Gun Control: A Long Term Prognosis

Gun Control is a really hot topic right now and I’m not sure anyone has really thought hard or honestly about the benefits and consequences of gun control.  So, let’s make the hypothetical argument that starting today, all privately owned firearms are banned.

STEP 1. BUYBACK PROGRAMS:

Firearms sold to authorities in Camden County, New Jersey - one of the most dangerous communities in the country.
1,137 firearms were given to authorities in a Camden County, New Jersey buyback program- this is one of the most dangerous communities in the country.

It is hugely impractical for the police or National Guard to come knocking on the door of every registered American gun owner.  Instead, over the course of several months or years, local police stations would have “buyback programs”; whereas gun owners bring their firearms to a predetermined location and are compensated on a per-firearm basis.  Not only would this be fair to the gun owners who have invested money and time into their weapons, but this first gun control step would create an incentive for gun owners to surrender their arms without draining the man power of the police forces in our communities.  That sounds reasonable, right?

Wrong.  There are 270 MILLION privately owned firearms in the United States of America.  Let’s say that every fire arm is compensated for an average of $100 (most successful buyback programs actually offer $200).  This means that if every American turned in their firearm, the cost of this gun control measure would cost tax payers 27 BILLION dollars.  That’s a lot of money to a Republican.  To a Democrat, it’s a price worth paying to ensure that our children are kept safe… and I suppose keeping our children safe is important if you plan on passing your debts off on them.

It’s worth noting that not all of the firearms are going to be surrendered in a buyback program.  For arguments sake, let’s say that only three quarters of America’s firearms are given to the government.  That means the gun control buyback program will only cost tax payers about $20,300,000,000 and that 67.5 million firearms will still be in the possession of private citizens.  At this point, there are two reasons why people are holding onto their guns.  First, as the Democrats will say, because they are criminals who want to use their guns to commit crimes.  Second, as Republicans will say, there are (otherwise) law abiding citizens who will not surrender their firearm because they want to protect their family from the Democrat’s group, a gun has special family or historical significance, or because they think the US Government is about to become or has already become tyrannical.  Third, as I would say, there are Zombie Apocalypse Survival teams, such as the Zombie Response Team, that know chain saws and baseball bats are not sufficient against hordes of zombies.

STEP 2: GUN CRIME

This is where most Republicans base their arguments against gun control - it's a legitimate problem.
This is where most Republicans base their arguments against gun control – it’s a legitimate problem.

As it is, guns owned by law abiding citizens stop only a minority of gun crimes.  I don’t buy the idea that having a gun deters crime because that requires a criminal to know you have a gun before committing the crime.  However, with that said, the overwhelming majority of gun owners are very careful with their firearms and use/keep them responsibly.  The majority of the hold-outs will keep their guns hidden in baseboards, attics, and other such places.  Enforcing gun control on these owners will be next to impossible.  This really isn’t a problem, however.

The problem is enforcing gun control on the minority of gun owners who kept their firearms for criminal activities.  Unfortunately, the majority of guns that will be reclaimed this way will be through criminal investigations by law enforcement officials after their crimes have been committed.  That means hundreds of thousands of Americans would have to be threatened by or shot with a firearm first.  One would presume that after the criminal has been apprehended, his or her firearm(s) would be seized and either put to better use, locked away, or destroyed.  However, the cost of gun control here would be the loss of many lives that might have been saved had they been allowed a firearm for self-defense.  This is the core of the mainstream Republican argument against gun control.

Over the course of many years, this would decrease the number of firearms in the hands of dangerous, violent criminals.  As the guns became more rare, prices would go up on the black market, and tracking the money would be a bit easier for our law enforcement officers, too.  So yes, stricter gun control through firearm bans will probably serve the Democrats’ purpose of lessening the amount of crime in the United States.

There is an argument to be made that guns could still be imported, but advancements in technology and border enforcement would limit that.  Additionally, because firearms would be illegal for non-security personell, the prices of those illicit firearms would go through the roof, making them increasingly difficult to purchase.  In a sense, it’s economic gun control.

STEP 3: AMERICA WITHOUT GUNS

The concern the Founding Fathers had with regards to surrendering our arms was not that the people wouldn’t be able to defend themselves from thieves and bandits… well, not in the traditional sense.  They were concerned that gun control would limit the people’s ability to defend themselves from a tyrannical government; whether it be a foreign aggressor or their own government.  Ordinary citizens with private arms actually played an important role in not only the American Revolutionary War, but also the War of 1812.  With the exception of Aleutian Islands in World War II, US soil has yet to be invaded, so the need for militia is less apparent than it was earlier in our history.

