Sunday, June 26, 2016

Understanding Philosophy in the Real World: Brexit

My second semester of teaching philosophy 101 I had that student; the one that every teacher dreads. You know, the one that sits there all class with a scowl on her face and only opens her mouth to say "What's the point? Why are we even doing this?".  Next to math teachers, philosophy teachers probably have to deal with this the most. When handled incorrectly, this type of student can pollute the whole atmosphere of the class making the entire semester difficult. There are a variety of ways to handle such students. 

My response was to take her concerns seriously. If she couldn't see the value and importance of what I was teaching, at least a quarter of the students were probably thinking the same thing. [That figure comes from extensively polling my intuitions]. From that point forward I promised myself that I'd begin each lesson with a real world issue where the philosophical concept of the day played a pivotal role. If I couldn't show that the concept has real-world applicability and importance, I'd take it out of the syllabus. And that's what I've done ever since. (Bye-bye Gettier epicycles...)

From teaching this way I've learned that philosophy is all around us in every aspect of our lives--even more than even I had imagined. You can't see what you aren't looking for. But if you grow accustomed to looking, you'll be astounded with how embedded in philosophy our lives are.

With all that in mind I want to take the whole Brexit debacle as an opportunity to explore three closely related topics in political philosophy: (a) representative vs direct democracy, (b) idealization, and (c) voting rules. My aim is to show how philosophical decisions shape political events. 

(Here's an excellent companion article by political philosophers).

Representative vs Direct Democracy

Pre-theoretically, most of us think of democracy as meaning something akin to self-rule. We, the people, are sovereign and so the rules that govern society (us) come from us, not from some external power. We (the governed) vote on the nature and content of the rules, policies, and institutions that we want to be governed by. In short, we self-legislate. 

Ok, so we self-legislate. How do we do that? Does each citizen need to vote every time a new law or policy is proposed?  Direct democracy is the idea that citizens vote directly on policy.  This may, at first blush, seem like a good idea. If I'm going to be governed by a law or bear the consequences of a policy, I want to have a say in it. In small organizations this kind of process makes sense. However, as an organization's size grows from team or village-size to that of a modern nation-state, direct democracy will be hugely impractical for a variety of reasons. 

First, in a large political community the amount of time each citizen would have to spend voting on a daily basis would significantly undermine their ability to go about their work day. And it's not just time spent voting. We might hope that citizens spend time familiarizing themselves with the relevant arguments and data associated with each issue. This again in hugely impractical given the breadth and depth of knowledge required to know everything about everything. If we want voters to be informed voters, not only would citizens need to set aside time each day to vote but they also have to set time aside to DO THEY'RE REESURCH!!!!11!!!. 

Besides, anyone who has spent more that 5 seconds in the comments section of the internet can tell you that what many people think is doing research is in fact a massive exercise in motivated reasoning. I find reading the comments section of most online articles to be the best possible argument against direct democracy. 

This leads us to the idea of representative gubbamint. Instead of each citizen giving up most of their day voting and doing research, they can pick someone who knows their interests and can represent them in gubbamint. This is what's meant by representative government: citizens select representatives from their respective communities that are familiar with their interests.  Enter the politician. 

Brexit and Representative Democracy

Here's the dealy-yo. It's very doubtful that any political arrangement will be perfect (excluding putting philosophers in charge of everything). There will always be trade-offs. With representative democracy we overcome many of the shortcomings of direct democracy (I'll discuss more of them in the next section). But we create new problems. 

First, since each citizen doesn't actually vote on policy, the representative has to interpret what his constituency would have voted for. There are many ways interpretation can go wrong. And this doesn't even include some subgroups' disproportionate influence or that the representative can be constrained by party politics (which of course, they always are to various degrees). 

Another major problem with interpretation is that people can be mistaken about what's in their own best interest. As a representative, do you vote according to what they actually say they want (even though it ultimately undermines their interests) or do you vote according to what a reasonable expert thinks would best advance their interests? I'll deal with this problem in detail in the idealization section below.

