Many Americans cannot understand the passion many of us feel to allow the people in this country to right to bear arms. The argument is advanced that in civilized countries that right must be abandoned in order to create a peaceful society bereft of the violence often associated with the culture of weapons.
First of all, let’s get this one annoying fact (to opponents of guns) out of the way in our discussion. The second Amendment to the Constitution, which is totally ignored in arguments by people who hate guns, states very clearly that,
“…the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.”
Now why do you think the Founding Fathers added this amendment in 1789? Was it because they were warmongers or violent people? Hardly. It was because they were able to throw off the tyranny of King George only because most citizens owned guns for hunting and personal protection. The consensus, and the reason for the second Amendment, was because they recognized that if the people did not possess guns, a tyrannical government could ride rough shod over the people. At least by possessing guns, the people could fight back if it became necessary.
In 1993, Congress passed the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act. The Brady Act, as it is known, imposed as an interim measure a waiting period of 5 days before a licensed importer, manufacturer, or dealer may sell, deliver, or transfer a handgun to an unlicensed individual. President Bill Clinton said, “I would close the gun show loophole, because the Brady bill has worked superbly. It’s given us a 35 percent drop in gun crime and a 31 year low in the homicide rate, and kept a half a million people — felons, fugitives, stalkers, from getting handguns.” California, which has had at least a five-day waiting period for handgun purchases since 1965, experienced a greater decrease in its homicide rate (17.5%), in 1998, than the rest of the nation (7.4%). Conversely, the American Medical Association stated that, “Our analyses provide no evidence that implementation of the Brady Act was associated with a reduction in homicide rates. In particular, we find no differences in homicide or firearm homicide rates to adult victims in the 32 treatment states directly subject to the Brady Act provisions compared with the remaining control states.”
It is true that a number of first world countries like Great Britain have banned guns. In the four years after Great Britain banned handguns in 1996, gun crime rose by 40%, while Australia encountered a 51% increase in armed robberies after their 1996 ban went into affect. Of interest, however, Great Britain plans to introduce a National ID card in 2008. Only time will tell about that experiment in social engineering. Fortunately, for Great Britain, they possess a culture that dates to almost biblical times, as opposed to the short history of the United States. I suspect that the English people will eyeball the continuing erosion of their civil liberties, under the ruse of fighting terrorism, with great trepidation. It is also true that countries, like Russia, which has banned guns since the communist revolution of 1917, have murder rates several times higher than western nations. But the reality of the situation is that Russia has always been a brutal society with a history of violence that extends back to the days of the Czars and the Cossacks. Even Brazil, which has banned handguns, has a murder rate four times higher that the United States.
“Guns don’t kill people. People kill people.”
Yes, would it not be wonderful if guns would never be needed anywhere within the world. But we don’t live in a Utopian society as evidenced by the tragic events of September 11, 2001 and the ongoing wars against terrorism around the planet. Add to that the ongoing nationalistic wars fought by native peoples. Banning guns, on the surface, seems like a reasonable argument if you don’t consider all of the valid arguments both pro and con on the issue, and you bury your head in the sand by assuming that the government will always be protective and not tyrannical towards the people. Not only that, but rarely do you read in the new media about the mothers who were able to rescue their children from kidnappers because they had a handgun. In Pittsburgh, a man who had raped and brutally beaten six women met his match when the seventh woman he attempted to rape shot him with her gun.
One argument that strongly advances the rights of citizens to bear arms is the ability for people to fend off thieves and burglars in their place of business and their homes. Let us not forget that the police can’t sit on your doorstep 24 hours a day to protect you. If the crooks know you have weapons on the premises, they are far less likely to rob you. And if you personally have a face-to-face encounter with a burglar within the confines of your home, you are within your rights to blow (oh, horrors!) the son-of-a-bitch away.
I recall watching a TV show that was trumpeting the ban on guns, when they interviewed 10 convicts who had been convicted of serious felonies, in which they all used a gun to perpetrate their crime. The well-meaning commentator asked the pointed question, “If there was a ban on handguns, would it not have made it more difficult for you to pull off your crime?” As if their response was rehearsed, the convicts laughed on queue stating that buying guns of every caliber on the street would always be an easy task regardless of what draconian laws may be passed preventing ownership.
