Conflating Gun Control with Banning Guns

Tom-of-the-coast-of-Maine-2In this morning’s New York Times, Nicolas Kristoff has an op-ed piece about gun control.  Take a look at it:  . 

I am pointing this article out to you because I both like and dislike it at the same time.  In short, I am ambiguous about it.

I like it because it makes a good case about not having guns as readily available as they are.  He does a good job of showing how ready access to firearms can be a very dangerous thing.  If you follow him closely, it is difficult not to conclude that it is unwise to have a firearm in one’s home at all.  

While that may be true, I dislike this article because in making the point about the danger of firearms availability, Kristoff tacitly conflates gun control (limiting and regulating firearms) with banning guns altogether.  Maybe the later is a good idea and maybe not but it is a different thing from limiting and regulating guns.

The gun control debate is a very sensitive one and muddying the issues like this is part of what frightens gun owners.  Granted, Kristoff does not say that guns should be banned but the stories about the goose and the domestic argument concluding with statistics about suicide and how guns make the home less not more safe certainly suggests that he would be happy to see all guns banned and is only really “settling”  for more controls as a fall back position.

I can almost hear the gun owners,  reading between the lines, talking about how this article demonstrates that there really is a hidden liberal agenda:  an agenda to disarm not simply control.  It would be better if those of us who seek a reduction in gun violence through more effective gun regulation did not confuse the issue of sensible regulation with anything that suggests some sort of total ban.  While I personally agree with Kristoff about the danger of guns in the home, I think that articles like this do more to polarize the issue than to resolve it.  

Kristoff himself probably does not want to see a total ban on firearms and his article suggests several practical and sporting reasons for the availability of weapons.  Yet, reading (and re-reading) the article it is hard for me to escape the conclusion that he feels we would be better off without hand guns or other firearms sitting (locked or locked) on closet shelves or gun cases in American homes.  Whether this is true or not, adding these sentiments to the “gun debate” in the way that he does only adds ambiguity and increases the wariness of those who all too easily tend to see secret totalitarian conspiracies to strip them of their liberty lurking around every corner.

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