Monday, December 14, 2015

Arthur Answers, Part 3: The USA’s gun problem

Today’s question was actually the second posed by Roger Green, and mentioning that is a way of stalling. Roger’s question is about a topic I just don’t talk about.

Roger asked:

“What is the solution to the gun problem in America?

I could be flip and say, “If I knew that, I’d be the richest person in the world!” Or, I could say, “I have absolutely no idea.” Both are true, but both avoid the question, as I usually do: I rarely talk about it on this blog, and never on social media. Which is not to say I don’t have an opinion, because we all do—it’s just that I’ve given up trying to express it.

I don’t think a solution is actually possible without fundamental political reform in the USA, and that’s also highly improbable. Without political reform, nothing will ever change. In fact, I bet things could very well become worse.

Even so, I have hope that change is possible, and here’s why: There’s growing public consensus that assault weapons don’t belong in the hands of anyone but the police and military. There’s also a growing consensus that if a person is too dangerous to fly, they're too dangerous to have a gun. And, most Americans support much tougher background checks of people wanting to buy guns. All these things will help, even if only a little.

But the reason not much will change is that there are extremely well financed, powerful forces blocking even the mildest common-sense reforms. Politicians are bought and do as they’re told to do by the powerful elites, and that means nothing can ever change.

People often say that the first step would be to disband the NRA. That would be nice, though utterly impossible, but that’s WAY too simplistic: It lets everyone else off the hook.

If American voters voted only for candidates that support common sense gun reform, the laws could be changed overnight. But they don’t do that, and instead keep re-electing the recipients of the NRA’s largesse, and then wonder why nothing ever changes. So, first, blame American voters who never vote for change and keep re-electing the problem.

Next, the US election system is tilted entirely in favour of the rich and powerful elites who can spend unlimited amounts of money to get their favoured candidates elected. No country can have a functioning democracy when the average person doesn’t stand a chance to effect real change because the elites prevent it. In other countries, this would lead to revolution—18th Century France and 20th Century Russia are the clearest examples of this—but in America, it leads to nothing more than impuissant rage.

So, for there to be real reform of gun laws—and all the other needed reforms—the power of the elites must be broken. That means getting “dark money” out of US politics, and outlawing “independent expenditures” on campaigns, but that’s just for starters. There should be tough new ethics laws for elected representatives to ensure they’re not for sale to the highest bidder. But MOST of all, voters have to stop voting for pretty much anyone the NRA likes—a high rating by the NRA should become a mark of shame that would ensure a politician’s defeat.

This political reform is necessary so that US citizens can then have a rational debate about what they want their gun laws to be—what's sensible, what goes too far, and on what points can most people agree? Such a debate is impossible right now because all of the political power in the USA is firmly behind no reform whatsoever, and that intransigence filters down to ordinary discussion which devolves into shouting matches and point-scoring with nothing learned or gained. This is why I never discuss it on social media, and only rarely on this blog: There’s no point.

If the USA truly wants to solve its gun problem, the first step is clear: First, it must reform its politics, and that starts with people voting for better, more responsible candidates.

I won’t be holding my breath, however.

Tomorrow’s “Ask Arthur” post will be much lighter!

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