Regulate guns like toys or cars, suggests Nicholas Krystof

A toy cowboy six-shooter in the palm of someone's hand.

Can gun control work like toy regulation? (Photo Credit: CC BY-ND/SoloXis/Flickr)

The recent Tucson, Ariz., shooting in which Jared Loughner used a Glock with extended magazine to shoot state Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and other innocent bystanders has reignited the debate over gun control. While some say that it’s impossible to have a rational debate over the matter in the U.S., Nicholas Krystof suggests in a Jan.13 New York Times op-ed piece that the U.S. should regulate guns as it does toys and automobiles.

Gun control: Don’t toy with public safety

Krystof wonders why it is that Jared Loughner can be rejected by the U.S. Army and also be deemed mentally unfit to attend school, yet he can still obtain a handgun and bullets. The answer, says Krystof, is to regulate guns as regulatory agencies do with unsafe toys, cars, medicines, etc. A bad product is removed from circulation.

With guns, however, such an extreme approach would be nearly impossible. The National Rifle Association holds a great deal of political power, and the Second Amendment stands against wholesale seizure of all firearms by the government. And as a hobby, the use of guns in controlled situations is fun and profitable.

Armed and secure?

The popular argument that guns reduce violence has its supporters and detractors. Yet the sheer number of guns in circulation – 85 guns per 100 people in the U.S. – increases the potential for tragedy. Factor in background check loopholes that enabled Loughner to obtain a gun – as well as the potential for gun theft – and problems multiply.

John Lott Jr., a senior research scientist at the University of Maryland, wrote a book entitled “More Guns, Less Crime.” Lott claims that as more people obtain gun permits, violent crime has decreased, particularly in states with shall-issue laws (where permits for concealed carry are issued unless there is verifiable reason not to do so).

The counter to Lott’s argument is that more criminals will carry firearms if more victims are carrying concealed weapons. Even with training, more concealed guns in circulation can lead to more flashpoint situations when emotions run high.

What would be effective?

Limiting the number of guns one can purchase in a given period, beefing up background checks and laws regarding gun safes and using new technologies can help, Krystof suggests. Laser bullet etching can make bullets traceable, and smart guns can drastically reduce accidental shootings.


John Lott interview

New York Times


Stanford Law Review

John Stossel on gun control myth

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