|Or at least start thinking about it pretty soon|
Now, this will be a short post, because it will merely serve, once again, to recap what I've been saying, shouting and ranting for years. We'll start with the reality. The things people want to do are wrong, and even those things won't happen this time around.
Ok, mikey, why are they "wrong"? America has a gun violence problem. Last year we had over 12,000 murders, over ten thousand of those committed with firearms. Less than four hundred of those were committed with rifles. America does not have a rifle problem. America has a handgun problem. Rifles are expensive and cannot be concealed. You cannot wander around town with a rifle. You can't go in a bar, or a restaurant, or knock on your estranged wife's door with a rifle. You cannot lose your temper, get drunk, get high, get angry and pull out your rifle. Yes, the events of last Friday were another high profile event featuring a rifle. But can we really say we are addressing our gun violence problem if all our efforts are focused on banning SOME rifles? That would be like seeking to address traffic fatalities by banning trains.
The other thing you keep hearing about is banning high capacity magazines. OK, fine, go ahead and spend some of your political opportunity doing this. It won't actually hurt anything, but you have to understand how pointless and valueless it is in reducing gun murders. First, reloading an automatic is easy and fast. Seung-Hui Cho fired hundreds of rounds in the process of shooting fifty people with his pistols. Adam Lanza notoriously used thirty round magazines, but nobody seems to mention that even with that, he reloaded four or five times at least. Changing mags is fast and easy because it's designed to be fast and easy. You can kill an awful lot of people with ten round mags - you might say "ahh, but not as many" and that may be true, but you haven't really addressed the gun violence problem. The key problem with magazine capacity regulations is enforceability. Magazines are not guns. They are not complex, machined to tight tolerances or hard to design or manufacture. They are aluminum or plastic boxes with a spring inside. They will be made in places where it is legal to do so, or they will be made in garages and barns. They will be sold on the internet, or there will be kits to expand the capacity of legal magazines sold on the internet. And law enforcement will wink at it all, because they will have no way to interdict this commerce.
Some people even say that we should ban semi-auto firearms. I have no idea how you could do that - I'd love to see a sample bill, because to my knowledge nobody's ever tried to actually write one, but if you believe you could get such a ban on a concept that can executed an infinite number of ways past the Supreme Court, you're delusional.
Here's the answer. Lots of people think it's illegal to own a machine gun in the United States. Actually, it's not. It's perfectly legal to own a machine gun - Charleton Heston famously owned hundreds of them. Machine gun ownership is regulated under the National Firearms Act, or Title II, originally passed in 1934. The NFA is an excellent model for regulating all firearms, particularly handguns. It does not make it illegal to purchase a gun - it is entirely compatible with the 2nd Amendment. It merely makes it difficult, time consuming and expensive. It makes the owner accountable for his behavior, at the risk of losing his rights. Something along those lines, although probably watered down to some extent, coupled with changes to tax and product liability policy will make it much more expensive to produce, distribute, purchase and own firearms. And we know precisely how markets work - more expensive commodities are scarce commodities, and if our current problem is rooted in the easy availability of firearms, scarcity is how it must be solved.
All that said, we're not there yet. The politics for some firearms regulation have improved, but they still represent the losing side of the argument. In the November election, the NRA spent 24 million dollars supporting their candidates, the Brady Center spend less than six thousand. The NRA has over 4 million members. They have political power, and they are highly adept at deploying it. Because of the way the American population is distributed, the Republicans have a firm grip on the House of Representatives, and will happily protect their deeply ideological rural constituency and their NRA paymasters until such time as it becomes simply politically untenable for them to continue to do so.