It seems like the tragedy in Newtown, CT, may actually spur some substantive national debate on the problem of gun violence. I mean, it already has stirred some debate, but so did every similar lone-gunman massacre, to some extent. Like so many similar debates before it, will this one wither and die with nothing having been done?
The big problem, it seems to me, is that we could ban all gun sales and shut down all domestic gun manufacturers tomorrow, and guess what? We’d still have hundreds of millions of guns out there.
But that will never happen anyway. I couldn’t be more pessimistic about the possibility of restricting firearms sales as a way to stem the tide of mass killings. Thanks in large part to the scare tactics of the NRA, there are a lot of zealous gun enthusiasts out there who see any attempt to restrict the sales of firearms as a harbinger of totalitarianism. During his first term, President Obama, to my knowledge, never introduced or voiced support for a single initiative to curb gun ownership. Yet look what happened when he was re-elected.
The title of this post is not meant to be ironic. The guns are here. So focus on the bullets.
Like razor blades and printer cartridges, bullets are a consumable. They get used up, and if they aren’t used up, they go bad. So there must be a continuous stream of new ammo to feed the guns.
We could make bullets much harder to get and limit the amount a single buyer could purchase. We could make bullets less lethal. There’s a lot we could do to affect the ammunition supply that would make it harder for the guns that are already out there to be used to kill people.
The politics of this is easy, especially now. Placing restrictions on the ammount and types of ammo available wouldn’t limit peoples’ right to keep the guns they have or to buy more of them. It would limit peoples’ right to use those guns to slaughter humans. Right now, it’d be really, really hard to take a political stand against that.
Because the guns are out there. You aren’t going to get them away from the gun owners. But sooner or later, they will all need to reload.