This morning I watched the opening segment of Fareed Zakaria GPS. The topic was guns in America.
Zakaria gave some statistics. The United States, with liberal gun laws, suffers approximately 30,000 gun deaths a year. Japan, with the strictest gun laws in the world, has as few as two gun deaths annually.
In fairness, the United States has a population of 2.5 times that of Japan. So the numbers are really 30,000 to 5. But still, it would seem a reasonable conclusion that gun control will make America safer.
This is where David Frum made an important point by way of an example. In most states it is legal for people to smoke in an enclosed automobile with children in the car. But people rarely do it. The reason? We widely recognize the dangers posed by second hand smoke and so we act accordingly. In short, when people widely recognize the danger posed by the behavior, laws aren’t required to regulate that behavior.
Frum then stated that the perception remains widely held within the United States that guns make people safer. But they don’t. So the place to begin, Frum proposed, is not with gun control legislation but with changing people’s minds about the threats posed.
Of course, the lesson here is about far more than gun control. It’s really about belief, about worldview. If you want to change behaviors, you should start by changing beliefs.