Time for smarter gun control laws in the US?

Further to today’s blog post by Ken Myers averring that tighter gun control laws wouldn’t make us safer, PhD cyberlaw student Mark Leiser publishes below counter arguments to each of Ken’s points, considering the need for smarter gun control laws in the US. Comments welcome below and you can follow  Mark Leiser on Twitter: @mleiser.

Defenseless – Gun Control isn’t an all or nothing proposition. No-one is suggesting that people remove all the guns from the American home. The Second Amendment to the Constitution has protected the right to bear arms. Smart gun control legislation comes in many forms – rigorous background checks; limitations on the mentally ill; gun-free areas to ensure tough penalties for those who carry firearms in areas with vulnerabilities such as schools, churches, etc. The rhetoric from the gun lobby is largely based on an all or nothing premise, but reality gun control can be nothing further from the truth.  The “right to bear arms” is largely a right to self- defence (DC v Heller) and gun control laws should reflect the right to defend one’s self rather than go an military-style offensive by using assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. For example, in a local gun buy-back program, rocket launchers were turned into the Police. Hardly the weapon of choice for stopping an home invader.

Food For Thought – Gun control is not the same as serial killer control. There are always going to be people like Jeffrey Dahmer. The aim of gun control is to make it harder for people who are mentally ill (or “evil” as your preferred choice of term) to gain access to their tools to kill as many people. Could Jeffrey Dahmer have walked into Sandy Forks Elementary School and taken home 15 schoolchildren to his house to dismember them with acid and a knife? No, not at all.

Mental Capacities – Adam Lanza may have been mentally unstable, but he was not a licensed gun owner, his mother was. It is questionable in my eyes why Mrs Lanza, armed in the manner that she was, isn’t considered mentally ill herself.  It was her guns that a mentally ill person accessed and used to kill 27 innocent people. Had there been suitable mentally health facilities for Mrs Lanza to send her son to maybe we wouldn’t have been talking about Newtown. Maybe we would have been still talking about Columbine, Jonestown, Blacksburg, Aurora or any other the other of the other shootings in the past few years. Media reports seem to suggest that Adam Lanza had not slipped through the cracks, and in fact, the reason Adam snapped may have been that his mother was in fact looking to section him in a mental health facility. Therefore, this point is moot.

The Criminal Element – Again, this is the all or nothing argument I find boring and mundane, deeply rooted in the ‘good’ vs. ‘evil’ argument. How does one know who is good and who is evil? Does one wearing a police uniform with a gun automatically make them ‘good’? The fact is that since the Dunblane massacre in Scotland and the subsequent government crackdown on guns, there has not been a single school shooting. Yes, there will be gun crime and it will never be eradicated, but crime is and has been dropping dramatically since the 1980s. Fear is at an unjustified high based on news reports, but crime is at a record low.

Having blamed everything under the sun for the Newtown Massacre, the NRA and its proponents are now turning to blaming the mentally ill for the massacres – a segment of society that already suffers from social stigma and bullying treatment. What would the NRA have us do? Lock up everyone that has a mental disorder or suffers from depression? Lock up all of those who suffer from anxiety on the premise that they might take possession of a legally accessible gun like Adam Lanza did? Please stop the nonsense. To paraphrase Toby from the West Wing: If you combine the populations of Great Britain, France, Germany, Japan, Switzerland, Sweden, Denmark and Australia, you’ll get a population roughly the size of the United States. The US had 32,000 gun deaths last year. They had 112. Do you think it’s because Americans are more mentally ill by nature? Or do you think it’s because those guys have gun control laws?

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