I was going to file this under the “too soon you get old; too late you get smart” category but I’m sorry to say that Dan Gross has only advanced part of the way to wisdom in his New York Times op-ed: After identifying himself as a leader of the gun control movement he expresses the beginnings of wisdom:
Of the nearly 40,000 deaths involving guns in 2019, well under 1 percent were caused by what the F.B.I. defines as “active shooter” incidents. In an average year, around 60 percent of deaths involving guns are suicides and upward of 30 percent are homicides that don’t meet the “active shooter” definition, like episodes of domestic and gang violence. Even unintentional shootings (about 1 percent of the total) outnumber mass shootings.
but here’s his prescription for mending the situation:
- Vigorously pursue and prosecute the small percentage of gun dealers who are knowingly contributing to the illegal gun trade (a trade that is disproportionately hurting communities of color).
- Identify opportunities to strengthen the background check system by adding prohibited purchasers that we all, including 90 percent of gun owners, agree should not have guns. For instance, federal rules governing privacy for health records could be modified to allow mental health clinicians to identify those who are a threat to themselves or others, so that they could be temporarily added to the National Instant Check System. This would have to include exemptions for private sales that may make some gun control supporters uncomfortable; but in the end, in combination with the other measures listed here, it would result in a significant improvement to public safety.
- Invest in a large-scale education and awareness campaign on the dangers of owning and carrying guns, and what can be done to mitigate those dangers. It is crucial that these efforts be led in partnership with gun rights groups and public health experts and that they remain free from any judgment about gun ownership or connection with political advocacy. There are many initiatives already, such as public education about the warning signs of mental illness and suicide, which have proven effective and could be models.
- Expand on the work of “violence interrupters” and similar programs proven to reduce gun violence in cities.
- Clearly define what it means to be a federally licensed firearm dealer, with standards that include sales volume. For years, gun control groups have talked about closing the “gun show loophole.” The real problem is not specifically gun shows, it is people who are regularly selling multiple guns to strangers, regardless of the venue, without being required to conduct the same background check that a federally licensed dealer must. Not only does this clearly contribute to straw-man purchasing and gun trafficking, it puts honest dealers at a competitive disadvantage.
Although I don’t think there’s anything wrong with any of those in principle, I strongly suspect that if those measures were implemented, they were fully funded, and they were perfectly executed, in five years or ten years the number of gun homicides will have increased if anything and the primary measurable effect will be on the incomes of the NGOs that get the contracts to do the safety and awareness training. And if experience at least in Chicago is any guide some of those NGOs will be fronts for criminal gangs.
As evidence for that I would submit one fact and one claim. The fact is that in most crimes committed with guns the guns are not legally owned. The claim is that the perpetrators of those crimes know exactly what they’re doing. There’s no amount of publicity or awareness training that will change their incentives.