathologies lead to America over performing the rest of the world in mass shootings, gun suicides, and gun related domestic violence, but we can put an end to the drug centered gun violence plaguing our cities.