Thoughts on Gun Control and Violence

I’ve been against gun control all my life, it’s part of an overall belief that people are very reasonable and less government regulation is better than more. The recent clamor for gun control legislation has caused me to think more about the topic and do some research. I’ve documented here my thoughts and opinions, and I reserve the right to change these thoughts and options after rational discussion has caused me to form a different opinion. I don’t care for sites and groups using the topic to provide a soapbox for name calling and separation. I believe violence is a serious problem and will only get solved if we talk and agree on the best courses of action.

Why I think it won’t solve the problem

1. Crime, especially violent-crime is on the decrease in the US.

In the US overall last year violent crime rates are dropping. The area of the country where the most restrictive guns laws are in place (the north east) saw the least decline and even an increase in murder.1 This continues a trend that can only be called dramatic in reduction of violent-crime in the US over the past five years.2 There are various theories as to why the crime rate is decreasing but the most credible is that violent criminals once caught are not being released as often.4 While rates of violent-crime continue to fall the perception of the nation is that crime is increasing.4

2. The level of violent-crime in the US is on par with the rest of the developed world.

Crime rates internationally are difficult to compare but homicide rates in the United States are on par with other developed nations.5 The UK is one of the most dangerous nations in Europe but has the lowest gun violence and very stringent controls on gun ownership.6 Trends in crime internationally are difficult to track, most countries aggregate crimes differently which makes comparison difficult. In the UK violent crime does include murder and assault but does not include sexual offenses or robbery.3 Even with this being the case overall rates of violent crime in the world are decreasing.

 3. The ban or attempted ban of any ‘controlled substance’ citizens desire has always failed and led to more violence.

Starting with American tobacco which was uncontrolled, illegal, and finally taxed.7 Tobacco has since been successfully regulated and anti-smoking campaigns have continued to reduce it’s use. Alcohol prohibition was announced to remove all crime and poverty from the country8 instead even the proponents of prohibition called for the 18th amendment to be repealed after decades of violence as expressed by John D. Rockefeller, Jr. “crime has increased to an unprecedented degree-I have slowly and reluctantly come to believe.”.8 The ‘War on Drugs’ is going the same way not only causing violent crime in the US but more so in our southern neighbors.9, 5

 4. Making guns illegal won’t solve the problem.

In India personal ownership of firearms are heavily regulated much like the UK and they have found that the continued violent-crime is conducted using illegally produced or acquired guns.10 The previous assault rifle ban passed in the US in 1994 was allowed to lapse in 2004 and both gun and total homicide rates continued to decline.1 Had the ban been the cause of that decline I would expect to see a resultant increase in gun and total homicides. The UK despite having banned nearly every type of semi-automatic weapon in 1996 and 1997 still suffers from mass shootings today.11

 5. Making guns illegal will add to the problem.

Previously legal gun owners will become criminals and finding, arresting, judging, and incarcerating them will consume resources that could be reducing violent crime. As states realize this in relation to the ‘War on Drugs’ they legalize marijuana, decriminalizing activities that present little threat to other citizens. Organized crime will fill the void in legal sales and gain an additional revenue stream.

 What will solve the problem

 1. Better access to mental health care without a stigma of use.

We currently have little to no mental health care available to our citizens. The availability of this care needs to be increased and the stigma of it’s use needs to decease. Negative impacts of seeking help will only continue to ensure people will not get the help they need when they need it most.

 2. Controlling access to weapons.

Preventing individuals banned from possessing weapons from acquiring weapons will go a long way to helping prevent violence ending in homicide. This would have to be in the form of sanctions on gun stores for selling illegally and against gun owners for transferring guns – even accidentally to those who should not receive them. Background checks for purchasers, all sales and transfers through a federally licensed dealer, strict and enforced laws preventing the transferal of weapons without these controls.

 3. More community involvement.

Convenience store clerks, arguably one of the most exposed to violent-crime professions, are taught to talk with customers as a way of building a rapport with potential robbers. This small step helps prevent the attacker from harming the victims. Encourage people to talk and engage each other in their neighborhoods.

