The Gun Mandate

by Sonny Bunch on June 29, 2012

Everyone in America has a right to self defense. Few would dispute this notion and the right to bear arms was literally the second right guaranteed us after freedom of speech. The founders were pretty explicit on this.

Crime may be lessening as a problem in our society but it is still a very real issue. Burglaries, home invasions, street muggings, murder, rape—Americans are still subjected to these depredations on a regular basis. As a society, we have a modest safety net—the police force—but it is mostly reactive, spends much of its time enforcing smaller ticket items like traffic laws, and has a hard time responding quickly. In a home invasion situation or a street mugging, the odds of a police officer being dispatched to your location quick enough to stop the crime are vanishingly small. Furthermore, those unexpected emergencies are remarkably expensive and cause a massive drain on the system, diverting resources and leaving individual precincts footing the bill.

There are ways to protect people and to increase the common good. More foot patrols. Larger police forces. Modern dispatch centers. Unfortunately, these things cost money. Fortunately, there are commonsense proposals that will introduce a modicum of personal responsibility into the fight for self defense and are, as of now, totally constitutional and reasonable according to the liberal bloc of the Supreme Court. Allow me to make a modest proposal, if you will:

It’s time for a gun mandate.

Studies have shown that more guns equal less crime. Permitting citizens to carry weapons gives them a fighting chance when some hood jumps them—and those who do carry weapons are more law-abiding than the average citizen. While states and cities with tight gun control laws have seen some of the highest crime rates in the country—despite strict handgun regulations, Chicago’s homicide rate is higher than Kabul’s. Arming the law-abiding citizenry will help keep the criminal element in check without necessitating massive new government expenditures on the police.*

That being said, there will be some who still don’t want to own a gun. And that’s fine! The government won’t require you to purchase a gun. But if you choose not to purchase a gun—thus leaving yourself more likely to be a victim of crime and necessitating higher police costs, putting a drain on public resources and shirking your responsibility—you will have to pay a penalty or a tax. The IRS will collect it; it’ll just be a line on your 1040. Between $500 and $5,000 a year, depending on how much you make and where you live, should get the job done.

The purchase of guns by the poor, of course, we will have to subsidize—anyone making 133% above the poverty rate who has never been convicted of a violent crime will be eligible for one free gun purchased by the government. For those between 133% and 300% of the poverty rate, we’ll have some sort of sliding subsidy. And to ensure that the middle class has easy access to cheap guns, we will create gun exchanges, where those with multiple firearms can meet up with those who have none and exchange cash for a used, cheaper gun.

All of this extra government spending and interference in the markets will somehow, magically, reduce government costs and close the deficit. Less crime, more safety, smaller deficit: Your classic win-win-win.

It’s time for a gun mandate. Who’s with me?

*Oh, there will be people who claim that unintended consequences will kick in—more suicides, more accidental shootings, etc. But, if we’ve learned anything over the last few years, it’s that unintended consequences can be totally ignored when an issue of  ”rights” is under debate.

Image via flickr user LINUZ90

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Judith June 29, 2012 at 11:34 am

Of all of the fallout & commentary from the ACA decision (and I think I’ve read most of it), this is the only piece that’s made me smile. Thanks! And, I’m with you.

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Jeanne July 10, 2012 at 10:07 am
Judith June 29, 2012 at 12:17 pm
Sonny Bunch June 29, 2012 at 5:24 pm

Gah, my own spam filter ate my reply! Can’t remember exactly what I said, but I do remember being vaguely annoyed that Ed beat me by four minutes!

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Joe July 2, 2012 at 1:50 pm

Regarding the police, of whom I am one, you are correct in your conclusion but wrong in your reasoning. I am typical in that I do one traffic stop during an average shift. I spend most of my time on property crime and livability issues, because those are the most reported. When someone calls in a violent crime I respond immediately. However, unless you propose spending enough tax dollars to hire a lot more cops, you’ll have to wait for someone to get dispatched and arrive. Do the math: suppose a bystander calls, reports accurately what’s occurring, the dispatcher gets it out to a cop, who drives to your location and approaches in a manner safe enough to avoid turning the whole thing into an officer down rescue (or the mistaken shooting of an armed victim). Is that long enough for a violent crime to occur? Of course. Is that because the cops are too busy with minor enforcement issues? And how many cops do you suppose would be required to achieve pro activity, defined as a cop happening to walk up on you during the 60 seconds that a pedestrian robbery takes?

(As an aside, the lesser enforcement priority you choose, traffic safety, addresses a threat more likely, by an order of magnitude, to harm you than random violent crime.)

The humor and idea of your post are well taken, but using a tired (and ignorant) cliche to set it up steals from the impact.

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Sonny Bunch July 2, 2012 at 2:05 pm

I can assure you I wasn’t trying to denigrate police officers.

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Nedward July 2, 2012 at 5:08 pm

At HA’s post they are getting into the “free rider problem” (mooks too irresponsible to pack for themselves) though I’m still concerned about the lack of a public option, since I deserve a custom Mac 10 or 11 at an affordable price directly from Uncle Sam, i.e. the 1%. It’s all obviously constitutional–with Congress’s ability to require all free men to become a national traveling armory extending back at least as far as the 18th century, if not earlier, I mean to say otherwise what are you, some kind of divisive extremist–but I do hope that Roberts remembers just who is the author of the influential “SCOTUS On Notice” column for Magazine (a gun website that I edit, subsidiary of Gawker Media with offices in Aspen and Travilah). Nice legitimacy there; I’m sure he wouldn’t want to be forcibly separated from it.

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