A week ago I was asked to comment on an announcement by the Governor of New Mexico who, reacting to a terrifying rise in gun violence in Albuquerque, issued an executive order that would suspend both open and concealed carry laws in Albuquerque and Bernalillo County, temporarily banning the carrying of guns on public property with certain exceptions. Following quite a bit of backlash from both parties, the Governor then limited the ban to parks and playgrounds.
Because this is not my area of expertise/publication, I quickly consulted with my colleague Prof. Jennifer Carlson, who is one of the nation’s most impressive experts on gun policy. Jennifer agreed with me that, even though the Governor’s action makes sense from both moral and practical stand point, it is not constitutionally defensible, certainly not in this judicial climate, after the Supreme Court’s recent decision in Bruen. Still, it’s worth asking ourselves the question whether, even if the constitution allows us to bear arms, it is a good idea to go ahead and do it.
Recently, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives released a report on guns, which you can read here in its entirety. This NPR story provides some important takeaways which, in my opinion, all boil down to the same conclusion: anyone thinking that the world of gun ownership can be easily dichotomized into good guys/bad guys or legal/illegal guns is not seeing the full picture.
For one thing, it turns out that more than half of gun crimes utilize lawfully purchased guns. To this number, we must add a million stolen guns which were held in legal hands until recently. Notably, the vast majority of guns used for criminal activity are pistols, which a lot of people favor for legal personal use. I think the big question anyone considering a gun purchase should ask themselves is: are the chances that you’ll be using this gun to stop the proverbial bad guy anywhere near the chances of an accident in your household or your gun being stolen?
On a personal note, as many readers know, I was in the Israeli army for five years, engaging in no combat whatsoever (unless criminal appellate litigation counts, but it does not require guns.) For much, albeit not all, of that period, I walked everywhere with my M-16 strapped to my body, including to the bathroom. The idea of lugging around a thing that presented far more inconvenience and risk than comfort and safety holds no charm or mystique for me, and I suspect that, if the symbolic/emotional attachment to the idea of gun ownership is effectively stripped away, a lot more people will see the risk calculus as I do–because it is in congruence with the data.