Gun Violence ~ Why It’s Not a Political Issue This Time Around, Not Yet Anyway

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. 

Gun Violence 

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.

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Published in: on February 23, 2008 at 7:12 pm  Comments (15)  

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15 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Kent, this gun totin’ issue is a sticky one. I dislike guns but there are people who love them which is fine with me. We all have our likes and dislikes BUT we do need to have some type of control as to who is allowed to purchase a gun here in the U.S. I do not know if there is a clear answer other than to place the blame on the person who is doing this random shooting. The school shootings and other random acts of violence with guns is getting out of control and then we have these nuts who will shoot anyone that is driving too slow or do not want anyone to change lanes in front of them. What kind of society have we become? We are not enlightened that for sure. Our moral structure is so broken, I wonder if there is a remedy. The subject of gun control is a weighty subject & I feel that we need to continue praying about this one and ask for divine guidance as we should do with everything.

  2. As a member of Million Mom March, a group which favors gun restrictions in terms of the ease with which to buy them, I definitely feel that access to guns is too easy in this country. But that is not the only problem. Other problems include a breakdown in our moral fiber, specifically, the lack of sanctity of life, the media which glamorizes killing, violence, etc., and the lack of many people to exercise self-control. Too many people think violence is the only way of controlling an argument. I think our parents, schools, and society in general have to teach and preach that violence is not the way of resolving arguments. And yes, we need to pray for a more peaceful world and practice it ourselves.

  3. As an Australian I am confused by the position you are all taking. I can tell you now regulation is not the solution to your problem. I happen to agree with the premise that the media “glamorises” violence, there has been a breakdown of moral fiber and that it is indeed odd that Americans seem to want to arm themselves as a solution to violence.
    You can change these trends but you cannot, you MUST not enforce this change through government intervention. These social problems are not the cause of your problems they are a result of your problems. If Joe Blog wants to arm himself to the teeth because he feels safer, fine, if you disagree talk to him. Talk to your kids and your friends about poor attitudes, but at the same time do not try to force your beliefs on anyone, you will create discontent and more problems. Also, do not discount the fact you may be wrong, maybe Joe has a reason to want those guns, perhaps the fact they make him feel safe is all the justification that is needed.
    Believe me, you do not want the US to end up as Australia, sometimes it just feels like the government is putting a cigarette out on your soul the way they claim to know what’s good for us.

  4. Thank you for your comment, Seb. I have read where gun control in Australia has not been implemented nor received well. Perhaps we will learn from your experience with it. Whatever we do will not be uniformly received well, I know that. But we’ve got to do something more than just talk to “blokes,” really. Our gun violence problem has become a national emergency, in my opinion, more threatening to us than the terrorism currently directed against us from outsiders.

    Opa

  5. I would say national violence is your emergency, not gun violence. Talking to “blokes” would be a very rudimentary form of spreading your message, I would suggest perhaps starting an education initiative. Whatever you do, I advise strongly against pushing for government intervention.
    In Australia one can be given a court summons for carrying a swiss army knife, be arrested for having a dagger or sword in their home (in Victoria), even posessing fireworks or a cap gun in your home is an offence. We have no rights entrenched in our constitution and our common law rights are broadly and insufficiently defined. For example, a police officer regularly coming into your home to check safe storage arrangements of firearms would be a violation of your fourth amendment against unreasonable searches and seizures yet is common practice here.
    Instead of worrying about your fellow man can do, be more concerned about the day when you must worry about what your fellow man cannot do.

  6. Thank you for your concern about our civic liberties, Seb. That’s laudable. But I fear we are at a point now in this country where we cannot have it all one way or the other. Whether you see the connection between guns and violence or not, for me — for many others, it’s clearly there, and the American people will be the ones who decide this issue… God willing.

    We’ve not had a history of majority rule as our Canadian cousins have had. Ours has been about individual and minority rights. So the transition will probably be difficult for us, maybe even more so than it has been for you in Australia. But we’ve got to start pulling together now as a nation with common interests rather than a patchwork country of special interests. Our very survival is at stake.

    Opa

  7. I challenge your assertion that the link is ‘clearly there’. Increasingly, studies conducted in the US and here by the Australian Institute of Criminology show the lack of evidence supporting the stance that private gun ownership is a causal factor in high homicide rates. Look at your own murder capital, Washington DC, it is one of the few places that completely bans handgun ownership.
    To say that Americans will be the ones that decide this issue is basically incorrect. If it wasn’t for the NRA’s work as a NGO representative to the UN, it would have been decided for you long ago.
    Be careful also using the term “special interest”. The NRA has 4 million members…that’s an enormous membership figure when compared to any gun control organisation. Gun control could be viewed as more of a minority special interest than gun rights, regardless of the “public good” such groups purport to be doing.

    Regardless, the US is a pluralistic democracy, and freedom of association is assured specifically to encourage the existence of such political lobby groups. James Madison included such institutionalised conflict in his design for the American republic for a reason, discourse is essential to a functioning democracy.

    You are free to join the Brady Campaign if you wish, if you are convinced that your second amendment is a burden. Think about why the NRA might have attracted 4 million *financial* members. Do you think these 4 million people don’t recognise the violence problem in your country? Why do 80 million Americans own a gun? Are they all heartless? If it was so clear that gun ownership led to high violent crime as you claim, surely they would have to be.

    I do not think this is the case. The reality is civilian gun control is an idea created on a political whim and its true effect on violent crime, which is very little, are reflected in the amount of thought that went into its development.

