Do Guns Belong In Our Society?
Allow me to begin by stating that I am not a conservative at all. As a matter of fact, I consider myself to be a moderate. Gun control is a controversial subject in America. People on both sides of the issue are very passionate about their positions, and the debate has been going on for a long time. Recently, the issue has resurfaced in the wake of three mass shootings toward the end of 2012. I will discuss my standpoint on this issue with this article.
I would like to begin by stating that I am not a part of the National Rifle Association (NRA), and I certainly do not align myself with their political views. I do agree with them on one thing; guns are not a bad thing inherently. Guns are tools we use for various purposes. Although guns are designed to kill, killing is sometimes justifiable. We defend our homes, important figures, important material, and our freedom with guns. No one complained when the colonists overthrew the tyrannical British government toward the end of the eighteenth century. When the Libyan rebels wanted to overthrow Gaddafi, the number main things they asked for from NATO were weapons and ammunition. Without the air superiority provided by the NATO coalition and the arms we provided the Libyan rebels, they never would have gotten their freedom. The Libyan government was perfectly content with utilizing tanks and strafing unarmed rebels in the open fields. Weapons and ammunition is certainly how the thirteen colonies won their freedom from the British. It is one thing to declare independence, but another thing to actually earn it. This is why the first thing governments do when they want to exploit a people is disarm them.
We safeguard important things and people in society with firearms. No one complains that bank money is defended with armed guards, except perhaps bank robbers. As a citizen who uses banks to hold my money, I am glad that banks utilize armed guards to protect the money. We guard important figures such as the President, foreign diplomats, entertainers, athletes, etc. with armed guards. Why should the average citizen not be able to guard themselves? No one blinks an eye at the president receiving armed protection, so it seems a bit hypocritical of someone to say it is okay for the president and his children to be guarded by armed men, but deny the right to the individual (not saying Obama is saying this). I would hate to live in a country in which the only people with guns were the police, military, and criminals. I would like to be able to defend myself, and the right to defend one’s self is a natural right.
Suppose you are sleeping in your home, and you hear a loud crashing noise somewhere in your home. You quickly realize there is an intruder. What will you do? A man may say something along the lines of fight, or use a weapon such as a baseball bat. This may or may not work, but what about smaller individuals or women? What about a teenager left home for the weekend? Are they supposed to fight a 250 lb man with fists only? While this may seem extreme, it is not all that uncommon. (see Melinda Herman of Loganville, GA) There are areas of our beloved country where crime is rampant, which makes this scenario not so far fetched. Examples of alternatives to guns include baseball bats, tasers, pepper spray, and knives. Would you rather have one of those, or a firearm to protect yourself? If we examine each of those alternatives individually, we will notice major drawbacks in each of those alternatives.
A knife is a deadly weapon. However, it requires the wielder to draw close within arms reach of the attacker. Not only is this dangerous, it allows for the attacker to possibly disarm you. Also, someone who has been stabbed may still be able to fight for a while, as it will take a while for the blood loss to hamper their efforts (unless it immediately kills the assailant). Pepper spray fails for the same reasons, and does nothing to actually incapacitate the attacker. A baseball bat works well, but you would still have to get fairly close and requires a decent amount of strength to be effective. It also is long, meaning it is tricky to use in tighter spaces. A taser is probably the best choice for women, except that you will not get more than one attempt to shock the intruder. A miss will be devastating to your chances. Not only that, some larger individuals may require more than one shock to bring down. A gun is clearly superior to all of those weapons.
Gun control advocates may respond by saying that a gun ban would keep the gun out of the intruder’s possession as well. A criminal is a criminal for a reason, and would not likely follow the law that bans the firearm. Often, the criminal uses illegal means to even obtain the firearm in the first place. Thus, the assailant is empowered by the ban, whereas the law-abiding citizen is put at a significant disadvantage. Ever wonder why schools are targeted for shootings so much? This is at least in part due to schools being weapon-free zones. A criminal or madman will exploit this weakness, and inflict maximum damage before the police show up. The average response time of police is roughly fifteen minutes. Being unarmed for fifteen minutes against an armed individual is an uneasy prospect for me. If guns were not a deterrent to violent crime, why is it that virtually no one assaults a police station? The chances of success would be virtually nil. The police would outgun the assailant too much, and it would be doomed for failure.
