I was going to move on from the subject of the Tucson shooting, having said my piece on it already, but a friend sent me this link:
and there’s too much there to leave alone. The article gathers together much of the nonsense that is the push for gun control.
The author, Richard Cohen, declares the nation’s gun laws to be insane in his first paragraph. That is our only point of agreement. I can buy a book on-line; I can buy a bottle of liquor in any state in the Union (except Utah?), but I can only legally buy a gun in my state of residence. I can drive on any public road in the country, thanks to my Arkansas driver’s license, but my carry license is only honored by those states that have a reciprocal agreement with my state. That’s thirty-seven, so far, and the trend is in the right direction, but imagine if California didn’t allow me to drive within its borders. I don’t suppose that what I’ve named is the kind of insanity that Cohen meant, though.
His article jumps immediately into explaining what his definition is:
“The American culture, the American gun culture, insists on a constitutional right to bear arms – even concealed weapons such as a Glock 19 semiautomatic handgun capable of doing immense damage.”
Indeed. That, among much else, is exactly what we insist on. Those of us who support carrying a concealed handgun do so because we want to be civil. We don’t necessarily oppose the open-carry movement, but we accept that some people are disturbed by the sight of a weapon, and we’re willing to keep ours hidden. We support semiautomatics because they are effective tools for self defense. So are revolvers, depending on the circumstances. Handguns, as Jeff Cooper pointed out many times, are weapons that a person can wear always. It’s the weapon that we have on our persons when an emergency arises. If we know that trouble is coming, we either get out of Dodge or fetch a rifle.
Cohen heads on to say that the shooter in Tucson wasn’t asked any questions when he bought his Glock. Um, when was the last time that Cohen went gun shopping? For every firearm that I have bought from a dealer, except for my blackpowder revolver, I’ve had to fill out a form that asks me whether I’m a drug addict or illegal user, a felon, a stalker, and other such nefarious types. Lying on that form is a crime–a felony, if I recall correctly. In Tennessee, I then had to wait around while the store owner called in for a background check to verify my answers. (In Arkansas, those of us with a carry license are spared that.)
Loughner passed that check, apparently, and as much of an outrage as the shooting was, I’m glad that he passed. I don’t, absolutely don’t support what he did, but at the same time, I don’t want the government having lists of citizens who might do something wrong in the future. Remember that Ted Kennedy somehow got on the No-Fly list. If the government is going to take rights away from the citizens, it must act in the open and according to due process.
We’re treated to statistics provided by the Brady Campaign that claim that “more Americans were killed with guns in the 18-year period between 1979 and 1997 (651,697) than were killed in battle in all wars since 1775 (650,858).” That’s about 36,000 a year during the period. Other sources put the number at something like 26,000. At the same time, some 40,000 individuals died each year on the highways. About 400,000 died of tobacco-related diseases yearly.
What we see here is the way that statistics are weak arguments. The death rate given is about one to three persons in 10,000 in America each year. Tobacco deaths are about one in 750 per year. The firearms deaths also lump all kinds together, self-defense shootings, police shootings, and suicides along with accidents and homicides. A homeowner who puts down a would-be rapist is statistically the equal of someone who commits murder with a firearm. A person who choses suicide as opposed to lingering in the pain of cancer is counted along with the teenager who kills himself when his girlfriend breaks up with him.
The author sees these numbers as a reason for adopting restrictions on access to guns. He observes that constitutional amendments can be “repealed and then reworded,” suggesting that we ought to be allowed long guns only. But he admitted that a long gun was used to kill John F. Kennedy. I have to wonder if Cohen would be satisfied with restricting me to rifles and shotguns. Once the amendment process begins, the urge to take away more and more could be irresistible. Let’s recall, though, that the only amendment to restrict the rights of Americans was the Eighteenth–in other words, Prohibition. We know how well that worked.
The article does discuss Loughner’s possible motivations, recognizing that “the mind of a madman is a bog. It’s easy to get lost.” There’s the answer. In a free society, on rare occasions, a crazy person will commit an outrage. That’s the risk of a free society. A police state, by contrast, is what we would have to accept to remove guns from this country. Here’s another number to consider: 200,000,000. That’s the estimate of how many firearms are privately held by U. S. citizens. Do you really want your government to demand that we turn them in just because one lunatic did something outrageous? Do you really believe that we would turn them in? Do you also believe that if Loughner had not been able to get a gun, that he would have given up? He could have rented a panel truck and caused similar carnage.
Life is dangerous, and that fact makes it more interesting. Almost ten years ago, I heard a call to make jet fuel non-explosive, in the belief that the Twin Towers wouldn’t have fallen if that had been the rule. Of course, jet fuel is jet fuel precisely because it’s explosive. With it, we can travel the world. A small number die in airplane crashes and attacks, but most flyers get where they’re going without harm. The same is true about firearms. The vast majority of gun owners abide by the laws. We have no need for an idiot’s veto that will accomplish nothing worthwhile.