The thing is that mass shootings of the sort experienced recently only ever make up a very small amount of the people who die each year in the US from firearms crime. As a result of the public outrage these shootings cause, there is often a focus upon the banning of assault weapons as a potential answer. Yet while a banning of such firearms much have some effect upon mass shootings, they will have little effect upon the actual death rate due to gun crime.
This is because most of the deaths due to gun crime in the US occur mainly due to street level violence, usually between two people, one of which is armed with a handgun that he or she possesses illegally. In short, most of America's gun deaths are the result of crime. Very few deaths can be attributed to mass shootings. The problem with this, of course, is that the regular shooting deaths of single individuals are so common in the US that most people are numb to it. Mass Shootings are more shocking and, may I say, make more headlines and cause more angst than the regular drip-drip-drip of street level crime.
Think of it in the same way as you would airline safety verses car safety. We all know that you are more likely to be killed driving a car than you are as a passenger on a modern aircraft. Yet the crash of plane and the media angst it causes is far more profitable for the media than car safety. The fact is that flying in commerical aircraft is safer now than at any other time in history (at least in western nations) and this has been due to various laws and regulations set up over the past few decades to ensure that the airline industry follows a safe procedure. Yet this does little to calm my fears when I (occasionally) fly in a passenger plane - white knuckles grabbing the seats, repeating over and over to myself that this is safer than me driving my car...
What I therefore propose for the US is a policy that is aimed solely at reducing the amount of illegally owned weapons while not worrying about the legal gun owners. It's not the AR-15s or Barrett Sniper rifles owned by your local survivalist / tea party member / militia member that is killing Americans. Yet the result of the recent tragedy in the US might just be more restrictions on such weapons. While I'm not too fussed about such policies existing, their effect will be but a drop in the ocean. Any policy that restricts or bans certain types of assault weapons in the US is unlikely to reduce either the instances of mass shootings or reduce the amount of people dying from them. It may make sense in a country with very low levels of gun deaths, which is why I wasn't too worried back in 1996 when the government of Australia banned certain types of guns after a mass shooting - since then we've had no mass shootings at all, but our gun ownership and level of gun crime back then, like now, was very low. But in the US, a different policy needs to be followed.
What I am suggesting is this: A national, voluntary gun buyback scheme.
Such a scheme would offer gun owners - both legal and illegal - the chance sell their weapons to the Federal government. This would occur in locations all over the US and would be based in police stations or other government buildings. The guns would be handed over with no questions asked - the gun owner will not be charged with any crime if they hand over any illegal weapons. The price paid by the federal government will be very, very attractive, thus ensuring quite a lot of money for anyone who gives up their weaponry. For the period of the buyback, the government will also halt the shipping of any legal firearms from manufacturers. The gun makers will be compensated financially for this action and will actually end up supporting it because they stand to make a lot of money from it. Legal gun owners - especially those concerned about the gubmint takin their gunz - will not be forced to participate and no one will be taking their weapons.
So who are the sorts of people giving up their weapons in this scheme? It would be those who need the money. In short, those who give up their weapons are highly likely to be those within or on the fringes of the criminal class. They are unlikely to be legal owners (though some who have financial problems would take advantage of it).
What would be the effect of this scheme? It would result in a substantial drop in the supply of guns - especially handguns - owned illegally. This would, in turn, result in lower levels of gun crime as criminals will find it harder to procure the weapons they need - lower supply leads to higher price. A drop in the amount of illegal guns would also lead to an increase in the value of legal guns, which means that legal gunowners would have their collections end up being more valuable. The higher price of guns will also be of benefit to the manufacturers when they begin selling them again.
And as I pointed out before, all guns start off being legally manufactured, sold and purchased. Only after that do they end up being sold to criminals, which means that some gun owners and gun sellers are making a profit out of selling legally procured guns on the black market. One result of this gun buyback scheme would be to see which owners and sellers begin buying and selling more guns.
And what happens to the guns that the government buys back? They get destroyed. They were bought illegally and used illegally - they should not be allowed to re-enter the firearms market.
What would be the cost of such a scheme? Probably billions. But it is money that will end up in the pockets of ordinary Americans. Moreover, additional wealth generated by an economy of less gun crime will more than make up for the initial cost, and this benefit will most likely be enjoyed by private citizens and businesses.
This is a policy that American Gun Owners should get behind. The NRA should support this policy.
- Legal gun owners are not forced to give up their weapons.
- Illegal gun owners will want to sell their weapons.
- Less guns will be available to those who buy them illegally.
- Less guns will be available for criminals to buy.
- Less people will be killed in street violence.
- The firearm collections of legal gun owners will rise in value.
Regardless of which side of politics you are on, Americans generally want less gun deaths and less gun violence. Consveratives are wrong in thinking that less guns = less freedom, but progressives are wrong in thinking that assault weapon bans = less gun deaths.