We need to have a serious conversation about gun control. Of course, pro-gun people argue it’s inappropriate to discuss following a tragedy like Las Vegas. Rather, we should focus on grief for the victims and families. Well, the best thing we can do for them is to talk about it now while the horrible sight is seared in our minds. Here are four common arguments against any kind of gun control.

Gun control leads to confiscation. No it doesn’t, any more than registering automobiles will eventually lead to a ban on cars. We kill more people with cars every year than with guns, and there is no pressure to outlaw autos. Background checks are now routine, and since 1994 two million potential buyers were blocked because of a troubled past. Universal registration might help even more.

If guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns. Nobody is suggesting we outlaw guns, so why say that? The closest we get is making gun ownership more restrictive but certainly not impossible. How does one argue with something that is not even being suggested?

Guns don’t kill people. People kill people. First, guns do kill people. Accidental shootings and suicides by gun are common. More importantly, people kill people with guns. Reducing the prevalence of guns, note I didn’t say eliminating them, will reduce gun violence. A drive-by knifing is pretty hard, and evil Stephen Paddock couldn’t have killed scores of people and wounded hundreds more from the 32nd floor of a hotel with a slingshot.

Self protection. From whom? We spend $600 billion a year on defense. That certainly keeps invaders out. From our own government? Contrary to social media, it isn’t an armed populace keeping our government honest, it’s the Constitution. Robbers and beatings? If you are ever in a life-threatening situation like that, statistics overwhelmingly say you are far better off running than fighting. And, nothing could have stopped the Las Vegas killings.

More strictly controlling firearms will make a difference. It will not immediately solve gun violence, but it is a step in the right direction. Perhaps banning the manufacture and importation, not the sale, of semi-automatic weapons would be a good step. They are easily converted to illegal automatic weapons and are extremely lethal. Do hunters really need to shoot as fast as they can pull the trigger?

Handguns are pretty much designed to be used against other humans. We should reserve our strongest regulation for those. Again, not an outright ban but certainly more stringent control.

There is no one-step solution to a gun violence problem. It is caused not by one but many factors each needing a different approach. There are legitimate and constitutionally protected reasons for ownership. Hunting is a sport enjoyed by thousands of responsible and decent Americans. But, it’s time to do something, even if it’s just baby steps. This problem was created over the long term, and that is how it will be solved. Until we start, terrible shootings like Las Vegas will continue.

Fred Abraham is a professor and head of economics at the University of Northern Iowa.


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