I struggle with the idea of gun control. Over time, my ideas have gone from embracing the idea that anyone should be able to own a firearm, as long as they comply with the law, to questioning the need for anyone to possess a weapon with the exception of the Police and Military.
I argued that there are practical problems with imposing serious gun control in this country. Best estimates show there are 114 million handguns in private hands. To create a program to remove them lawfully from private ownership has nightmarish legal and practical implications.
There are issues with overcoming the constitutional arguments. I have revisited the arguments of the second amendment. I see a clear distinction in the common interpretation between its original intent and today’s modern era.
As with all aspects of the Constitution, adapting to a changing world is both necessary and reasonable
In light of the clear and undeniable problem of gun violence in this country, a new approach to gun control is long overdue. The numbers for 2010 were 18,000 deaths and 33000 injuries from firearms. Homicide rates in urban areas are 12.1 per 100000.
Some other interesting information; (various on-line sources)
The U.S.A. is ranked third out of 45 developed nations in regards to the incidence of homicides committed with a firearm. Mexico and Estonia are ranked first and second.
In 2009 United Nations statistics record 3.0 intentional homicides committed with a firearm per 100,000 inhabitants; for comparison, the figure for Mexico, where handguns are prohibited was 10 per 100,000, the figure for the United Kingdom, where handguns are prohibited was 0.07 per 100,000, about 40 times lower, and for Germany 0.2.
Gun homicides in Switzerland however are similarly low, at 0.52 in 2010 even though they rank third in the world for highest number of guns per citizen.
Perhaps we can learn something from the Swiss.
So, what are the arguments for allowing private ownership of guns? Here are the two most commonly cited, the second amendment and protection against a tyrannical government.
“A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”
Written at a time when the United States did not keep a standing army, citizens were called to duty when needed. The benefit of having citizens maintaining and possessing firearms was clear. The use of a firearm in daily survival, hunting for example, was common. It was a different time.
Hunting is a hobby now, not a necessity. However, keep in mind, I am talking about handguns and, perhaps, high-capacity military type weapons.
Protection from tyranny.
Proponents of gun ownership often cite Hitler’s Germany outlawing private ownership of weapons as an example. There is no evidence that the lack of private ownership of firearms by the German people contributed to the rise of the National Socialists in Germany. The reasons behind that rise to power were infinitely more complex; handguns in every German home would not have altered anything.
This tyranny argument fails on two counts, one philosophical and one practical. On the philosophical side, the idea that any American government could direct the military to attack the general population is ludicrous.
The men and women who serve do so because of the American people, not despite them. I know no one who ever served in the military that would follow an order to attack American civilians.
Isolated incidents notwithstanding, the idea of a wholesale attack by the US military on Americans is insane. It makes for an entertaining movie theme, not reality.
Now the practical side of this argument. Assuming for the sake of discussion that the President somehow convinced the military to attack civilians in a coordinated way, using the full power of the military, the “second amendment” advocates would not stand a chance.
A fully orchestrated attack by the 1st Marine Division, supported by aircraft, armored vehicles and artillery would utterly overwhelm a bunch of yahoos clinging to their precious weapons whose idea of training is drinking beer and shooting targets bearing the image of a politician they despise.
The idea that a citizen army could withstand such an attack is nonsense.
There is a long history of well-established civilian control over the military because the military is comprised of citizens. While one always needs to pay attention, I think a bigger threat to our freedom comes from Congress and not the Pentagon.
It really boils down to this, does the tradition of private ownership of firearms outweigh the real risk to our society. We have a failing war on drugs because we thought we could arrest our way out of a health issue. One that, while tragic, takes far fewer lives than handguns. Yet we seem to ignore the bigger threat of these weapons.
It is time for serious reconsideration of eliminating handguns, and perhaps non-hunting weapons, from private ownership and imposing strict control over their use by Law Enforcement.
Maybe it requires a discussion on the reasons behind our violent tendencies that are exacerbated by the easy availability of weapons.
I don’t know the answer, but ignoring the problem is not it.
A country that once said they would put a man on the moon, and did it, is most assuredly capable of finding a way to eliminate the very real threat these weapons pose to people.