I think most of us miss the boat, when it comes to gun control. People have some blinders on when talking about the subject on either side that does not help a factual argument. Although I concede that most of the people seem to be basing their opinions on emotion, including many who claim to be “looking at the facts.” Part of the problem is that few people really understand the purpose of “arms” in protecting our lives, liberties, and properties.
To start, let me say that reducing the firearms in a society would generally reduce the access that criminals have to firearms. Many who use firearms for crimes obtain their firearms legally or steal them from others who have obtained them legally. A complete ban on firearms would result in fewer of them available to criminals and would increase the cost and difficulty for obtaining them. Having said that, criminals will still obtain firearms. Bans are 100% successful in reducing guns from the hands of law-abiding citizens (because the definition of that excludes them if they obtain guns unlawfully). Registering and destroying guns is also 100% effective for the law-abiding. However effective these bans are against criminals, we must understand they are not, and never will be, 100% effective. Criminals will always have guns, no matter what. Especially in a country like the United States, where there have already been a large number of guns in the public and where the borders are surprisingly open.
Some claim that guns represent only a small part of murders and is not the most used weapon. This is not true. In 2011 (and similar in previous years), murders using firearms accounted for 67.7% of the total murders in the US.
However, it is a fallacy that more guns increase the murder rate in the United States. According the FBI’s crime statistics (fbi.gov), the United States has experienced a gradual decrease in the murder rate overall, and including murders using firearms, between 2007 (14,916, or 10,129 with firearms) and 2011 (12,664, or 8,583 with firearms) that totals 15% (FBI Data Link). This occurred after the federal assault weapons ban expired and firearms with higher capacity magazines were more widely available. Although this does not necessarily mean that there are more guns in the United States, it does mean that citizens have had greater legal access to the kinds of firearms they are again attempting to ban.
According to the Washington Post, from all “mass shootings” in the United States in 2012 (arguably the worst year for such shootings), there have been 82 deaths. If the overall murder rate remains the same (unlike the yearly decrease it has been showing), This accounts for 0.65% (82/12,664) of the murders in the United States. Handguns were the weapon used in over half of these mass shooting deaths, not assault rifles. Handguns were also the most widely used weapon in all other murders.
In 2011, there were also 260 justifiable homicides reported to the FBI, of which 201 involved a firearm. Not included in this, or in many statistics, is how many crimes were stopped or prevented with a firearm, which did not result in the death of the criminal.
One of the biggest problems with the statistics used for most of the gun control debates is that it is almost all correlational. It can seem very impressive to see statistics for countries to have lower murder or even violent crime rates with or without certain gun laws. However, it is fairly easy to produce discrepancies to these conditions and any of the correlational statistics may not take into account other more signifant factors that contribute to murder and violence.
England (not the whole UK where rates differ) is often cited as the epitomy of reduced violence through removing guns. This may seem impressive when compared to the United States, but what about the often cited Switzerland, which has guns in nearly every home with lower or comparable murder rates to England? Excuses for this abound, but then there are the cases of others countries such as Austria, where gun laws are strict compared to America, but not as strict as England, yet they have lower murder rates? If English-style gun control is the answer, then we should see a progression from loose gun laws (higher murder rates) to strict gun laws (lower murder rates).
Correlations die in the details. Australia has been cited as a success and a failure in gun control by the respective sides of the debate. Both point to the changing crime statistics since their gun ban and “voluntary” confiscation. An impartial look at the data shows crime rates that are unstable. They have gone up and down during the period since their gun control measures, but the evidence is too weak to even draw a serious correlation in either direction.
The debate continues to focus on these statistics, which do have some importance, but ignore a weightier matter: Freedom.
The arguments for gun control have suggested that we do not need guns to protect us:
1) From other people in our own society, because we have law enforcement.
2) From aggression from other countries, because we have the military.
Some people think that we only have a right to certain weapons for self-defense and hunting, and any other weapons that are impractical for these purposes should not be allowed, or strictly regulated. There are many problems with this assumption, including the fact that we cannot un-invent guns. People still have them and the technology. People can make them in their garage. In addition, those countries that deny citizens the right to defend themselves by owning and carrying a firearm (to own and bear) do not compensate with the right to bear other types of arms that were previously used, such as swords and daggers.
