Some thoughts on Gun Control

It’s not black and white.

On Facebook today, yet another one of my friends was ranting about the need for gun control. He especially took offense to the “cars kill more people” argument, which I agree is pretty idiotic. Of course, I chimed in.

Truth is, neither guns nor cars kill people. People kill people. A gun (or a car) sitting on its own won’t kill anyone. It takes someone to pull the trigger (or drive carelessly) to kill.

My friend lashed out against the people who say that with gun control, only the bad guys will have guns. I’m one of those people. Sadly, I believe that the bad guys and wackos will continue to be able to get guns, no matter what the law says is allowed.

How about some Facts?

I then mentioned an article I’d read a while back that reported on studies that have shown that in cities where tough gun control laws were enacted, gun-related crime went up. I didn’t have the link handy, and someone immediately accused me of quoting the NRA. So I tracked down the link, which I’d bookmarked in Delicious — indeed, it appeared in the list of Interesting Links here back in January. The piece is called “More God, Less Crime or More Guns, Less Crime?” and it reviews two books that look at the relationship between religion and crime and gun control and crime. Because it’s a lot harder for Facebook users to click a link and read an article than simply click a “Like” button, I included the three key paragraphs to support my argument:

Take Washington, D.C. Before the ban on handguns was implemented in August of 1976, DC ranked 20th in murder rates out of the top 50 cities in America. After the gun ban, DC shot up to either #1 or #2, where year after year it held steady as “the murder capital of the nation,” as it as dubbed by the media. As a control experiment of sorts, after the Supreme Court decision in the Heller case overturned the DC gun ban, murder rates dropped and have continued to fall ever since. According to Lott, whose data is based primarily on crime statistics provided by the FBI, once the gun ban was lifted, homicide rates plummeted 42.1%, sexual assault rates dropped 14.9%, robbery excluding guns dropped 34.3%, robbery with guns plunged 58%, assault with a dangerous weapon excluding guns sank 11%, assault with a dangerous weapon using guns tumbled 35.6%, and total violent crime nosedived 31%, along with total property crimes decreasing a total of 10.7%.

Chicago showed a similar effect, Lott demonstrated. Ever since the gun ban was implemented in 1982, no year has been as low in crimes as it was before the ban. Island nations (which serve as good tests, Lott says, because their borders are more tightly controlled from extraneous variables) demonstrate the same effect: Jamaica and Ireland homicide rates increased after gun bans were imposed. Ditto England and Wales: After a gun ban was imposed in January of 1997, homicide rates slowly climbed and peaked at an average of 28% higher after the ban. (By dramatic contrast, Lott said that in 1900 London in which people were free to do whatever they wanted with their guns, there were a grand total of 2 gun-related deaths and 5 armed robberies in a population of many millions, and this was 20 years before gun laws began going into effect in 1920.)

Why do more guns mean less crime? Lott offers a very practical explanation: it is extremely hard to keep criminals from getting and keeping guns. In other words, Gun bans are primarily obeyed by non-criminals. Criminals that already have guns do not turn them in, and potential criminals that want to get guns have no problem procuring them on the street illegally. Lott cited several studies by criminologists who interviewed criminals in jail and collected data on the amount of time they spend casing a home before burglarizing it. In the U.K., where gun bans are much more prevalent than in the U.S., the criminals reported that they spend very little time casing a joint and that they don’t really care if someone is home or not because they know the residents won’t be armed (whereas they, of course, are armed). Their U.S. counterparts, by contrast, reported spending more than double the time casing a home before robbing it, explaining that they were waiting for the residents to leave. Why? They said that they were worried they would be shot.

More Guns, Less CrimeAnyone truly interested in taking a different, fact-based look at the gun control argument should probably track down John Lott’s book, More Guns, Less Crime. Or keep ranting without the facts. Whatever.

But Assault Weapons?

Don’t get me wrong — I don’t think anyone should have an assault rifle. That’s not what the founding fathers were thinking about when they penned the Bill of Rights. The Second Amendment was written in a time when armed militias were needed to protect small towns. Part of our gripe with Britain at the end of the 18th century is that they wanted us disarmed so they could control us. The Second Amendment was written, in part, to prevent the government from having the ability to do that. And I’m sure that came in handy in 1812 when the British came back for a second try.

Sadly, the NRA and Second Amendment proponents have twisted that around to say we have the right to bear any weapon. I really don’t think that’s what was intended.

Aurora

What happened in Aurora is simple. A freaking nut job legally got his hands on guns and, in his deluded mind, carried out some sort of mission which involved killing a lot of innocent people. No gun control law would have prevented him from getting guns if he wanted them badly enough.

Or maybe he would have built a bomb or — to take my Facebook friend’s analogy a step further — used an SUV as a ramming speed killing machine at an outdoor event. The problem wasn’t the guns as much as it was the person who held them.

Guns don’t kill; people kill.

Thinking about Gun Control

I have some pretty strong thoughts and feelings about gun control — and oddly enough, they’re from both sides of the argument. In other words, I’m not for it or against it. I do think something needs to be done, but I don’t know what it is.