The next major problem takes a bit of background explanation. The whole point of democracy is self-rule. Ideally, the rules that govern us are represent our own will. Otherwise, to various degrees we are being coerced by what feels like (or is) an alien power. And nobody likes being told to follow rules they don't agree with.  

As a political community grows in size and complexity each sub-community has proportionately less influence over the rules by which they will be governed. This is just a fact about numbers. If your community represents only 3% of the population then your political weight in terms of shaping policy is quite small. 

Add to the numbers phenomena the fact that the diversity of values also increases as political communities expand. In a small political community there are more personal interactions and shared ways of living. It follows that fundamental values will tend to be relatively homogenous and so political disagreement over fundamental values is less likely. As political communities expand however, the likelihood of disagreement over fundamental values increases. Pair this fact with a sub-community's diminished political power to shape the laws and policies by which it is governed and you have a great recipe for political alienation. 

These concepts give us a helpful lens through which to understand the "take our country back" sentiment in Brexit (and "Make America Great Again" in US of A). The people who voted for Bexit don't feel as though they have any say in the laws and policies that govern them and that those laws are (perceived to be) inconsistent with their own values and beliefs. And, they are right. If democracy is conceived of as self-rule, their communities have very little influence over the policy according to which they are governed. Second, they don't recognize as their own the perceived values according to which they are governed (set by EU policy). 

This is not meant as a defense of Brexit supporters, only an explanation. That said, let me point out that the above reasons for resisting yet another level of gubbamint and for favoring local levels are probabilistic. There's no logical contradiction between a local government, tyranny, and despotism. 

Furthermore, there are reasons to think that the same people who voted for Brexit voted against their own interests. (Aside from the philosophical ones discussed below, here are some empirical ones from a libertarian blog which one would expect to be against centralization).

Let me explain:


A naive view of people and politics suggests that people always know what's best for them. But this is obviously false. Such a view assumes perfect information and perfect reasoning. A mere moments reflection on one's own past or a perusal of the comments section of a vaccine article reveals that we can very often be mistaken about our own good. Thus, it looks like we have the makings of a dilemma: People make mistakes about their own good which implies that if we want to avoid bad policy experts ought to decide policy but at the same time democracy requires that citizens have a role in forming policy. We want to avoid coercing people--even if it's for their own good. 

Deriving solutions to this dilemma is the meat and potatoes of political philosophy. One of the more popular methods is to suggest some degree of cognitive idealization. Let me explain: we know that real people have false beliefs and make bad inferences. That's how they end up having false beliefs about what policy would actually best advance their interests. Proponents of idealization suggest that policy reflect what people would want if we (to varying degrees) idealized away their false beliefs and bad inferences. In other words, policy should be what people would want if they were rational and didn't have false beliefs. 

Let me illustrate. I've decided that you are in charge of me but you can only apply rules to me that I consent to. I walk into a donut shop and I see all the delicious donuts. I want to order 3 donuts. I believe that I want to order and eat 3 donuts. It turns out that eating 3 donuts would actually be inconsistent with what I truly value: the maintenance of my health and washboard abs. 

You know this but the overwhelming olfactory and visual stimulation has overwhelmed by brain. I have false beliefs about what's good for me. On a view of democracy where policy is set by people's actual desires and beliefs, you must buy me the donuts. It's what I actually want despite the fact that eating 3 donuts would be contrary to my core values (get it?) and interests. 

An idealization view, on the other hand, wouldn't give me the donuts. The idealization view idealizes away my false beliefs and bad inferences ("I'm going to feel so good if I eat those 3 donuts", "I'd be really happy if I ate all these donuts"). My belief that I want to eat 3 donuts is actually inconsistent with my more fundamental values (health and abs). Thus, if you prevented me from eating all three, it would not be contrary to democratic values. You wouldn't be coercing me because the policy you are imposing on me is actually consistent with my own values if I just thought about it a bit more. I am still self-legislating. You're just correcting for the vicissitudes of my passions. 

