Until we are able to close the many social/economic gaps in our country that spawn violent crime, I truly do think that limiting the proliferation and access to hand guns by convicted felons and mental patients should be put back on the legislative agenda. I would feel much safer knowing that there are not more hand guns in this country than people who might use them.
A good friend of mine attended a TFN (Texas Freedom Network) conference recently. He brought back a publication on organizing effective “grass-roots” movements and decided to solicit some ideas. I answered his email about it suggesting that, in light of the campus killings of twenty at Northern Illinois State University last week, the Kirkwood, Missouri City Council killing of five the week before, and the Virginia Tech campus massacre of thirty-three last April, perhaps it’s time for America to revisit the issue of gun control.
Truly, here in the Dallas area it seems like there is at least one senseless shooting tragedy in the news every day… kids robbing convenience stores and killing proprietors who resist, others blindly shooting through curtained windows of homes hitting innocent women and children. Hardly ever do we hear about citizens legitimately defending themselves, their families or property with guns; notwithstanding, many Americans feel that they need guns for self-protection. The number of states with some version of a Concealed Carry law, either “shall issue” or “not restricted” has grown from nine in 1986 to thirty-nine today. All the remaining states are currently considering concealed carry laws http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Concealed_carry. Clearly, America’s response to increasing gun violence has been to arm itself.
Another recipient of my friend’s email responded to my “reply-to-all” answer by saying, “I suspect from the tone of this e-mail that you would favor a more restrictive government policy toward gun ownership. If this is true, are you sure that there is a cause and effect relationship between gun ownership and violent crime? How is it that our good friends, the Swiss, who have firearms (military firearms with ample supplies of ammunition) in virtually every home in the land, who carry firearms openly in the streets and on public transportation without public alarm, who participate in shooting sports like we play golf, have virtually no gun crime, allow their children to walk or ride public transportation to school unescorted, and can walk the streets of their cities day or night without fear of harm? Are guns really the root of our violent crime problem or could it be something else?”
This lady concluded her response by suggesting that we will likely hear nothing about gun-control debated in this election year because it is such a divisive political issue. I wrote back saying, “I’m not so sure that you are right about our not hearing anything from the candidates about gun control prior to the November elections. The Supreme Court has agreed to relook the question of whether the Second Amendment is still relevant to ‘individual’ ownership of guns. They are doing so in response to an appeal associated with Washington D.C.’s legal attempts to limit gun crime in that city. The Court is scheduled to hear arguments in March. A decision is expected by June. Results in this case either way are, I think, likely to make gun control an issue for debate by Presidential and Congressional candidates this year whether they want the debate or not http://www.nytimes.com/2007/11/20/washington/20cnd-scotus.html.”
I went on to say, “Compared to Americans, the Swiss are a very different people. They’re different in many ways. They’re better educated for one thing, and they have no recent history of war. They have a higher per capita GDP than other larger European countries, Japan, or even the U.S. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Switzerland#Economy. The distribution of wealth in Switzerland is much more equitable than here in the U.S., and the crime rate is much, much lower http://dev.prenhall.com/divisions/hss/worldreference/CH/crime.html. Although they speak many different languages, they have never had a “civil rights” issue with large segments of their society being treated as inferior citizens, and they control their borders. Their unemployment rate is currently less than one fourth of ours too http://www.daube.ch/opinions/akld12.html.
Unlike here in the U.S., the Swiss still employ militia as a large part of their self defense forces. This explains for me why personal firearms are so prevalent there http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Military_of_Switzerland. We used to rely on militias for national defense too, which was the original basis/justification for the Second Amendment. Since we no longer rely on militias, those of us on my side of the gun argument wonder how our counterparts rationalize that it still applies.
Rather than comparing us to the Swiss as an argument against gun control, why not consider our closer neighbors for a comparison, the Canadians, as an argument for gun control? We’ve a lot more in common with them — historically, socially, economically. Murders committed with firearms per capita have been more than eight times higher in recent years here in the U.S. than in Canada. Murder by other means (without guns) has been almost twice as high http://www.guncontrol.ca/Content/Cda-US.htm. This, in my mind, clearly establishes a correlation between guns and violent crime.”
So, until we are able to close the many social/economic gaps in our country that spawn violent crime, I truly do think that limiting the proliferation guns and access to them by convicted felons and mental patients should be put back on the legislative agenda. I would personally feel much safer knowing that there are not more hand guns in this country than people who might use them http://www.gunsandcrime.org/numbers.html.
Once the Second Amendment question is resolved this summer by the Supreme Court, states and local governments may be free to decide appropriate ownership and use restrictions. Then enforce- ment becomes a nightmare, right? So, instead of local, unenforce- able laws, perhaps the following would work to reduce the number of hand guns and, therefore, the violence perpetrated with them: levying a heavy federally-mandated sales tax on new, legal purchases coupled with annual property/ownership/use taxes; putting some real teeth into a national registry database and allowing sellers to be sued for not properly employing it, and; instituting a buy-back program for weapons such as our Australian friends have done. The last measure in this list could be paid for with revenue received from new hand-gun manufacturing taxes and an excise tax on imported hand guns.
Shot guns and hunting rifles? These have legitimate uses by sportsmen and women. But what to do about assault guns (fully automatic rifles and machine pistols), that’s a whole ‘nuther matter. These, I believe, as well as all armor piercing ammunition, must be outlawed for private ownership at the Federal level.
Suggesting these things won’t make my gun-loving friends happy with me, I know. But then, I’m not running for public office.
Enter your comment in the space provided below.