What gun control advocates support
Since the Friday shootings in Newtown, a lot of Facebook and Twitter friends have called for more strict gun control. And while the NRA has remained strangely silent, many gun advocates have not. The arguments cover well-trodden paths, though, so I can respond to the common objections to gun control all at once.
But that will have to wait a bit. I think first let's talk about where gun control advocates stand.
What we mean by gun control
Undoubtedly someone somewhere believes we should ban and confiscate all firearms. I don't know any such person, especially among people who have thought carefully about the issue. A CNN/ORC poll (discussed more below) puts the percentage of people who support such a plan at less than 10%.
The gun control advocates I know understand and respect people's right to hunt and to defend themselves. Many of them are gun owners themselves. But they are deeply suspicious of a gun-owner's need to have access to “spray-the-room” technology: full automatics, assault weapons, and high-capacity clips.
What we expect from gun control
Banning guns will not stop violence. I know this – I am not stupid. No one expects passing gun bans to turn us into a nation of Care Bears. The point of gun control is to slow gun violence down and make it easier to prevent.
We certainly do not expect the elimination of gun violence, but we would expect incidents (and body counts) to decline, just like they have in other countries that regulate guns.
I feel a little stupid pointing these things out, but the gun-confiscating Care Bear Hippy image is so entrenched that most discussions start with refuting it.
I'm not surprised, though, because the NRA has worked hard to make it appear as though banning all guns is the plan on the table. In a CNN/ORC poll (discussed here by Ezra Klein), that particular regulatory plan was overwhelmingly unpopular. If that's your vision of “gun control,” it's a lot easier to argue against.
But that's not what people are talking about. Less draconian, commonly-suggested regulations have broad support:
So many of the regulations the NRA opposes have broad-based support. Keeping the discussion focused on a total ban makes the marketing easier. It's a classic straw man.
This is something worth keeping in mind when talking to advocates: they most likely do not support a total ban. So it's best not to argue as though they do.
Later: a guide to the common arguments against gun control.