Cause Or Effect

I saw a quote from a legislator about gun laws in the wake of what happened at Virginia Tech, and it kept nagging at me until I felt compelled to write about it. I went looking for the quote to include here, and naturally I can't find it now. The gist of it, however, was that efforts at gun control are not the answer and that what we really need is stricter penalties for gun crimes. Which is, let's face it, a moronic position to take on the issue.

Seriously, it makes absolutely no sense to address the aftermath while completely disregarding everything leading up to it. Preventative measures in any situation are far preferable to the alternative. You don't have a disaster to clean up if you can prevent it in the first place. Obviously, not all such instances are preventable, but does that mean that the answer is not to even try?

Let's make it clear up front that I am in favor of gun control, but not gun abolition, which is entirely different. I know that the terms are often considered synonymous, and I have my ideas about how that confusion came about *coughcoughnracough*, but that's a different issue. I remember back in high school saving a copy of an editorial cartoon that asked "Which of the following do you not need a license to own?" and below were drawings of a car, a fishing pole, a dog, and an AK-47. I remember one time when my grandmother bought a new microwave, and there was a note in the instruction manual that stated that you had to fill out and return a federal registration form at the back of the manual or else the warranty was null and void. You have to register your damn microwave with the government but not your gun? You have to register your dog with the government, but not your gun? This is crazy.

What doesn't help the gun control side of this is that the pro-gun lobby is so powerful that the laws that are proposed to this end are often blocked from becoming law, and are haphazard and inconsistent and sometimes rewritten by the pro-gun side of things when they are passed. Then when a crime is committed under the bastardized shadow of the original gun control law, people are quick to trumpet, "See? These laws don't work!" Their solution is that everyone should be armed at all times, so that in the case of a shooting like Columbine or Virgina Tech, everyone can blow away the gunman early on and things won't be as bad. I see something disturbing in the suggestion that the solution to gun violence is gun violence, but critical thinking tends not to be these people's strong point.

Preventing gun violence by making penalties against it harsher overlooks a very simple fact: Criminals don't obey laws. Statistics on the death penalty make it pretty clear that the value of using penalties as a deterant is dubious at best. Suppose, though, that there were much harsher laws on the books. Hell, go all the way and imagine that the penalty for gun violence was torture and execution. Even in this case, it's hard to see how much a criminally insane suicidal gunman would be dissuaded by the thought of harsher penalties post-mortem. Penalties, no matter how harsh, will do nothing to stop a person who plans to die in his attack. It's as pointless as making suicide illegal.

By the "logic" that advocates stricter penalties rather than prevention, one would have to conclude that the entire "We're fighting the terrorists over there so we don't have to fight them over here" train of thought is flawed. All we have to do is pass legislation making terrorism really really illegal, and the problem will be solved! No more Iraq war, no more worrying about how secure our borders are. If only we'd had strong anti-terrorism laws on the books in 2001, 9/11 could have been prevented... Right? It's the same argument, after all.

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