The Future of Gun Reform

This post from December 2012 was an attempt to craft optimistic policy during a time when it looked like there was public resolve to curtail gun violence through gun control. This post is part of a series about the need for anthropology to directly address gun control and gun violence. The series includes:

Semi-Automatic Weapons Buyback

As President Obama introduced a Plan for Gun Reform, former Australian Prime Minister John Howard, leader of a center-right coalition, describes how he was able to mobilize a semi-automatic weapons buyback: I Went After Guns. Obama Can, Too. I support gun reform legislation, but would still like a plan to reduce the available weaponry, a semi-automatic weapons buyback as economic stimulus.

The United States remains mired in the economic doldrums of unemployment and low growth. The horrible murder-massacre in Newtown draws attention to horrific gun violence. These man-made disasters can be addressed at once: a 50 billion dollar stimulus package to buy back 50 million semi-automatic weapons.

Until now, people like Robert Reich have been outspoken about unemployment issues and inequality, and outspoken about gun violence, but without a way to link those two issues.

We need a semi-automatic weapons buyback, modeled on the Australian semi-automatic weapons buyback that ended mass shootings. To achieve a comparable Australia-styled reduction in firepower, the U.S. would need to buy back about 50 million semi-automatic weapons. The buyback amount would probably need to average around $1000 per gun. That’s 50 billion dollars.

Coincidentally–(and I did the gun math before I looked at the fiscal cliff numbers)–President Obama’s first fiscal cliff proposal included an approximately 50 billion dollar stimulus package. That was for desperately-needed infrastructure, to be sure, but since we did not get that in the fiscal cliff deal, we should now be able to put that 50 billion to a semi-automatic weapons buyback.

The semi-automatic weapons buyback can be scaled according to payroll-tax income, phased out entirely for upper-income brackets, so that it will be an effective economic stimulus for low-income, working households. People participating in the buyback would be immediately offered the option of donating to the local school district or an appropriate local charity.

If we can’t get the 50 billion from a federal stimulus package, there are more options. There could be a public campaign for contributions to fund the semi-automatic weapons buyback, which might be especially attractive if it were linked to economic stimulus for the working poor and middle-class.

Or, how about a Billionaires Buyback Guns Club–according to my rough estimates, the 100 richest people in the United States together hold a little over 1 trillion dollars in assets. A 5% contribution would give us 50 billion dollars, and would still leave #100 with 3.7 billion. Plus, six of those 100 people got their money from Wal-Mart. Walmart is now the biggest seller of firearms and ammunition in America.

A semi-automatic weapons buyback can work and here’s why:

Semi-Automatic Weapons Buyback Sounds Better than Gun Control

As Nate Silver astutely analyzed, the phrase gun control has been superseded and probably still doesn’t poll well. Semi-automatic weapons bans have always polled a bit better, but semi-automatic weapons buyback may have an even better chance. Let’s face it–gun control advocates have many times sounded like moralizing elitists. A buyback might change the terms.

Semi-Automatic Weapons Buyback Removes Guns From Circulation

The problem with most legislation to renew the assault rifle ban is that it doesn’t do anything about the guns that are already out there. It’s entirely prospective. We need to reduce the total number of semi-automatic weapons and the total number of households with such weapons.

A Semi-Automatic Weapons Buyback Addresses the Semantic and Cosmetic “Assault Rifle” Issues

The difference between a hunting rifle and an assault rifle has blurred significantly. Much of it has always been cosmetic, and now many hunting rifles look like assault rifles. We need to sit down with real hunters–not corporate lobbyist hunters, but real hunters–and figure out a weapon design that will be hunting effective but not useful for mass killings. Make no mistake–following the buyback period, previous semi-automatic weapons will be illegal and prohibited.

Semi-Automatic Weapons Buyback Could Provide Much-Needed Stimulus

As noted above and elsewhere, we still have dire unemployment problems, tremendous income and wealth inequality issues. Done correctly, a buyback helps working poor while removing a scourge from these communities.

Living Anthropologically means documenting history, interconnection, and power during a time of global transformation. We need to care for others as we attempt to build a world together. This blog is a personal project of Jason Antrosio, author of Fast, Easy, and In Cash: Artisan Hardship and Hope in the Global Economy. For updates, subscribe to the YouTube channel or follow on Twitter.

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