Now that President Obama has proposed a slate of gun-control measures, those who oppose gun control are mobilizing to stop them.
So it's worth stepping back again and reviewing the points that are often made to support the idea that there should be no gun control in America.
The no-gun-control folks, who never seem to be the parents or relatives of people killed by gunmen (or are remarkably undisturbed by this), make the following points:
- The Second Amendment gives us the right to own guns (at least in the service of a "well-regulated state militia," a seemingly important qualification that always appears to be ignored).
- Guns don't kill people--people kill people.
- There are ~300 million guns in this country, so we need guns to protect ourselves from all the guns.
- If the shooter hadn't used a gun, he'd have used a bomb or fire or knife or some other weapon.
- Gun control won't stop people from going crazy: We need more focus on mental health, not guns.
- If we allow the government to limit our access to guns, we'll soon be a tyrannical police state in which citizens have no means of overthrowing the government.
- If there were only MORE guns in schools and theaters and malls, etc., stuff like this wouldn't happen, because sane would-be shooters would be "deterred" and nutbags would just get popped in the head by gun-toting citizens before they started shooting.
- Banning assault weapons wouldn't stop all shootings.
I've listened to these points for years. And I have considered them carefully.
The pro-gun argument that resonates most viscerally with me is this:
Given that there are at least 300 million guns in this country, I don't relish the thought of an armed gang barging into my house and shooting my family without my being entitled to have some means of protecting them.
And I really do not relish that.
But then I remember that more people are shot in houses with guns than in houses without guns — from accidents and moments of rage. And I think through how readily available my guns and ammo would have to be for me to successfully protect my family after being awoken in the middle of the night by an intruder pointing his own guns in my face (I'd basically have to sleep near a loaded pistol and somehow manage not to shoot it in the dark at my wife, kids, pets, or friends). And that logic tempers my emotional desire to keep "protection" around.
The other no-gun-control arguments, meanwhile, just seem naive, self-serving, and/or ridiculous:
- The "Second Amendment" was written 220 years ago when 3.9 million people lived in America and the most powerful guns available were single-shot flint-lock muskets. Even if you ignore the "well-regulated state militia" clause in the Amendment language, it is reasonable to wonder whether the "Framers" had today's commonly available modern assault weaponry in mind. (Also, the Constitution is occasionally modified when it becomes outdated and/or inappropriate. Slaves were legal in those days, too.)
- It's true that guns don't usually kill people unless they are aimed and fired by people, but guns make it much, much easier for people to kill people. It's hard to make a bomb powerful enough to kill dozens of people, for example. And it's hard to set a fire that is big and fast enough to kill dozens of people before they have a chance to escape. It's not impossible, obviously. If you're really determined to slaughter dozens of innocent people, you can probably find a way to do it. But it's harder.
- It's true that tighter gun control won't stop people from going crazy, but nothing will stop people from going crazy. Every time there's a shooting, the pro-gun folks blame the mental health professionals who failed to spot insane feelings brewing in the shooter and didn't "help" him or put him away. There are certainly instances in which obvious signs were overlooked, but in a country of 300+ million people, there is no way we are ever going to identify every potential shooter in advance. (And even if we could, what would we do with them? Lock them up to prevent the crimes they might commit? Require them to "get help"? Ask them to please not shoot dozens of people?)
- Anyone who thinks a few assault weapons will allow citizens to resist tyranny and overthrow our government hasn't seen the weaponry our military has developed in the past 200 years. Your little "militia" is going to hold off the U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines? Keep dreaming.
- The only thing having MORE guns in schools, malls, theaters, and other public places would do is increase the number of gun-related deaths. About 10,000 people are murdered with guns every year in America, and another 17,000 kill themselves with guns. Given the frequency with which people get angry at each other, and/or drunk, and/or scared, and/or depressed, the number of gun deaths would likely increase directly with the availability of guns. There are also ~700 accidental gun deaths in America each year, many of which happen when people point "unloaded" guns at people and fire them as a "joke." These deaths would also presumably decrease. If there are many cases in which a gun-toting citizen or police person has stopped a random massacre by a crazy person, meanwhile, these incidents don't get much press.
- Banning assault weapons would not completely eliminate mass shootings, but they might help. And "might help" should be enough to consider banning them.
The alternative to supporting tighter gun control, it seems to me, is accepting that random mass shootings and tens of thousands of gun-related deaths each year are just a "cost of freedom" ... and accepting that cost.
I'm not ready to do that.
Other civilized countries have "freedom," and they don't have anywhere near as many gun-related deaths as America does.
Banning all guns in this country isn't practical: We love them too much.
I actually own a gun--a .22 rifle. If the country decided to ban all guns, I'd give it up, but I don't think think country will or should ban all guns. I just think the country should ban military-grade assault weapons.
But it's startling that so many people are against banning these.
I'm just not ready to accept that we just have to have regular mass shootings and tens of thousands of annual gun deaths in this country. And I don't see any other practical way to try to reduce the number of these incidents without reducing the availability of assault weapons.