Within the literature there is dispute over just how much idealization we should do. If we idealize too much then the resulting policies won't be recognizable to the imperfect people they end up governing. Thus, although consistent with their interests, they will be perceived as coercion by an alien power. 

Others advocate some version of moderate idealization. Kevin Vallier suggests we idealize only in so far as actual people can recognize their own core values and beliefs in the resulting policy. The criticism of this view is that we still sometimes get people voting for bad policy if they have bad/false core beliefs or racist/zenophobic/homophobic values. 

Idealization and Brexit

Idealization gives us another lens through which to understand the Brexit vote. The vote was a referendum; i.e., direct democracy. In other words, there was no opportunity to correct (if need be) people's votes with idealization. If it turns out that it would actually be in most Brits' actual interest to stay in the EU, too bad. There's no way for a representative to correct for the error. 

The fact of the matter is that even most (all?) experts aren't clear on what the consequences of Brexit will be and so it's hardly likely that people in the general public made this judgment in an informed way.  Really, the vote was a "feel-off". Votes were more likely the result of raw emotion than any kind of informed deliberation over trade offs between values and likely consequences. 

If we take the reports in the media seriously,  there now seems to be growing buyers remorse among some of the no-vote contingent. The immediate adverse effect on the British economy (and people's pension funds) is making people seriously reconsider whether they voted on good information and whether their "no" vote was actually consistent with their core values, desires, and interests. 

Voting Rules

The quick about-face points to another issue in political philosophy: Voting rules. For many political issues, timing is everything. Poll people at two different points in time--even days apart--and you can get very different results. For example, if you'd polled Americans pre-9-11 about extending executive powers, the overwhelming majority would have said no. Just a few days after 9-11, many saw no problem with it. Now, it's being called into question again. 

This points to the idea that for major national-level decisions, you want some kind of voting rule in place that ensures the will of the people is stable and not the product of short-term current events. The Brexit referendum used a one-time majority rule vote. That doesn't do much to hedge against the vicissitudes of the unwashed masses. 

Consider also, about 70% of the country turned out to vote, just over half of which voted "no". That means about 35% of the population determined the fate of the remaining 65%. In the US constitutional reforms require 2/3 majority in both legislative houses (read: representative democracy/idealization). The higher bar ensures the changes reflect the publics' stable attitudes. The one-time majoritarian referendum does not. 


There are legitimate concerns with representative democracy in diverse large political communities. One's proportionate influence over policy diminishes and one must coexist within a greater diversity of values. When people lose the ability to shape the policy and institutions by which they are governed--even if it's in their own long-term interest--they push back. No one likes to be told how to live by a perceived-to-be alien power. It's not unreasonable to believe that as we add layers of government, institutions become less representative of local interests and values. Autonomy is undermined. Of course, these are probabilistic assumptions and the ultimate truth will vary across actual cases.

It's logically possible to believe both that all of the reasons for voting for Brexit are valid and still maintain that it is in the British public's own interest to stay (on balance). In fact, at least some observers suggest that there will be less rather than more overall autonomy with BrexitAt the end of the day, we'll have to see how it plays out. 

My own tentative view is that the world of nationalist isolated nation-states has had its chance. A casual look back at history tells us that what Europeans gain with the EU is so much greater than what they lose. I submit that Brexiters are confusing relative costs for absolute costs. They see the costs of the current state of affairs on their self-determination. And they are without a doubt right. But these cost are being considered as absolute costs. In fact, the costs must be weighted relative to the alternatives. And as I've already mentioned, we needn't look too far into history to see the costs of a nationalist Europe. 

