How to Pass Bipartisan Gun Control – Part II


How to Pass Bipartisan Gun Control focused on why the gun control movement is failing to impact gun violence in Colorado.

In this post, I want to tackle the role of partisan studies, the “public health” approach to gun violence, and some pointless rhetoric blocking gun safety.

As I always do whenever I discuss this topic, let me state clearly that I believe most gun control advocates are well motivated people who want to stop gun violence.  What makes me moderate on this issue is I think most gun rights advocates are also well motivated and want to reduce gun violence.

It is actually not true that there is a dearth of information and studies on guns and gun violence in the United States.  What there is a dearth of information from federal public health agencies because the gun rights community convinced Congress and the President that it was inherently biased.  The studies that do exist are usually funded through an openly partisan effort, whether it is the NRA or the Bloomberg/John Hopkins gun control machine.

There is  nothing wrong with partisan studies, but no one can act shocked when they are unpersuasive to opposing partisans.  And although they also often provide valuable data on an aspect of a particular problem, they usually fail to study the data on opposing partisan solutions.

It is useful took at a specific case.

David Hemingway is a renowned Harvard scholar strongly identified with the gun control movement.  His work has certainly provided useful baseline analysis of data and within the confines of its partisanship makes a cogent argument for a variety of gun control measures.  One of his most discussed pieces is “Risks and Benefits of a Gun in the Home” published in the American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine in November of 2011.

Hemenway argues for a public health basis for eliminating guns from homes.  He does so without discussing the variance in data based on households with or without training in personal safety.  It is hardly surprising that untrained people handling guns with or without mental illness in the household results in suicides and accidents.

The Supreme Court in Heller upheld the right to own semi-automatic guns for protection, particularly in the home.  With that reality is it really responsible to end with a blunt cry of get rid of guns in the home or you are doomed?  Is that about banning guns or reducing gun violence?

Far from decisively changing the debate, this partisan study of studies leaves unanswered could we dramatically reduce suicides, accidents, and even violence through better training?  The study actually masks a solution to the least controversial components of gun violence – suicides and accidents.

If you actually listen, is there a difference in partisan positions on restricting the mentally ill’s access to guns?  Do you know how to safely store a gun?  Do you know what to do when one of your family or housemates develops a mental illness?  Do you know when a gun owner is safely or unsafely handling a gun?  What do you do when anyone approaches you with violent intent, regardless of guns?

To paraphrase Colorado Governor Hickenlooper, “why not solve the problems we agree on before the ones we disagree on?”

Seeking to proclaim public health studies divorced from the other social sciences as a new or breakthrough way of tackling gun violence is just an excuse for narrowing the argument to a playing field where only one side can “win”.  Then there is the pesky Constitution.  You cannot treat one of the Bill of Rights as a venereal disease.

Gun control advocates such as Jonathan Alter and others have advocated a new name for their movement – gun safety.  None of the major gun control groups offers any training for gun owners.  If you offer no training, you are not about safety you are about gun control.

Moving the debate forward towards saving lives, has to be on a gun violence objective data driven process not rhetoric masking bias.  Any policy alternative has to be on a politically achievable basis.  It has to be uniting.  My final piece in the series will propose just such an alternative bipartisan gun violence agenda.


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