Monday, December 17, 2012

America's gun lunacy

By Frank Moraes

There is something very much wrong with us. You've probably seen the graph above. The green line at the top is the murder rate in the United States over the last 50 years. The red lines at the bottom are the murder rates in the other OECD countries. It really makes you wonder. I don't have any answers except that there is something fundamentally wrong with us -- and we have a lot of guns.

Dylan Matthews, who normally writes about economics issues (we are all of us a little distracted), wrote an article at Wonk Blog today that is half comedy and half tragedy, "The 6 Craziest State Gun Laws." There are a few surprises in it.

One thing that surprised me is that four states allow concealed carry without any licensing at all. One of the states, Vermont, allows people as young as 16 to do so without their parents' permission. But before you start dumping on Vermont, it would appear that they just have a strong libertarian streak in them. They also allow young women to get abortions without parental consent. (And yes, I do think that they're not at all the same, but I was expecting some major hypocrisy.)

There is one bit of gun-rights wackiness that I'd heard about before: employees bringing guns to work. The workplace is the employer's property. In most cases, that settles the issue. But not when it comes to guns. Let's suppose that you park on your boss' property and you want to keep a gun in the car. You know, you might need it. Some one may dis you one time too many! Anyway, thankfully in 17 liberty loving states, you can just go to your car, get your gun, and put an end to that.

The most surprising fact in Matthews' article was that only three states ban open-carry. (According to Wikipedia, six states ban it outright -- but I think the article is out of date.) Thirty-five states allow open-carry without any kind of a license. You know what's really great? Open-carry combined with alcohol! Look at the happy guy in this picture:

Open-Carry in Bars

Most of the rest of the article is stuff we already know. You can murder anyone you feel "threatened" by. For the record, I tend to think that George Zimmerman will get off, because by my reading of the law he's innocent. It looks like they got into a fight. I don't know about you, but I always feel threatened when I'm in a fight. Therefore: not guilty!

And maybe you don't know it, but I'm sure you won't be surprised to learn that in about half the states, unlicensed gun dealers can sell to kids. So you can sell an eight-year-old a gun and that's fine. But sell him a beer or a cigarette (Or let him vote!) and you're going to jail.

Right here, I'm demonstrating the biggest problem in America: I'm so used to our gun lunacy that I make fun of it. I might be surprised at the individual acts of lunacy, but not the fact of it. And I remain deeply cynical that there is anything we can do about it. But I'm trying real hard.


David Roberts tweeted this:

I want to believe this. But note: those other countries managed to create universal health care where as we are stuck with a new law that increases the number covered but isn't universal. And it does this primarily by enriching the one part of our system that is most broken: insurance companies. And half the country thinks the new law is nothing short of tyranny. So just because other countries were able to do something good does not give me confidence that we can.

(Cross-posted at Frankly Curious.)

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