The Gun-Control Debate Resumes

Today POLITICO Arena asks:

Should gun control be discussed

My response:

Gun control should certainly be discussed in the wake of the Sandy Hook shootings, if only to clarify how little the problem of gun violence will be addressed by increased gun restrictions. A 2003 Centers for Disease Control report, for example, found no conclusive evidence that gun control laws reduced gun violence, a conclusion that was echoed a year later by an exhaustive National Academy of Sciences study.

So if we’re serious about addressing the problem, we have to begin by first putting it in perspective and then follow the evidence. Horrendous as Friday’s shootings were, “school violence has decreased considerably since the 1990s,” an NPR interview yesterday noted, “and schools are still the safest place for students to be.” Moreover, as NPR science correspondent Shankar Vedantam noted in a separate interview, it’s extraordinarily difficult to do the kind of profiling many today are calling for.

None of which to say that nothing can be done. As a society, after all, we’re not against guns. We allow the police to carry guns, even though police officers themselves sometime misuse them. And we do because we expect the police to protect us. But the police cannot be everywhere, and that is one of the main policy considerations the Supreme Court took note of when it upheld the constitutional right of individuals to own guns – so they may protect themselves, if necessary. And that – self-help; having an armed officer at a school – is probably the most effective way to curb – not stop, but curb – violence at schools.

But, it is objected, do you want to live in that kind of world? As opposed to what – the Sandy Hook scene? To live is to live with risk. It cannot be eliminated. Just as we think little of having armed officers at many inner-city schools, so too we may have to think of better protecting ourselves and our children more broadly than we’re now doing through policies that do not work.