Finally, we should ask what Brexiters are trying to achieve. What is their metric of success? How will they know if it was a good decision? None of this is really clear beyond a greater sense of self-determination even if on the whole they end up worse off. If so, we can make sense of the Brexit vote through the eyes of Dostoevsky's Underground Man:

I would not be at all surprised, for instance, if suddenly and without the slightest possible reason a gentleman of an ignoble or rather reactionary and sardonic countenance were to arise amid all that future reign of universal common sense and, gripping his sides firmly with his hands, were to say to us all, "Well, gentlemen, what about giving this common sense a mighty kick and letting it scatter in the dust before our feet simply to send all those logarithms to the devil so that we can again live according to our foolish will?"  
...Man has always and everywhere--whoever he may be--preferred to do as he chose, and not in the least as his reason or advantage dictated; and one may choose to do something even if it is against on's own advantage, and sometimes one positively should. One's own free and unfettered choice, one's own whims, however wild, one's own fancy, overwrought thou it sometimes may be to the point of madness [. . .]
All man wants is an absolutely free choice, however dear that freedom may cost him and wherever it may lead him to...  

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Religious Beer Goggles and Why I am the First Eagle of The Apocalypse

The Hook: Only through the beer goggles of religion can one claim everyone deserves to die for all and any (perceived) moral infractions and not see the view as repugnant.

My attitude towards religion has several times swung from extreme to extreme as drastically as possible for anyone maintaining atheism throughout. My position most aligned with Dawkins and Harris from about 2008-2012, then for a variety of reasons my view started to soften. In 2013, I saw Dawkins and Krause give a talk at UNLV. They were so hateful, condescending, and mean-spirited (as did appear most of the audience) toward the religious I had to leave part-way, feeling sick to my stomach that I'd aligned myself with such a deplorable group of people. I swore I'd never associate myself again with those people (or views).

Anyhow, since then I've been what some call a friendly atheist. I think, all things considered, religion is a good thing for those that choose to have it in their lives. Nevertheless, it's not for me.

Well, the Orlando shooting has got me reconsidering again. I'm not going full Dawkins or anything. I'm still in the friendly atheist camp but there are certain aspects where I think I have reason to be critical.

I have the outline of a critique of liberal tolerance for Islamic homophobia in my unfinished drafts but today I'm going to do what every Christian loves. I, a liberal, am going to persecute them for their views. If I'm lucky, I'll see parts of my post in God's Not Dead III. (In fact, what I'm going to argue can be generalized in any religion that way, in the interest of fairness, everyone gets to claim liberal persecution).

Specifically, I'm going to address an article that on exegetical grounds defends Christianity against the charge that it is homophobic and recommends death to gays.

Before getting to the main article let me just say one thing about (mainstream) liberal critiques of homophobia in Christianity and Islam. The Right is right. Mainstream liberals are all-too-happy to point the finger at parts/branches of Christianity that are, by any reasonable definition, homophobic yet turn a blind eye to the often more blatant homophobia and anti-gay hatred in Islam.

The Right is right to point out the inconsistency. A Christian baker doesn't sell a cake to a gay couple and twitter and Facebook explode. Gay people are stoned to death, shot, or thrown off buildings as a matter of practice in Muslim countries and nary a peep from liberal social media. The Koran's condemnation of gay sex is at least on par with that of the Torah (That's Old Skool Testament for you gentiles).

You might think (lamely) "Hey maaaaaaaaan, what's right for them is right for them and what's right for us is what's right for us" at which point I will recommend you be stoned to death. Besides, it's not just Islam "over there" that is predominantly homophobic, it's Islam anywhere. It's part of the religion (proscribed in both the Koran and the Hadeeth).

That said, Muslims aren't the most intolerant religious group (in the US) and of course attitudes vary across individuals and sects. However, for a Muslim (Christian or Jew) to reject the idea that homosexual acts are morally wrong they must also admit that there is a factual error in their holy text. They have to believe that their (divinely inspired?) text contains a false statement. Not many are willing to make this move. That's why we see olympic level mental gymnastics from liberal theists.

Anyhow, this post isn't about Islam. Besides, the honor of "Most Intolerant of Homosexuality" goes to White Evangelicals, Baptists in particular.  Shout out to the Jews and Buddhists who are by a landslide the most tolerant. Here's a break down of intolerance and religious affiliation.

