Gun control: the wrong issue at the wrong time

Sam Smith

We should have learned from Prohibition and the war on drugs that banning doesn’t change culture. It can, in fact, encourage it. Consider that in the past six months, during which there has been growing pressure for gun control, the stock of Smith & Wesson has gone up over 40%. Gun sales generally have leaped.

The problem is that banning things is a lousy way to change a culture. Thus the war on drugs helped grow an illegal industry that some have estimated is the size of the legal pharmaceutical drug trade. It also, as Prohibition proved, has corrupted the system from the top to the bottom.

The Independent Voters Project notes:

What typically brings gun control to the forefront of our political dialogue is the reoccurring tragedy of a mass shooting. However, mass shootings receive a disproportionate amount of media attention considering how much they actually contribute to our national homicide rate.

According to Mass Shooting Tracker, in 2014, mass shooting incidents resulted in the deaths of 383 people—about 3% of total gun homicides for the year.

Though difficult to quantify due to inconsistent reporting, estimates of drug-related homicides reach as high as 50 percent of the total homicides in the United States.

Changing a culture is far more complicated that many want to accept. Working around and with drug addicts in a tough part of DC, I learned early how weak law was in changing habits.

Prohibition easily, for example, raises the social status of the banned items. Further, we live in a society that embraces violence as a foreign policy, encourages it in our films and on television, and whose media nearly totally ignores those who offer alternative approaches. When was the last time you saw a peace expert being interviewed on CNN?

To change a culture you have to work with it rather than just oppose it. A simple rule for gun control advocates is to limit your efforts to issues that have, for example, the support of hunters. Another would be to end the war on drugs.

And, as a practical matter, a good first step is not to make it a 2016 campaign issue. With the leading Democrat in a statistical tie with some of the most radical reactionaries since the South seceded, there is hardly any issue that the Democrats need less right now than gun control. If the Democrats continue to make it a major one, they will not only be working against themselves on gun control, but making it far easier for someone to win the White House whose other offenses may be grand enough to make even supporters of gun control wish they had taken a different approach.

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