Guns, Guns, Guns!!!
Everyone else is talking about guns, so I guess I will too. I'll make this direct and to the point.
It shouldn't be possible for any citizen to buy any semi-automatic guns without a special permit, period. It shouldn't be possible for any merchant to sell any semi-automatic guns without a very special and highly regulated license.
The idea that easy access to "assault weapons" isn't part of the problem is absurd, and easily demonstrated if we talk about grenades. Grenades are generally illegal in the US and have been for a long time, and there is no market for them so there is no meaningful supply of them. As a result, we see no incidence of people using grenades in killing sprees. However, if someone wants to go on a killing spree then grenades would be the perfect weapons to use, even better than an "assault rifle". The reason that people don't use them isn't because they wouldn't be effective, its because they can't easily obtain them. It's certain that if grenades were sold at sporting goods stores to anyone who wanted to buy them that we would have incidents of them being used against people with large numbers of casualties. Assault weapons are essentially no different than a grenade. They are both weapons that are designed to kill large numbers of people easily in a short amount of time. The rational for restricting access to assault weapons is the same as for restricting access to grenades. If it were as difficult to acquire assault weapons and ammunition for them as it is to acquire grenades, there is no doubt that at the very least there would be fewer casualties from mass shootings. In my option, the goal of gun regulation should be to make the acquisition of assault weapons as difficult as the acquisition of grenades.
I grew up in hunting households, lots of people in my family owns guns, I own guns. I have no problem with guns. However I see no reason for any citizen to have a clip-loading semi-automatic rifle. It's absurd. I think that basic gun sales should be restricted essentially to revolvers, bolt/lever action rifles, and breech loading or pump action shotguns. To buy semi-automatic guns I think people should have to get a license that has to be renewed on a yearly basis (just to buy, not to own). Getting that license should require having an interview with a law enforcement officer regarding why the individual wants to get the license, what they intend to buy with it, and how they intend to use it, in addition to a more extensive background check, and passing a gun safety course. All high-capacity clips should be illegal for sale to the public, whether the limit is set at 10 rounds, 8 rounds, 6 rounds or 7 rounds, as New York just did is of not much consequence, it just needs to be set at something at or below 10 rounds.
And here is the key issue. When it comes to "keeping guns out of the wrong hands" there are two basic ways to do this, either through reducing general availability or by preventing specific individuals from getting guns.
While a strategy that incorporates both is obviously going to be the most effective, a heavy reliance on trying to prevent specific individuals from obtaining or using guns will necessarily end up requiring a much larger loss of privacy and "freedom" for the entire population than a strategy that relies more heavily on reducing general availability of high capacity guns.
In order to prevent "bad people" from getting access to or using guns would require a massive expansion of the police state and domestic surveillance. The types of laws that New York just signed are a small example of the types of losses of privacy and freedom that would be part of a strategy focused on keeping guns out of the hands of specific individuals. In the laws that were signed in New York, very few people will be effected by no longer having the ability to buy magazines with more than 7 rounds or the ability to buy "assault rifles" or by more prevalent background checks, and those effects are, I would argue, of minimal consequence.
However, everyone is potentially effected by the mental health provision, which turns everyone's mental health providers into spies for the government, whether they want to be or not. Now, going to a mental health professional and discussing suicidal thoughts could conceivably end up getting you fired or permanently effecting you career, etc. What's going to happen when a mental health provider tells law enforcement that you told them you were thinking about suicide? Are they going to come interview you? Almost certainly if they do people will find out about it. Who is going to have access to the database that your information gets into? Today, tomorrow, years from now? What about employers that end up wanting to be able to check against the database in the future? Once the data is collected, almost certainly its use will expand over time, just looks at what's happening with sperm donors, today their privacy is very much in doubt and there are increasing pressures to open up those databases and make them public information, even though the donors were guaranteed privacy.
Lot's of people have suicidal thoughts, especially if there is some specific reason for them, like going through a divorce or losing a child or something. Having that reported one time could result in ending someone's career or future career in law enforcement or education other types of positions. What happens when a teacher goes to a psychiatrist and says that they are suicidal once privacy between the doctor and patient has essentially been eliminated? Will they lose their job? I'd bet that literally thousands of good teachers have reported being suicidal at some point in their life.
