Tuesday, January 15, 2013

More Thoughts on Guns

I had a conversation with a fellow today regarding gun control. He said he believed people should have to attend and pass a gun safety course before purchasing any firearms. As it happens, I sort of hesitantly agree with him.

My buddy is actually a gun owner himself; he was carrying a Glock 20 at the time, which is quite a weapon---it's chambered for 10mm, which is supposed to be good for hunting bears, of all things. It's a hell of a cartridge. Anyways, we were able to express scorn for the upcoming gun regulations due out of Washington while at the same time agreeing on the merits of sensible gun regulation.

As written above, one of the regulations we both support is requiring gun owners to learn the basic ins-and-outs of gun safety before being able to purchase a gun. After all, the government requires people to attend Driver's Ed before being granted a license to drive. Why not do the same thing for guns?

It seems sensible, but of course there are problems.

Most importantly, driving is done on public roads, and should thus be regulated to ensure safety within those public places. None of us pays taxes for those roads that they may exist in a state of driving anarchy. In contrast, firearms are purchased in large part to ensure self-defense, or what may be termed private safety. It seems reasonable to state that one's defense of self within a private sphere should not be regulated in the same manner as that of one's assurance of public safety within public places. So drivers' licenses do not feel quite as equivalent as gun licenses.

Of course, some people might argue that firearms present a unique set of circumstances, at least in the sense that firearms can be used to drastically impact safety in public places. Sandy Hook, Columbine and Virginia Tech were all public schools, for example. So perhaps guns should be regulated in the same way as cars due to their unique ability to inflict harm in public places.

Maybe. But many common and easily-purchased items could be used to inflict massive harm in public places. Someone could probably purchase enough gasoline to do serious damage on a city street or public building. Should we require permits for gasoline?

Another problem is that, were it the law of the land to require gun owners to attend gun-safety classes, many public officials might seize this opportunity to make gun-safety classes all but un-attendable. Gun ownership is uniquely offensive to many government officials, and so if they had the ability to force people to attend gun-safety classes, they might bureaucratize the process to the point that it would be exceedingly difficult to attend a single session. Chicago imposes an onerous burden upon people who wish to purchase legal handguns (read about it here), so this scenario is not unthinkable.

In any case, gun-safety classes as a requirement for gun ownership seems like a good idea, and it's an idea towards which I'm fairly amenable. I'm not positive it would stop mass murderers from carrying out their terrible plans, but it's at least another roadblock against those plans. Yet it has its problems, and we should not require it before we think about those problems.

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