Saturday, December 15, 2012

But Will It Work?

It usually takes a total of 0.34 seconds, following some sort of tragedy, for people to go from shock to blame. Of course, there's a lot of sentiment in there, some of which is authentic but much of which has a level of transience that, while expected from those who are so far removed from the actual event, can hardly rise to the intensity one truly feels when accurately describing the emotion as "grief." The flood of social media, paradoxically, desensitizes: after all, it's all politics and the sharing of other people's icons with very little digging into one's psyche for an unmediated reaction.

One question, predictably, has come out of the most recent school shooting. That question is: what is the future of guns? There seem to be two viewpoints, neither of which are all that tenable. The first is the pro-gun "if everyone had a gun, this wouldn't happen" viewpoint. I'm just going to dismiss that one outright, since it's so shortsighted it doesn't really warrant a response. The second viewpoint, which I wish to address, is the "if no one had guns, this wouldn't have happened" stance.

I don't like guns. It would freak me out a little to have one in the house. Once, when I was at summer camp, I tried to go to the rifle range. I was too freaked out to do much of anything, so they moved me to the archery range. Archery was better, although I was a lot more interested in the cute counselor instructing us and invariably broke the bow. So, yeah, weapons aren't my thing. I fared slightly better at pony riding. Oh, and D&D. Still, weapons aren't really my thing. So, what I'm about to say I say as someone that does not like guns, does not want a gun and does not want to think about what sort of life circumstances would have to occur for that to change.

Most current gun debates wind up being like most political debates: highly polarized and entrenched in dogma without much by way of intelligent discourse. Most of the time, unless I'm in the mood to play Devil's Advocate, I find myself woefully indifferent to the debate.

Still, the past couple of days got me wondering about this. One question that I keep coming back to is:but would banning guns do anything?* Okay, in theory, if no one had guns, certainly that would alleviate gun violence. However, what I'm curious about is whether this is actually something that can be realized.

The biggest argument against it, I think, is that there has never been a truly successful prohibition in this country. Perhaps this is my recent obsession with Boardwalk Empire talking but...really, has there been? I mean, has there been a prohibition in this country where the government manages to ban something and have the presence of that thing decrease? Most of the time, it seems to push it underground and worsen the problem. The war on drugs is another such example. Prostitution is yet another example. All of these are things where prohibitions have resulted in criminal suppliers with the associated increased crime.

The problem is, in large part, geographic. We're a huge country with huge land-based borders that are near-ideal for smuggling. There are major logistical problems in any attempts at prohibition. I don't see this as some sort of "if guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns" slogan. I'm honestly curious how one might go about doing this. It seems a lot like unleashing feral cats into the woods to deal with a rodent problem.

So how would we ensure this wouldn't be another case of simply pushing the problem underground, creating more problems south of the border and in the inner cities, while essentially scrubbing it off the face of suburbia? The first step would be to have some mechanism in place at the borders, but how do we do that without piggybacking some sort of oppressive immigration crackdown?

I recommend Mothra.

*There are moderate positions advocating control, rather than an outright ban. I believe the question I'm raising is relevant to that as well.