Montana Politics Ryan Zinke Steve Daines US Politics

A Series of Proposals to Curb Gun Violence: An Open Thread

I’m not optimistic that the United States will, even in the face of another wave of mass shootings, do anything serious about the problem of gun violence in our country. Even though a majority of Americans support stricter gun control laws, one party has become so reactionary on the issue that they believe their absolutist position on the Second Amendment even outweighs their hysterical fear of terrorism, and completely bought and paid for by the NRA, opposes even the most sensible restrictions on gun ownership.

When the “debate” about gun violence in this country consists of one side timidly proposing suggestions to reduce the threat of guns in our society before being screamed down by the other side screaming “Tyranny!” and accusing the President of wanting to confiscate our guns in order to implement Sharia law, there’s little chance of meaningful change, but perhaps the latest wave of gun violence will start a conversation.

Let me start with a couple of premises:

  • There is no credible movement to ban or confiscate guns in the United States, NRA fear mongering notwithstanding.
  • The staggering (and growing) number of guns in private hands in the United States right now badly complicates policy solutions, a fact that no doubt at least partially explains why the NRA keeps stoking fears of gun shortages and confiscations to encourage more gun purchases.
  • The Second Amendment does not guarantee an absolute, unfettered right to keep private weapons. Even the current Supreme Court, which broadly expanded the concept of the right to bear arms, acknowledges that.
  • Mass shootings get the most attention from the media, but the total number of gun deaths in the United States: over 400,000 since 2001, is staggering and shameful. If those who oppose gun control oppose every measure to reduce that number, surely the onus must be on them to explain how we prevent 30,000 needless deaths in the United States every year.

What follows are five steps that I believe we should take immediately.

End the Ban on Public Health Research about Gun Violence
This should be the least controversial proposal. For twenty years, led by the NRA, Congress has banned public funding for research on gun violence under a provision called the Dickey Amendment. Even the Congressman who initially passed the ban believes it was a mistake, telling the Huffington Post that “I wish we had started the proper research and kept it going all this time.”
There is simply no defensible argument for maintaining the ban, which has prevented research into safer gun technology, the real impact of gun violence, and solutions to the public health crisis that is suicide by gun.
Conservatives argue, often, with the support of badly constructed studies, that guns increase public safety. If they truly believe these claims, surely there is no reason to ban research into gun violence.

Apply the Terrorist No Fly List to Gun Purchases
There are defensible arguments why the “No Fly” list is problematic in the United States, but it’s not a credible position to take for conservatives to argue that list should be permitted to control air travel and not restrict weapon purchases. Last week, Republicans in the Congress, including Ryan Zinke and Steve Daines, voted with the NRA to allow people on the list to continue buying guns. In the absence of a call to abolish the No Fly lists, that’s an indefensible position at best and shameless political pandering at worst.

Require Proof of Training for Gun Purchases
It seems self-evident that gun ownership should come with minimal responsibility for training in gun use and safety. While such a provision would do little for the 300 million guns in circulation in the United States right now, requiring proof of having passed a gun safety course for future purchases might help limit the number of accidental deaths and suicides by gun that plague the country.

Mandate Liability Insurance for Gun Owners
Robert Frank, professor of economics at Cornell, argues that “Nothing in the constitution grants people the right to expose others to serious risk without compensation. Insurance sellers are skillful at estimating the risks posed by drivers with specific characteristics, and we could expect them to be similarly skillful at assessing the risks posed by gun owners.”

It’s a sensible, and long overdue solution. Gun ownership is inherently a risky endeavor, not just to the person who owns the gun, but to others who might be killed or wounded by the gun. Requiring gun owners to buy insurance will perhaps encourage more responsible behavior by gun owners and help cover the enormous costs when things go wrong, as they so often do.

Close the Gun Show Loophole
Background checks simply cannot be an effective tool to keep guns from criminals if the laws can be so easily circumvented by private sales. A study by Katherine Vittes in the journal Injury Prevention found that 96.1% of state inmates convicted of gun offenses bought their guns from private sellers, and the
David Kennedy, director of the Center for Crime Prevention and Control at John Jay College, argues that “fixing this would be one of the single most important things we could do to address overall gun violence.”
Even Wayne LaPierre, current head of the NRA, argued for background checks, saying in 1999 that the NRA “think[s] it is reasonable to provide mandatory, instant criminal background checks for every sale at every gun show. No loopholes anywhere for anyone.”

This is an open thread.



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  • These are pretty good ideas.

    I don’t think any of them will go anywhere, however. People don’t care. We see this in their staying home on election day.

    There are no votes to get this done. Since hardcore Democrats and Republicans cannot vote for anyone that’s not in their party or put up by the party bosses, nothing will change.