This is why gun-free zones are dangerous. I am aware that sounds counterintuitive, but allow me to explain. The NRA pointed this out in the wake of the tragedy in Connecticut last year. They explained how gun-free zones give a killer the green light to begin slaughtering folks. Did you know that every mass shooting since 1950 with the exception of one was in a gun-free zone? The lone exception was the shooting in Tuscon, AZ, back in January of 2011, when Gabrielle Giffords and 18 other people were shot. I understand the need for gun-free zones. Businesses cannot be open in places where there is the threat of gunfire on a consistent basis. It is a sticky situation, but it is something to think about. It is obvious mass shooters are emboldened by the fact that they are the only gun in the area for at least a few minutes. The shooters usually take their own lives when they realize that another gun is on them. They give up their onslaught when they are outgunned.
A ban on firearms would be an irresponsible thing, and I do not think many politicians will get on board with that idea. Not only would it gut the firearm industry, but a black market would rise up to fill that void. But those points are not as important as the fact that gun bans simply don’t work. Let us take a look at Britain’s violent crime numbers. Not only do they have more violent crimes per 100,000 people than we do, but people actually die to guns. This highlights the point that a gun ban cannot keep guns away from 100% of people. In the US, we have 186 urban centers with populations over 250,000, which is where much of the violent crime comes from in developed nations. Britain has 32 urban centers with populations over 250,000. Yet why do they have violent crime at a rate that is 3.5 times higher than ours (with about 17% of the amount of urban centers that we have)? That is completely disproportionate to us. Less people do die to guns, but more people are victims of violent crime by a substantial amount. Britain is the most violent country in Europe, which shows that a gun ban does nothing to slow violence. Let’s move to Asia. China also bans guns, and still has gun related deaths; at a higher rate than Britain actually. Also, that is how the government is able to walk all over the citizens there. It is not because they are communist, as that does not inherently make the people helpless to them. They have disarmed the populace, which allows for easy exploitation of the people. I am not saying that the Chinese government just mistreats anyone and everyone all the time, but they are known for human rights violations worldwide. Ever wonder how the people of China don’t seem to get some of the same liberties we have? To put it simply, they cannot fight for said liberties.
On the flip side of that coin, Israel has armed teachers. They are capable of defending their most precious citizens, and have much lower gun violence than the United States (1.86 people per 100,000 die to guns in Israel compared to 10.2 people per 100,000 in the US). I am not suggesting that we arm teachers, but the point is made that people generally have self-control and do not want to end their own lives over some temporary anger (insanity is different). Mexico has much tougher gun laws in place than us, yet 11.14 per 100,000 die in gun-related incidents. We can also look at the example of Switzerland. Most males over the age of 18 are issued a semiautomatic rifle. Know what their statistics are looking like? They have some of the lowest violent crime rates in the world. This demonstrates that a society can be armed, and violence can be at a minimum. If tougher guns laws work, then why is there data that shows otherwise? While I understand correlation is not causation, the correlation shows that gun control does not prevent gun violence or violent crime in general.
If you feel as though comparing the United States to other countries makes invalid comparisons, then let us take a look domestically. Two major cities that rank near the top of violent crime and gun violence in general are Chicago and WashingtonD.C. Both of them have or had total bans on guns. In 2011, Chicago had 435 homicides due to firearms. As of mid October of 2012, they had 438 homicides due to guns. This means in 2011, 1.19 people died everyday in Chicago because of gun violence. Gangs are rampant in Chicago, and drive this number up greatly. Since gang members are criminals anyway, they will disregard gun laws to have a fighting chance in the streets. Combined with the law-abiding citizens’ compliance with local law, this creates an imbalance of power where the gangs and police are the most powerful members of the city. Ask any person that has lived or currently resides in urban Chicago how bad it is (try a funeral a week in some instances).
