What Stands in the Way of Gun Control?   1 comment

With the recent school shooting in Parkland, Florida, the country is once again embroiled in a  debate over whether or not the country needs additional gun control laws. I don’t think we can find an answer to that debate until we look at why so little progress has been made on this issue in the past.

Image result for image of gun controlAfter each of the recent mass shootings, there has been an initial outcry demanding greater restrictions on gun purchases or ownership. These proposed ideas include more stringent background checks, regulations of certain types of firearms, and greater prohibitions on allowing the mentally ill and others to purchase firearms. These supposedly “common sense” reforms have been debated in the public and much is written in the media, and then politicians took up the debate and … crickets. Gun control advocates scream “Do your job, Congress!” but Congress hasn’t done much. Why? I believe there are four basic reasons why Congress hasn’t rushed to address this issue in a way acceptable to gun control advocates.


The media love to vilify the National Rifle Association’s powerful lobbying efforts, insisting the NRA favors 2nd Amendment rights over the lives of children. I think that’s a grossly simplistic explanation.

Who is the NRA? It is an organization of millions of gun owners across the country. I’m not a member because I think they don’t really understand the meaning of a RIGHT, but lots of my neighbors are. We even have a friend who is a felon who regularly gives to the NRA, even though he is disallowed from owning guns himself. The NRA isn’t some monolithic entity that operates outside of human will. It belongs to its members, people  who are highly active and engaged on an issue of importance to them. Your neighbor who belongs to the NRA is advancing an agenda you don’t agree in chorus with millions of other Americans who also own guns and don’t want to see their right to bear arms violated by you.

We call that democracy and it doesn’t require having a majority of the people supporting you. It requires having an active number of engaged citizens who support your cause and will vote, donate, and spend time in order to advance that cause. That’s not a new thing, by the way. Alexis d’Toqueville mentioned it as an interesting factor in democracy in Democracy in America.

Are you pro-gun control and wonder why those who support greater restrictions on gun ownership have not convinced a large enough number of their fellow citizens to take up their cause in a more participatory manner? I can’t answer that for you, but I know it’s not the fault of gun owners, who are advocating for what is important to them rather than you.


Image result for image of gun controlDespite the name, we really aren’t the “United States.” The people of each state have a unique culture, history, and perspective on the role of government. I know that isn’t a popular opinion among statists who prefer a more homogenous and, thereby controllable, society, but it’s reality. These differences are what give rise to different laws on a wide range of issues. Just as we have seen states take different approaches to marijuana laws and immigration enforcement, we should expect that they would also take different approaches to gun laws. Living here in Alaska, I can tell you with certainty that going on into the woods around here (which can be some people’s backyard) without a gun is a really foolish thing to do.

We refer to the state governments as “laboratories of democracy” for a reason. One-size-fits-all solutions imposed by Congress rarely work well and are unnecessary unless you’re a statist who wants to control people who live thousands of miles away from you.. Each state should be free to enact the gun laws it feels will be most effective in protecting its citizens while remaining consistent with the Supreme Court’s protection of gun ownership as expressed in its Heller decision.

Similar to marijuana legalization and immigration, gun control is a perfect test case for federalism. Allowing states to experiment with their gun laws and comparing the results is the appropriate solution to this issue. Attempting to force the people of Alaska or North Dakota to accept the demands of citizens from New York or California is simply counterproductive.

Important Terms Do Not Have Agreed-Upon Definitions

Just as we have differences in culture and histories, we also have significant differences in how we define certain concepts.

What constitutes an “assault weapon”? Actually read the linked article and find out what you don’t know that you should know before engaging in a discussion of gun control.

What event qualifies as a “school shooting”? Has there been one, three or 18 in the United States in 2018? Yes, the definition matters.

Image result for image of gun controlThese are just two of the important concepts that people use and assume that others agree with their definitions. Last week, one prominent gun control group produced information that supposedly showed there have been 18 school shootings in the U.S. in 2018 alone. However, it counted events such as a suicide in a closed school building, the accidental discharge of a security officer’s firearm in which no one was hurt, and a criminal who ran on school property to flee police as school shootings. These are clearly not the same types of events as a mass school shooting such as occurred in Parkland, Florida, or at Columbine High School in Colorado. Yet many media outlets reported the claim without bothering to note the distinctions. I applaud the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner for pointing out their error after they were called on it.

Significant disagreement exists on these and other terms. Until we can all get on the same page regarding how we define important terms, it will continue to be virtually impossible to reach an agreed-upon solution. Because of this, a “national” approach to this issue is likely to remain elusive.

We Don’t All Agree on the “Solutions”

The calls for congressional action come most often from those wishing to restrict gun ownership. However, not everyone agrees that this is the correct approach. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, there are 16 states that ban carrying a concealed weapon on a college campus, 10 states that allow concealed weapons on college campuses, and 23 states, including my home state of Alaska, which leave this decision in the hands of each institution.

The fact that so many states disagree as to whether greater restrictions or greater freedom is the right course clearly demonstrates that there is significant disagreement on what should be done.

The Most Reasonable Approach

I know – gun control advocates reading this are at risk for stroke, but the fact remains that Congress has been unable to act on your utopian wet dream of turning the entire country into a gun-free zone because a comprehensive solution would be a dream for some and tyranny for others. The most appropriate solution to this issue would be for states and communities to continue to develop those policies their citizens most support and allow for geographic diversity so if you’re living in a region where you feel the gun laws make you unsafe, you can move to a region where the gun laws are more to your liking. Such an approach would align public policies with the preferences of majorities in each state and avoid the obstacles mentioned above.

The burden of action should not rest solely on the shoulders of elected officials. Individuals should find out what the security measures and policies of local schools are. They should familiarize themselves with the gun laws of their states. If they believe any of these are inadequate, they should advocate for change to officials at the local and state level who most likely share those concerns and who will be responsive to those efforts. In short, citizens need to practice self-government.

Mass shootings, and especially school shootings, are the results of a variety of complicated factors. Simplistic solutions will not solve these problems and have little likelihood of national action. However, if the parents, teachers, and students of any state or community want some legislative action to address this issue, let them advocate for it with their state and local government officials.

Truthfully, Congress isn’t, and shouldn’t be, responsible for anyone’s personal safety. That responsibility has to fall on individuals, communities, and state governments. If you’re not advocating for real change there, you’re not likely to get the results you’re seeking — whatever those may be.

Posted February 24, 2018 by aurorawatcherak in Gun control

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One response to “What Stands in the Way of Gun Control?

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  1. Reblogged this on Give Me Liberty.


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