This is the core of the Libertarian argument; which can be partially debunked right now.  The American people are never going to revolt against their government in armed rebellion.  Even if it ever became necessary, the majority of American soldiers would sooner defect than act to the detriment of the Constitution and fire upon their brothers and sisters.  So without an immediate foreign or domestic threat, this really seems outdated.

However, just because something isn’t apparent doesn’t make it a non-legitimate point for discussion.  We joke about movies like Red Dawn and War of the Worlds, but there is something real to them.  No, we’re not going to be invaded by North Korea, Russia, Cuba, or Martians anytime soon.  Part of the reason for that is, as Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto wisely noted durring World War II, “You cannot invade the mainland of the United States.  There would be a rifle behind every blade of grass.”

You see, having an armed population is a deterrent to foreign powers.  That earns us significant political economy in the international community.  Every international investor and currency trader knows that no matter what happens, nobody is going to take over the United States.  Even though we embarrass drunken sailors and John Edwards in a beauty shop with our spending, investments in the US dollar and American stocks and physical assets are all safe in the United States.

The Liaoning - the first air craft carrier of the Chinese People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN).
The Liaoning – the first air craft carrier of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN).

If Americans surrender their firearms, we still have the strongest military in the world defending us… but for how long?  China is spending an enormous amount of money on their military and expanding their navy to include aircraft carriers; which are essential for force projection.  I’ve already written about Chinese force projection against US allies Japan and the Philippines. China has also become more involved in South and Central America than we are, and it appears our government is more than willing to turn its back on the Monroe Doctrine.  Assuming that our lessing involvement in the world and continued advancements in military technology lead to a further downsizing of the US Armed Forces, we’re not going to be the lone super power for much longer.

When it appears that we can be challenged and the militia threat Yamamoto spoke of 70 years ago is no longer a concern, that confidence in the United States is going to wane.  When that happens, our economy is going to tank hard, and obviously that would be the worst time for an economic collapse.

I don’t mean to scare anyone.  There are very good reasons that China will not invade the United States, not the least of these is our nuclear arsenal (although, the future of that is in question as Congress and the President are having a hard time dedicating the appropriate funds for a new facility that would be used for developing new weapons to replace our rapidly aging warheads).

However, following the gun control argument to its logical conclusion, I think both sides are being dangerously short-sighted about the effects and consequences aggressive gun control and gun bans would have on the long term health of the security and economy of the United States.  Hopefully I’ve gotten you to think about this issue a lot more deeply than you were coming into this article.

I don’t know of many other bloggers who tie American gun rights to International Political Economy and long-term financial stability.

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Kevin Tracy is an Air Force veteran, terrorism/counterterrorism expert, and jack of all trades. KTracy's day job is designing electrical systems for new fossil power plants and environmental solutions. On the side, he keeps a blog, fundraises for political candidates and the St. Baldrick's Foundation, writes and illustrates comic books, and studies foreign affairs in depth.

7 thoughts on “Gun Control: A Long Term Prognosis”

  1. Well said, and I agree. I personally don’t own a firearm, but that is because I have young children and by the time I retrieved my gun from it’s hiding place, unlocked the lock box, unlocked the trigger lock, and then loaded the weapon, it would be useless. But that’s my choice. If people don’t want guns they can exercise their choice not to own one either. The Second Amendment doesn’t MANDATE gun ownership.
    Now, my personal opinion is that the average citizen has the right to own a handgun, shotgun, and hunting rifle for personal protection and sport, I don’t think the average citizen should be allowed assault weapons. These are machines built to kill people, in mass amounts. I’d personally feel more safe with them in only the hands of the military and police. Now, people can and argue these points constantly, but nobody needs an M-50 to protect thier garage. There are reasonable limits that should be placed…..am I allowed to build a dirty bomb/small nuke because the Second amendment says i have the right to protect myself? No, and you’re right, it’s stupid. But so is giving the general public other weapons of mass destruction aka assault weapons. Seriously, like Biden said (And I can’t believe I’m quoting him, well paraphrasing) If you want to protect yourself, get a shotgun.

    1. The real problem with assault rifles is that they’re scary. A shotgun can kill and wound several people with one shot. To be honest, I would prefer the assault rifle because there’s significantly less chance for collateral damage.

      But people aren’t as afraid of a gun with wood as they are of a black rifle. The distinction is really ridiculous.

      Plus, what do you consider an assault rifle? Is an M-14 a regular rifle or assault rifle? It doesn’t fire full automatic. But then again, its pretty hard to find a fully automatic M-16 too. Not to mention that fully automatic firing is a waste of ammunition.

