The Christian Science Monitor reports on a new development on gun control: a focus on background checks. This occurs on the 20th anniversary of the Brady Act. The Monitor also points to an article in The New Republic that further discusses the focus on background checks. According to the The New Republic, some now feel that it was a mistake to include bans on “military-style weapons” and “large-ammunition clips” in the move to extend background checks. I’m not sure what a “military-style” weapon is (a bayonet? a ceremonial pistol?) and I’m pretty sure the author means “high-capacity magazines” and not an old-fashioned clip designed to hold over-sized bullets. However, the move does make sense. As even MotherJones shows in their very selective study of mass shootings, assault rifles and high-capacity magazines are used in only a small number of shootings, and mass shootings themselves constitute a small percent of firearm-related homicides. Further, a 2001 study by the Bureau of Justice points out that “Less than 2% of inmates reported carrying a fully automatic or military-style semiautomatic firearm”.
The article claims that background checks are much more popular than restrictions on weapons and they point to a study by the Johns Hopkins Public Health School that the number of murders in Missouri increased when it repealed its background check law. I’ve looked briefly at the evidence and it looks weak. I’ll try to provide more later. I’m also suspicious of the public health approach in general because it seems to start from the position that guns should be eliminated and the only remaining question is how to convince us dumb slobs.
Still, this is a step towards policy-making based on evidence and judgement rather than hysteria.