With high-profile gun violence incidents such as those in Odessa, El Paso, Santa Fe and Sutherland Springs fresh in the minds of Texans, the call for policymakers to “do something” has steadily grown louder.
From the expansion of background checks to the regulation of magazines or outright confiscation, everyone seems to have an idea of what policy interventions can stop these troubling events from happening again.
But the truth is that none of the policies are likely to have a meaningful impact.
The very reason these horrific acts capture the national spotlight is how relatively rare public manifestations of visceral carnage have become in recent years. Across all per capita metrics, gun violence has been falling in Texas. The state’s firearm homicide rate is 25 percent lower than two decades ago.
The rifle homicide rate, specifically, is down 63 percent across the same period, and the shotgun homicide rate is down more than 70 percent. Even the rate of aggravated assaults in which a firearm is used has been cut almost in half.
While these figures are a hollow comfort to the victims of gun violence and their families, the silver lining is that the likelihood of being victimized by a criminal with a firearm — of any type used in any way — is far lower today than in any time in recent memory.
Yet calls to “do something” persist. It’s understandable, given the visceral nature of these crimes and the political hay that is being made of them.
But the policies proposed thus far have not been shown to have a demonstrable effect where they’ve been enacted. Moreover, many of the proposals that have been floated recently would directly infringe on the right to bear arms and self-defense as explicitly enumerated in the United States and Texas constitutions.
Some might address gun violence after the fact — perhaps through focused deterrence — after a tragic incident but cannot logically be considered preventative, as gun violence is already a crime.
Nearly all the new proposals target those who, up until the point of enactment, have been nonviolent, law-abiding citizens.
But criminals, naturally, are not law-abiding. Those who would violate formal or informal norms against violence do not do so but for the presence of a weapon. When a gun as a tool of criminal violence is not readily available, it is quickly and easily replaced.
The problem is the violent nature of the individual, not the item through which it manifests. Efforts to reduce violence by regulating means is inherently foolish.
It is equally off-base to say that ubiquitous phenomena such as violent video games are casual triggers or influences for violence. It is only when individually or collectively the value of life has been reduced to such a degree that violence becomes more commonplace. The most violent cultures in human history predate video games, television and cinema.
We care about the lives of those we love and hold dear. We seek to preserve those — and our own lives, as well — through a belief that if we just tweak the correct line of the law, we can cordon evil.
That is willful ignorance of the entirety of human history.
No law-abiding citizen should be stripped of the right to defend themselves in a matter in which they are most comfortable, especially when those advocating new laws have yet to meet the modest burden of proof that their policy position would make a difference.