A Flawed Survey, Chapter One: GUNS

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Wisdom is better than weapons of war, but one sinner destroys much good. --Ecclesiastes 9:18

I received a very odd survey in the mail yesterday.  It was the first time I'd ever seen it, but the email said it was a "reminder," and I was given 24 hours by a megachurch in the area to fill out a survey for their "values voters guide" that would be distributed to "30,000 plus members and other churches in our communities."  It's a deeply flawed survey - let's just say it's very clear which answers they want respondents to choose, and that's Cardinal Sin Number One when trying to get an impartial result from a survey.  In addition, each of the questions is a simplification of a complicated issue that I can agree with or disagree with, but there's no text box to elaborate on my response.  So, I'm not participating on their terms, but I'd love to give you my answers to their questions, here, in a series of fun and informal posts!  I want to help this church develop a better survey instrument!  

Oddly, almost none of the questions had anything to do with Christianity or religion - being generous, I'd allow that five of the sixteen were tangentially religious questions.  The first question was definitely way outside the teachings of the Bible:

"More restrictive gun control laws are needed now to protect public safety."

(Strongly agree, agree, neutral, disagree, strongly disagree) 

A neutral way to phrase that question would be something along the lines of:

"In general do you feel that laws covering the sale of firearms should be made more strict, less strict, or kept as they are now?"

Answer: MORE STRICT.

As our massacre of the week has demonstrated to all of our heartbreak once again, what we've been doing up until now isn't working.  

Let me state clearly upfront: I'm a gun owner.  I have my LTC from the State of Texas.  I support the Second Amendment.  If you're a law-abiding citizen, I don't want your guns. 

But clearly, we have a problem.  We have more mass shootings in the US than any other country in the world has, and the competition is not even close.  First step: define the problem.  We have.  We have too many mass shootings in this country.

Step Two: define the cause of the problem.  This is the point where most of these conversations get hairy.  There are a great many opinions on this subject - I've heard it's a lack of prayer, a lack of parenting, Hollywood movies and video games, mental illness treatment, a general American decline in morals or increase in soullessness, but the answer is really simple: we have an astounding number of guns in this country.

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Take a look at this scatter plot graph from the New York Times,* all the countries of the world, their mass shootings per capita on the vertical, and the number of guns per capita on the horizontal.  I don't know of any way to look at this data and come up with any other conclusion besides, "The more guns a country's residents have, the more mass shootings they'll have."  Please do tell me if there's any other conclusion we could draw from this, I'm all ears!  Yemen is an outlier, fewer guns per capita than us, but more mass shootings per capita - though in terms of sheer number of mass shootings, we've got them beat by a country mile: 90 to 11.  Other countries have mental health problems, and violent video games, and bad parenting.  No other country has this many guns per person, and no other country has this many mass shootings. 

So we've defined the problem we have (too many mass shootings) and we have what looks like a cause (too many guns).  What's the solution?

I think we should start with instituting universal background checks throughout the country, and ensuring that those checks are followed to the letter.  We also need to ensure that the consequences for not following them are economically dire.  The person and the business entity responsible for selling a weapon to someone that didn't pass a check should be civilly and criminally liable for every death caused by that weapon.  Those convicted of violent crimes - especially including spousal abuse, the most common precursor to a mass shooting - should not be able to pass a background check.   

Also, this is at its core an economic problem: the full cost to society of this many guns is not being paid by those who manufacture them, or those who sell them, or those who purchase them.  The Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA), a law passed in 2005 to shield the makers of guns from any liability should their products be used illegally, must be repealed.  No other industry gets this kind of protection.  We should also add taxes to the manufacture, sale and purchase of firearms - all three economic activities - to reduce the economic appeal of manufacturing them, selling them, or purchasing them.  Here's the kicker: those taxes must be earmarked to only be used to further mental healthcare in this country.  More clinics, more hospitals, cheaper medications, and better insurance coverage for all.  We could also use the revenue for voluntary buy-back programs, with the stipulation that the weapons bought back be destroyed.

I'll anticipate the next argument, "But Steve, these policies would not have stopped Nikolas Cruz!"  We should not be trying to stop Nikolas Cruz - that happened this past Wednesday.  It's too late to stop.  We should be trying to stop the next mass shooting, or the one after that, or the next twenty-two mass shootings.  By reducing guns over time, we'll reduce mass shootings.  The time for thoughts and prayers has passed.  It's time for action. 

*https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/07/world/americas/mass-shootings-us-international.html