Gun control: an idea whose time has come

I havent posted to this blog in far too long, and it is the gun control debate that has brought me back. My goal in writing this is to show that the time to enact strict gun control is at hand, that more guns in society equates to more gun violence, and Ill try to share the quaint, apparently outdated notion that peace is possible. Im going to do my best to fairly analyze publicly available gun violence statistics, offer logical arguments, and of course I’ll cite my sources.

I have been involved in far too many gun control debates on social networks lately, and I have found myself dealing with the same tired arguments from gun rights advocates over and over again. That being said, here are the tenants of my argument in favor of strict gun control. Ive formatted my arguments as rebuttals to some of the most common pro-gun and pro-apathy arguments Ive heard in this debate.

1. “We will never get rid of all the guns. Why bother?”

The logic I think we can all agree is apparent here is “we havent been able to cure cancer yet, so why try?” Consider the possibility that apathy, strong personal interest in guns, or a lack of foresight has caused you to make a fallacious prediction, or to fall victim to confirmation bias. And who gave you the ability to see our future, anyway? Where is your hope? Might it be obscured by your desire for guns? It will certainly take time and effort to reduce the huge number of guns in America, but the work needed to accomplish this should not be something that deters us from even getting started. Since when do Americans not rise to a challenge?

Another aspect of this problem that is often posed to me is “How do you propose dealing with all the guns after a gun ban? We will never get them all out of society!”

Allow me to use the example of the virtually gun-free nation of Japan. The Japanese never had a strong gun culture as the US does, but guns did proliferate throughout the nation and master gunsmiths operated in Japan for centuries. After WWII, Japan’s military was demobilized and disarmed per its unconditional surrender with the US, but a black market for the guns which once belonged to the military sprang up. Strong gun control legislation enacted after WWII, and indeed an almost total ban on firearms, successfully decreased the illegal gun market in Japan and brought the nation into a period of unprecedented low gun violence rates which it maintains today.

Gun violence statistics in Japan today are almost non-existent and offenses like armed robberies or gun murders tend to make the national news. We might consider learning more about what drives the Japanese to embrace nearly gun free living, instead of lamenting the significant task of removing them.

2. “Giving up my guns is exactly what the communist Nazis in the White House want! I wont give up mine until they give up theirs!”

This seems like a good time to bring up the mental health issue, but Ill save that for another point. Needless to say, if you view our current administration in the same light as the Hitler’s Germany, Stalin’s Russia, Mao’s China, or Castro’s Cuba, you might want to consider double checking the sources for the information that lead you to this position. If you do even a little research into the histories of these totalitarian rulers, the conditions under which they rose to power, and the massacres they subsequently perpetrated, you will find few similarities between the state of those nations during those times and that of the US in the year 2013, and you will also find strong differences in the role gun control played in each.

If you really believe America is on the brink of totalitarian rule and wholesale civilian slaughter, wouldn’t you expect there to be greater problems facing the nation than gun control?

As an aside to this point, conservative news aggregator Matt Drudge recently displayed images of Adolph Hitler and Joseph Stalin above a headline linking to a story about the imminent use of White House executive powers to enact federal gun control. Drudge, a person of interest in the ongoing fight against media manipulation, obviously did this to stoke the anger of gun advocates who already fear the loss of their second amendment freedoms, and to firmly reinforce the popular and unreasonable association between these terrible dictators and gun control advocates in our current administration. This makes no sense, of course, and is easy to refute if one but takes a look at the details of history.

For example, gun control in pre-WWII Germany was not enacted by the Nazis at all, but was put in place by the allied powers who were victorious in WWI for the purpose of keeping Germany from rearming. Additionally, Hitler and his Nazis had a policy on civilian gun ownership that was actually a lot more like what our friends in the gun lobby would want for America today! Hitler’s policy on guns read that all civilians must have a permit to own a handgun, a separate permit to purchase them, and totally deregulated the purchase and transfer of long arms (rifles, shotguns)!

Hitler’s policy on civilian gun ownership was less like Obama’s suggested policy, and more like what our NRA pushes for in America today.

3. “Drugs are illegal. We still have drug addicts. Therefore we shouldnt ban guns.” 

We currently do not allow illegal drugs to be corporatized, mass produced, marketed, distributed, and lobbied for at the scale we allow this for guns. Guns are created to kill and injure; drugs are not. Heroin users and coke heads do not commit mass murder with syringes, glass pipes, or by drug poisoning. They do, however, use firearms to aid in related illegal activity.

Further to this point, I ask those who use the failure of our drug war as justification to proactively fail to fight for gun control, how many additional sources of harm do we need on our streets? If we fail to combat one source of harm, does this justify giving up on other fights? Should we embrace all forms of harm because one is difficult to defeat?

4. “Drunk drivers get into cars and kill people. Should we ban cars? “

Obviously cars and guns are very different, so the argument makes little sense. Banning cars would literally bring our society grinding to a halt. Cars have many non-violent purposes, and are not intended to be used as weapons. Banning guns would not bring society to a halt.

5. “Removing guns wont stop people from killing other people. They will use bombs/knives/bats/etc.”

Since we are aware of our tendency to commit violence and murder but do not know how to control it, shouldnt we keep the proliferation of dangerous weapons at a minimum until we can figure this out?? Or, should we arm the populace with professionally designed and manufactured killing weapons, allow giant corporations to profit from the sale of them, then debate over why people kill each other? Which of these is a more sane and logical method for the goal of harm reduction in society, I wonder? Gun control, or gun proliferation?

6. “The right to bear arms is guaranteed by my constitution! Dont you DARE!”

