There may not be a solution to gun violence in the United States

By David T. Jones on February 28, 2018

Washington, DC Although not the most costly in terms of lives lost, the killing of 17 students in Florida’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas high school on February 13 has unleashed an unprecedented “I’m mad as hell and not going to take this any more” reaction.

Poignant scenes and finger pointing have dominated the national media, coupled with commitments on various political/social levels to “do something.”  

Consequently, the cynical, ritualized reaction of “been there; done that” so far as public manifestations of grief/concern are concerned may not suffice to mitigate the outrage.

A fresh examination of realities might be useful.  Will they fit the United States socio-political circumstances?

There are, for example, some illustrations of societies that essentially eliminated gun violence of the nature that the USA experiences:

Communist States.  It is all but impossible legally to own a private firearm in communist states, notably Russia, North Korea, China.  Such weapons are the monopoly of official security forces.  Terrorist violence in Russia and China has been primarily perpetrated by individuals armed with knives or explosive devices.

Emulate Switzerland and Israel.  These are states that have taken the opposite direction: essentially arm everybody.  One of the iconic principles of both countries has been having military-grade weapons in individual homes.  Israel has combined this approach with draconian efforts to prevent Palestinians living under its control from obtaining firearms.  Consequently, terrorism in Israel has been with bombs and/or the equivalent of bread knives for individual attacks. 

Of course, living in peaceful/controlled Norway in 2011, a terrorist combined a truck bomb and sniper attack with a standard rifle to kill 77 and injure over 300.

Nevertheless, it may be useful to examine some elements for ending U.S. gun violence.

   Repeal the Second Amendment.  Such a proposal may appear naïve, however, as the existential objective of many protestors is to eliminate weapons of personal destruction in private hands, one should consider it.  These protestors are relentlessly ideological; personal weapons are the 21st century equivalent of mortal sins for previous-era Christians.  Thus, it is both hypocritical and disingenuous for current protestors not to strike at the root of the problem.  

   The constitutional route is straightforward:  two-thirds vote in both houses of Congress and agreement by three-quarters of the states.  Whether it is politically conceivable is a different story—and the thought of removing all privately owned weapons from citizens would be a generation-long and (probably) intermittently violent activity.  A “forlorn” hope for proponents?  But other highly unpopular issues, e.g., African-American civil rights; gay marriage; abortion on demand; intoxicated driving; ultimately have won public/legal endorsement.

  Intense Security for Public Institutions.  Very substantially expanded police/security presence at schools, sports arenas, religious facilities, entertainment centers, shopping malls, etc.  A “good guy with a gun” may well not suffice as illustrated by the pitiful (non)reaction by the security official assigned to Stoneman Douglas—essentially a scarecrow rather than an effective deterrent.

Such action combined with revised “privacy” regulations regarding mentally aberrant individuals might prevent the most blatant potential killers.

It would be a very/very expensive commitment, costing tens to hundreds of billions of dollars.

Unfortunately, terror is fungible.  In 1995, Timothy McVeigh killed 168, injured 680, and caused $650 million in damage with his Oklahoma City truck bomb.  He didn’t use an AR15.  The 9/11 terrorists, killed almost 3,000 using four airplanes (but no firearms).  Subsequently, there have been a long string of bombings, e.g. 2013 Boston Marathon; 2017 NYC bombings; and multiple bombings in Europe in which firearms were tertiary.

Another unfortunate reality is that homemade bombs are easily made—at home.  The ingredients and cookbook recipes are readily Internet available.  As are formulations for nerve gas (sarin).  None of these terror agents require sophisticated engineering/chemistry skills.  Nor AR15s.

Bluntly, none of the plethora of palliative gun control measures being bruited about:  banning “bump stocks,” longer wait times for purchase; gun sales only at 21; more intense security checks, will have a scintilla of practical consequence.  They would be reflexive feel-goodism to mollify the anguished suffering whose pain can never be alleviated. 

So, as a bottom line, would we be happier if Nikolas Cruz had attended a school pep rally and killed by using a backpack bomb? 


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