Speaking of crime and bans, remember in your history class about Prohibition in the 1920’s with the 18th Amendment? In case you don’t, here is the breakdown: politicians thought alcohol had to be banned. So they did ban alcohol. In response to this ban, gangs of bootleggers rose up and made their own alcohol. This not only fueled a black market for alcohol, it increased violence. The gangs quickly began to compete over turf, and the conflicts were often very bloody. The St. Valentines Day Massacre was a direct result of this. If there were no guns, I am sure the gangs would have been killing each other with other weapons. Speaking of other weapons, 4074 murders were committed in 2011 by other means.
Knives or cutting instruments account for 1,689 of those. 728 (double the amount of rifle deaths) people were murdered by natural weapons (hands, feet, etc.), and 1,657 people were murdered with other weapons. This is according to the FBI’s website. I encourage you to look at the data tables yourself. In many states, firearm murders account for roughly half or even less than half of murders.
For the past couple of decades, gun violence has actually decreased dramatically in America. In each year after 2007, the gun-related deaths decreased from the previous year. Again, I encourage you to look at the data yourself. There were 2,252 less homicides in 2011 than in 2007, and this is amid the recession we faced, coupled with a higher population. Justifiable homicide (self-defense) has remained fairly constant in that five year period. If you piece this together, you will conclude that there are less aggressive gun attacks in this country, and the trend in continuing. Other types of murder have remained more consistent or even have become more common. Poisoning, fire, explosives, drowning, and asphyxiations are some types of murder that have not decreased with the general trend of firearms and knives. This seems to indicate that people can and will kill people in other ways.
Gun control advocates often state that the 2nd Amendment is outdated and needs to be either changed or nullified by another amendment. Their arguments usually state that the state of the world has changed and we do not need a militia or to use guns to do anything. A gun’s purpose is to kill, right? Those statements are true, but open the door for slippery slopes in taking away other rights. Every human being has a right to defend themselves. I believe most people agree with that statement. The 2nd Amendment solidifies that right for every individual within our borders. A lesser known fact is that the 2nd Amendment was also enacted to help keep a tyrannical government from preying on the citizens of our nation. Admittedly, the US military is packing much more than Jim and John in Alabama, but throughout history all governments have been more hesitant or completely deterred from attacking an armed populace. Look at India when they tried to gain independence from Britain. Examine the civil rights movement in the 1960’s, just 50 years ago. The police brutalized unarmed protesters all the time. The 2nd Amendment is important to us for several reasons, which is why it is the 2nd Amendment. It was apparently more important to the Founding Fathers than eight other amendments on the Bill of Rights. “Armed people are free. No state can control those who have the machinery and the will to resist, no mob can take their liberty and property. And no 220-pound thug can threaten the well-being or dignity of a 110-pound woman who has two pounds of iron to even things out … People who object to weapons aren’t abolishing violence, they’re begging for rule by brute force, when the biggest, strongest animals among men were always automatically right. Guns ended that, and a social democracy is a hollow farce without an armed populace to make it work”. – L. Neil Smith (from The Probability Broach).
After several mass shootings this year, the media went on a frenzy to get guns banned, or at least slap additional restrictions on gun ownership. In their mission, the editors and writers of various articles showed their ignorance on the whole subject of guns. Phrases such as “assault magazine” and “assault rifle” were common. Assault magazines do not exist, and most non-bolt action rifles are actually low-caliber. Fully automatic rifles are hard to come by since gun manufacturers realized that a three-round burst or semi-automatic fire was more efficient. Weapons that do not fit those categories are already illegal for a common citizen to have. The media would also say a .223 caliber is one of the strongest calibers, which is actually quite the opposite. Generally speaking, the smaller the number, the weaker the caliber. Politicians are also guilty of this. Do you really want a group of people ignorant on the subject making policy decisions for the whole nation? What is good for someone in North Dakota may not necessarily be good for someone in Mississippi. This is why the federal government should look to another amendment, the 10th Amendment, for guidance. The 10th Amendment gives states rights for many issues. This is an issue in which states should have the power to decide on policy, instead of the federal government.