The constitution was written nearly 300 years ago. Weapons technology was not what it is today, and those who wrote our founding documents could not imagine an america in which a single, untrained or lightly trained shooter could take out 50+ people with an assault weapon. Do we imagine our founding fathers would, in fact, be complicit with our desire, as civilians, to own these sort of weapons? Are we perhaps fantasizing about what we would like our founding fathers to think about our gun issue today so as to validate our argument?

Further to this point, though our freedom of speech is restricted by laws that make it illegal to say certain things in certain places, we do not fight against those laws despite the fact our free speech amendment doesnt mention any specific restrictions to itself. But we do fight to keep our ability to possess high capacity, high caliber, military style assault weapons, and we say its “Guaranteed by the second amendment, which doesnt stipulate what gun I can own!” without thinking with the same common sense we use when thinking about freedom of speech. Food for thought.

7. Personal philosophy.

This is a tough one, but is a subject that must be addressed as it is one of the most important and fundamental questions in this debate . I ask the expansive, potentially loaded question “What do you really want for humanity? Do you want peace? Or do you want unending war and violence?”

If you want war and violence, or are just too apathetic to even try to oppose it, then this entire debate is pointless for you. We have nothing to discuss. If you want peace, what are you willing to do to achieve it? Are you willing to disarm despite any normal feeling of fear you might experience in relinquishing the power you find in weapon ownership? Are you willing to disarm first, if need-be?

Human beings are capable of so much, and have achieved spectacular things throughout our history. We have put men on another planet, we have created vaccines, harnessed nuclear energy, built amazing structures, etc, yet when asked to simply put down our guns for the goal of less suffering and death, we say “we cant!” We are usually a “we can do it!” species when it comes to the achievements we perceive as philanthropic or as contributions to our greatness, but do we not ascribe such compelling greatness to the idea of actualizing peace?

We knew it would come to this; the statistics. Here are some statistics that I have analysed and prepared to hopefully illustrate the imperative of gun control. If you disagree with these statistics or how I display them, please find credible alternatives and offer them. If I am wrong, or you think I have misinterpreted the data, Im 100% prepared to alter my position based on your valid new(to me) data.

Here is a graph obtained from Wikipedia that shows overall homicide rates in the US from 1976-2004. This graph seems to show us handgun deaths ranging from 8,000 to roughly 14,000 per year. It shows “other gun” deaths ranging around 2,200 to 3,900. Combined, this is a rough average of 11,000-12,000 gun deaths per year. The grand total of gun related deaths (non suicide!) for the period between 1976-2004 would be roughly 350,000 people! Do we have a gun problem in this nation, or dont we?

Here is a CDC chart which shows the leading 10 causes of death in America in the year 2010 by age group. Take a look at the totals in the far right column and observe that ‘homicide by firearm’ is the #5 cause of death with 11,078 cases, with suicide by firearm, falling, unintentional poisoning, and motor vehicle accidents ranking higher. It is noteworthy to mention that ‘suicide by firearm’ is the #4 highest cause of death in the nation, totaling a staggering 19,392 deaths! This brings the grand total of gun related deaths in America in the year 2010 to just under 30,000!

Here is a finding by the USDOJ that shows over 200,000 firearms were stolen each year in home and other burglaries between 2005-2010. Thats nearly one and a half million illegal, unlicensed guns potentially on the streets. I wonder if mass producing fewer firearms would have any impact on this?

Also from the USDOJ, a finding that details criminal behavior involving firearms and weapons in the year 2009. Robberies are the type of crime most likely to involve a weapon(47%), and firearms were the most common weapon used(28%). Most rapes and assaults did *not* involve the use of a weapon, and the study found less than 10 cases where guns were used in rapes during that year. This would suggest that criminals are not using guns to rape and assault us as often as gun rights advocates say they are, and begs the question “well if they arent bringing guns to assaults and rapes, then shouldnt pepper spray or non-lethal means for defense be adequate?” Though robberies clearly have a high incidence of gun involvement, might I suggest this is where our police forces come in? In light of previously shown gun fatality statistics and how they occur, robberies involving guns do not alone prove the case for assault weapons or high capacity handguns.

Here, from the NCBI, a report that shows that victims of crime between 1987-1990 only used guns for defense in 0.18% of all crime. Victims actually defending themselves against criminality is very rare, despite there being 50 million registered gun owners and 315 million guns in america as of 2009. Additionally the study shows that in 20% of of the cases where victims defended themselves, the victims were police officers. The idea that guns are needed to protect us against crime sounds nice, but in practice its incredibly rare. All the while guns deaths which do NOT involve self defense continue to increase.

In summary, I feel strongly that currently available statistics on American gun violence, examples of successful disarmament or strict control in other countries, the fallacious and clearly self-serving pro-gun arguments posited by our NRA, as well as the once noble imperative of living in peace all guide us in the direction of what should be a totally voluntary disarmament. While it is true that society is fraught with violent people who find new and creative ways to kill each other all the time, reducing or removing one way that they very efficiently kill each other should be an obvious choice, not a divisive, insurmountable stalemate. Put down the guns!

Published by milkman76

Father and husband, idealist, activist, argumentalist, masterdebtor, and all around swell guy. Also- likes to aim spotlights at piles of ideological bullshit, and taking a magnifying glass to the material conditions that caused our current capitalist hellscape.

2 thoughts on “Gun control: an idea whose time has come

  1. So its been years since I posted this and in the intervening span of time, many more relevant and up-to-date facts and statistics about the United States’ gun problem have come to light. So many, in fact, that I feel like I should probably update this entry at some point to reflect the better points that Ive learned.

    I blame my lack of updates on Facebook and fatherhood! ; )

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