In my own situation due to my 2-year stint in the U.S. Army, I will not permit a gun in my home, but that’s my choice. I don’t attempt to force my personal wishes on the rest of mankind. However, and let me be crystal clear about this, I will defend the right of any American to bear arms, whether in the home or on their person, to the point of sacrificing my own life if necessary.
Recognizing that guns are here to stay, opponents of guns argue that at the very least we can build some form of safety mechanism into guns to prevent 5-year old children from accidentally firing the gun. According to opponents, there are 30,000 gun deaths in the country each year, with children nine times more likely to die in a gun accident than anywhere else in the civilized world, but these numbers are strongly disputed by gun advocates. Gun opponents throw out statistics that 13 children die each day. We can all visualize little 5 and 6-year old children being gunned down, but in reality for children under 10, the number is about 0.4 deaths. Almost all of the deaths are attributable to the 16 to 19 age group and almost all are gang-related.
The opponents argue that if we can make refrigerator doors childproof, chainsaws safer, aspirin bottles childproof, and make automobiles much safer through the use of seat belts and air bags, then there’s no reason why thousands of accidental discharges of guns cannot be prevented. This seems to be a reasonable idea, but some of the mechanisms are just plain loony. Demanding that all guns have safeties makes sense. One fool even suggested that guns have a PIN number. I can just see a homeowner fumbling trying to remember the PIN number on his gun while he pleads with a crook, “Hold on a minute while I get the PIN number out of my safe, and then I’ll shoot you.”
One expert on gun control safety stated that, “You can tell whether a camera a loaded by looking at it, and you should be able to tell whether a gun is loaded by looking at it.” Maybe a light could turn on if the gun is loaded, but that of course would require a small battery as an integral part of the gun. As another option, make guns inoperable if the magazine has been removed, since many accidents occur when an individual thought the weapon was empty but a round was still in the chamber.
There is no question that guns have been prominent in national tragedies such as the Columbine High School massacre in Colorado in 1999. The weapons used in these killings were NOT assault rifles. Opponents of military-style firearms argue that banning these types of weapons will significantly reduce access by just the type of people who committed these atrocities. Many murders committed by children were accomplished by their ease of access to their parent’s gun case containing multiple weapons. Guns are not the problem – lack of responsible parental supervision is most often the problem.
Whenever there is an accidental shooting in a household it gets huge press. When a few newspaper reporters were asked why these shootings were so newsworthy as opposed to the “dog bites man” stories, the newspapermen responded with, “Because it’s so rare.”
Assault weapons were banned in 1994, but the ban is due for renewal in October 2004. The ban identifies 19 models of semi-automatic firearms, but “off brands” have been made to circumvent the ban. An assault rifle is one in which the weapon can be set to fire on full automatic or semi-automatic. These semi-automatic weapons include the Uzi submachine gun and M16 or AK47 rifles. The National Rifle Association, with over 4 million members, and other gun rights groups have given over $17 million in contributions to Federal candidates and party committees, with the majority being donated to the Republican Party. Gun Owners of America spent more than $18 million in lobbying efforts. Opponents of assault weapons spend far less.
There has been intense lobbying for methods of controlling the violence associated with assault weapons, including performing background checks on owners, mandatory safety locks, and waiting periods ranging from 24 hours to 5 days before the gun may be purchased.
There is much empirical evidence both pro and con on gun control laws. Good intentions don’t automatically translate into good laws. When you balance the importance of the second Amendment with thoughtful analysis of methods to prevent unnecessary deaths due to handguns, many laws are counter productive. On the negative side:
We must bear in mind that regardless of the severe laws many people want to place on handguns, criminal elements will always be able to purchase the weapons they desire to foster assault, robbery and murder. If you don’t believe that statement, just examine the age of Prohibition. Banning alcohol simply created a huge criminal network that provided people an ample supply of liquor.