    If it was a choice between voting for Tester in ’18 or someone that said they’d get gun violence under control, most would vote for Tester.

    The allegiance to political parties above all else is becoming problematic. Many of our societal problems stem from this idea that we need to vote for our party no matter what, despite both parties doing a lackluster job these past couple of generations.

    There is no political will to change anything about guns in this country. Jackie Brown said it good on his site today – for seven years this argument has been going on but I still have my guns.

    400,000 people dying from guns in a decade is a lot. We lose far more from auto accidents and medical mistakes each year, however, as James Conner pointed out yesterday.

    But of course we’ll label those as straw man arguments because it distracts from the discussion we want to have, which is about guns.

    I’ve not been affected by gun violence so this issue doesn’t concern me. If Democrats want to keep talking about it from now until November, however, I’m confident they’ll lose many statewide offices in Montana and have a poor showing nationally.

    Now I’m sure we’ll have to jump on that comment to make some kind of political point about the toxicity of the system and it’s dialogue.

    Again, so what? We want it this way. That’s what low turnout means. Most people in this country do not care about politics, see no way that it affects them, and don’t see it benefiting them in the future.

    Since we talk about guns so often, I don’t think their attitude will change, except to drown out political arguments even more.

    • Let me see if I am understanding your arguments.

      1. People don’t care about gun violence, so they won’t vote.
      2. People die for other reasons, so we shouldn’t worry about this one. A lot of people die of old age, too. One presumes that obviates the need to ever discuss any other reason for death.
      3. You haven’t been affected by gun violence, so you don’t care about it.
      4. If we talk about an issue, it “drowns out political arguments.” Is that a good or a bad thing?
      5. You really hate Democrats for reasons that are hard to understand.

      Did I miss something?

  • According the Huffington Post these are a summation of reasons of you ending up on a “No Fly List”.

    1. “You could raise ‘reasonable suspicion’ that you’re involved in terrorism. ‘Irrefutable evidence or concrete facts’ are not required.”

    2. “You could post something on Facebook or Twitter that raises ‘reasonable suspicion.’”

    3. “Or somebody else could just think you’re a potential terror threat.”

    4. ” You could be a little terrorist-ish, at least according to someone.”

    5. “Or you could just know someone terrorist-y, maybe.”

    6. “And if you’re in a ‘category’ of people determined to be a threat, your threat status could be ‘upgraded’ at the snap of a finger.”

    7. “Finally, you could just be unlucky.”


  • Enumerated ideas for solutions open to discussion – another reason why I enjoy reading this high-caliber blog (See what I did there?).
    I’ll disagree with mandated insurance for the usual reasons. It can’t be enforced without creating a management monster, it will enrage the kinds of people I grew up with who are casual game hunters but not rabid NRA squad members, and who wants to give insurance companies more control?
    But I’ll concede to insurance if we make ending the ban on research a priority. The fact that we have active laws that prohibit fact finding blows my mind.

  • Quote of the Day.

    “Two things happen whenever Democrats talk about gun control: more people buy guns, fewer elected Democrats have jobs.”-Sean Davis.

  • The GOP are likely to get rid of the Bill of rights( with the exception of guns) and want to become a police state, all because of syrian children. your gun wish wont stand a chance for long the minute you give up the other nine.

    • I say let the children in, leave the single males to fight for their own rights in their country.

      As an aside, how does it feel Norma that during your Presidents reign over 100 million guns have been sold and for the first time in 20 years a majority of Americans oppose an assault rifle ban?

  • I dont know Swede, why don’t you tell me! Why you’re so afraid of one black man, who’s done a far better job of governing than George Bush could dream of. Do you think your side alone bought all those guns, or is it the liberals who are secretly buying them to put down your unconstitutional insurrection which is coming soon with the Nazi Trump as leader. How does it feel to back people who want a police state????

    You people are so afraid of life it amuses me. I know it amuses all the other Liberals as well.

    Quote of the day from me to you: When someone says something despicable and vile … don’t look at the target, look at who shot the arrow.

  • Hey Swede, when Trump and Cruz want to dump the “Bill of rights” next are you gonna cheer for that as well? Its coming and you’re too tooled up to even see it!

    • I know that Don has been tweaking the spam filter. He seems to be running some tests, too, so hang in there, Swede. You are not banned.

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Don Pogreba

Don Pogreba is an eighteen-year teacher of English, former debate coach, and loyal, if often sad, fan of the San Diego Padres and Portland Timbers. He spends far too many hours of his life working at school and on his small business, Big Sky Debate.
His work has appeared in Politico and Rewire.
In the past few years, travel has become a priority, whether it's a road trip to some little town in Montana or a museum of culture in Ísafjörður, Iceland.

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