Not only that, but trying to keep guns "out of the hands of bad people", above and beyond obvious criminals, necessarily requires domestic surveillance. I can easily see this opening up all kinds of domestic surveillance initiatives like monitoring people's e-mails and social media posts. To some extent this is already going on, but efforts to "target people, not guns" could easily push these types of actives even further.
So this is the issue, if people are really concerned about protecting "liberty" and "their freedom", then they would support stronger gun regulation aimed at reducing the general availability of guns, especially high capacity guns. Making it so that citizens can't buy military style weapons is far less a "loss of freedom" than a massive surveillance state that attempts to pick out "bad people" from the population and turns mental healthcare providers into informants to the state.
But what we really have to do is acknowledge that the public discussion about "gun rights" is fundamentally misrepresented in the first place. You see, people in favor of stronger gun regulation talk about "legitimate use" for weapons, and how there isn't a real need for citizens to own military style weapons, like semi-automatic rifles and high capacity magazines and armor piercing bullets, etc., and opponents of gun regulation defend citizen's access to these weapons using veiled terminology and generalizations like simply deferring to "Second Amendment Rights", but the reality is that the reason that people want access to these weapons, other than for what they call "criminal use", is because they believe they will some day need these weapons to fight against our own law enforcement and military.
"Granholm said: You’re deflecting. Deer don’t wear armor. Why do you need an armor-piercing bullet?”
Santorum replied: But criminals could."
Granholm added: And police officers certainly do."
Santorum concluded: Having the ability to defend yourself is something that is a right in our country."
That's the reality that we have to get to, discussing this fact. The reality is that there is no viable use for armor piercing bullets, assault rifles, high capacity magazines, body armor, etc. in America other than fighting against law enforcement and the military, and this is what people are buying these weapons for. What most of these people do is they buy these weapons, stockpile them, and simply use them at shooting ranges while they fantasize about civil war and taking on "the gubmnt". So, for the most part, what "the right to own" these weapons is all about is allowing nuts to buy into their fantasies.
The reality is that these weapons will never be used for anything, and if they are used for anything it will certainly be something illegal. There is no legitimate use for an AR-15. It's not a home defense weapon, you can't carry it on you so you'll never have it in a public setting to "put down the bad guys", and it's not a hunting weapon. The only use for an AR-15 or similar type of weapon is to hang it on your wall to make yourself feel "tuff", or to kill police officers, national guardsmen, or masses of unarmed citizens in public spaces. That's the only use for those weapons, and the citizens who are defending the need for them have one thing in mind, and that's the idea that one day they will need to use them against "government forces" in order to "protect freedom". We have to just come right out and confront this issue and call it what it is - an insane fantasy, and we can't let our laws be dictated by insane fantasies. These are people who are still upset that the South lost the Civil War and fantasize about revenge.
First, let's discuss why this really is an insane fantasy, and then why this fantasy is perpetuated and catered to by "law makers". First, this is an insane fantasy not because we don't have a government that will never try to "take away our freedoms", but because armed resistance using these types of weapons will never be a viable reaction to any such efforts. I think about what these people think and how they view "government force" and I think about Eisenhower's use of the National Guard to force integration on the public schools at Central High in Little Rock, Arkansas. If ever there was a domestic display of "government force" in the 20th century, that was it. What would these gun fanatics do today in such a situation, would they "form a militia" and take on the National Guard? If they would then that's exactly why we shouldn't let them have these guns in the first place. If they wouldn't then there is no point to them owning such guns, because if they aren't going to fight the National Guard over something that clearly the vast majority of the people in that community felt like was the government using force to take away their freedom, then what are they going to fight over?
But more important, if "the government" ever did for some reason decide to use military force to do whatever, no amount of citizens with guns would be able to do anything about it, since guns are no match for tanks, drones, missiles, the air force, etc., etc. Even the guerrilla warriors in places that our military fights use things like rockets and explosives, etc.
So the point is, this fight between "the government" and citizens is #1 never going to happen, and #2 if it did, these weapons wouldn't be of any meaningful use anyway.
