This post was originally written after the Dark Knight Rises shooting tragedy in Colorado. But it is currently being updated after the Newton CT school shooting, because once again, the gun control debate has gone into full gear. I would like to say that what has resulted is a reasoned and informed argument on the subject.
I would like to. But I can’t. This is the age of the internet, and the debate is turning into masses of uninformed arguments thrown the way monkeys throw their feces.
To begin, I should disclose that I am a gun owner, I was on my high school’s varsity rifle team, and placed in the top 10 of the league. I enjoy the art of target shooting, and don’t think guns need to be totally banned. I do believe that there are reasonable limits that should be in place. I also believe that the current gun rights debate has become stupid.
1) Banning guns would not have prevented the crimes and arming everyone would not have stopped it.
James Eagen Holmes planned his attack well. He used confusion and body armor to protect him. If he didn’t have access to the guns, he had access to home made explosives. More armed individuals may have caused more casualties due to stray gun fire, especially in that confusion.
In Newton, the shooter was the son of the teacher he targeted. No amount of arming would have enabled a mother to easily kill her own son, so arming her in a classroom would not have prevented this.
2) Guns don’t prevent crime.
If you want to prevent a crime you address its precipitating causes like income inequality, gentrification, social expectancy stressors, etc. Violent deterrent only leads to violent escalation. Criminals use violence instrumentally, using enough to get the job done. If they perceive that their target is capable of more violence, they will adjust accordingly. They will work in larger groups to assure they can’t be outgunned, or they will shoot first to prevent their victim from using the gun they assume they have.
Now a lot of the people who make the “more guns, less crime” argument are basing it on the correlation that there has been an increase in gun ownership and a decrease in violent crime. But this conclusion is flawed. Why?
Repeat after me: “Correlation does not prove causation.”
First of all, the drop in crime has occurred across the board in this country in gun loving and gun fearing states alike. If the arming of the populace were the reason, we would see the drop only in the gun loving states. In fact, what we see is that there is little correlation between gun ownership and crime in cities. Also, there are other variables which could better account for for the drop in crime, such as the aging of the baby boomer population (the majority of Americans are less violent due to age), better policing to prevent crime, and abortion access reducing the stresses on the impoverished. The data does not allow for an indisputable connection between gun ownership and crime reduction.
3) Gun control does not address the causes of crime.
Limiting gun access will reduce violence in many ways. Of the mass shootings in America, about three quarters of shooters acquired their guns from legal sources. Common sense regulations can close these loopholes. Also, when it comes to violence from legal gun owners, a pissed off guy on the street is far less dangerous than a pissed off guy on the street with a gun. And when it comes to responding to violence, society is better served by learning how to de-escalate the pissed off guy on the street than it is by shooting him.
That being said, the argument about gun control ignores and distracts from the real causes (like this, for instance). Gun violence is a symptom, not the disease.
4) Guns kill people.
Before you start chanting that stupid slogan like chorus of mindless drones, realize the immense irresponsibility of denying a gun’s lethality. Guns were invented to kill. Target shooting has developed as an additional use for firearms, but it hasn’t removed the lethality. It is that acknowledgement that motivates me to be damn careful with my firearm. I know it kills, so I make sure that I use it safely and responsibly. I don’t wave it around, fire it randomly, leave it out when not in use, or do anything else that could cause it to unintentionally be misused because I know that if I am irresponsible with my firearm, it could kill someone.
Gun owners need to own up to this. Too often, guns are being introduced to prove virility, score political points, and intimidate in arguments. This is irresponsible. If you want to win any argument for gun rights, you need to understand this. Every right, after all, bares with it a responsibility. Remove that responsibility, and you are arguing entitlement. And I cannot support gun entitlement.
It also should be noted that on the same day as the Newton shootings, there was a mass stabbing in a school in China. None of the 22 children who were stabbed died. A difference in weaponry does make a difference in the severity of injury. If guns did not make killing more efficient, they wouldn’t be used in combat, hunting, etc. To deny this is to deny common sense.
5) Common sense gun control will keep guns out of the hands of criminals.
Only about 10-15% of guns that criminals have access to are the result of gun thefts. The rest are a result of acquiring guns through loopholes, straw buyers, and other means of manipulating the lack of regulation. Tougher regulation and monitoring will result in fewer sales to criminals.
6) Being stupid about guns will cause gun violence.
Why do people go on killing sprees?
Because they think they are entitled to kill.
We have a culture obsessed with violence. We have TV shows, movies, video games, internet sitesetc, that use guns and violence to as the solutions to the problems, the way to win and collect points, or the way to get attention. An yet we act surprised when someone then goes out and uses violence for attention or as a way to deal with their problems. What has resulted is a real problem in this when it comes to mass murder. In 2012 alone, there were 16 mass shootings. When one of these occurs, we shout out the same stupid slogans, but ultimately change nothing. But let’s talk about the messages sent. When you make an argument based on gun entitlement and using violence as a solution to problems, expect people to get shot. Guns may not be the problem, but the argument you are making for your guns is. And because contradiction is not argument, merely calling for tighter laws does not present any sort of solution, addressing the root causes of our need to be violent will.
So let’s stop being stupid about guns. They are lethal weapons that need to be respected, and as such, used responsibly. They are not solutions to arguments, nor are they the answer to crime. At the same time, they are not the causes of crime. We don’t need AK 47’s, but we also don’t need absolute bans. What we need is to get smart and address the causes of the violence instead.