We received this thoughtful email from our listener, Eric, and wanted to share it with you. We welcome more perspectives on this important subject.
Firstly, I'd like to thank you both for producing the podcast, which I know is difficult and costly. Reasonable political discussion is needed now more than ever and seems in short supply. Please keep up the good work.
Secondly, I’d like to share my views on the gun control issue. I am a lifelong firearms enthusiast from Ohio and I feel that the public discourse on gun control is utterly unproductive. Below are my observations.
1. Free access to guns entails a trade-off of public safety. The facts on this are clear, though many of my fellow gun owners refuse to acknowledge them. More guns mean more gun deaths, either through homicide or suicide.
2. For the gun owner, the above trade-off is well worth it. In fact, many gun owners, myself among them, would gladly incur increased risks in return for increased access to firearms. This may be hard to believe for the non-enthusiast.
3. For the ~70% of the population that does not enjoy guns, the safety trade-off is definitely not worth it. If you do not enjoy guns you would be better off in a world without them.
4. There is much obfuscation on the gun rights side of the argument. Guns are almost exclusively recreational items, rarely used for self-defense. That guns for defense could become much more necessary in an imaginary “end of the world” or tyrannical government scenario, represents the theoretical consideration of a wildly unlikely possibility.
5. Modern gun culture is radically different from that of generations past. Hunting has been waning for years as a result of suburban sprawl and mass migration to metropolitan areas. Shooting is now a martial art, not a tradition. The weapons most desired by gun-owners are weapons of modern war, i.e. “assault weapons,” semi-automatic pistols, etc. Related equipment, such as body armor and night vision devices are also sought after. As an analogy, consider the popularity of boxing mid-century and the rise of MMA, a more complete and realistic simulation of unarmed combat, in recent decades. Today, “practical shooting,” as it is known, involves practicing rapid firing at humanoid targets, the use of cover, rapid reloading, and other martial skills. These are practiced for the same reasons as any other martial art: it is fun but the skills gained are also potentially useful in the unlikely event of a self-defense situation, unlike conventional sports.
6. Gun owners and gun control advocates want to live in two different worlds. Compromise is possible in some areas, such as restricting gun rights of domestic abusers, but impossible in others, such as restricting assault weapons. Some gun owners are reflexively opposed to any gun control legislation, but they can be swayed on the right issues, and we should try.
7. Mass shootings are a unique problem that admits to few solutions other than highly restrictive bans and confiscation. An assault weapons ban would not stop mass shootings because other firearms are nearly as deadly, or even more so. Mass shooters would adopt new tactics to best suit available weaponry. The marginal cost in gun rights of an assault weapons ban is not worth the marginal benefit to public safety (for gun owners). This is related to the “perfection is the enemy of the good” argument posited by Sarah on the last episode. Banning assault weapons would only slightly reduce homicides, but massively impact gun enthusiasts.
8. Physical security measures, like armed guards and metal detectors, are probably effective and should be employed. I believe Kentucky is taking this approach after the recent school shooting. This will no doubt anger gun control advocates who don’t want to live in a world with obvious security measures in public spaces, but it will impact them much less negatively than gun control would impact gun owners.
9. The gun issue drives many enthusiasts to become single issue voters, though there are many pro-gun Democrats as well. I regularly attend competitions with immigrants, proud LGBT community members, and others soundly in the Democratic demographic. While I detest Trump and didn’t vote for him in 2016, if we have a Democratic congress in 2020 and no better Republican candidate, I will be forced to. I side with Democrats on many issues, but none effect my life as directly as the threat of gun control.