What’s the solution? I don’t know. I don’t think there is one. But anyone following the Aurora story should know that gun permit requests and gun purchases have gone up in Colorado in the past week. I think that says something about how people really feel about guns.

And several fellow Arizonans truly believe that if this had happened in Arizona, all the gun-toting “patriots” there would have put this guy down before too many people were hurt or killed — and saved taxpayers a lot of money on legal proceedings in the process.

I don’t know what the answer is. Without all the facts, how could I know? How could anyone?

But until I do, I’m certainly not willing to step out on a limb and support any policy that might make matters worse.

June 30, 2014 Update
I’ve finally gotten around to writing up the site comment policy on a regular page (rather than post) on this site. You can find it here: Comment Policy.

Message to Commenters: This is a hot topic where people easily fly off the handle. Don’t let your passion on this subject convince you that it’s okay to attack others who do not agree. This site’s comment policy will be fully enforced; if you can’t be civil, don’t waste your time commenting here.

7 thoughts on “Some thoughts on Gun Control

  1. Absolutely agree… should not have a knee jerk reaction to ban guns without careful consideration of all aspects

  2. Maria, hope everything is going well for you. I fully agree with you on this subject and would just like to add something I seen the other day. With all the new guns being bought and new permits issued I wanted to stress the issue of understanding how to carry a handgun, esp in states with a non concealed law. Those that have never professionally carried a handgun might not understand the issues involved with proper retention techniques. The other day I watched a guy carry a loaded and cocked handgun on his left hip, his holster did not have any strap that covered the top of the weapon and had no other forms of retention built into it. The guy was walking around talking on his phone with his left hand and his gun was fully exposed. I walked with a foot of him and could have easily removed the gun.

    While I fully believe that everyone has the RIGHT to carry a weapon and I appreciated that someone has taken it upon themselves to protect themselves and their family, statistics show that many people are shot by their own guns after having them taken away from them.

    So if anyone decides that they want to carry, please invest in a good retention holster and learn how to use it. Take some classes from trained law enforcement or other professionals on how to retain the gun in case someone tries to take it from you.

    • Too many people don’t think about the consequences of owning or carrying a gun. They think it’s cool, they think they’re exercising their rights. They don’t think that their gun could be taken away from them to cause harm or be found on a shelf or in a drawer by a child who doesn’t understand that real bullets really kill.

      One possible answer to these problems might be to require permits for all guns and require continuing education to keep them. But then we’d be creating a whole new level of law-breakers — people who bought guns legally but failed to keep up to date with permit requirements. It never ends.

  3. It is a very emotive subject, and one which we find hard to understand on this side of the pond (Britain). I have to agree that I suspect the founding fathers of the USA did not intend the sort of weapon being carried now to be so carried when they created the right to bear arms.

    However the last thing you want, as with any event of the magnitude of Aurora, is a knee jerk reaction. A reasoned debate which leads to safer communities (whose rights are not infringed) would be a much better credit to those who sadly lost their lives.

    All I would say, is that you will never ever stop lunatics and mentally ill people doing this sort of thing entirely. It’s an impossibility.

    We have some of the strictest firearms licensing regimes in the world in the UK (put simply: you can’t have one unless you’ve got good cause (farmer etc), and even then no hand guns and nothing automatic), however we still have atrocities here:

    Dunblane Massacre: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dunblane_school_massacre

    Raoul Moat:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2010_Northumbria_Police_manhunt

    It’s a very tricky issue, but banning all guns may not be the answer. A thought out, reasoned discussion about what your society really wants, will be. Exceptions will always occur.

  4. One of the best anti-gun control arguments I’ve ever heard is from Australia. They have one of the strictest gun control policies in the world (not sure how they are relative to the UK, but I think they’re about on par). Unfortunately, their gun control debate is, if anything, even more politicized than the one here in the US, and from what I know, basically no studies have been done in any attempt to track the cost/benefit of any of their policies. One thing that can be tracked, which is something that pro-gun control people always mention, is the number of gun suicides, which has decreased since the most recent tightening. However, they don’t mention the fact that suicide by other forms has increased, basically maintaining the total number. The murder rate decreased briefly, then returned to its previous level.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gun_control_in_Australia#External_links
    (The article is on Wiki, and so can’t be trusted, but the link collection is extensive, hence the direct link there-to).

    For myself, as anti-gun control as I am, the level of gun control (or lack thereof) where I live worries me a little bit and, according to the Brady Campaign, is not even one of the least restrictive states. While being able to walk in to a store with my necessary ID (not a gun license, just a photo ID and separate proof of residency), and walk out within two hours with whatever I care to spend the money for is nice, I worry a little bit about the people who maybe shouldn’t be getting the weapons that could.

    Fairly shortly before the Aurora tragedy, an attempted crime was foiled by a legally armed citizen. Two armed men entered an internet cafe with the intention of robbing it and its patrons. The aforementioned citizen was able to force the two men to flee the scene by force. The whole thing was caught on video
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/18/samuel-williams-duwayne-henderson-davis-dawkins-internet-cafe-shooting_n_1682519.html

What do you think?