Thursday, January 10, 2013

What About Guns?

Let us first begin this fairly controversial post by extending our deepest condolences to the victims (and their loved ones) of the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre in Newtown, CT.  This tragedy was the single worst school shooting in American history, and words cannot describe just how horrible it was.  Clearly, it's right up there with Columbine, Virginia Tech, and even 9/11 as far as being a horrific wake-up call that something must be done to prevent it from ever happening again.

Where the TSAP begs to differ is the question of what that "something" actually is.  Our party is generally not a big fan of gun control, and we strongly support the right to bear arms.  We believe that guns don't kill, people do. The finger pulls the trigger, not the other way around.  As noted in our party platform, we also believe that all law-abiding citizens over 18 should have the right to carry concealed weapons, with the burden of proof on the state to show why a particular individual should not be allowed to have a gun.   And rounding out the standard libertarian position on the issue, we believe that we should throw the book at anyone who commits crimes with guns.

That being said, I think we can all agree that fully automatic weapons, rocket launchers, grenade launchers, bombs, and poison gas have no useful self-defense or sporting purpose and do not belong in the hands of civilians.  (These weapons are already generally illegal for civilians to own.) And I think we can also agree that no one should be allowed to sell or give away guns to convicted felons, fugitives, domestic abusers, or those known to be psychotic. Thus, background checks are justified by that rationale.

As for what should be done to prevent future tragedies like this and other mass shootings, we do NOT believe that more gun control is the answer.  Instead, for the short-term we recommend having armed guards in schools that do not already have them.  (Our nation guards our gold with guns, but not our children?)  In the medium term, we recommend repealing or amending the Gun-Free School Zones Act to allow properly-trained teachers and staff to carry concealed weapons on the job, since there really is no such thing as a "gun-free zone".  In fact, nearly all mass shootings in recent years have occurred in so-called "gun-free zones".   At the same time, we need to improve the way background checks are carried out (e.g. requiring them at gun shows) to reduce the chances of firearms falling into the wrong hands.

Of course, in the long run we need to properly address the root causes of tragedies like these.  We know that the killers are typically mentally disturbed individuals, and that (as we have noted before) our mental healthcare system is seriously broken and must be fixed.  There are also other serious social pathologies that need addressing as well, such as inequality and bullying, but mental illness seems to be the factor most closely linked to these types of tragedies. 

So, are there any gun control laws that the TSAP does support?  Yes, but a very limited few.  Among existing laws, we support the original National Firearms Act of 1934 as well as some (but not all) parts of the Gun Control Act of 1968, and encourage increased enforcement of these laws.  The same goes for background checks.  As for new laws, we would support the following ones only:  1)  requiring background checks at gun shows, 2) a ban on high-capacity magazines (i.e. more than 10 rounds), 3) a one-gun-a-month rule, and 4) an excise tax on bullets.  We do not support bringing back the incorrectly-named "assault weapons" ban because it is largely based on cosmetic features and really has nothing to do with the kinds of true military weapons that are already banned (or severely restricted) by the National Firearms Act.  Granted, banning some of the previously banned semi-automatic weapons may be justified, but the 1994 ban was too broad and in any case did not seem to have any discernible effects on actual rates of gun violence.

Above all, we must not let fear rule our nation.  For when we do so, the terrorists win.

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