Op-Ed: Pretend Gun Laws
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The following opinion column was submitted by John Harrison, a former teacher at Bishop O'Connell High School in Arlington, an adjunct professor at Georgetown University, and a professional lecturer.
Although gun control proponents call all homicides "murder," they are not.
Murder is an illegal killing; homicide is a killing of one human by another. According to the FBI, in 2010 there were almost 700 justifiable homicides, most with a gun. Law enforcement accounted for about 400 of those; citizens killed about 300. Police usually acted after a crime; citizens usually acted to stop a crime in progress.
According to statistics collected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Americans overall are far less likely — down 28 percent — to be killed with a firearm than they were when it was more difficult to obtain a concealed-weapons permit. While the CDC has not been able to establish a cause-and-effect relationship for the reduction in risk, this fact speaks volumes about whether more guns in society makes society more, or less, dangerous.
Like the terrified Georgia mother and hero Melinda Herman, who successfully protected herself and her twins by shooting and wounding a home invader, the important point is that Americans use guns to protect themselves everyday in this country, even though they do not always kill somebody.
At present there is no scientific agreement that restrictive firearms regulations and laws have had any effect on gun violence. Even the CDC agrees, "evidence available from identified studies was insufficient to determine the effectiveness of any of the firearms laws reviewed singly or in combination." There is simply no accepted evidence to support an assertion that any new gun control law will save a single child's life.
While real door locks on classroom doors would help, we protect what we love with guns because they work. It would be nice if these facts were part of the gun control discussion, but so far they are not.
Even Australia’s experiment in gun control — a half a billion Australian dollars to remove more than 600,000 guns from circulation — is still only an experiment. That is less than 0.3 percent of the 300 million guns estimated to be in America, so the cost of such a program here would be exponentially more.
In 2005, Don Weatherburn, the head of the Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research in New South Wales, Australia, said there was little evidence to show that a decade of restrictive gun laws had any impact on violence, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.
If you really want to make kids safe in school, put guards with guns in schools. That works. Israel proved it after the Ma'alot school massacre in 1974. Since about one-third of the schools in America have armed guards, this is an idea that already has support. When airports were attacked, opponents said you wouldn’t want a gun battle in a plane — but then 9/11 showed the need for guns on planes. Soon after, there were armed guards on planes.
Many people do not like large capacity magazines — but they also do not realize that it was a malfunction in a large capacity magazine at the Aurora, Colo., shooting that allowed bystanders to take the gun away. Most people also do not know that, according to the CDC, clubs and hammers killed more people in 2011 than were killed by a rifle of any type, including all of the various kinds of so-called assault weapons.
In 2007, there were about 12,000 deaths by drunk drivers and 29,846 accidental deaths by poisoning. If protection of peoples’ lives is the real goal of such laws, why not spend the time and money where we know it would do some good?
For example, almost all drunk driving deaths are preventable. We know how to prevent them with laws similar to those that actually work all over Europe, but we have not passed laws that will accomplish this. Why not? Why are we talking about laws that we have no reason to believe will save lives, but we are not talking about laws that we know will save lives? Gun control advocates say their concern is for human life. But their real concern appears to be only about guns, because they are afraid of them.
The economic reality is that any gun ownership reduction program, or even a large capacity magazine reduction program of sufficient size to make a difference, would cost way too much, and anything less than that is a waste of time and money. It would be playing pretend rather than crafting an effective policy. Furthermore, doing a gun buyback like Australia’s would cost billions, but the Australian experience does not indicate that the money would be well spent. Why spend it?
Would additional gun laws have stopped the Aurora or Newtown, Conn., killings? No. Gun ownership, for instance, is far more restricted in Norway than would be tolerated in America, but even such strict regulation did not stop Anders Behring Breivik, the "self-styled anti-Muslim militant" killing 77 there. Many of these shooters are mentally unstable and that is the real problem. But directing laws at mental health professionals would not work because those laws would run smack into the doctor-client confidentiality.
Would a law that made it more difficult for the Aurora killer to get four guns in a short period of time have stopped him, or would fewer guns have slowed him down? Since he could only shoot one or at most two guns at a time, any more than that got in his way. The Newtown shooter stole his guns after he killed his mother. Both the theft and the murder were already illegal. It is hard to believe than any additional law would have had any effect on the Newtown shooter.
Would a law against so-called assault rifles have reduced the carnage in Aurora or Newtown? Not likely. An experienced killer would have used a shotgun and killed more people with fewer shots, and you can reload many shotguns as you shoot them. According to the FBI, a total of 323 people were killed last year by rifles, including assault weapons. Even if assault weapons were entirely banned, it would not change much. The Newtown shooter left a shotgun in his car before he went on his rampage. Removing the assault weapon from the Newtown equation would not have helped at all.
None of the laws suggested so far will slow down, much less stop criminals or lunatics bent on mass murder. Since the objective evidence shows that the gun control laws proposed will not prevent another shooting, why are they still being considered? And when they fail, as they surely will fail, will gun control advocates propose more restrictions on guns? The authors of the Second Amendment were well aware of the risks associated with essentially allowing every able-bodied citizen to have a weapon, but they thought that the risks to free men of not having such weapons was worse.
Not so long ago America was proud of its nickname as the “nation of riflemen,” and gun control consisted of hitting your target. If we really want to do something useful about gun violence we need to look at what has changed and see how we can fix that. Or, we can play pretend and pass laws that we know will not work — but will make some feel good without the trouble of actually doing something good.