When a citizen has a right to firearms, he has a right to the same type of weapon that may be used against him. When this is denied, criminals may have all types of weapons, but the law-abiding citizen is left defenseless. About 42% of robberies in the United States are committed with a firearm, while about 16% use another type of weapon. The remaining 42% use brute force. If more of the victims had access to a weapon of defense of some kind, they would at least have a chance of being evenly matched to the robber.
What we are saying in our societies is that law enforcement officers have a greater right to life than any of the other citizens. Law enforcement officers are often granted greater protection both while on-duty and while off-duty, due to the ability to carry a firearm in many locations. Unfortunately, law enforcement officers are not able to be everywhere that the rest of us are. It is virtually impossible for them to be at a location in time to prevent or stop crime and murder. The result is that the general citizens are left completely vulnerable to crime and murder.
Many people claim that banning certain weapons will not have an affect on the ability of citizens to defend themselves or to hunt. However, allowing a government the power (from the people) to restrict guns does not need to stop with a certain class of guns. When gun ownership becomes a privilege (like driving a car), it is up to the government to decide what guns we can have and when and where we can have them. Limiting a particular class of guns because “people don’t need them” means that people do not have a right to them. The question then becomes how we define what types of guns are “needed” to fulfill our “right”. This can, and has historically, only led to further regulations against private gun ownership.
For the naive, who believe the government will stop at banning certain types, or features, of guns should consider what their “rights” mean if not bearing the same types of arms that criminals bear. Unless, of course, you are arguing for collective rights instead of individual rights. When a crime rate goes down, it matters to everyone except the victims–those who were left unprotected and with no reasonable means for protection. But don’t worry, about 28% of robberies are solved in the US.
As for the argument that the military will keep us safe, we might consider how we would fair against an invasion of the mainland United States. Right now, we would probably do pretty well. After guns have been banned and people have become unfamiliar with gun safety and marksmanship, our chances quickly decline. Combine that with the destruction of all of our “excess” firearms and we may not have enough weapons to arm the people that would need to be drafted. We would quickly find out how inadequate our down-sized and “modernized” military would be.
Even if the law enforcement and military could provide us with perfect protection from crime and invasion, at the cost of banning all firearms, it would not allow for the most important reason for gun rights: Freedom. Defense against tyranny from OUR OWN GOVERNMENT.
Those favoring gun control quickly and often successfully defer this point to the realm of conspiracy. Most of those who consider themselves “reasonable,” even in favor of gun rights, do not think that our government would ever get to the point of tyranny. If you do not believe that, look at history. You do not need to go very far to find that most governments in history have devolved to tyranny.
So, let’s compare some correlations now. Look at all of the European countries you would like, with their grand gun control laws. How many of them have escaped tyranny, including military domination by a tyrant?
England? Do we count King George? Obviously we saw a need to free ourselves from his arbitrary rule. Apparently, the English were less concerned. What about World War II? How did England fair against the Nazis? Does anyone doubt they would have been conquered without the US entering the war? I know this is a sore spot for some, who think we should have entered earlier, but the fact remains that their best efforts did not prevent outside invasion.
Germany? Look up World War I and World War II online or at your local library. Honestly, if you aren’t familiar with Hitler and the Nazis, there’s probably a lot you need to read before this.
France? Start with the Jacobins and go from there. Napoleon. The government bowing down to Nazi Germany. Nobody has been worried about France for almost a hundred years.
Austria? Think of either the Austro-Hungarian Empire or their annexation to Nazi Germany.
Italy? Should we go beyond Mussolini?
The fact is that Switzerland, with its wide proliferation of firearms through its militia, is the only really viable candidate for preventing crime and protecting against outside tyranny.
Now, tell me, how many lives have been lost under the tyrants during that same period of time?
How will we have power to stop our own government from becoming tyrannical or from bowing down to tyrants when we do not have the means to defend it?
This is the most important reason for our right to bear arms. Others who consider themselves “free” rely on our power to keep them in the enjoyment of those liberties. If we give up our rights, everyone suffers.
The US is based on a system of checks and balances. Most of these keep the government going internally. The power of the people to resist government provides the final check. The balance of power that means the people can resist the military might of its own government, if they are united. That requires more than hunting rifles and sporting shotguns.