Sunday, March 23, 2014

Is America at War with Itself? (2nd Amendment Edition)

The Japanese: virtually a zero percent chance of getting shot.

The 2nd Amendment:

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.

The 2nd Amendment is a mess because it's clear to anyone who's ever read it that it was intended that early American citizens be free to be armed in order to participate in a militia for the common defense. One can also clearly extrapolate from the Amendment that early Americans were, by the Constitution, extended the right to have hunting weapons and to have weapons for individual defense, both of which would be a necessity in a country expanding into a rugged frontier.

No problems, right? Right. No problems and that remained so for a good two hundred years. The problem begins somewhere in the 20th century when technology begins to produce weapons that are just too deadly. Rational citizens should be able to agree on that.

Now, to shorten this discussion, I'm going to assert a few things:
  1. The American gun lobby, most notably the NRA, is intent on fostering the sales of every kind of weapon imaginable, without taking safety into account because that infringes on the right to sell absolutely any kind of weapon, its accessories, and ammunition.
  2. A portion of the American people, approximately one third, interpret this liberty to be important enough to desire to own a gun, or a variety of guns.
  3. A great majority of the American people -- up to 91 percent favor background checks -- feel that the ownership of guns should be controlled.
  4. It's widely acknowledged that gun lobbies have hijacked the political process and allow a very vocal minority to prevent the majority of Americans from enjoying the kind of gun control that makes them feel safe. This vocal minority doesn't care and openly advocates for unregulated gun ownership.
I don't believe any of these assertions are open to question. If they are, it's due to a willful refusal to observe reality.

Okay. As an armed society, the germane questions are: Who are we armed against? Are we over- or under-armed? How many people would make the claim that we are under-armed and why?

The answers as I see them:
  1. We are armed against each other.
  2. For some portion of the citizenry, we are armed against our government.
  3. A minority portion of Americans are over-armed. This is the unavoidably correct answer to this question, given the fact that there are more guns in the U.S. than there are citizens, and this includes all children.
  4. A large majority of Americans are unarmed.
  5. If you think we're under-armed, you're in a fringe portion of the citizenry.
Since we are number one in gun violence in the world without having any serious armed conflicts with our government, we can only conclude that we are armed against each other.

A serious question: Who is safer, those who are armed against each other or those who choose not to be armed at all? (Answer: It's safer to be unarmed.)

What is it about each other that we fear the most? Do we fear the other is armed? What is it about America that has us so afraid of each other that we need so many guns?

These are serious and real questions. But they are best understood when you take into account that the percentage of households with guns has steadily declined from a high of 54 percent in 1977 to just 34 percent as of 2012. A huge proportion of America doesn't want a gun in the house. That means that only 34 percent of Americans feel they're at war with each other.

Just for context, read this article about how Japan eliminated gun violence. (I've lived in Japan.) Read this article about guns in the Netherlands. (I've lived in the Netherlands.) Read this article about guns in Switzerland. Closer to home, read about guns in Canada.

Annual gun deaths per 100,000:
U.S.--10.3 (2/3 are suicides)
Switzerland--3.84 (vast majority are suicides)
Canada--2.38 (vast majority are suicides)
The Netherlands--0.46 (more than half are suicides)
Japan--0.06 (almost all are suicides, many years with zero gun murders)
Rule of thumb: less restrictive laws, more gun deaths. Required training and registration, fewer gun deaths. Almost impossible to get a gun, fewest gun deaths.

Conclusion: America is at war with itself. Unfortunately, Americans don't see it that way.

The Dutch: a .0002 percent chance of getting killed with a gun.

Why do I emphasize the Japanese and the Dutch when discussing the 2nd Amendment? Mostly because neither country has a 2nd Amendment...or any reference to gun rights in their constitutions.

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