I have been collecting ideas about how to address the problem of gun violence for years. In order to refine those ideas, I discovered I really needed to segment the problem into major groupings, and then apply different solutions to each. As is my wont, I started with writing out some problem statements, such as:
There are too many gun deaths
It’s too easy for criminals to get guns
Too many criminals aren’t prosecuted for gun crimes
…and so forth. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a way to get rid of the subjective “too many” or “too easy”, because there’s no socially acceptable way to set a number of bodies you’re ok dealing with. Sure, you ultimately have to get to a point of “acceptable casualties” because you can’t prevent all murders, but to get a discussion going, it was important to have a more positive approach.
So I tried setting a general goal that could be at least qualitatively measured: To reduce deaths due to gun violence. This is a statement framed in such a way as to promote constant progress, rather than trying to achieve some arbitrary number. Since gun deaths have been declining for 30 or more years, you could also add “more quickly” in order to drive towards a faster trend rather than just rely on momentum.
Let’s for the moment call my platform Gun Violence Reduction, or GVR. The philosophical elements of GVR include:
- Reject additional firearms bans as a solution
- Favor encouraging good behavior over providing punishments or restrictions
- Set measurable, achievable goals
- Minimize impacts to civil rights
- Use data and history to inform policy and set expectations
- Recognize that no single solution will adequately address all crime
- Honestly evaluate current systems for revision, repair, expansion, or removal
- Segment gun violence problems in order to address focused solutions
- Approach GVR as an integrated effort to promote consistency and avoid unintended consequences
The actual planks of the platform are:
- Standardize reporting across the states, including level of reporting and timelines
- Enable community and law enforcement tools for reporting concerning behavior, while engaging civil rights oversight to provide for appropriate protections
- Provide federal requirements for safe, appropriate storage that is based on context of the particular environment
- Provide incentives for purchase and use of safe, appropriate storage
- Direct the CDC to work with various public and private agencies to generate data-rich profiles of the various gun violence segments
- Form a federal commission on evaluating advanced proposals
- Enable no-cost access to the NICS by private parties that protects anonymity
- Increase penalties and provide additional resources for addressing trafficking, including straw purchases
- Provide resources for tracking and prosecuting felons who fail background checks or attempt to purchase firearms
- Provide restrictions and penalties for firearms involved in domestic violence situations
Each of these planks can take pages of discussion, so I’m going to split them out to their own posts. The important thing to remember is that they form an interdependent system meant to provide integration that supports reasonable preventative measures that have been shown to work without undue restrictions on lawful gun owners.
I intentionally put rejecting bans as the first bullet point because I wanted to separate the thinkers from the reactors right away. Reactors will not be able to get past that boundary, and will continue to hammer on why they feel bans are the best solution. They’re not. I have an upcoming post that talks about why bans in the US are neither reasonable nor viable, despite what you may think about successes in other countries.
If the goal is reduction in death, then intellectual honesty demands that you look at a suite of solutions that have a history of working, not only in reducing gun violence, but in social structure overall. While bans do work for some things, when it comes to firearms we have additional considerations around essential freedoms and rights. That fight will always continue, and we can’t afford to get hung up on asserting opinions as bodies keep piling up. That means we have a moral obligation to look for alternative solutions.
Fortunately, we do have a lot of options. Since we already have lots of laws on the books, we can start evaluating their effectiveness and do some rudimentary failure analysis to see what needs to change. The difficulty with this approach is that it doesn’t feel immediate enough. If you think we can’t wait for study and research, I’d like to remind you that demanding a single solution that the other person doesn’t accept means we don’t actually change anything, and people keep dying.
Doing this analysis doesn’t have to take long, but it does have to be done right. There are lots of really bright people all around the country, and I’m sure there are several with ideas about even minor changes that could have significant impacts. While the evaluations are going on, we can begin working on things like writing requirements for safe storage and developing incentives; we can contact local law enforcement and politicians to help establish communications and responses for reporting concerns; you and I can get together and talk about more ideas.
That last thing is was seems to be the most difficult, but it’s where everything starts. Sitting down to talk does not mean one person preaches while the other sits and refuses to listen. It means the discussion focuses on communication and exchange. These proposed elements are meant to be used as an integrated overall approach, not to be cherry-picked or dismissed because one piece does not solve another problem.
Send these to your representatives. Think about them. Talk about them with pro and anti gun friends, and work up your own solutions or variations. The more we can expand our thinking, the more likely we are to get to meaningful results. Respect both the desires and constraints of those with opposing views, and instead of hammering away at each other, see if you can find some common ground and build from there. The whole reason I am taking this approach of offering multiple actions is to prevent the typical dismissal and headbutting that is a hallmark of gun debate. Mix and match, prioritize, add to or take away. But damn it, get in there and work.