I think our main problem is that we talk about gun violence as if it exists in this vacuum where the only possible causes could be A) guns themselves, B) a lack of gun control, or C) guns in the wrong hands. But that’s a gross oversimplification that ignores (or maybe is in denial of) the fact that gun violence is a complex issue that represents system-wide failings.
While we do have the highest rate of gun ownership, plenty of other countries have high rates of gun ownership but still maintain very low rates of gun violence and accidental injury. The only thing that demonstrably correlates to high rates of gun ownership is the suicide rate. Guns are very clearly not the problem. And we don’t suffer from a lack of gun control laws; combining federal, state, and county laws, we have more laws on the issue than many countries with far lower rates of gun violence. The problem is that our laws aren’t effective. And it’s not that they’re bad laws; it’s just that they’re mostly reactionary. Something bad happened and we created a law, and that creation happened in that aforementioned vacuum with little consideration of the complex realities and, thus, the actual long-term effects and effectiveness of such laws. (That’s why they’ve so often been racist, classist, or created on false assumptions.) Basically, we create laws that merely sound good because we’re afraid. And the reason I’m so adamantly outspoken against things like universal background checks or smart guns is not because they’re inherently terrible ideas; it’s because they’re not any different and hold no more promise for effectiveness than the laws we already have.
The problem is the idea that we need more gun control. We don’t. What need is better gun control (like improving NICS, cracking down on straw-purchases, etc) and, more importantly, social resources. Gun violence is a symptom of a sick culture, not an illness itself. And we need to address the real causes.
About 80% of gun violence is gang related. If you want to decrease it, decrease gangs. And I’m not talking about increased law enforcement efforts or more bodies in prison; that doesn’t work and often only makes it worse. The best way to address gangs is to address wealth disparity. Gangs thrive because they’re the only option a lot of good people have to survive life at a level of poverty and societal-invisibility that offers them little hope or opportunity for self-reliance. We need to be enabling the communities in which gangs thrive to be productive and self-sustaining. I’m talking better primary education; more accessible secondary and technical education; youth programs; job creation, education, and mentoring; funding for community growth and enrichment; and better, less stigmatized access to social services. Instead of “keeping guns out of the wrong hands”, we need to stop those hands from becoming the wrong hands in the first place. And it’s been proven to work, not only abroad but right here in the US.
And a similar approach—of destigmatizing and providing social resources—needs to be taken in conjunction with educational efforts in regards to domestic violence, mental illness, etc. We need to enable positive change and self-reliance through affordable, quality social services while educating against the toxic elements of our culture, like stigma and privilege and corruption/abuse.
I’m trying not to write a novel, but, like, we can regulate guns into oblivion using our current fear-based motivations but we’re still going to have a shitty, violent culture—and very likely still have an unreasonably high rate of gun violence at that.