Note: This blog draws in part on my experiences and observations interviewing political figures, writers, and analysts for "The Campbell Conversations" on WRVO. To hear past interviews I refer to in these posts, please go to the show's website. The views expressed here are solely my own, and do not represent Syracuse University, the Campbell Institute, or the WRVO Stations.

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Friday, January 11, 2013

On Guns and Booze and Smart Phones

This week my guest on the Campbell Conversations is Robert Spitzer. He's a political science professor at the State University of New York at Cortland, and a national expert on the politics of gun control.

In the wake of the Newtown killings, both the nation and New York State are reconsidering gun policy. Governor Cuomo recently made additional restrictions on guns a featured element in his State of the State address, and it appears as though a deal on new legislation may be crafted within a week.

Spitzer and I discuss what kinds of policy approaches are most likely to help address the problem of gun violence, and what proposed changes are most likely to actually get passed--in Albany and in Washington.

One thing our conversation has prompted me to think more about is how the different approaches toward reducing gun violence compare with other realms of life where violent injury and death occur. There are at least three over-arching ways to see the problem--focusing on what people do with guns; focusing on what kinds of people have access to guns; and focusing on the availability of different kinds of guns.

There are interesting connections--and disconnections--between how we might think of guns and the gun violence problem, and how we think about alcohol and the drunk-driving problem, smart phones and the texting-driving problem, or personal computers and the child pornography problem. There are both connections and disconnections in terms of prevention, and in how we deal with appropriate interventions after a person has been shown to engage in bad behavior. For example, convicted drunk drivers sometimes have their driver's licenses taken away, but they are never forbidden from purchasing more alcohol, or from drinking.  People who crash their cars while texting and cause injury or death to others are not prevented from owning smart phones.  Child pornographers can continue to purchase and own personal computers. 

It gets complicated, and Spitzer offers some interesting thoughts in parsing out this issue.


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All of these three, when combined with a car is fatal, both to the user and the innocent bystander. Whether with the influence of booze, guns and phones and driving are the best formula for death.

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