Gun Control: A Time to Rethink the Realities

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.

One thought on “Gun Control: A Time to Rethink the Realities

  1. 1) Any attempt to confiscate weapons would put LE personnel in EXTREME and unnecessary danger, whether local or federal, would disarm only those who were formerly law abiding citizens, as well as running afoul of both Articles II and IV. From “The Constitution of the United States, its sources and its application”, here’s an excerpt from the commentary: “This means the arms necessary to a militia, and not the dirks, pistols, and other deadly weapons used by the lawless.” Current military kit, therefore suitable for militia use, currently includes full auto/select fire rifles, shotguns, pistols and knives.
    2) The shooting death #’s are irrelevant; we currently kill more than 50,000 people per annum with our motor vehicles. These numbers are also massively skewed because of the levels of gang violence in inner city neighborhoods.
    3) Here’s the Swiss lessons you’re looking for: They have a large number of organized shooting club events for both youths and adults. All adult males are conscripted at 18, two-thirds of whom are deemed fit for service, and females may volunteer. They are provided comprehensive firearms and general military training, and keep all their kit, including military rifles at their homes for the duration of both active duty (2 yrs min.) and compulsory reserve time (until age 30 for enlisted and 34 for officers). After this time they have the option to obtain a firearms permit and keep their military rifles for the remainder of their lives (most do). Permits to own handguns are also obtainable, but CCW permits are restricted to individuals in LE or security related occupations. Swiss citizens are considered the most educated in the world (86% have at least a high school diploma), and are a largely homogenous society; only 23% of the population are foreigners, 64% of whom are from EU countries, and one-third of these have obtained Swiss citizenship. They also have a strict (recently and narrowly passed) immigration policy.
    4) As for the citizenry being able to resist an organized attack (a more realistic scenario would be idiots going wild en masse after a major infrastructure failure) I refer you to Iraq, Afghanistan and any number of African, Central & South American countries over the years.
    Enough for now; have at it folks!

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