by Paul Mero

America is home to approximately 300 million firearms. One study suggests that 78 percent of Americans do not own a gun; 19 percent of Americans own half of all firearms; and, three percent of Americans own the other half. The Vegas shooter was in possession of 42 guns, bringing 23 of them to the hotel with him. Understand there is no correlation between owning a lot of guns and being a mass murderer, even if mass murderers sometimes own a lot of guns. In fact, it seems there is no way to predict when a gun owner will pack up a bunch of guns, book a hotel room overlooking an outdoor mass celebration, break out the windows of the hotel room and start firing away on a crowd of innocent people.

So, if we cannot reasonably predict who will misuse a firearm, what is the purpose of gun control? Obviously, the purpose cannot be to stop a person from randomly killing a bunch of random people. Perhaps it is justified to reduce the odds of a random shooter killing random people? But what mathematical equation do we use to reduce the odds without getting rid of guns altogether? And is that mathematical equation based on some general theory of gun control? Let me save you some trouble, no, no, and no.

Gun control advocates may be well intended but their logic is juvenile and their suggested remedies half-baked. For so many advocates, the solution is complete confiscation of guns. They often argue that confiscation is not their goal but, fact is, that’s what they believe if they believe that confiscating one gun from an otherwise law-abiding citizen makes a difference. If one confiscation makes a difference, complete confiscation must solve the problem. That is the logic behind gun control.

Regular people know instinctively that this thinking is flawed. Whether you like the bumper sticker or not, guns do not kill people, people kill people. A gun is an inanimate object. It only becomes animated when used by a human being. This is why gun ownership rises to the level of a right in a nation founded upon three pillars of the Second Amendment: A personal sense of wellbeing, private property and a healthy distrust of government. Here is the dilemma: A gun represents exponentially more safety throughout society than it does death. For every Vegas shooter, there are millions of other Americans for whom guns do not equal death.

Let’s flip the script to really flesh out the meaning of gun control. Why do we have gun regulations at all? If the misuse of a firearm is due to mental illness, the opposite of mental wellbeing, why control guns at all? Why not just control the use of guns by mentally ill people? Again, if people kill people, why not regulate people? In this case, you cannot buy a gun if you are mentally ill just the same as you cannot drive a car if you suffer from dementia. In the latter example, we’re not going to ban cars, we would be regulating the people looking to use them.

If that is what gun control means, every rational person is in favor of gun control. And, if not, those otherwise rational people must be irrational on this point for other reasons, such as partisan politics or rigid ideology. The National Rifle Association (NRA) does not need to spend a nickel to defend gun ownership. The NRA needs to spend money to help rational people understand why irrational people should or should not be allowed to own guns. Mentally ill people have rights but owning a gun is not one of them. So President Trump’s action to lift the ban from gun ownership by mentally ill people does not make any sense. Nor does the NRA’s defense of the order.

The NRA needs to help the rest of us understand where we can properly draw the line for gun ownership. The Second Amendment is safe in the hands of reasonable people. That is not the issue. The real debate is over what regulations make sense. It just announced its support for prohibitions on “bump stocks” that turn guns into automatic weapons. Good for them, but why? Why is that restriction okay but others are not? That is the real debate for gun advocates. And conservatives cannot be afraid of that debate. It’s an honest debate.

If gun control means general confiscation or repealing the Second Amendment, most Americans do not believe in gun control. But if gun control really means “people control,” specifically crazy people control, most Americans would agree. I would agree.

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