Restrictions, not Control

Over the holidays, I was speaking with my Father-in-law about the recent gun violence in Connecticut.

He (a long-time hunter and gun owner) made an interesting point that people looking to use legislation to avoid future incidents were doing themselves no favors by continuing to use the phrase “Gun Control” – that “Gun Restrictions” would perhaps be more palatable to Gun rights advocates.

I thought it a good example where language plays an important role in shaping the conversation.

Ultimately, I do think this is an issue of placing more restrictions on gun ownership in the United States.  I disagree with the NRA, whose stance is to install more armed guards in schools and other public venues.

“People kill people, guns don’t kill people”  is a common phrase from gun rights advocates, followed often by “What’s next? Ban cars?”

I find this interesting on a few fronts.  First, I haven’t really heard anyone suggest an outright ban on guns so the phrase is obviously an emotional outburst intended to show any gun legislation as purely ludicrous.

Second, trends show that decreases in the rate of automobile-related deaths suggest that, if nothing changes, gun deaths could actually surpass automobile deaths within the next decade or so.

Third, I think automobiles provide a good reference point for gun regulations.  One would be hard-pressed to argue that “the government is coming to take your cars.”

Automobiles require registration (annually); require a licensed operator (with timed renewals, some requiring re-testing); require periodic equipment inspections; have restrictions on equipment designs (for safety); have restrictions on where and how (in public) they can be operated; and require the operator to be insured for damage caused by negligence or fault.

Sure, it would be fun to be able to drive at 120mph down the highway, just as I’m sure it’s fun to fire a semi-automatic .223 rifle through 30 rounds (for that matter, it would be fun to shoot a bazooka or drive a tank).  But there are obvious reasons why this isn’t allowed.  And yes, I should be able to use my judgement when it’s OK to drive at 120 and when it isn’t and sometimes it bums me out that I can’t.  But I understand why it is that way.  Just as I understand why I’m not allowed to drive through /over traffic in a tank.

The libertarian in me of course wants less regulation and more freedom.  But as the earth gets more and more populated, the pragmatist in me recognizes we’re going to have to accept that squeezing this many people onto this planet is going to take some compromises and some regulations.  And it seems to me that we have a lot to gain from a few restrictions to make gun ownership in this country safer for everyone.

Would more restrictions have prevented some of the recent tragedies?  We will never know.  But that’s not a reason not to try.