The Problem With Guns Is That It Is Not One Problem

The Problem With Guns Is
That It Is Not One Problem


Leonard Zwelling

         Math homework was difficult. My father was an ace at math.
He was an engineer and could always be depended upon to set me in the right
direction yet not provide me with the answer when I appealed to him for help
with the problems of the day.

         “In math,” he used to say, “there are only two rules. You
cannot divide by zero and you had better know the question if you want to get
the answer.” He was right on both accounts.

         I was once given a proof to solve that ended with the
following statement: 1=0. Obviously, this had to be wrong and it turned out
that my 7th-grade math teacher had scrawled a convoluted set of
equations on the blackboard (ask your grandmother what that is) in which he had
divided by zero. My Dad helped me be the only one in the class to get the
answer right the next day simply by saying as he looked at the proof I had
brought to him, “what are the only two rules?”

         His other stipulation is right as well. Define the problem
if you want to get to the solution. In the case of “guns,” it’s not one
problem. It’s many and thus the President’s tearful appeal for a solution will
fall on deaf ears because he has not articulated the problem clearly enough.

         Problem #1: There are too many guns. Oh really! What’s the right
number? Obviously the sheer number of weapons is not in and of itself a
problem. They don’t fire themselves. Saying we have too many guns is like
saying we have too many cars. It may be true, but it is neither a rational
statement of a problem nor a route to a solution. After all, a few more lanes
on the Loop and we wouldn’t seem to have too many cars in Houston at 5 PM on

         Problem #2: Who has the guns. This IS a problem. Felons
shouldn’t be allowed to buy guns and they usually aren’t. Thus stricter enforcement
of current laws in this regard might be a first step in the right direction. But
black market weapons will be out there as sure as alcohol was during
prohibition. No American government will eliminate all the guns without
becoming despotic and we don’t want that.

on no-fly lists should be added to the felons list as should those with
specific (and they have to be specific) mental disorders. It should be obvious
that someone who is depressed and who wants to commit suicide can find many
ways to do so and that stricter gun laws may not really impact the suicide
rate. It is probably not the greatest use of legislative effort to ban all handguns.
I may not choose to own one (and I do not) despite having a license to do so (I
do). That’s my choice. It ought to remain a choice. Felons, terrorists and
crazy people who might harm others, if they can be reliably identified by
FROM YOUR NEIGHBOR), ought not have access to guns.

         Problem #3: Ammunition. Bullets ought to be available only
in person at a store licensed to sell ammunition. Not by mail and not over the
Internet. A license to buy bullets also ought to be mandatory for the purchaser.
Banning all bullets is not reasonable. After all, despite the fact that
prohibition was associated with a lesser consumption of alcohol, it did not end
speakeasies and banning bullets completely is really not a viable proposal.

         Problems #4; Types of guns. Hunting rifles ought to be
legal. Period. Many people enjoy hunting and they ought to be allowed to do so
without interference from the government. Handguns I touched upon above. Many
people feel safer having them around and that is not going to change. Again,
stricter licensing, background checks and screening against no-fly lists and
felony lists are reasonable. Denying law-abiding citizens access to handguns
is just not a worthy goal in the U.S. Assault rifles (and I define this as
automatic weapons of any kind) should be banned. No one hunts with these. These
are used to kill people and only the police, SWAT teams and the armed forces
need them. If Americans really think they can use these weapons to protect
themselves against government action, they ought to be denied weapons on the
grounds that they are mentally unstable.

the government can take an unarmed flying fortress over the sands of the Middle
East and blow up a terrorist leader with pinpoint accuracy, the government can
blow up your house even if you have an Uzi and the drone will keep the water in your
neighbor’s swimming pool dry wall free. Get over yourself. You aren’t a Minute
Man and it is unlikely that Lexington and Concord will be repeated on America’s
city streets although they may be trying in Chicago. Unfortunately the Windy
City looks more like the OK Corral than Massachusetts of 1775.

         The so-called “Gun Problem” is not one problem at all. It is
several and I may well have left out a few. My whole point is that to solve the
problems requires a clear definition of them and the President and many on both
sides of this issue from the libs to the NRA act as if this is all one big mess.
It is neither one big morass nor a mess. It is a legitimate set of issues
worthy of rational discussion. I wonder when those paths to solutions will be
tried? I know. When we have finished making the mess and trying all the other
paths. You know. The usual way we do things.

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