Continued from Part 1. (I couldn’t sleep, so why wait for tomorrow?)
Under our plan, Congress might require gun makers in the aggregate to reduce gun homicides from 12,000 to, say, 7,000 in 10 years, with appropriate interim targets along the way. Individual firms would each have their own targets to meet, based on the extent their guns are currently used in homicides. Or Congress might simply leave it to neutral experts to determine just how much of a numerical reduction should be required — and how quickly. Either way, the required decline would be substantial.
Translation: We don’t really know how this would work, but be sure it would be a draconian task for the gun manufacturers.
How would gun companies go about reducing gun deaths? The main thing to emphasize is that this approach relies on the nimbleness, innovation and experimentation that come from private competition — rather than on the heavy-handed power of governmental regulation. Gun makers might decide to add trigger locks to their guns, or to work only with dealers who meet certain standards of responsibility. They might withdraw their semiautomatic weapons from the consumer market, or even work hand in hand with local officials to fight gangs and increase youth employment opportunities. Surely they will think up new strategies once they have a legal obligation and financial incentive to take responsibility for the harm their products cause.
Again, we have no idea how this might work, but surely the gun manufacturers will think of something if they want to stay in business. Of course, if they fail… well, it certainly isn’t “our” fault.
Performance-based regulation leaves it up to them to decide. This is the same outcome-based approach that the No Child Left Behind program takes concerning schools. Through No Child Left Behind, parents and school officials set achievement targets for students, and schools then have to figure out how to meet the targets.
How’s that working out for schools? How’s it working out in terms of good education for our children? I wonder what would happen if mandatory gun safety training were required in schools?
Similarly, performance-based regulation is used in a variety of pollution-control schemes and is becoming the preferred global strategy to combat climate change. For example, under pressure from coalitions of environmentalists, scientists and citizens, regulatory bodies are ordering public utilities to sharply cut their carbon emissions. The companies are responsible for designing solutions to best achieve that goal, which could include switching fuels, changing the way they produce electricity, installing scrubbers on smokestacks and so on.
It’s quite different to encourage technology to come up with a cleaner way of producing something. If gun manufacturers are polluters, then cleaning up their act is taking responsibility for what they do. However, asking them to clean up somebody else’s act is unfair at best.
Sen. Michael D. Enzi (R-Wyo.) has put forward a proposal along the same lines to target tobacco. Typically, anti-smoking organizations lobby Congress to give the Food and Drug Administration regulatory power over cigarette companies, and press locally to increase tobacco taxes, run more government anti-tobacco ads and boost enforcement of bans on sales to minors. Under Enzi’s performance-based regulation plan, however, the tobacco companies would simply be told by Congress that they have to cut their customer base by about 50% in 12 years. It would then be up to the companies to figure out how to curtail smoking rates.
Now we’re getting to the real purpose — cutting the number of customers, thus cutting the number of guns manufactured, thus finally closing the doors of gun manufacturers permanently. Why not just say so? Why all this “performance-based” BS?
Why heck, why don’t we just make it illegal for criminals to own guns. (<sarcasm) Maybe we should have the tobacco companies give them free cigarettes so they will be unhealthy and not live as long too. After all, isn’t smoking going to be illegal someday soon if all the nannies have their way?
So how exactly might this work in the case of gun makers? For more than half of all gun homicides, law enforcement officials are able to identify the precise type of lethal weapon that was used. From that data, reliable statistical projections can be made to determine each company’s approximate share of all homicides. Each company’s quotas would be based on the data, and tied to an ever-decreasing number of deaths.
You could rephrase that as tied to an ever-decreasing number of crimes. How does the country benefit by placing law-enforcement into the hands of gun manufacturers?
Why not look at the data and see if there are other types of precise information that can be culled? Is there data about how many of these murders were related to illegal drug use? Domestic violence? The criminal record of the deceased? Perhaps the gun manufacturers could use that data to lobby for decriminilazation of drugs, thereby ending “drug wars” and monetary sustenance of some gangs?
What if the gun manufacturers lobbied for more and better resources for victims of domestic violence, including men as well as women?
Would these efforts at reducing crime count?
A more fine-tuned strategy would set different gun-death-reduction quotas based on the specific weapon — with larger reductions mandated for guns that are more commonly used in homicides.
See part 1. Fourth paragraph from the bottom.
If gun makers fail to reach the performance targets, they would face substantial financial penalties that would hike the cost of the guns they make and drive home the huge negative social consequences they now cause.
Where’s the evidence that gun manufacturers cause “huge negative social consequences”? Can there be no credit for “positive social consequences” such as crimes deferred and deaths prevented by the presence of guns in the hands of law-abiding citizens?
What about my bonding with my son-in-law at the range? Is that not positive in the long run? What about the rangemasters suggestion that I dump my husband and move to Arizona? You have no idea the positive social effect that had on me!
Performance-based regulation is not about the government denying people access to guns. It’s not an academic theory about the underlying causes of gun deaths, nor is it a restriction on the right of law-abiding citizens to bear arms. Instead, it is a practical way to align the gun companies’ interests with the public interest and, ultimately, to save lives.
No, it’s a poorly disguised method to drive gun manufacturers out of business, thus depriving law-abiding citizens the opportunity to buy a legal product.
Jeffrey Fagan is a professor of law and public health at Columbia University. Stephen D. Sugarman is a professor of law at UC Berkeley.
Occupants of two coastal ivory towers think the rubes residing between them cannot figure out that their idea is not in our best interest.
UPDATE: Armed Liberal at Winds of Change has a good idea.