Thoughts on politics and life from a liberal perspective

Sunday, 16 December 2012

There can never be a "right time" to debate gun control

The terrible shootings in Connecticut on Friday where 26 people were killed, 20 of whom were young children have inevitably reopened the debate about gun control in the US.

Jay Carney, the President's spokesperson was quick to claim that it was not the right time to be debating gun control and that there would be "another day" for that. I can understand the wish to tread carefully when the news is still coming in and not to appear to be making political points over such a tragedy. But the "other day" that Mr Carney is so keen on never seems to come. Each time there is a shooting, once those who have been murdered are buried and the news media moves on nothing more is said. Until the next time. When someone then claims it is the "wrong time" to be talking about this subject.

There is another, practical barrier to there ever being a right time either. There have been 16 mass shootings in the US this year. That's more than one per month on average. So we are almost always in the recent aftermath of another shooting incident and we never know when the next one is coming. The "wrong time" claim can pretty much be made at any time.

Under these circumstances and by that definition there can never be a right time. So that excuse needs to be retired. The subject needs to be debated urgently.

The right time is now.


knirirr said...

The problem I find with statements such as yours is that they appear to be a demand simply for gun bans, which are likely to be swingeing and illiberal as happened in the UK in 1998, using grief as leverage. Of course, I might be mistaken in your case.

There's clearly something going on in the US which is contributing to these incidents, and knowing what it is and being able to prevent them is necessary. But, if it's not simply the presence of more firearms (and I suspect it isn't) that's the cause, then bans would be of limited use. Amongst the many blog posts on this topic at the moment there are often mentions of the poor state of US mental health care, which needs addressing. The manner in which the press covers these incidents may well have a lot to do with it as well, but I'm not aware of any serious research that discusses these latter two factors (if you know any, please let me know!).

If you've not already seen it then this book might well be of interest. Although it omits some recent developments in the US (the book was published in 2004) it gives a fascinating discussion of the link between violent crime and guns, one conclusion being that there is not necessarily a link either way between guns and crime rates.

Mark Thompson said...

@knirirr: I don't necessarily think a blanket ban is warranted but I definitely think this subject should be debated in the cold hard light of day trying to strip out the vested interests. Which definitely is not happening at the moment.

I'd be happy to see them go with what the evidence suggests. I suspect it will not suggest carrying on in exactly the way they have been with regards to guns.