New Book: ‘Living with Guns: A Liberal’s Case for the Second Amendment’

New York Times editor Craig R. Whitney recently wrote a book entitled, “Living with Guns: A Liberal’s Case for the Second Amendment.” I have not read the book.  And to be honest, I don’t think I will. 

With that said, I did listen to several of Whitney’s interviews where he discussed the book and, more broadly, the current (and rather contentious) debate over gun control. 

From what I can tell, Whitney is a moderately pro-gun liberal who is genuinely looking to have both gun rights advocates and pro-gun control activists come together to have a reasonable discussion on ways to reduce gun violence.

In an interview with NPR, Whitney talked specifically about the aim of his book.

Craig R. Whitney“What I wanted to do was suggest that especially liberals, who are generally in favor of gun control, should say, ‘Now, look, we agree that the right to keep and bear arms is an individual right, and it’s protected by the Second Amendment. Now let’s talk about ways to make it safer to have all these guns.’ That must be as much in the interest of gun owners as it is in the interest of people who fear gun violence.”

Indeed it is.  Gun owners want to keep guns out of the hands of criminals, the mentally ill, the homicidal, etc., just as much as the pro-gun control crowd. 

It’s really a question of how?  How do we come up with Constitutionally sound, non-invasive but effective measures to address the issue of gun violence? 

Whitney has several suggestions that may appeal to both sides, such as stiffer penalties for straw purchasers or a law “requiring membership in a shooting range or gun club for bulk purchases of ammo or extended magazines” (as mentioned in this NY times article).  

With respect to the stiffer penalties for straw purchasers, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett just signed a bipartisan bill that aims to crack down on those who buy firearms for convicted felons, so there is promise for both sides in reaching common ground on this issue and pursuing a bill of this sort at a national level. 

As for the gun club membership idea, I doubt that would fly with most gun owners.  Nevertheless, it’s an idea that doesn’t involve banning bulk purchases or high-capacity magazines, something that many pro-gun control supporters are pushing for (currently, there are some lawmakers calling for bans on online ammo sales and the reinstatement of an Assault Weapons Ban).  

Though, what’s most encouraging about Whitney’s position with respect to firearms is that he is willing to concede that there are limits to what can be accomplished via gun control and, that at the end of the day, gun violence is intrinsically a human problem and not a gun problem.  

“You have to affect the behavior of people who turn to guns in troubled neighborhoods and big cities. It’s essential,” Whitney said in his interview with NPR. “You’re never going to solve the gun violence problem with gun control alone.”

Unfortunately, most gun control advocates don’t see it this way.  They operate from the false premise that (a) gun control is effective at controlling criminal behavior (i.e., criminals obey the law) and (b) that passing onerous gun laws is a politically viable solution to the problem.  

We’ve seen the results of this type of thinking in both Chicago and NYC.  The result is higher crime and violence in one (Chicago) and the semblance of an Orwellian police state in the other (Bloomberg’s utterly ineffective stop-and-frisk polices).

In any event, what I hope is that pro-gun control advocates read Whitney’s book and start to come to the same conclusions he has about gun violence.  We can’t expect everyone to agree with us (the gun community), but if we can at least get them to understand some basic facts and approach the issue from a more rational and less ideologically driven position then we stand to make some real progress (i.e. cementing concealed carry rights in all 50 states while looking at targeted ways to crack down on violent offenders).