A thought experiment about gun control

In a discussion thread on a friend’s Facebook post this morning, a gun-rights supporter had this to say:

So you people think that by going door to door and taking guns from all law abiding citizens is how to end this? Because that’s how you come across.

The back-and-forth went about as you might expect, descending quickly into acrimony, but this person’s question got me thinking about the practical tactics of gun control.

While I in no way mean to equate the two, saying “What are we going to do about all the guns” is not all that different from saying “What we going to do about all the undocumented immigrants.”

I am a supporter of broad amnesty for undocumented immigrants and I believe that efforts to deport these folks (to say nothing of the Trump administration’s desire to drastically limit legal immigration) are wrong-headed and immoral. As a practical matter, I have asked immigration opponents how, if we were to agree about deportations, how we would even go about doing that without deep and unacceptable infringements upon the civil rights of all Americans. My point in asking that question is try to get them around to admitting that mass deportations are impractical, so why are we even pushing that notion.

And that, in turn, is basically what the gun guy is saying in my friend’s Facebook thread. There are an overwhelming number of guns in circulation in this country. While I may be in favor of banning them all, it would be practically impossible to confiscate even a significant minority of the guns, much less most or all of them.

In the face of the impracticality of mass deportations, the xenophobes and nativists have adopted a strategy of random and extreme ICE raids and round-ups. The impact of this strategy is that no one feels safe. It doesn’t matter if you have lived in this country since you were a child, or if you have a job and a family, or if you have always played by the rules, or if your child is heading into a critical surgery tomorrow—you might be caught up in a dragnet and deported with no warning at all.

If such a strategy—random, unexpected strikes intended to strike widespread fear and paranoia in a large population—sounds familiar, that would be because it is the same one that terrorist and insurgent groups use to wage asymmetric warfare.

My question, then, is what such an approach to gun control would look like. It certainly would not look like background checks and waiting periods. It would have to be a “Show is your papers!” strategy, but for guns.

Of course, the flaw here is that while undocumented immigrants do not shoot back, people with guns can and do. And there we see a fundamental problem with any meaningful gun control.

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