If revolt against the government is needed, then either the citizens would have to get law enforcement and the military on their side in the event of a military overthrow of the government, or change would have to come through non-violent protests. So in any event, having a bunch of guns really does nothing to "protect freedom". The military and law enforcement are more likely to take stronger action against armed people than unarmed people anyway. When it comes to individual incidents of opposition to government having weapons does nothing but escalate the situation and turn it into a certain bloodbath where the civilians are sure to get killed, like in the siege at Waco. In the event of mass unrest, non-violent protest, like what was seen in Tahrir Square in Egypt, is more effective. There isn't any believable scenario where citizens armed with guns, even assault rifles, are going to overthrow the government; that's just not going to happen, so allowing all of these weapons into the population just so nut-jobs can fantasize about overthrowing the government is absurd.
So why does this insane fantasy persist and why do certain powerful interests, like the NRA and right-wing politicians, cater to it? Because it's really all about gun sales. Gun manufacturers are selling a fantasy to anti-government fanatics. The NRA and politicians who talk about the Second Amendment "protecting freedom" are all just a bunch of shills for the gun industry, and this is a clear fact, because the exact same people who talk about arming citizens to protect against government overreach are the same people who support larger military budgets and stronger law enforcement. Think about it, you have a guy saying, "We need armed citizens to protect against government abuse of power," who also votes or lobbies for buying the government more weapons and creating stricter laws, longer prison terms, and increasing domestic surveillance.
These politicians and gun-industry front groups are basically intentionally "arming both sides" and escalating the tension between them in order to induce both sides to buy more weapons. If someone truly believed that we needed an armed citizenry to protect against government power then they wouldn't also be working to make that same government more powerful. If they really believed that the potential military force of the citizenry was an important check against government power then they would work to de-fund the US military, eliminate our "standing armies" (which the founders were against having), they would disapprove of the militarization of police forces and SWAT teams, they would have voted against the Patriot Act, they would oppose domestic surveillance, etc., but these people don't do that, in fact they do the opposite.
The fact that the very same people who claim to be so concerned about "protecting our freedom" from the government are the ones who are turning America into a police state shows how absurd this idea is. These are the same people who have given us the largest prison population in the world, who advocate for the death penalty, and who view any and all military spending as a good idea. If they truly believe that "the government" is the enemy, then why do they do so much to perpetually arm the enemy and give it ever growing military and police powers?
The answer is obvious, its because they don't really believe that, all they really care about is advocating the interests of the arms industry and generating gun sales to whoever will buy them, be it the government or the citizens, and in fact, the more powerful they make the government, the more scared the citizens get, so they more guns they buy, its a "win-win". The more weapons they can put in government hands the more weapons their anti-government followers go out and buy.
This is what's really going on and this is what we have to openly and directly confront.
And the reason that the issue of "gun control" is important is precisely because of this situation. You notice that everything the opponents of "gun control" advocate as solutions to "gun violence" involves buying more guns, be it by citizens or by increased police presence. Here is a fact, you can't "protect freedom" by turning the country into a police state.
And this is why everyone should be very concerned about this and be in support of much stronger gun regulation, because the threat isn't just the threat from citizens shooting people, the threat is also the increased police power needed to "control" a population that's armed to the teeth. The fact that there are so many guns, and such powerful guns, in the population (300 million guns are owned by the American public, one for every person in America), is part of what police forces use to justify their escalated use of force. Because of the potential that individuals may have powerful military style weapons, police have to treat every situation as if its a military style conflict. This is why SWAT teams barge into houses, guns blazing, and end up shooting children and people sleeping in bed, etc. (This happens, and very disproportionately to the poor and minorities).
So allowing people to buy these weapons creates an arms race between the public and law enforcement, which causes an escalation of the force used by law enforcement against everybody. So we the citizens are victims of American gun culture in multiple ways, not just as shooting victims, but also as victims of the police state that grows in power and force as a reaction to the easy access to such powerful guns. And make no mistake that the opponents of "gun regulation" have no interest in protecting our "freedom", what these people are advocating is actually massive increases in the power of the police state as a "solution" to the problem of "gun violence".