  8. Despite the practiced rhetoric from the gun lobby, which admittedly is a large group of enthusiastic owners, manufactures, and merchants, America is ready for change that will make us safer. Even President Bush now sees the relationship between excessive, easy to acquire hand guns in our cities and the growing incidence of violence http://abcnews.go.com/Video/playerIndex?id=4126153&affil=wjla. In its brief in the D.C. vs. Heller case, which is pending in the U.S. Supreme Court, the Bush Administration has acknowledged the “…unquestionable threat to public safety that unrestricted private firearm possession would entail” that “various categories of firearm-related regulation are permitted by the Second Amendment http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/politics/la-na-guns13jan13,1,5918084.story?coll=la-news-politics-national&ctrack=1&cset=true.”

  9. Violence in major cities is on the rise, particularly in my native Philadelphia. In the last two years the city of brotherly love has averaged more than more murder and four shootings a day.

    For an inside look, visit. http://www.insidekilladelphia.blogspot.com for people who suffer from it, and those who fight against it.

  10. People need to wake up. Such a waste of time and life fighting for ridiculous things. It is sad. Thanks for writing this!

  11. Please, read about England’s crime rates before and after their ban. You’ll notice that violent crime in the UK is far higher than it was prior to the ban. Also, you mentioned that you almost never see stories of American’s defending themselves in the media. Have you ever stopped to consider that the media is generally liberal? Go to http://www.nraila.org, there you can find many stories of gun owner’s defending themselves with their guns. Also, consider comparing crime rates in city that have virtually no gun laws, cities with semi-restrictive gun laws, and cities (like Washington D.C.) that have draconian gun laws. Notice which cities have the highest crime rates…

  12. Thank you for your comment, Itiscoming.

    One must be careful when attempting to make a statistical case for or against gun ownership. There are many factors to be considered, so it is problematic at best to assume a cause-and-effect, direct correlation between any two sets of numbers.

    There have been many studies done over the years attempting to correlate crime statistics with gun restrictions. They have been done by groups and individuals on both sides of the gun issue. One very famous one was was done back in the 80s by a group of doctors at the University of Washington’s Department of Surgery. The group generated a report that chronicled an examination of rates of various types of crimes in Seattle, Washington and Vancouver, British Columbia from 1980 through 1986. The report was titled, “Handgun Regulations, Crime, Assaults, and Homicide: A Tale of Two Cities.” The study found that Seattle had about a 16 percent higher rate of aggravated assault (i.e., with weapon or injury), but that the rate of assault with guns was about 7 times higher. The homicide rate, adjusted for age and sex but not race, economic status, or differences in health care systems, was about 1.28 to 2.08 times higher in Seattle. They reported that virtually all of the excess risk in Seattle was explained by a 4.8-fold higher risk of being murdered with a handgun in Seattle and concluded that restricting access to handguns may reduce the rate of homicide in a community.

    While the Tale of Two Cities study argues in favor of my particular bias on this matter, I do not consider it proof of my position. I say this because the doctors did not account for differences in population race or income, in differences between criminal justice systems, or in differences between health care systems. There are many, many factors in different societies that contribute to any sample set of numbers. This is why the doctors used the obligatory “may” when they suggested the correlation between handguns and homicides.

    Rather than believing that guns are responsible for crime, or that gun ownership can in anyway deter crime, I choose to believe that crime is more a result of socio-economic conditions.

    Yes, Itiscoming, the media is generally liberal, here in the United States at least and in other countries that respect the right of free speech. It is liberal because it functions (for the most part) independent government or political restrictions. It is liberal because it is generally rational and reality-based. It is liberal because the men and women involved in gathering and reporting the news are educated, highly intelligent and generally honest. It is liberal because it seeks the truth and it is competitive in much the same way that science is competitive. When stories are fabricated or embellished, and sometimes they are, others hold the author accountable.

  13. Kent, the gun ownership and/or the Right To Bear Arms really makes interesting reading. Of course I simply dislike guns because of the destruction they (guns) cause. I do not believe that the Second Amendment applies to the way we live today. I am not sure I believe that the economy causes excessive gun murders by. I do believe these murders are caused by people who have problems whether it is depression, robbing to acquire the means for the next fix (drug related), hatred, those who are too lazy to work for a living, OR that our wants exceed our needs. Whatever the reason, something should be done to curb the easy access to hand guns or assault weapons. I would think that it should be done through the manufacturers.

    This gun law debate is a weighty subject and I am not sure if we here in the U.S. possess the intelligence to debate this rationally. The thing that bothers me is that our youth have access to guns.There are other forces here at work and I think we should tackle these forces as they are probably the root cause of so much violence in our communities throughout the country. Poverty does not give anyone a license to kill.

  14. The Supreme Court has ruled and Americans have their rights. in Australia, it is forbidden to own ANY form of defensive weapon.

    Knife:banned
    Brass knuckles :Banned
    Mace:Banned
    Pepper spray: Banned
    Guns: HELL NO
    Nunchuks:Banned
    Capsicum spray:Banned
    Batons:Banned
    Truncheon:Banned

    Americans have the right to defend themselves.

    Australians have the right to get down on their knees and beg for their lives.

  15. Yes the violence, in the City of Philadelphia has been on the rise with the AVERAGE of FOUR SHOOTING A Day.I AM A MOTHER WHO HAS LOST MY ONLY CHILD (SON) BECAUSE OF GUN VIOLENCE. I AM ONE OF THOSE MOTHERS OUT THERE WHO IS SUFFERING BECAUSE THEY TOOK MY SON LIFE WITH A GUN.I DON’T CARE ABOUT ANY OF THESE AMENDMENT THAT OK GUNS. I SAY GET THE GUNS OFF OF OUR STREETS, OUR CHILDREN ARE BEING MURDERED WITH THEM. YES TAKE A GOOD LOOK, VISIT http://www.inside killadelphia.blogspot.com


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