For an overview of attitudes toward homosexuality around the world.

The Article
After the Orlando shootings, Georgia Congressman Rick Allen read some Biblical verses. The verses have been interpreted by many as suggesting homosexuality ought to be condemned by death. Molly Hemingway tries to argue that this isn't the correct interpretation and Jennifer Shutt, who wrote the original piece for roll call, doesn't know her biblical exegesis from a hole in the wall. I say "tries" because the position she ends up in is so laughingly preposterous it can only be taken seriously when read through the beer goggles of religion.

Ok, let's the look at the infamous Romans 1:27 and 1:28-32. (or as Trump would say '1 Romans'):
And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompense of their error which was meet,”

And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient; Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, Without understanding, covenant breakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful: Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.
Shutt's interpretation of the passage is merely that the verses "discuss what types of penalties the Bible says should be applied to those who are not heterosexual.” 

Here's Hemingway's "scathing" reply:
If you’re going to do the exegesis, Right Reverend Shutt, I might recommend knowing that we don’t call verses “lines.” [Buuuuuuuurn!] Also, maybe notice that the listing of sins indicts literally every single human on the planet. So if you’re thinking that Christianity calls for the execution of gays, you have to think, on the basis of the same passage, it calls for the execution of everyone. And if you’re thinking that, and you know anything at all about Christianity, maybe ponder whether everything you’ve written is embarrassingly wrong.

Instead, Shutt specifically said, falsely, that this passage “discusses what types of penalties the Bible says should be applied to those who are not heterosexual.” Wrong. Wrong. And wrong, wrong, wrong. It doesn’t discuss types of penalties. It doesn’t say penalties should be applied at all. And the passage applies to everyone.

There’s no mention of whether Shutt’s cited translation is the one Allen used, but the “worthy of death” phrase (in my Bible, it’s “deserve to die”) is simply a restating of a basic teaching of Christianity. Let’s hop on over to Romans 6:23. (But read the whole chapter because it’s amazing.) 
“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

This is the good news of Christianity! We’re all sinners who deserve death, but in Christ Jesus, we receive forgiveness and eternal life.

Ok, let's go through this without our beer googles on. In the first paragraph, Hemmingway offers a powerful defense against the charge that the Bible teaches us to condemn homosexuals to death, Hemingway cheerily points out that
Premise 1: The listing of every sin "indicts literally every single human on the planet." 
Conclusion: Therefore, it's not just "the gays" whose execution Christianity calls for, "it calls for the execution of everyone[!]".
Now, or course, the conclusion can't be right. It'd be hard to defend the view that Christianity calls for the death of everyone. Whew!

Next, however, we're confronted with the following "lines" from the Good Book.
[...] Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death [. . .].
or, as Hemingway points out, depending on your translation "worthy of death" could be "deserve to die".  And just in case you were unclear, deserving to die is good news(!)
"This is the good news of Christianity! We’re all sinners who deserve death, but in Christ Jesus, we receive forgiveness and eternal life.
So, let me get this straight. (At least) all the sins listed in the above "lines" make one deserve to die? Since we've removed our beer goggles, we should ask whether this is what we could expect from a reasonable ethical or legal theory.

Typically, in most human ethical and legal systems, when it comes to selecting punishments or moral blameworthiness we exercise the notion of proportionality.  A just punishment (or appraisal or blameworthiness) is one that is proportional to the severity of your crime. The view advanced here suggests that "being full of envy" or, heaven forbid "debate" are as equally worthy of deserving death as is someone who commits murder.
Judge: We've now entered the sentencing phase. We find Bob guilty of debate. For your crime you deserve to die. 
Imagine if our own justice system operated this way. God as judge is like a messed up Oprah: "You deserve to die! And you deserve to die! And you deserve to die! You all deserve to die!"

Such a view can only be taken seriously through the beer goggles of religion.

