The Wall Street Journal features a piece in its weekend edition entitled “Why Our Gun Debate is Off Target.” It may eventually become available only to subscribers, but as of Saturday morning, anyone can access it. The piece is penned by former TTAG contributor Dan Baum, who is in his own words “a lifelong gun guy who is also a lifelong liberal Democrat.” Now, there are a lot of folks who think that sort of person doesn’t exist, but they do. Not everyone who owns a gun is a Republican. One example I can point to is the Yankee Marshall, whose videos are featured periodically on this site is a self-described liberal. So, let’s get past that first hurdle and accept that there are people who buy into much of the liberal agenda, but who also treasure the RKBA . . .
Baum’s article is worthy of note for two reasons. The first is that his general thrust is that the current approach to more gun regulation is a non-starter. There are just too many people who own guns who also value the RKBA for sweeping new gun laws to work. Besides that, even if the vast majority of Americans wanted strong gun control, the Constitution was specifically set up to prevent the tyranny of the majority from impacting the minority. Whether civilian disarmers like it or not, the 2A is here to stay (that sounds like a great chant for the next gun rally on the steps of some state capital – but I digress).
Setting aside some rather foolish things the author has sprinkled throughout the piece ( he says he’d “flash” his concealed carry gun to let other gun guys know he’s part of the fraternity), his point is that the gun violence situation in this country can be addressed not through new laws, but rather through the increased responsibility of gun owners. Much of the gun violence in this country is related to guns that were at one time legally purchased, but through carelessness were allowed to fall into the wrong hands.
Baum argues that if gun owners started to apply peer pressure to their friends to get them to change poor gun management behavior, we could reduce a lot of the gun violence in this country. Furthermore, by properly securing our guns when they’re not on our person, we could reduce (not eliminate – but certainly reduce) the number of guns that get into criminal hands through theft. He cites a couple of examples of organizations that are attempting to either call dumbasses out for doing dumb things or elevate the level of firearms training. In fact, he specifically mentions our esteemed publisher and website by name, citing the Irresponsible Gun Owner of the Day feature.
I think that many of us can agree that we know at least one gun owner whose gun security standards are less than stellar. One of my wife’s friends has a husband who keeps a loaded gun in his nightstand – and he has two kids under eight in the house. As a result, my kids don’t play at their house without either my wife or myself being there. On the other hand, we also know a lot more people who take security very seriously and their guns are less likely to fall into the wrong hands.
The main point Baum’s trying to make is that if we, as gun owners, take our responsibility for safe handling a gun to the next level, we as a community could do more to dramatically reduce the number of firearm-related deaths and injuries than a whole boatload of new laws and jackbooted government thugs could ever hope to accomplish. In a few years, we really could reduce incidences of gun violence to those perpetrated by real criminals. And hopefully by reducing the flow of easily stolen firearms, could even have an impact on bad guys committing crimes with guns.
Baum notes that the vast majority of gun owners are responsible and careful with their guns, but it only takes relatively few idiots to screw things up for everyone. Newtown would likely either not have happened or would have had a much different outcome had Lanza’s mother secured her guns in a safe rather than in a downstairs closet. Some of the other “mass shootings,” which are really the only thing that gets the public riled up in a major way, could have been prevented — or at the very least reduced the body count — had guns been better secured.
In the end, Baum is not trying to attack gun owners. The overwhelming message of the piece is that the constant push for gun control isn’t only wrong-headed, but ultimately ineffective. While he may vote on the wrong side of the aisle on other issues, Baum, like many other Democrats and liberals, understands that legislation will not prevent gun violence. Instead, it will produce unintended consequences as law abiding people will no longer be able to defend themselves.
Another point of interest about Baum’s article is the reaction of the people who commented. I read a sample of them and many of them were very angry and took Baum to task for some of his points and examples. It makes me wonder how many of these people ever took the SAT or ACT test in high school.
Back in the dark ages, when I took it, there was a section on reading comprehension. You had to read a few paragraphs and answer some questions about the passage. Many of those who commented on Baum’s piece clearly failed that exercise. Instead, they criticized him for not mentioning 2A or for citing statistics with no backing. Granted, some of these criticisms were accurate, but they miss the forest for the trees. Baum’s point that we must hold ourselves to a high level of responsibility was evidently lost on these folks.
One thing I’ve learned in my years of watching political theater is that there is often an inverse relationship between how angry a person is about an issue and how well they actually understand the issue. Callers to drive-time political themed talk shows are a prime example of that as they take a small sound bite they heard and use it as a launching point.
In the case of the RKBA, we understand the 2A implications as well as the benefits that firearms ownership in private hands brings, but often simply can’t understand why so many of our fellow citizens simply don’t see the obvious logic of our arguments. What would be interesting is if we as a community could exert more control over ourselves and our weapons safeguarding procedures. I submit that we could have a measurable impact on gun violence and deprive the gun control proponents of their strongest arguments.
All I’m suggesting is that we give it a try. Take some of Baum’s advice and do a self-audit on our own gun security. Secure our weapons in a way in which we can get to them quickly, but that reduce the chances of someone inappropriate being able to do the same. Talk to our friends in the firearms community and encourage them to do the same. After all, the gun rights we save through these actions could be our own.