What Grade of Citizen Are You?

As part of a beautiful search for civil discourse, Buster Benson and BJ Campbell are engaged in a public conversation about gun control. Yesterday, BJ surfaced some really interesting research into gun law effectiveness that he sums up well:

the NRA’s “guns don’t kill people, people kill people” rhetoric actually turns out to be not only very clean, it turns out to be scientifically correct. In particular, violent people kill people.

This, I think, is the key to finding an American consensus on gun control. Popular support for “common sense” gun laws does not appear to include regulation of weapons production, but rather is a proxy for cracking down on dangerous people. (Which makes me wonder if that support will stand when the definition of dangerous people turns out to include people who look like your son.)

Let’s assume, then, that Red and Blue America can agree that we need government to restrict the rights of classes of people based on an expectation that they will be dangerous. If this is done without explicitly and specifically weakening the right to bear arms, the slippery slope is treacherous.

Unfortunately, we already experiment with variable citizenship rights. The disenfranchisement of felons when felon status is widely the result of arbitrary enforcement targeting is a well-known example. Transgender disenfranchisement is less visible to most Americans but quite widepread. Increasingly narrow legal definitions of classes protected from discrimination leave many people exposed to socially enforced restrictions.

We stand now on the edge of a new risk. Our eagerness to find a way to stop Kevin from shooting his classmates could unwittingly provide a hook for new rights limitations to hang from by creating a new class of rights-restricted citizen. We could aim to circumvent the NRA but find the ACLU is collateral damage.

I posted this in September 2019 during week 2377.

For more, you should follow me on the fediverse: @hans@gerwitz.com