Yes, after the Roseburg/Umpqua Community College shooting my views on gun control are coming into focus.
I hadn’t shot a gun until maybe about 6 years ago—and I’ll admit with no qualifications that it was a great load of fun—but I never thought that I might go out and buy one for myself. For personal protection at home, I rely on locked doors and an alarm system, and feel that’s enough.
I have friends who were robbed at gunpoint, and I believe (though I’m not certain) that this is what inspired their gun purchases. I had a neighbor who bragged that no matter where they were in their house they were within arm’s reach of a firearm of some type (this probably remains true, though the individual is no longer my neighbor). Most of my other acquaintances own at least one gun, generally claiming that it is for personal protection. Precisely zero of the individuals I know have been in a position to defend themselves with a firearm. And the statistics seem to back this up: 2.5 % of all homicides 2008–2012 were considered “justified” (source).
“But,” you’ll argue, “VPC is hardly unbiased on this issue.” Fine. I’m going to ignore that argument for now.
I read articles like this and think, “Sure, none of these measures will help, but you aren’t offering any alternatives, either!” Even if more people carry, providing a possible psychological deterrent to would-be shooters, tens of thousands don’t want to carry, don’t want to have that risk. My third-grade teacher wife (to the best of my knowledge) does not want to have a gun in her classroom; I know she isn’t trained in its use, nor would she be likely to reach first for it if someone did open fire. Additionally, the children themselves suddenly pose a risk to each other and to her with a gun simply present in the classroom.
The arguments I hear in favor of “moar gunz!” are these:
- It’s our Constitutional right!
- I need to be able to defend myself, my family, and my property!
- If more people carry guns, everyone will be safer for it!
- We shouldn’t react to mass shootings, we need to wait to have a rational conversation.
The Second Amendment to the Constitution of the United States says
A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.
Now, I’m no Constitutional Law scholar, nor was I around in 1791 when it was ratified, but it seems to me that the “well regulated Militia” had a significant part in it. The original version was
A well regulated militia, composed of the body of the People, being the best security of a free State, the right of the People to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed, but no one religiously scrupulous of bearing arms, shall be compelled to render military service in person.
Seems that the “militia” specifically regarded military service. Again, not a legal scholar, and in District of Columbia v. Heller (2008), the Supreme Court ruled that the text does indeed allow that all people, without connection to military service or recognized (or even unrecognized) militia organizations to possess firearms. And it has been expanded to say that this “right” cannot be infringed upon by the states or local governments either.
So there’s that.
How much time does the average gun owner spend with a gun in arm’s reach? That’s probably the wrong question, as there are these people that walk around with AK-47s slung around their shoulders when they go to Subway and paranoid that the government (specifically Democrats) are going to come by any second now to pry their guns from their cold dead hands (sorry, Charleton…well, not really).
Anyway, the number of people who are truly saved by other citizens’ firearms is probably negligible compared to the number of people walking around with concealed guns. I’ve no doubt that some criminals may be deterred by the sight of their intended victim carrying a gun, but I do doubt that carrying is safer for anyone.
So when is the time to talk about mass shootings and gun control? A week after the last one? A month? Six? A year? With them happening on average every 1.01002004 days (since 2013-01-01), there’s really no “cool down” time for people to “calm down” about it. The NRA says we have to wait, but what they mean is that there’s never a good time to address the issue.
No amount of “regulation” or more complete background checks or waiting periods are going to help. Banning cosmetic features of a gun because it makes the firearm look scary (the “assault weapons ban”) won’t do anything useful. Limiting clip size is also futile. These ideas about “better mental health care” are similarly silly, as diagnosed mental issues are far, far more rare than actual incidence. Chris Rock’s “thousand-dollar bullet” was a decent idea, but it’s nearly trivial for a person to make his own ammunition. And now that guns can be printed at home (granted, the hardware required is still a bit pricey, but sometimes cheaper than actually buying a gun, and the prices of these printers will continue to plummet and the output quality will continue to increase), I doubt that even banning gun sales altogether will be a panacea.
But we can try!
You, me, your friends, your relatives: none of them are likely to be the victim of a mass shooting. But if we can continue to lower that likelihood, with the goal of zero (I know we won’t get there, but as I said, we can try), however that happens: with legislation, background checks, limiting/prohibiting person-to-person sales… Yes, all of these make it harder to obtain a firearm. But that’s the point! Getting one’s hands on a gun probably should not be nearly as simple as it is! No matter what my friends say.
As with all my opinions, this is likely to change with time. Notice that I have no clear ideas on what to do about it, just that something should be done.