First of all, to be clear: I am not at all advocating for “everyone has to have a gun” – I am not a blind follower of what you call “pro-gun dogma”. Being intelligent, rational, and mature adult, I am only advocating for the right to own and carry a firearm if I choose to, to have the option to protect myself. I am for balanced, comprehensive, and realistic gun laws that make sense. I am also for basic firearm education and training.
I am however against some currently proposed, as well as some existing, rules and regulations, which fall under the term “Gun Control” as it is framed by anti-gun politicians. The reason for my opposition is that in my view the above rules and regulations do not address gun violence, nor they produce any solutions to it. Let’s look at the infamous 10 year experiment we just recently went through: the Federal Assault Weapons Ban (AWB), signed by Bill Clinton in 1994 and expired in 2004:
…Opponents of the ban claimed that its expiration has seen little if any increase in crime, while Senator Diane Feinstein claimed the ban was effective because “It was drying up supply and driving up prices.” The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention studied the “assault weapon” ban and other gun control attempts, and found “insufficient evidence to determine the effectiveness of any of the firearms laws reviewed for preventing violence.” A 2004 critical review of research on firearms by a National Research Council panel also noted that academic studies of the assault weapon ban “did not reveal any clear impacts on gun violence” and noted “due to the fact that the relative rarity with which the banned guns were used in crime before the ban … the maximum potential effect of the ban on gun violence outcomes would be very small…. (Wikipedia: Federal Assault Weapons Ban)
One clear achievement of the AWB is that it has introduced and legitimized somewhat illogical “Assault Weapon” classification for certain firearms. Aside from grenade launcher and high capacity magazine, such classification was based on firearm appearance and non-essential features (folding or telescopic stock, pistol grip, etc.) and not on actual firepower or performance characteristics (Wikipedia: Criteria of an assault weapon). One of such firearms classified as “assault weapon” was AR-15 semi-automatic rifle (which stands for “ArmaLite Rifle model 15” and not “Assault Rifle model 15” as many uninformed may think) originally designed by Eugene Stoner and made by ArmaLite. This semi-automatic rifle design has been converted into fully-automatic and then adopted for military use in 1963 under M16 designation (Wikipedia: M16 rifle). Unlike M16 however, this AR-15 rifle is incapable of selective fire between full-auto and three-round burst, and is capable of single shot only. Therefore it is not intended for “assault” but for sport and hunting. Moreover…
A Weapon No More Dangerous…
Opponents of the AWB claimed that assault weapons are generally no more dangerous than many other readily available firearms. Most of the defining characteristics included in the AWB do not hinder or enhance the weapons’ effectiveness or accuracy. While semi-automatic weapons can be fired faster than other firearms, a large number of semi-automatic rifles, pistols and shotguns remained legal in the U.S. after the adoption of the AWB. The AR-15, one of the rifles that became an assault weapon with the passage of the AWB because of its physical characteristics, is a .223 caliber. The .223 is smaller and less lethal than many rifle calibers. In most states, a .223 is not permitted for hunting big game because of the caliber’s ineffectiveness at bringing down animals such as deer and elk. (About.com: Civil Liberties)
In reality, an evil doer could inflict as much (if not more) damage, using currently legal rifles, shotguns, or handguns without employing ANY of the features proposed to be banned. The 2007 Virginia Tech shooting is one of such examples where no “assault rifle” has been used at all.
Law enforcement officials found a purchase receipt for one of the guns used in the assault among Cho’s belongings. The shooter waited one month after buying a Walther P22 pistol before he bought a second pistol, a Glock 19. Cho used a 15-round magazine in the Glock and a 10-round magazine [legal in CA] in the Walther. (Wikipedia: Virginia Tech Massacre Perpetrator)
Or how about 2009 Fort Hood shooting? This event is rarely mentioned by anti-gun politicians because it does not fit into their skewed perception of the “evil” nature of certain guns over the others.
The truth is that these rules and regulations have not been designed to address more important issues such as deeper and more comprehensive firearms pre-purchase screening, firearms storage and access restriction within household as well as lack of mental health treatment programs, excessive over-medication and prescription drugs abuse, poor parental supervision, etc.
