Sunday, October 4, 2015

Maniacs and Guns

The Times has a very depressing feature on the ways recent mass murderers have obtained their guns, full of tragic bits of bureaucratic malfeasance like
Mr. Fryberg applied to buy the Beretta from a gun shop on the Indian reservation where he lived with Jaylen. A background check failed to come up with the protection order because it was never entered into the system.
But really the problem comes down to this: it is very, very hard to accurately diagnose serious mental illness, or to predict which people might become violent. So as long as we treat gun ownership as a right that can only be taken away for probable cause of danger, we will never be able to keep potentially dangerous people from owning guns. Most mass shooters buy their guns legally. To keep this sort of thing from happening, we would have to turn our attitude around and make gun ownership a privilege available only to those who can prove themselves fit. I think that in our democracy this would be impossible; too many law-abiding Americans passionately love their guns. Given that there are already a hundred million guns in America, and that buying one illegally is about as hard as buying pot, I doubt that would make much difference anyway.

Personally, I hate guns, and wish they were as rare here as they are in Britain. But count me as a skeptic that gun control will ever make any difference to crime in America.

1 comment:

G. Verloren said...

I'm all for gun control, but I sometimes think the real issue is ammunition.

Guns are useless without ammo. And while any sufficiently clever individual can fashion their own guns at home, manufacturing ammunition is a lot more difficult, requires much harder to obtain materials, and is a lot harder to do without attracting notice.

So why don't we just quietly start draining ammo out of the country? Let people buy their big shiny boomsticks to tote around and make themselves feel manly with, but make the ammo for them scarcer and scarcer, requiring greater expense and higher clearance to be able to buy it. Make this change slowly, incrementally, imperceptibly.

New taxes on ammunition, new manufacturing restrictions, even the government buying up excess stock or entire manufacturing companies wholesale - whatever works to gain control over the supply and keep the net influx of new ammunition just slightly under the rate of usage.

The goal is long term price rises and supply depletion, with restrictions on the ability to replace that supply. That way, as people continue to fire off their ammunition as normal, the overall pools in civilian hands begin to trickle down in size, and increased costs for replacement mean people will spend the same amount of money on less ammo, literally getting less bang for their bucks.

Maybe even pair this with eased restrictions on certain guns, letting the enthusiasts play around a bit with shinier new "toys" to keep them happy. They'll be less likely to notice or care about slowly rising ammo prices if we throw them a bone or two - or rather a few machine guns, as the case may be.

There could also be different severities of restrictions - it would be relatively harmless to keep .22LR ammo cheap and plentiful, allowing gun owners to keep cheaply and easily engaging in target shooting by changing to the smaller caliber. Meanwhile, other more dangerous types of ammunition (particularly for handguns) would be easier to impose new restrictions on citing the lethality of such rounds.

Heck, maybe the focus could be made even narrower - forget about controlling ammunition supplies themselves, and just go straight for control of the supply of cartridge primers.

Bullets, gunpowder, and even brass cases are themselves not terribly hard to produce privately on small scales, but primers absolutely are. Manufacturing and inserting primers is the single most dangerous part of creating ammunition, to the point that homemade primers simply aren't feasible - they essentially must be produced commercially, on an industrial scale.

Control the manufacture of primers and you control the production of new ammunition. Without primers, all the lead bullets, gunpowder, and brass cartridges in the world are completely and utterly useless in regards to modern firearms.