Phil Harriman (left) and Ethan Strimling (right). Credit: Gabor Degre / BDN

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Ethan: Do you know what the Atlanta and Boulder shooters have in common?

Phil: Serious mental health issues.

Ethan: As with 48 percent of the guns used in crimes in America, theirs were purchased legally. Neither the shooter in Atlanta nor Boulder had to go into some back alley, or sneak across a border, or steal from some drug lord to get their guns. They obtained them 100 percent legally.

Phil: More evidence that even the most well-intentioned gun laws, like the background check both shooters passed, didn’t fix this problem.

Ethan: More evidence that we have always made it way too easy in this country to buy weapons of mass destruction. Imagine if all we required of people to buy bombs was a clean criminal record?

Phil: I am as sick as you over what happened, but even if the U.S. Senate passes the two gun control bills currently in front of them, neither would have done anything to prevent these attacks.

Ethan: True, however, if a ban on assault weapons, a two-week waiting period on all sales, and a magazine limit of 10 bullets had been in place, both of the shooters would have been stopped or slowed in their tracks.

Phil: You have no way of knowing that. Looking backwards is easy, but criminals always find a way.

Ethan: That’s simply not true. Before 9/11, box cutters were allowed on airplanes and the cockpit was unlocked. Now the opposite is true and terrorists are no longer hijacking planes into buildings.

Phil: Let’s take your proposals one at a time. A ban on assault weapons won’t work today any better than it did in the 1990s. Either you are creating a law so broad that it deeply curtails constitutional rights, or it is so littered with loopholes that anyone with a screwdriver can get around it.

Ethan: That is just a red herring. The assault weapons ban in the U.S. was effective and Australia, New Zealand, and Canada have all successfully banned assault weapons. In fact, Australia banned theirs 25 years ago and have had zero shootings with assault weapons since. Now tell me how you justify opposing a two-week waiting period?

Phil: As you know, I am a bird hunter. Let’s say I have a trip planned up north and two days before I leave my shotgun jams and I can’t fix it. Under your scenario, I would have to wait two weeks to buy a replacement.

Ethan: I am quite sure you have more than one shotgun to take duck hunting. But, even if you didn’t, is your duck hunting trip more important than the lives of the 18 people killed in Colorado and Georgia? The Atlanta shooter bought his gun within hours of using it and the Boulder shooter six days.

Phil: If I thought some greater good was being served, I might make it. But, more likely, your proposal would have no impact on violence. Either the shooters wait (the Mandalay Bay shooter spent a year buying his guns), or they buy it on the black market. You believe this legislation will change the behavior of a criminal or mentally unwell person. I’m unconvinced.

Ethan: And what’s your reason for allowing people to buy magazines with more than 10 bullets? The Atlanta shooter had a gun that holds up to 18 cartridges and the Boulder shooter’s gun could hold 30. Do hunters really need 30 rounds to take down a duck?

Phil: It is typically illegal to duck hunt with more than three shells, and in some places five. Which is fine by me, so, actually, of all your proposals, I could probably live with this one. Again, I don’t think it will do much, but if it somehow makes you feel safer, have at it.

Ethan: We fundamentally disagree that these provisions are simply to feel safe. I believe all three combined, as well as universal background checks, will make this country dramatically safer.

Phil: And once you enact these changes, and we see they have virtually no impact, will you finally admit that the problem is mental health and not the guns?

Ethan: Sure. We enact these changes and we see no impact, I will be all in. Until then, let’s make gun violenece as rare as bombings.