As always in America, gun violence continues and all republicans offer are their thoughts and prayers, as well as disinformation. There’s no way more gun regulation will work they say. The best way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.
Oddly enough in a recent shooting (just before Christmas) there was a “good guy” with a gun present who stood by and did nothing until after 40 people got shot. This is in line with the experience of military veterans and what psychologist say is the normal human reaction to a crisis situation. Basically, 80% of people will stand there with a stupid look on their face (even if they have a gun), aim high, or pretend to be doing something else (tending to the wounded for example). This has been demonstrated in numerous studies and interviews of soldiers going into combat for the first time, all the way back to world war 2 (with historical evidence to suggest it has been a constant in warfare since the dawn of time).
This is “good guy” gambit is merely one example of how the right will try to muddy the waters, coming up with contrarian arguments to try and avoid the inevitable conclusions. Take this example from PragerU. Its theme seems to be regulation won’t work and will be a slippery slope to a total gun ban. Or in other words “the dems are coming for your guns”.
The thing is that gun regulation DOES work. We know this because several European countries, and Canada allow the ownership of firearms, but apply strict gun regulations.
I think the problem here is that many Americans assume that the UK = Europe and yes the UK has some very strict gun controls, some of the toughest in the world. And the end result is we have some of the lowest gun related crime rates in the world.
By contrast some of our European neighbours are much more flexible on gun ownership, most notably Switzerland and Finland. And there are cultural reasons for this policy. Finland found itself fighting both sides (at different times) during world war 2 and Switzerland found itself surrounded by the nazi’s. Hence a central plank of both nations self defence policy is that every male (and quite a few of the women) has a gun under the bed. And speaking of the Germans, I highlighted before a vlog post from Joerg Sprave about gun regulations in Germany and how they aren’t quite as strict as the NRA would have you believe.
The exact laws vary country to country, but in general terms gun ownership is allowed, but owners have to go through extensive background checks. You need a license and the gun must be registered on a firearms database (linked to the licensee). Regulations are usually very strict in terms of how the gun may be stored (generally locked away in a gun safe, with the ammunition stored separately in another location) and how both gun and ammo are transported (almost no chance of anyone getting a concealed carry permit, unless you work as a body guard or something). Some countries also take ballistic data from guns (so if you use it in a crime the police will very quickly know whose door to come knocking on).
And there’s also a level of bullet control. In most European countries you can’t just walk into a store and buy ammo. You’ll need to show ID and a record will be kept of the sale (meaning any attempt to stockpile ammo in advance of a spree shooting has a good chance of being detected, prompting a visit from the police). And generally the more dangerous the gun or ammo, the stricter the regulation. So while yes the average Swiss man might have an assault rifle under the bed, he might not have any ammo to feed into it . And if he’s one of the few who does, it will be in a shrink wrapped package….and the cops are known to carry out random inspections of those from time to time.
Finally, there is no real automatic right to bear arms in Europe. Owning a gun is seen as a privilege granted to law abiding citizens who have some valid reason to own a gun. And this privilege is conditional that you stick to the rules. Break the rules or start acting like an asshole (e.g. the Trump supporters showing up to political rallies and trying to intimidate people with guns) and the cops will have you’re guns off you so fast your head will spin.
Now all of that said, the rate of gun related violence and deaths in countries like Switzerland and Finland (or Germany) is certainly higher than in the UK. No matter how well you regulate, more guns = more deaths. But its a fraction of the rates we see in the US (10.54 per 100,000 in the US, against 3 in Switzerland, 1.97 in Canada, 1 in Germany and 0.23 in the UK).
So it would seem logical that if you want to vastly reduce the level of gun violence in the US, why not try regulating guns first? Well this is the crux of the point I’m trying to make. Republicans fears isn’t that gun regulations won’t work. Their fear is that they WILL work.
Let’s imagine a scenario where the US imposes strict gun regulation, much like in Canada or Europe. And let’s assume that the rate of gun deaths drops to the same levels as in those countries, which would mean a reduction of between 70-80%. What happens next?
Well no longer can the GOP use the rallying cry “the dems are comin for you’re guns” to get a few million votes each election. Guns will no longer be such a political hot potato, the dem’s will have no reason to ban them. After all I don’t see Trudeau north of the border planning on banning guns or sending the Mounties door to door to disarm people (as the GOP will have you believe would happen if the slightest gun regulation were passed). Yes, he might tighten up a few reg’s the Harper Adm. repealed, but that’s about the worst he’ll do. Of course, this also means that GOP candidates, particularly in “rust belt” swing states will now be much more vulnerable to defeat by democrats. And they won’t be getting a few billion a year from the gun lobby anymore. So all in all hardly good news for them.
But more worryingly, in response to this drop in gun deaths, Americans might say to themselves, well gee that was easy, we just passed a few reg’s and the problem largely took care of itself. Maybe we should like try that with something else. Like healthcare? Or regulating the banks a bit more closely? Blink and next thing you know they’ve turned the US into the United States of Europe. Suddenly billionaires have to pay this thing called “tax” and can’t act like total dick’s anymore and expect to get away with it.
This is the real reason why republicans and conservatives will fight gun regulations. Because they don’t want to face a scenario where regulations are shown to work. That’s actually the slippery slope they are really worried about. So when Republicans offer their “thoughts and prayers” what they actually mean is that they see those killed in these shootings as collateral damage, human sacrifices on the altar of their neo-liberal ideology.
And gun owners need to realise that they are being used and they will be discarded should the political winds change. Its worth pointing out that many of the strict gun laws in the UK (or Australia) were enacted not by leaf eating liberals but by conservative right wing governments. Because faced with the choice between regulating guns or banning them completely, most neo-liberal politicians will opt for the total ban option and toss the gun lobby under the bus, once they’ve outlived their usefulness.
So NRA members need to understand that should the public mood in the US ever shift, they are in serious trouble. They GOP will discard them just as easily as they dismiss the tens of thousands killed by guns annually. They will push for a total ban, as they will not want to run the risk of gun regulations being shown to work.
And of course the same applies to any other lobby the GOP are currently backing, coal miners for example. If there’s one person you should never trust its a politician who will see bodies being carried out of a building and resolve to do nothing about it.