There are reports floating around that Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell is open to listening to “serious suggestions from the experts”. This is good news, everyone, after all, should be open to serious suggestions from the experts in all areas of policy at all times.
We need, however, to make an unequivocal statement on what qualifies as a serious suggestion and what, quite frankly, does not. The most obvious, glaring, and pernicious of these is the call for total or partial confiscation of firearms.
This is not a serious suggestion. It is contrary to every possible method of looking at the policy—antithetical to freedom, directly contradictory to the Constitution, ineffective where attempted, inconsistent to logic when applied to other issues.
Most dangerous, perhaps, of the many reasons that any policy of confiscation and outlawing lacks seriousness is the policy’s obfuscation of the root causes of both mass shootings specifically and gun violence writ large.
The focus on gun control, through both expanded background checks, and veiled and overt calls for total confiscation hearkening to policies that have appeared to be successful when applied to small, ethnically homogenous populations living on islands obscures the fact that so called “gun violence” is not a single problem.
In scientific, data based improvement processes we learn that the most useful method to solve a problem is to search for the root cause. We do so readily in most areas of life—in medicine, in science, and in business, the process of searching for the root cause is an entrenched and acknowledged goal.
Gun control advocates, however, work to obfuscate the root cause of the spectrum of problems we face by conflating a series of vastly different issues, connected on the surface level by a superficial similarity. That is, they take the separate root causes (domestic violence, gang violence, Islamic terrorism, and suicide) and packages them together into a single issue which they label “gun violence”. This ignores the radically different motivations, situations, and circumstances from which these problems stem.
To conflate these four, radically differing issues as a single problem with a single one size fits all solution would be akin to packaging together seniors with broken hips, deaths of extreme mountain climbers, and broken hearts and suggesting one simple solution can drastically reduce them simultaneously—they are all problems which result from falling.
If you’d like reasoning as to why gun confiscation, a solution which focuses on the tool not the impetus of violence won’t work to prevent any of the four major problems which lead to “gun violence” I shall endeavor to point out the counterfactual for each of the four most common root causes.
In regards to the root cause of domestic violence, a policy of confiscation will not reduce violence. Perpetrators of domestic violence are already barred from possessing firearms. This is true not only of felony domestic violence, but also of misdemeanor offenders. Domestic violence is typically an escalating act—that is, before killing his spouse, the archetypal domestic abuser will have spent months or years abusing her physically. Countries who have instituted total confiscation retain high incidences of domestic violence, including brutal mass killings of entire families.
Think for a minute of the mindset of a person who has decided the best, indeed the only course of action which makes sense in their life is to murder their children, spouse, then commit suicide. Does the access or absence of a firearm make any impact upon the decision to do so or not? We’ve seen this type of slaying carried out with knives, with hammers, through strangulation, and even with cars. If the motive to slaughter one’s own kin and one’s own self exist the tool used to do so is inconsequential.
How many women and children have lost their lives because instead of searching for answers to domestic violence we’ve fought for disarmament?
In regards to the root cause of gang violence, a policy of confiscation will not reduce violence. Gang members have made the choice to commit crimes, to associate with criminals, and to live a way of life with complete disregard for the law. Much of the gang violence committed is committed by career criminals who are already known to the police. Many of them are felons, who like perpetrators of domestic violence are already banned from firearm ownership. They obtain weapons illegally, often through straw purchases which as a matter of policy are not prosecuted. The other major source for firearms for gang violence is the very cartels which supply them with a steady stream of other already illegal substances which they sell.
If we can’t stop cocaine from flowing from Columbia through Mexico into the United States, why do we assume that we can stop these established smuggling lines we’ve proven impotent to disrupt from including a few more firearms to supply their local operatives in Baltimore, Chicago, and LA? What variety of logic suggests that a career criminal, intent on breaking the law repeatedly and blatantly will suddenly respect one more law, and one which he has reason to believe he won’t even be prosecuted for breaking?
How many law abiding inner city people, mostly minorities, have lost their lives because instead of searching for answers to gang violence we’ve fought for disarmament?
In regards to the root cause of terrorism, a policy of confiscation will not reduce violence. Pointing out that the most deadly terrorist attacks are carried out by means other than firearms seems specious at this point due to repetition. It also remains the unequivocal truth. A firearm is but one weapon in the arsenal of the Jihadi terrorist. Fueled by a global network of information and indoctrination that is supported by vast amounts of middle eastern money and the symbolic recruitment tool of an actual, functioning Jihadi nation-state ISIS has expanded to inspire if not coordinate attacks.