Now, to be fair, we needn't interpret this passage as God saying he will actually kill you for debating or disobeying your parents only that it makes you worthy of death.

Let's accept this beer goggle view of moral desert and see what else follows. Lately Christian apologists have been making an argument similar to Hemingway's.  Christians aren't especially against gays. "We don't rank sins" goes the clever refrain. "See! we don't hate gays, we treat all sin equally".

I think that's wonderful. So, on this view, they must also agree that if I own a bakery and a debater or disobedient child orders a cake, I can refuse service on those grounds. All sins are equal right? So, if it's OK for me to refuse service because of one type of sin, surely I must be able to refuse service for any other sin the offends my "deeply and sincerely" held belief.

Sometimes this comes across as genuine (albeit misguided) but usually it's a rhetorical ploy. Usually it just comes off like what this recent Pastor posted on the sign outside his church:
Homosexuals got shot down in Florida. It looks like God's wrath is about to start pouring down on the gays.

When asked for comment he used something like the above strategy. "We're not trying to kill them. I've had a lot of signs up here that homosexuals need to be saved but they didn't say anything about that one, the only thing I said here in this one is that God's wrath going to start being poured down on the gays."

Translation: I'm not going to actively kill them or promote that (see how full of love I am?) I'm just going to imply that they deserve to die. See! There's no hate for 'the gays' in my religion... If you find this repugnant yet find Hemingway's interpretation of scripture appealing, I'd like to know the difference between what the Pastor is saying and what scripture prescribes. 

Why I am the First Eagle of the Apocalypse
I am the First Eagle of the Apocalypse because I can see that "religious" "freedom" laws are incompatible with Christian apologetics towards gays.

Premise 1: Either sins are all equal or they are not.
Premise 2: If all sins are equal then (a) either people can refuse to serve anyone for trivial reasons or (b) we get rid of this religious "freedom" exemption.
Premise 3: If all sins are not equal (in a religions theology) and homosexuality is a grievous sin then the person making this claim cannot dodge the charge that their religion institutionalizes anti-gay practices, attitudes, and beliefs.
Conclusion: I am the First Eagle of the Apocalypse.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Gun Violence, Gun Legislation, and Why I am Jesus

I'm not even sure how to begin there's so much idiocy around this issue. Let me start by saying something often heard from the gun rights team. Mass shootings represent only a very small fraction of gun-related homicides (about 1% depending on the study you read). Even if we increase this number by a factor of 10 we're still only looking at 10% of gun-related homicides. From the point of view of policy then it makes sense to argue that preventing mass shootings shouldn't be the primary focus or starting point of gun policy. (Not to say it shouldn't at all be the focus of policy, only that there are perhaps better starting points, and lower hanging fruit).

Consider: Suppose policy aims to reduce mass shootings but not other forms of gun violence (primarily from hand guns). Even if that policy reduces mass shootings by 50%, of total gun homicides it's a hollow victory. If however policy reduces other homicides by just 10%, as an absolute number of lives saved, that policy is much more successful. (Assumption: gun violence policy ought to reduce total homicides and injury from guns).

Where do we begin then? How about reducing unintentional shootings, domestic abuse (with guns), and suicide (by guns)?


God damn it. I never said anyone's gonna take yur gunz. Sit down.

Here's the thing. The US is held hostage by radical gun culture. If you think for one second that any kind of restrictions on gun access (let alone a buy-back program) are going to pass both houses, you are as delusional as the guy in his homemade bunker waiting for Obama to put him in a FEMA camp to make him get gay-married under Shakira law.

My Solution
Gun violence is a public health problem. Let's treat it like we treat cigarettes. Have a public information campaign about the statistics of having a gun in your house. Lunatic gun culture fueled by gun producers and the NRA have succeeded in embedding the delusion that you and your loved ones are safer with a gun in the house than not. In fact, statistically you and they are not:

 For every time a gun in the home was used in a self-defense or legally justifiable shooting, there were four unintentional shootings, seven criminal assaults or homicides, and 11 attempted or completed suicides.