I understand that Sandy Hook was an especially emotional tragedy that shook the whole nation. Even I was enraged that someone could be that twisted as to murder 20 innocent children, in addition to 6 adults. However, we should not have a knee-jerk reaction to such an event. Thinking with emotions makes us human, but doing so also can lead to logical errors. We should not enact legislation based off of how we feel, but facts, figures, and good ole fashioned common sense. I had a friend killed by a drunk driver back in 2006, as he was coming home from the studio. I saw him just a few hours before he was killed, and it really hurt me. I was emotional. However, banning alcohol, cars, or both is irrational and stupid quite frankly. Why should we ban guns, when more people die in alcohol-related deaths? More children die from drowning in swimming pools and playing on trampolines than gun violence. If one truly cares about the safety and well-being of the masses, then one ought to focus on those issues as well. Should government ban pools and trampolines as well?
In the immediate aftermath of the Sandy Hook shooting, people started saying how they would like stricter background checks, bans on high-capacity magazines, bans on assault rifles, concealment licenses, and better access to mental healthcare. Stricter background checks can be employed, but how can you enforce that during private firearm transactions? What if someone had a violent incident when they were young, and as a responsible adult years later, attempted to purchase a firearm to protect his or her family? Should they be denied? It is impossible to know who is crazy and who is not. I hear a lot about getting better access to mental healthcare. This sounds awesome. Who will pay for it? Taxpayers? Who provides the healthcare? Government? Where were all of you six months ago before the shooting at Sandy Hook took place? Not many people were hitting the internet and writing congressional representatives about making mental healthcare more accessible. Many of these people are the same ones who do not support “Obamacare”. This cannot be had both ways.
As far as a ban on high-capacity magazines, that too would just protect the criminals and unstable people. The law-abiding citizen would be limited to a lower round count, while the criminal can just let loose. Besides, magazines are quite simple to make. Thus, banning them would be quite useless as there would be access to the information somewhere. If the government begins to censor said information, then they would then be infringing on First Amendment Rights (see the trend?). Banning assault weapons was done once before, with no effect in preventing firearm homicide. As a matter of fact, since the ban was allowed to expire, rifle violence has decreased. Of all the murders that were a result of firearms in 2011, less than 4% were due to rifles of any kind. This includes but is not limited to “assault rifles”. Even if there was legislation enacted to ban firearms, how would it be enforced? Door-to-door confiscation? That sounds like a tricky endeavor. This assumes people will be honest and give up their rifles. If you begin to search a person’s home, questions about the 4th Amendment will begin to rise. There is no really good way the government can even justify such a ban. If you really want to get to the root of the problem of gun violence, see where the violence is coming from and determine what weapons are being used. It certainly isn’t rifles. The vast majority of firearm homicide was due to handguns in 2011 (72.4%). Many handguns are illegally obtained and concealed by gang members in inner cities. If we can try to eliminate some of the conditions that foster gangs, then we can make a serious dent in our violence problem.
Concealed weapons are another target of gun control advocates. Concealed weapons make it easier to kill people right? On the surface, it does seem that way. However, concealment licenses are at approximately 8 million in this nation, a high point in the history of our nation. Combine this with historically low violent crime rates, and you can see that violent crime has not risen in proportion to the increase in those with concealment licenses. In addition, those with concealment licenses commit crime at a lower rate than the general population. This makes sense, if someone is willing to go through the long and arduous process of getting a concealment license, why would they commit crimes with that new power? If they wanted to commit crimes from the beginning, they would not go about the process legally in the first place.
Of course, the media spins the stories they report. Mass shootings will get more ratings than many other stories, so the media will spend a large amount of time covering these stories, especially the “assault rifle” ones. Understandably, the shock value of these types of stories is high and people deserve to know. However, the media will rarely cover a story in which a lunatic is stopped by another armed individual (unless the armed individual is a policeman). If the story does get media coverage, it will not be front page news most of time. All this attention to mass shootings does is line the pockets of firearm merchants and manufacturers. When people hear a story like that, they are not foolish enough to think that it cannot happen to them or their loved ones. They want to protect what they have, and go out in droves to purchase a firearm. If the masses don’t believe in guns as a viable defense, why are they purchasing them? Semi auto rifles are flying off the shelves faster than the other types of firearms. It seems people are saying things like ban guns, but are playing it safe by purchasing them.