      1. I believe I made my distinction pretty clear. Hand guns, shot guns, and HUNTING rifles. And you can play politician with me but we are both too intelligent to buy the “but fully automatic is a waste of ammunition” and the other BS NRA arguments. If you really believe that, why fight so hard for them. Also, we both know if you are far enough away from that you are hitting 3 or 4 people with a shotgun, you are probably too far away with the buckshot spread too large, to kill or seriously injure. So that’s a pretty invalid point as well. Plus, what kind of crowd are you firing into to protect yourself that is full of innocent bystanders and just 1 “bad guy”. Another point dispelled. Like I said, we can play politics and debate scenerios back and forth but we both know the truth. Kevin, basically I’m saying the general public does not need access to weapons designed for one purpose, to kill as many people as fast as possible. You don’t hunt with them, and you are right you don’t use them for home protection. They have one reason they exist: to slaughter multiple human beings in less than 60 seconds. And for this reason, I say keep them in the hands of law enforcement and the military. And if you say you have the right to owm M-50’s, I say I am smart enoughh to build a dirty bomb or nuke. Let me offer this: Just as the first Amendment does not allow you to put the general public in danger by shouting fire in a crowd, the Second Amendment does not allow people to own anything with a trigger claiming it’s a firearm. Reasonable limits must be maintained in a reasonable society. Can you compromise for the good of everyone or is it your way or nothing?

        1. I’ll give you that a ban on fully automatic weapons should be banned simply because they are a waste of ammunition. The military M-16 was designed with the option to fire 4 round bursts. However, that has since been brought down to 3 because the 4th round never hit anywhere close to its target. I promise you, the 12th round won’t be any closer than the 4th. It is a waste of ammunition.

          It’s a stupid feature to put on an assault rifle or any other non-mounted weapon.

          With regards to those larger weapons, I don’t mind if they are privately owned, but they have to be incredibly regulated and licensed. If you want to ban them, I don’t think it will do much. People aren’t being mowed down by these larger weapons, so they really aren’t cause for alarm.

  2. When Tony Blair & Co. sold gun bans in Britain in the 1990’s, it was to reduce crime and eliminate mass killings. After the ban, when crime amped up, and people asked where is the low crime dividend that was supposed to be gained from gun confiscation, Blair responded that the goal was to eliminate gun culture in Britain, not to lower crime, so he admitted it was all a lie from the get-go. Expect the same dishonesty from the gun banners in the US. So now they have knife bans in the UK and are deciding what you can have in your kitchen drawer, so the government control never lets up. Next they’ll decide what size hammer they’ll *let* you have.

    Yes, self defense against lone criminals is an important part of gun ownership. And the international aspect is important. But if there’s an insurrection that makes the 1991 L.A. riot and the 1968 urban riots look tame, the police will be home protecting their own, and your life will depend on your ability to fight off the horde. Thugs in this country who lose control currently have no option but to burn down their own areas and terrorize their own neighbors, who most likely they know are unarmed. Gang bangers know if they take their behavior out into gun owning land, there will be a hostile gun owner in every house grabbing the pistol in the shoebox of every closet, or the rifle or shotgun under every bed. Look, those Korean shop owners on the roofs of their businesses, defending their families holed up inside the shops beneath them, kept said families from being barbecued in their shops by rioters not by pistols, and sure as sunshine NOT by the LAPD, but by semi-automatic rifles, the scary type now under the scope of a ban.

    If we do have an economic collapse as you think (I happen to think there will be no implosion, but a slower falling down the stairs decline of mini boom moderate bust, on and on, like Spain, Britain, and all other powers that declined), eventually the time will come when the government checks no longer land in the bank on the 1st and 15th, and people dependent on that for generations who are also armed will, once their and their babies’ bellies growl for a few days, come out for your provisions. You face bands of brigands unarmed. I hope my neighbors are also armed, and we will put the cars across the streets and form our perimeter until the hostiles quit the area for softer targets.

    1. Austerity measures could create rioting, but it’s hard to say. The government rarely ends dependency programs, so there’s not a lot of domestic history to pull from.

      To be honest with you, I’m not terribly convinced any kind of mass rioting like we saw in LA 22 years ago will happen again in this country. I think there is a tendency in our modern culture to take to the streets in peaceful protest rather than revolution or anarchy. Rebellion is too hard. Having your union bus you in on their dime for an Occupy rally is a lot easier.

      Economic hardship is becoming the new fact of life and while people will be angry if their checks are reduced or eliminated, I don’t think economic hardship alone can drive Americans today to violence.

      I don’t know if you would say that I’m optomistic for peace or pessimistic for the fighting spirit (which is a good thing when directed correctly).

      I also don’t think the economy will necessarily get worse and worse. There are a lot of things we can do to stop that and get things moving again. My economic arguement is that the reliance on US currency and markets are rooted in the stability of our security. No country on earth is less likely to be toppled or conquered than the United States. That’s immeasurably valuable. If China gets to a point where the illusion of safety is lost, the underlying factor that has enabled so much confidence in the US economy (despite our spending) will be lost.

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