Jeff McMahan (Rutgers) has a very good takedown of the idea that more guns is a solution. He argues for a nearly total ban on private ownership of firearms. This would require overturning the dubious interpretation of the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution recently adopted by the Supreme Court.
My law school colleague Geoffrey Stone notes an unfortunate kind of American exceptionalism:
Of the 188 nations that have written constitutions, the vast majority have adopted fundamental guarantees that were first fully articulated in the US Constitution.
Indeed, 97 per cent of all the world’s constitutions now protect the freedom of religion; 97 per cent protect the freedom of speech and press; 97 per cent the right to equality; 95 per cent protect the freedom against unreasonable searches; 94 per cent the right of assembly; 94 per cent prohibit arbitrary arrest or detention; 84 per cent forbid cruel and unusual punishment; 84 per cent protect the right to vote; 80 per cent prohibit ex post facto laws; 72 per cent protect the right to present a defence and 70 per cent the right to counsel. These freedoms, first constitutionalised in the US, are now widely recognised as fundamental to a free, humane and civilised society.
Yet, only 1 per cent of all the other nations of the world recognise a constitutional right to keep and bear arms. The idea that individuals have a fundamental right to purchase and possess firearms has been resoundingly rejected by 185 of the world’s 188 nations.
Finally, a reader comes up with an interesting idea: require gun owners to carry insurance:
I am a daily reader of your blog, and I very much appreciate your recent posts on the Newtown killings specifically, and gun control generally. I am a high school teacher in a small, rural upstate NY community where guns are a very important part of the culture. I frequently hear those who are anti-control say silly things such as, "guns don't kill, people kill. You would not ban cars because people are killed in accidents?", or some such related thing. Given that these people like to push that analogy, I propose that gun owners are required to insure their guns against any future violence, intended or accidental, that those guns might be responsible for either by the owner or some other individual who was able to obtain them. We would have different rates for different guns. A small gun such as a one shot derringer would have a relatively low premium. A semi-automatic would have a much higher premium. Following the car analogy, in the same way that you have to present proof of insurance to the DMV to get a car registered, you must present proof of insurance before a gun can be sold to you. Think of all the fun actuaries would have calculating the premiums on the various guns. If you pay a premium on each gun you own, that may go a long way toward reducing the number of fire arms people own without having to put in place any ban. These are my thoughts, for whatever they are worth. Again, thanks for the blog, it really is refreshing to find a voice of reason in the blogosphere.
ANOTHER READER writes:
Unlike, I expect, the large majority of people w/ a PhD in philosophy, I have a pretty fair amount of experience with guns. My father was a police officer for 30+ years, and my younger brother is a police officer now. I've shot guns since I was quite young. We had a fair number of guns at my house while I was growing up- what was, at the time, the standard-issue police .357 revolver, a snub-nose .38 revolver (my father's "off-duty" gun, and the main one he carried when he did various sorts of "plain-clothes" work for 10 years or so), a .22 pistol, and a fairly old 7mm hunting rifle. Sometimes my older brother, who liked to hunt a lot, had a shot gun and a hunting rifle. I've shot all of these guns, and many more. I shot in boy scouts and in hunter's education (though I didn't like hunting- among other things, it involved getting up at 4am in cold weather.) I've shot .44 and 9mm pistols such as Glocks, several times (and am a pretty good shot, if what I'm shooting at holds still and doesn't shoot back.) I rather enjoy target shooting. I am nominally the owner of a retired police .357 revolver, though I've only had it in my possession for less than a year- when I moved to go to grad school for the first time I gave it to my father to keep- not being an idiot, I knew perfectly well that it was more likely to be dangerous to me to have it around than to help me, and all I ever wanted to do w/ it anyway was target shoot, but that had become too expensive, and it was too difficult to keep in that state anyway. I've never regretted not having it with me.
I say this to show that I have some personal knowledge of these things. This isn't to fall into the dumb idea that only people w/ experience with guns can talk about them, but to suggest that I have some personal experience to ground what follows. The "gun control law that would actually work" article you link to is pretty good, and I agree with most of it (though I think the "assault weapons ban" was less pointless than is suggested.) Mostly, though, I wanted to say something about the update, where "speed loaders" for revolvers are mentioned. I know these things very well, as they were standard issue for police officers when they used to carry revolvers. (In fact, I used to think they were fun to play with- we'd use them, w/ the bullets, as if they were bombers while playing w/ plastic army-men.) Here's a picture of a typical speed loader.
With these, you can reload a revolver much more quickly than w/o one. But, it's obvious that this is still much, much slower and less efficient than replacing a clip in a pistol. the best evidence for this is that when guns like the Glock 9mm became common enough with criminals, police all switched to using 9mm's rather than revolvers, so as to not be "out-gunned". (This is despite the fact that there is much more chance of a gun like a Glock 9mm malfunctioning or jamming than a revolver.) Also, it's a bit harder to be fast w/ a speed-loader, for all sorts of reasons, than just changing the clip in a 9mm, which is very easy. So, even beyond the easy point that it would be perfectly plausible to ban private ownership speed-loaders, they just are not really comparable to the sort of clips in a Glock 9mm. Even if we think (which I don't) that there are a lot of plausible cases for having a hand-gun for self defense, this could almost always be met with a revolver, but that would make mass-killings of the sorts we've seen much harder. And, as a beneficial side-effect, perhaps police could go back to using revolvers. Why would this be beneficial?
We've seen several cases recently (including a shooting at the Empire State building in NYC) where quite a few people were hurt by the police firing too many shots. In a stressful situation, it's very easy to fire all of one's bullets very quickly. (Several years ago my father was involved in a fatal shoot-out, where he was very slightly hurt and another police officer was seriously hurt, and my father just barely missed being seriously hurt- he had bullet holes through his boot and jacket- where all the shots were fired in less than 1 minute, for example) But, if police used revolvers (becauseI would be quite happy to support much stronger gun control legislation than this, and think that background checks and licensing, including at gun-shows (where it's now largely not required) is also obvious. But, these are small steps that are perhaps political plausible that could do a lot of good.
that's what most criminals had) then they, too, would have to re-load, and would shoot less. That would almost always be a good thing.
My impression is that it would also be perfectly feasible to make all guns such that their rate of fire was limited, and that this, too, would be an obvious benefit. Of course, people could get around this w/ home modifications, but the fact that a law isn't perfect is obviously no reason to not try.