One may want to know what my suggestion is for curbing gun violence. I believe that nothing should change legislatively, but education on guns should be a priority for the masses. The government cannot force a citizen to do much, but I believe that every person should take a basic safety course on firearms, even if they do not plan on purchasing one. The Caddo Parrish in Louisiana is offering children between the ages of 8-12 shooting classes through the local police department. This is a wonderful idea. Young children need to be educated about guns, to keep the curiosity and ignorance out of their lives. This will help avoid accidental firearm-related deaths. Unfortunately, we live in a somewhat violent society, and I’m sure everyone wants to protect themselves and their families. There are many theories about why the US is so violent. No one really knows why, but comparing our violent crime numbers in absolute terms is a huge mistake. We have one of the larger populations in the world, so our numbers will be larger in absolute terms. If everyone was packing some heat, then violent crime will be less likely. In places around the world that employ this tactic, violent crime is relatively low among developed nations. A gun puts everyone on equal footing, and denying this equal footing is perhaps the biggest tyranny of all.
Although the recent shootings have been extremely tragic, let us not jump the gun (no pun intended) and give our rights away for the reckless and misguided actions of a very small minority. Banning “assault weapons” or high-capacity magazines can put us on a slippery slope for the federal government to ban other things, and take more rights from us. Do not allow fear to make the choice for you; if you do, you have already lost your freedom.
Now, for some quotes:
“Americans have the right and advantage of being armed – unlike the citizens of other countries whose governments are afraid to trust the people with arms.” – James Madison
“A sword never kills anybody; it is a tool in the killer’s hand.” – Lucius Annaeus Seneca, c. 4BC – 65AD.
“Among the many misdeeds of the British rule in India, history will look upon the act of depriving a whole nation of arms, as the blackest” – Mahatma Gandhi, in Gandhi, An Autobiography, p. 446
“The usual road to slavery is that first they take away your guns, then they take away your property, then last of all they tell you to shut up and say you are enjoying it.” – James A. Donald
“After a shooting spree, they always want to take the guns away from the people who didn’t do it. I sure as hell wouldn’t want to live in a society where the only people allowed guns are the police and the military.” – William S. Burroughs
“The best we can hope for concerning the people at large is that they be properly armed.” – Alexander Hamilton
“When they took the 4th Amendment, I was quiet because I didn’t deal drugs. When they took the 6th Amendment, I was quiet because I am innocent. When they took the 2nd Amendment, I was quiet because I don’t own a gun. Now they have taken the 1st Amendment, and I can only be quiet.” – Lyle Myhr
“The police can’t stop an intruder, mugger, or stalker from hurting you. They can pursue him only after he has hurt or killed you. Protecting yourself from harm is your responsibility, and you are far less likely to be hurt in a neighborhood of gun owners than in one of disarmed citizens – even if you don’t own a gun yourself.” – Harry Browne
“Gun control? It’s the best thing you can do for crooks and gangsters. I want you to have nothing. If I’m a bad guy, I’m always gonna have a gun. Safety locks? You will pull the trigger with a lock on, and I’ll pull the trigger. We’ll see who wins.” – Sammy “The Bull” Gravano, whose testimony convicted John Gotti
“Switzerland is a land where crime is virtually unknown, yet most Swiss males are required by law to keep in their homes what amounts to a portable, personal machine gun.” –Tom Clancy
“Gun bans don’t disarm criminals, gun bans attract them.” – Walter Mondale
“Laws that forbid the carrying of arms… disarm only those who are neither inclined nor determined to commit crimes… Such laws make things worse for the assaulted and better for the assailants; they serve rather to encourage than to prevent homicides, for an unarmed man may be attacked with greater confidence than an armed man.” – Thomas Jefferson’s “Commonplace Book,” 1774-1776, quoting from On Crimes and Punishment, by criminologist Cesare Beccaria, 1764
“Criminals obey ‘gun control’ laws in the same manner politicians follow their oaths of office.” – Anonymous
And I like to say, “I would rather have a gun and not need it, than need a gun and not have it.”