Despite almost complete lack of merit for this kind of legislations, radical anti-gun politicians (Gun and Game: List of Anti-Gun Politicians) continue to scare masses by nonsensical terms like “military style semi-automatic assault rifle”, ultimately pushing for a protectionist society utopia where firearms are only in hands of law enforcement. Sounds like a great idea but… in most cases, police arrives on a “crime scene” after crime has already been committed. This in turn would eradicate the self-defense option for you and me. They are unable to make guns illegal outright in one sweep so they go after bits and pieces, little by little, and AWB legislation is one of the prime examples of that.
Now let’s throw some statistics into our discussion. It is necessary to mention that most of the time, the numbers representing gun related violence include ALL 31,076 firearm related deaths, of which 11,078 (or 35%) homicides, 19,392 (or 62%) suicides, and 606 (or 1.95%) accidental death and injuries (2010 statistics, Law Center To Prevent Gun Violence: Gun Violence Statistics). For argument sake, let’s subtract suicides from this total number under the assumption that in case of a suicide no one else is harmed and there are many other methods to commit it. Suddenly, our number is now a third of all 32,146 deaths occurred in automobile accidents (2010 statistics, Laws.com: Know Your Car Accidents Statistics) and only a small fraction of all 195,000 deaths occurred due to medical malpractice (Wikipedia: Medical Malpractice).
Furthermore, the US is the 12th (14th by homicide) in the list of countries with high firearms related deaths – not the 1st! (Wikipedia: List of countries by firearm-related death rate). This fact is often skewed and obfuscated by addition of among “richest” or “modern industrial countries” qualifier. Which brings me to the subject of mass shootings, which are responsible for under 120 (or 0.39%) total deaths a year (Boston.com: Crime & Punishment). Seems like the latter is a statistically negligible number but… when it comes to mass shootings, it suddenly is not about statistics at all, is it?
One interesting fact however is that almost all mass shootings have taken place in so called “gun-free zones” (or as pro-gun advocates call them “kill zones”) – the byproduct of 1990 Gun-Free School Zones Act, where perpetrator is guaranteed to face virtually no resistance. As Eric Holder (now US Attorney General) has said once: “No good crisis should go to waste.” and each time a tragedy like this occurs, it doesn’t: law abiding gun owners are being broadly demonized.
Now, let’s also look at leading causes of deaths in the US: 435,000 (or 18.1%) due to smoking, 111,909 (or 4.6%) due to being overweight and obesity, 85,000 (or 3.5%) due to alcohol, 44,000 to 98,000 (estimated) due to medical errors, 43,000 (or 1.8%) in traffic accidents, and finally 29,000 (or 1.2%) firearms-related, of which 10,801 due to homicide (Wikipedia: Leading Causes of Death in the USA). Tobacco, alcohol, bad food, cars are all legal but despite being the leading causes of death they rarely if ever get mentioned by our hypocrisy filled politicians.
The issue is surely complex and highly emotional, especially taking to account high politicization coming from both sides, but almost none of the current proposals helps to solve it. Meanwhile, the objective reality is such that millions of guns are already widely spread among the US population, with more guns sold this year than ever before. My own passion towards shooting sports aside, this aspect alone tilts my view towards having an option to own a firearm for personal protection.
Concluding, let’s take a look at Switzerland, which takes 4th place among highest gun ownership countries in the world, and their gun laws.
…Gun politics in Switzerland are unique in Europe. Switzerland does not have a standing army, instead opting for a peoples’ militia for its national defense. The vast majority of men between the ages of 20 and 30 are conscripted into the militia and undergo military training, including weapons training. The personal weapons of the militia are kept at home as part of the military obligations; Switzerland thus has one of the highest militia gun ownership rates in the world. In recent times political opposition has expressed a desire for tighter gun regulations. A referendum in February 2011 rejected stricter gun control… (Wikipedia: Gun Politics in Switzerland)
And let’s not forget to look at “Gun Crime” section on the same Gun Politics in Switzerland page… Surely, Switzerland is an isolated example (just like Japan with their low rate of gun-related crimes) but interesting example no less, where widespread gun ownership – somewhat 3,400,000 firearms with a total population of 8,000,000 does not result into a high volume of gun related violence (53 homicides in 2010, Gunpolicy.org: Switzerland)… perhaps because of sensible gun laws, mandatory firearms education, and other measures?
Wide availability and access to guns in the US is surely a consideration in the whole “gun violence” debate but I believe, it’s one of several and without addressing the issue from all angles, gun-related-only legislations won’t produce the results desired, if any. Here is Forbes: Disarming the Myths Promoted By The Gun Control Lobby. I truly hope that our politicians will be able to come up with balanced and sensible approach.