Tuesday, April 17, 2012

My Stance on Guns

Regular readers might quickly surmise that I'm about to reveal something entirely predictable, and they'd be right. I think guns, by and large, should be illegal.

These guns are legal?? In America?? That's right.

My thoughts about guns have never evolved. My position hasn't changed since my first coherent thoughts about the subject, which I assume took place sometime in high school. In fact, I can't remember a time when I thought guns were either cool or necessary. I do, however, remember enjoying BB and pellet guns as a child, and I remember enjoying target practice in ROTC (yes, I spent a year in ROTC at Santa Clara University; it was mandatory in 1966). And I remember enjoying shooting bottles and tin cans with my friend John's 22-caliber rifle. All fun.

I'll be blunt. Hitting baseballs with a baseball bat is fun. Hitting humans over the head with a baseball bat is not (not for me, at least). Shooting at targets is fun. Shooting at people is not.

There is the self-defense argument about guns. They make a certain amount of sense, they really do. There is no question you could defend yourself better with a gun -- in certain situations -- than you could with, say, a rolled-up newspaper. But self-defense has nothing to do with my general proposition about guns.

Which is: Guns, on the whole, cause an inordinate amount of violence, death, and suffering. If you took away the right to own almost all guns, the reduction in violence, death, and suffering would be dramatic. I can't think of a single, intelligent person who would, or should, dispute this.

I found this picture of Rick Perry both fascinating and repulsive.

Oh, I can feel the arguments building, the key one being that if you outlaw guns, only outlaws with have guns. That's true as far as it goes, but until you outlaw guns, you'll never keep them out of the hands of outlaws.

So here's a better statement. If you outlaw guns, eventually even outlaws won't have guns.

In general, a gun makes a person dangerous. When I look at a police officer, I'm immediately aware that one of the things he can do very quickly is shoot me. It might not be likely, but a police officer is more likely to shoot me than a barista at a Starbucks. Just saying.

It's exactly the same with girlfriends. A girlfriend with a gun is much more likely to shoot me than a girlfriend without a gun. That goes for next-door neighbors, mail carriers, school teachers, and Neighborhood Watch volunteers. No gun, no shootee-shootee.

The NRA, which loves guns to death, is a toxic, hyper-dangerous outfit that represents the worst of the American spirit. I believe it takes a brave person to disarm or to not arm at all. I'm not going to call gun owners cowards, that wouldn't be prudent. They might get mad and shoot me. If you are a member of the NRA, please don't get mad and shoot me. But I do believe you are bad for the country, even if you are not a coward.

My sense is that Martin didn't think America's strength lay in the freedom agenda for guns.

My heroes don't need guns. My favorite countries don't need armies. Yes, I'm a pacifist. But there's more to it than that.

I believe that owning a gun raises the probability that harm will come to you. There are exceptions to this premise, but let me offer a few prebuttals:
  • If you have a gun and pull it on someone, you have to be prepared to use it. Otherwise, they just might take it away from you and use it on you. I would hesitate to use a gun on someone. Therefore, I'm not a good candidate for operating a gun.
  • If you feel you're more prepared than I to use a gun if necessary, I believe there is still a greater likelihood that you'll use it unsuccessfully. You're very likely to miss and hit the wrong person or shoot a person that probably meant you less harm than you thought. There are all kinds of things that can happen when you pull out a gun. Having everything end up hunky-dory isn't the most likely outcome. If that's so, you shouldn't pull out a gun.
  • A common outcome with guns is that they're stolen and end up in the hands of, yes, outlaws. Another common outcome is that a kid finds it and kills self or another kid.
I could go on, but I can hear the arguments firing up. We've heard these arguments too often. You don't need me to recite them. I don't buy any of them, except for one, and that's the one that involves hunting. That one I can buy.

I've never been hunting, but it seems to be an honorable pastime. I know and respect the arguments that it's brutal and cruel. Since I'm a carnivore, those arguments fall on deaf ears. If I'm going to eat it, I should have the courage to kill it. Frankly, aside from killing a lot of fish in my time -- and a few abalone, too -- I'm not too keen on hunting and killing game. But if I needed to, I could kill anything that we commonly accept as food, you know, cattle, pigs, sheep, deer, chickens, ducks, geese, etc. In the right setting -- you know, like right after the apocalypse or something -- I'd be plenty capable of shooting to kill -- the aforementioned animals, that is. I don't relish it, but I could do it.


So, there has to be some exception to the ban on guns, and that's rifles that can be used for hunting. These should only be sold to licensed hunters who, ideally, would have to undergo some kind of training and certification process.

Realize, however, that in the world I'm describing, that's it. All other kinds of weapons would be banned. Period. No Uzis, no Glocks, no assault rifles, no clips, no nothing. Just selected, carefully considered hunting rifles available only to adults with the proper training and certification. I can imagine some kind of certification for younger folk, but the idea of hunting rifles in the hands of someone less than 16 frightens me and should frighten you, as well.

I know, a lot of people automatically think the world I'm describing is a sissy world in which the government could easily become tyrannical and worse than Big Brother. I don't buy that suggestion for a minute. I believe in the power of non-violence and organized, non-violent, civil disobedience.

Remember, Gandhi chased the British out of an entire sub-continent with non-violence. The Egyptian Arab Spring overthrew Hosni Mubarak essentially without violence. The Berlin Wall came down without a shot being fired. The Soviet Union ended with a few bangs and a lot of whimpers. I could go on and on. And you know I could. We don't need guns for freedom. We need courage for freedom. That's all. Full stop.

They're Japanese, they're weird, they don't need guns. Neither do we. Really.

Consider this:
  • Gun violence claims 30,000 lives each year, on average, in the U.S.
  • Japan, on the other hand, bans all guns and swords (that's right, swords). Japan, with a population of 125,000,000, not quite a third that of the U.S., nonetheless has an average over the last decade of about 40 gun homicides a year. 40!
  • The UK, which banned all handguns after the massacre of 16 schoolchildren in Scotland in 1996, now has a gun death-rate nearly as low as Japan. So this isn't so much of "culture thing."
  • Gun laws are a bit looser in Canada, and the statistics show it. They have almost four people per 100,000 die by intentional gun violence each year, as compared to 13.47 per 100,000 in the U.S.
  • The U.S. incarcerates the greatest percentage of its citizens of any country in the world. Gun violence is a great driver of this incarceration rate.
  • The U.S. also has, on average, 80,000 wounded by gun violence each year. A shocking statistic is that roughly 80% of gunshot victims are uninsured. Who pays for them? You and me and all the taxpayers, that's who.
  • Total estimated medical, legal, and societal costs of gun violence in the U.S. has been estimated at $100 billion a year.
(All statistics were from reputable sources and vary a bit in the source year, though all statistics are from 1998 or more recent years.)

Again, I could go on and on. After considering everything I've said, I should hope that it would be obvious that we'd be a thousand times safer if we banned guns like most other advanced and civilized countries do. I favor it. I implore all Americans to consider it.

As for myself, I've never owned a gun and never will.

American gun rights in action, militia-style.

1 comment:

  1. Here in Ohio our state constitution provides for personal protection, we have concealed carry yes, but it has always been historically legal to openly carry a firearm for personal protection. Ohio firearms laws are based on the premise that disarming the innocent does not protect the innocent. It is no coincidence that every mass killing in America has happened in places where firearm possession and personal protection are forbidden ( by law ), ie: schools, military bases, ect. and people are FORCED to be victims. It is also no coincidence that in states like Vermont and Ohio citizens carrying firearms are trusted by their politicians to do so.

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