Worldwide terrorist attacks are carried out with explosives far more often than with firearms. What logic suggests that, absent available firearms the Jihadi who has spent years declaring allegiance to ISIS and Al-Qaeda, who spent months casing Disney World and other locations to attack, who has traveled twice overseas to receive training to carry out his attack, who has familial ties to the Taliban, who had been implicated in domestic abuse, been reported to his employer for stalking and harassment, and been twice investigated by the FBI would simply blend peacefully into society?
Would we feel better if he had walked to the center of the dance floor, yelled “Allahu Ackbar!” and detonated a suicide vest killing 49? Or would the result have been the same?
Can we truly say that in the chain of events leading up the Orlando attack, there’s not something else we could have done to prevent it? Perhaps some law that could be changed related to the information the FBI had on the individual? Perhaps truly decisive action against the Islamic State to deny them their nation state? Perhaps a coordinated global effort to choke off the millions of dollars fueling Jihadi terrorism worldwide? Perhaps another solution related to the domestic abuse he had perpetrated (which if prosecuted would have prevented his access to legal firearms)? Perhaps taking seriously harassment in the workplace, and not de facto exonerating someone because of their religion?
How many innocent people have died because instead of confronting Jihadi, Islamic terrorism we’ve fought for confiscation?
In regards to the root cause of suicide, a policy of confiscation will not reduce violence. It’s somewhat deceptive to even include gun suicide as a form of violence, after all, excepting murder-suicide which typically comes in either domestic violence or Jihadi terror forms, suicide is neither a crime, nor possesses a victim save the perpetrator. If a person has wholly and irrevocably decided to end their life, or to attempt to do so, what difference does the method make?
Gun control advocates will claim that gun suicide attempts are more successful than other common methods such as pills or wrist slitting. However, if we remove the capability to succeed at a suicide, while leaving the perpetrator/victim in a state of feeling the need for a suicide, how much can we be said to have improved his (and I say his because gun suicides are overwhelmingly committed by men) life?
We stand at a cross roads, culturally speaking, in regards to suicide. We have some small amount of suicide prevention resources available- hot lines, occasional public service campaigns, and theoretically mental health professionals capable of dealing with the issue. However, we have virtually no research into the reasons for suicide, particularly among males. And we are simultaneously trying to push gun control to reduce suicides, while pushing to legalize doctor assisted suicides.
How can we hope to confront the problem of suicides committed by firearms if we cannot decide as a society whether suicide is a problem we need to reduce or a right we need to defend?
There are cultures where suicide is accepted, cherished choice. There are traditions where it is a cardinal sin. We must decide which variety of society we represent. The end effects of a bullet to the brain and a lethal dose of drugs administered under the supervision of a doctor is the same.
There is hypocrisy both blatant and bland in using suicide figures to inflate “gun violence” statistics, while simultaneously praising the “choice” made by a 5 year old to end her life. A five year old who believes she will go to heaven (which we have been told over, and over, and over again does not exist) is apparently informed enough to choose to end her own life, but a grown adult male cannot make the same informed choice?
Or should we seek to push all those who are intending to commit or considering suicide towards treatment, hope, and a better way forward than death?
Is it time to admit that our societal values have destroyed the concept of manhood and that, perhaps, we should spend some time learning what causes so many adult, mostly white, mostly lower class men to decide there is no hope?
Or are they too privileged to care about except for their value in advancing a narrative?
Absent firearms, the situations, feelings, and disorders which lead to male suicide will still remain. Without addressing the causes of those situations, feelings, and disorders we condemn these men to a life of suffering. Taking away something they consider to be a part of their way of life, a pivotal foundation of their identities as hunters and sportsmen will only serve to exacerbate the existential crisis caused by the relentless assault on the modern male.
How many men have made the choice of death because instead of offering them help, we’ve fought for confiscation?
So long as we continue to focus on solving a spectrum of problems with a single sledgehammer solution, we will continue to fail because we are ignoring the root causes. We cannot allow ourselves to continue to focus on the method rather than the motive of murder we will continue to stall on the goal of reducing murder. If the goal is simply to replace gun violence with an increase in knife violence and bombings then we are pursuing a meaningless goal.
I’ve asked a wide array of questions, and given virtually no answers. But when we’ve spent the entirety of the last eight years asking the wrong question, how could he hope to find the right answers? Senator McConnell has an olive branch, a promise to consider serious suggestions. The onus is now on gun control advocates to provide them and to understand that confiscation in whole or part does not meet the definition of a serious suggestion.