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Wednesday, January 6, 2016

In Which We Wait to Hear a Reasonable Reply

So President Obama made an emotional speech about guns yesterday, and Republicans predictably lost their minds.  From what I can see, the president's proposals essentially amounted to making sure that current laws are properly enforced--which, by the way, is exactly what gun enthusiasts say should be done any time there is a suggestion that the country needs stronger gun regulation: "We don't need no more laws!  We just need to enforce the ones we've already got!"  I guess that sounds good until Obama says it, at which point it becomes an unconscionable power grab.  Of course, enforcing the laws also requires resources that Republicans in Congress are unwilling to provide, but let's not quibble.  Still, in response to yesterday's speech, the Republican presidential candidates are screaming about a "gun grab" and that Obama's a-comin' for your guns!

I live in hope of one day hearing a cogent, reasonable argument against ANY of the standard suggestions put forward by gun-control advocates,  For example, one of the most popular proposals put forward is to close the gun-show loophole, which allows people to purchase firearms at gun shows without going through the same background checks they would need to go through if they bought guns at a store.  The NRA and others would have you believe that this is some sort of insane left-wing proposal that must be resisted at all costs.  And I would truly like to understand why--why should anyone have a problem with this?

Before you reply, let me say that the following are not valid arguments:

"This is the first step down the road to tyranny!"  No, it's really not.  This is an example of a "slippery-slope" argument, a well-known logical fallacy: "If A happens, then it's only a matter of time before B happens."  This argument seems to rest on the premise that a crypto-fascist government will become so giddy at its success in passing modest gun legislation that it will quickly move to seize all weapons and throw us all into concentration camps.  Anyone who truly believes this (as opposed to just saying it to score political points with the likes of the Birdbath Liberation Army) is suffering from acute paranoia and/or delusions and should probably not be armed.  And at any rate, this response fails to address the merits of the proposal.

"Forcing people to go through background checks at gun shows wouldn't do anything to stop crime."  Again, not a valid argument, for the simple reason that there is no way to know this unless and until we try it.  I can acknowledge that those who make this argument may be right: It is possible that we could impose these new regulations and see no decline whatsoever in the numbers of people killed by guns.  But we won't know unless we try, right?

I'm seriously looking for a reasonable argument--I would really like to understand.  I suppose some would say that requiring background checks at gun shows places unnecessary burdens on law-abiding citizens, but I truly don't see that.  I mean, if I want to buy a gun, I could presumably do so with no trouble: I am a law-abiding citizen, no criminal record, no history of mental illness, etc.  If I went to a gun store, I am certain I would pass any background check, so the only inconvenience would be that I would need to wait a little while to complete my purchase and take home my shiny new gun.  I honestly have no idea how long a background check takes.  Let's say it takes a week, though--and I suspect it takes less time than that (and could, theoretically, be completed instantaneously with the proper technology)--well, so what?  If I buy a suit, I need to wait to take it home until alterations are done.  I can wait.  And minimal safeguards designed to keep guns out of the hands of people who shouldn't have them are, frankly, worth a little inconvenience.  The only people who would truly be inconvenienced by requiring background checks at gun shows would be the people who would fail a background check outside of a gun show.  And guess what?  I don't care if those people are inconvenienced.  They should be!

So, to conclude: No one is coming to take away your guns.  And based on what President Obama suggested yesterday, largely nothing will change.  Now, can someone offer me a reasonable, logical answer as to why things shouldn't?


  1. The problem is almost invisible unless you step back and take a long view. It takes a perspective that spans decades, both back and some years forward.

  2. But what "problem" are we talking about? Governmental overreach? Sure, that could be a problem--but it's not a problem in this case: It is, instead, a straw man being built up by entrenched interests (the gun lobby, mostly) to avoid cutting into their profits. In the meantime, the very real problem of insane levels of gun violence continue. If the first duty of government is to keep its citizens safe (and that IS the first duty of government), then our legislators have a professional--not to say moral--duty to do SOMETHING. Which approximately 50% of our legislators have expressed exactly zero willingness to do.