4. Secure safe zones.

When I go to work I’m required to badge through a man trap. My employer has a vested interest in limiting those on-site to authorized employees and contractors. Schools and hospitals could follow similar methods to ensure that only unarmed or lawfully armed individuals enter the site. Businesses that desired a gun free zone could implement similar controls to ensure that all individuals entering were disarmed.

Have a different opinion?

I’d love to hear from you. Please provide not only your opinion but some context as to how or why you formed that opinion and maybe a reference to some evidence that helps back up your opinion. Don’t mistake snide remarks, cartoons, or rants for reasonable argument.

References

1. Crimes Rates Fall Again http://www.fbi.gov/news/stories/2011/may/crimes_052311/crime_052311

2. Violent Crime http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/cjis/ucr/crime-in-the-u.s/2010/crime-in-the-u.s.-2010/violent-crime

3. Crime in England and Wales http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/rel/crime-stats/crime-statistics/period-ending-march-2012/stb-crime-stats-end-march-2012.html#tab-Violence

4.America’s serious crime rate is plunging, but why? http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/aug/21/america-serious-crime-rate-plunging

5. List of countries by intentional homicide rate (summary of United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime report) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_intentional_homicide_rate

6. The most violent country in Europe http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1196941/The-violent-country-Europe-Britain-worse-South-Africa-U-S.html

7. Tobacco Timeline http://archive.tobacco.org/resources/history/Tobacco_History19.html

8. THE NOBLE EXPERIMENT http://www2.potsdam.edu/hansondj/Controversies/1091124904_6.html

9. U.S. Rethinks a Drug War After Deaths in Honduras

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/13/world/americas/in-honduras-deaths-make-us-rethink-drug-war.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

10. The Context of Violent Crime. http://www.gunpolicy.org/firearms/citation/quotes/5808

11. Cumbria shootings http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cumbria_shootings

12. Robbery of Convenience Stores www.cops.usdoj.gov/Publications/e0407972.pdf

About Keith

I’ve grown up traveling the country and I enjoy meeting people and learning new things. I don’t know that I’m particularly old but my perspective has changed over the years and I only ever hear old people say that.

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4 Responses to Thoughts on Gun Control and Violence

  1. Hey Keith, I am glad i came across your post when I did because I was just about to ask your input on a quote that popped up on my facebook noise feed:

    “When I carry a gun, I don’t do so because I am looking for a fight, but because I’m looking to be left alone. The gun at my side means that I cannot be forced, only persuaded. I don’t carry it because I’m afraid, but because it enables me to be unafraid. It doesn’t limit the actions of those who would interact with me through reason, only the actions of those who would do so by force. It removes force from the equation… and that’s why carrying a gun is a civilized act.”

    Something about it just doesn’t sit right with me. And I am researching my thoughts. But I also wanted some perspective from outside my normal sphere. What do you think of this perspective? Does this seem to you like a Cold War style view of maintaining civilized discourse through the threat of force?

    • Anthony,

      Thanks for reading, I can’t say I can do better to phrase that but I understand his opinion and agree with it in practical application but not really the connotation that he provides.

      In the absence of an adult (for children) or government (for adults and governments) a certain respect is what keeps peace. If one side believes they are stronger then peace gets broken. There are many times in moderen society we find ourselves together without government supervision and these times are what he’s talking about. The very rare individual is violent and unreasonable, chance brings them across your path and being able to defend yourself stacks chance in your favor.

      It’s an inelegant rephrase with force and civilization. In history the strong oppress the weak, both in governments and in personal engagements. Government and police attempt to even this out and give a voice to the weak but guns provided an even playing field. A football player and a diminutive housewife have the ability to apply equal force if they are both armed.

      In a society where only criminals have guns there would be little civilization. Or as one of my favorite quotes goes “Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch. Liberty is a well-armed lamb contesting the vote.”

  2. Great job Keith. You present a rational and fact based argument that is on point. Untreated mental illness is the issue here, not gun ownership.

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