Domestic violence assaults involving a firearm are 12 times more likely to result in death than those involving other weapons or bodily force
Linda E. Saltzman, et al., Weapon Involvement and Injury Outcomes in Family and Intimate Assaults, 267 JAMA, 3043-3047 (1992)

Abused women are five times more likely to be killed by their abuser if the abuser owns a firearm

More than half of youth who committed suicide with a gun obtained the gun from their home, usually a parent’s gun.
U.S. children and teens made up 43 percent of all children and teens in top 26 high income countries but were 93 percent of all children and teens killed by guns. 
• In 2010, children and teen gun death rates in the U.S. were over four times higher than in Canada, the country with the next highest rate, nearly seven times higher than in Israel, and nearly 65 times higher than in the United Kingdom. 
• U.S. children and teens were 32 times more likely to die from a gun homicide and 10 times more likely to die from a gun suicide or a gun accident than all their peers in the other high-income countries combined. A child or teen dies or is injured from guns every 30 minutes. 
• 18,270 children and teens died or were injured from guns in 2010 
  o 1 child or teen died or was injured every 30 minutes. 
  o 50 children and teens died or were injured every day. 
  o 351 children and teens died or were injured every week. More children and teens die from guns every three days than died in the Newtown massacre. 
• 2,694 children and teens died from guns in 2010. 
  o 1 child or teen died every 3 hours and 15 minutes. 
  o 7 children and teens died every day, more than 20 every three days. 
  o 51 children and teens died every week. 
• The children and teens who died from guns in 2010 would fill 134 classrooms of 20 children. Guns are the second leading cause of death among children and teens ages 1-19 and the number one cause among Black children and teens. 
• Only motor vehicle accidents kill more children and teens every year. • White and Asian/Pacific Islander children and teens were nearly three times more likely, American Indian/Alaska Native children and teens more than two times as likely, and Hispanic children and teens one-and-a-half times more likely to be killed in a car accident than by a gun. 
• In contrast, Black children and teens were twice as likely to be killed by a gun than to be killed in a car accident.

Whachugonna do? Cuz I'm gonna give Obama my gunz...
So, just like with smoking, let people kill themselves and those closest to them if they insist on being irresponsible. That said, we can enact a public information campaign (just as we did with smoking) that owning a gun is, statistically, not a good choice if your goal is to protect you and your loved ones. Policy can, like with cigarettes, insist on warning labels. For example,

True Fact:"If you buy this gun you and the people you live with are much more likely to be shot than saved by your gun".

There can also be public information campaigns on various media platforms presenting the risks relative to the benefits.

The gun industry (like the tobacco industry) has worked hard to create the illusion that their product is good for you. People genuinely believe that by owning a gun they will be better off because they will be able to protect themselves and their family. Within the context of the information they've been given, their choice isn't unreasonable. They are in part correct. However, what the narrative misses is that everything comes with benefits AND risks.

So far the narrative presented to people contemplating owning a gun has been, like any marketing campaign, LOOK AT THE BENEFITS!!!111!!! However, a public information campaign can situate that benefit in its proper context; i.e., relative to the additional risks one takes on.

Notice that my solution doesn't require getting Obama to go door to door to take people's guns. We're just giving people better information.

Yes, of course, the hard core gun lovers won't change their behavior. Their choices were never the product of deliberation to begin with. But for the reasonable person who buys the gun because of the distorted narrative, the one who thinks buying the gun genuinely will make their family safer, they will now have better information from which to make a decision.

I am Jesus because my proposed policy
(a) while modest, primarily addresses one of the largest source of gun death and injury rather than the smallest and so stands to have the greatest impact.
(b) doesn't propose the politically implausible policy of restricting access all guns no matter how deadly (cuz what if I need to protect myself from Obama).
(c) avoids coercion by placing trust in those well-meaning reasonable members of the public who have been mislead by gun propaganda.