Too Many Guns or Something Else?

I entered into a lengthy debate regarding gun control following my post: Gun-Control-Argument-is-Flawed. My critic posted the following counter and we engaged in a lengthy discussion on his page: https://rautakyy.wordpress.com/2022/06/16/2nd-amendment/

“They are trying to take our guns!”

In light of years of school shootings, staggering numbers of all sorts of gun related violence, and tragicomic amount of gun related accidental deaths, one might expect the US government and judicial system might take another look at the regulatory laws on gun ownership. One could expect, that the frequent and needless deaths of children at least would have evoked a nationwide and fairly universal popular demand to set better laws to regulate guns more.

We should all want to limit school shootings, gun violence, and accidental gun deaths. However, my debating partner (who does not live in the US) should be corrected on one point: US citizens and government have not solved these problems, but they certainly have not ignored them. School shootings especially draw considerable attention in the US. There is much debate, hand wringing, accusations, chest thumping, tears, news stories, town halls, and more in an attempt to force legislators, usually national legislators, to “do something”.

Furthermore, we have often “done something”. I mentioned a few basic federal laws earlier and noted many states have even more restrictive laws. I did not realize the following until doing further research:

Gun-Laws-in-The-US

There are 20,000 different firearms laws now in effect. The National Rifle Association and other pro-gun organizations have frequently touted the 20,000 gun laws that currently exist on the books as reasons why stronger enforcement, rather than additional legislation, is the answer to the problem of gun violence.

It seems the US tinkers with the gun laws quite often. This link covers a few of the main ones from the last hundred years: https://www.americanfirearms.org/federal-and-state-laws/.

The Federal government has many times passed high profile gun legislation in an attempt to resolve problems, often in the wake of a tragic event, such as the “Brady Bill” which is named for White House Press Secretary James Brady, severely injured during an attempt on the life of President Reagan in 1981. Another one often discussed is the “Assault Rifle Ban”, passed in 1994; it expired in 2004 and has not been renewed.

The “problem” perhaps is we tinker too much. Political leaders “do something” to satisfy a baying public, but measures are not usually well thought out and often do not even address the problems that were their catalyst. The “problem” perhaps is that few people know the rules, live by them, and they are generally not well enforced. From my debating partner’s perspective, the “problem” I would say is the following:

According to the Small Arms Survey, the number of weapons possessed by civilians in the United States alone accounts for 393 million, which is approximately 46 percent of the total number of civilian firearms held globally. This equates to ″120.5 guns for every 100 residents,″ according to the statistics.

How Many Guns are in the US? (Gun Ownership Statistics)

32% of Americans say they personally own a firearm according to the 2021 National Firearms Survey. This means that more than 81.4 million Americans own guns. This number only includes adults over 18. When you include family members who live in their same household as a gun owner, that number jumps to 41% of all Americans. Gallup has this figure estimated at 44% of households.

44% translates to about 146 million Americans who have access guns at home. My friend compares the restriction of guns in Europe with the relative freedom to own guns in the U.S. He says, there are just too many guns and too many people who should not have access to them. His view is we should follow the path of our European neighbors who have clamped down on gun ownership. This is a reasonable position, and I understand arriving at this conclusion. If we could, in fact, eliminate all guns or greatly restrict their access, we might have an impact. This has been done in Europe, but is this even possible in the US and would it actually make our lives safer?

Of course, gun control is popular among many in the US also. As I said earlier: “In reality, the only solution that would achieve the change they are looking for is a dismemberment of the second amendment.” The unwillingness of our politicians to openly espouse such a position while continuing to work towards it clandestinely, is a major obstacle for many of us. We prefer the more honest politicians (do any remain?). Can we trust such folks to negotiate a compromise solution that suits all?

On the other hand, the notion that guns themselves are mostly responsible, not the people who use them, bothers many folks as well. This is a fair point also.

The US has almost 400 million guns; yet, a small percentage are used in homicides (there were about 15,000 firearm homicides in 2020). Even if you include suicide, roughly 1 in 10,000 guns are used in the death of another annually (it’s about 1 in 25,000 if you exclude suicide); that translates to about 1 in 4,000 people with access to guns. Most armed Americans never use their guns; yet, they still are exercising their right to protect themselves, their family, and their businesses. Let’s face it: if you believe the police do a great job (I do), you must also recognize they generally solve problems after they have happened.

As shown above, roughly 3,999 out of 4,000 with access to guns don’t fatally harm another. Why restrict everyone for the problems of a few? On the other hand, my friend derides the excuses Americans provide for holding on to our guns:

The excuses people give in defense of their “constitutional right to bear arms” are mind numbingly stupid. These seem to be either appeals to personal insecurity due to a society where crime is abundant and every numbskull might be toting a piece, or insecurity about the chance that their own government might turn into tyranny and it needed to be opposed by the citizenry.

It is theoretically possible to get rid of guns in the US, but given the current number, the culture surrounding guns, the rights guaranteed in our Constitution, and the distrust many Americans have for their current government (which is far too large and has exceeded its Constitutional boundaries far too often), I am dubious this is possible.

We have a massive gap to bridge between the two points of view. This is likely why we never arrive at comprehensive legislation to solve the problems, only more tinkering around the edges. I provided more points in my last post, but I will more concisely sum up my view with just three:

  • We can find many other reasons for increases and decreases in gun deaths. Understanding these are important to solving the problem, the entire problem.

    I emphasized repeatedly the debate often focuses solely on rifles; however, rifles account for a very small number of total gun deaths. When those you negotiate with ignore the problem of 800 handgun deaths annually in Chicago, can you really solve this problem? Further, when they avoid that problem because they want to avoid offending a key constituency that overwhelmingly votes for them year after year (whether they solve this problem or not), how can you trust them to deal fairly with other constituencies?
  • Increases in gun violence can be attributed to many causes. Eliminating the guns may not decrease deaths and may not increase safety. It is difficult to obtain agreement on any other measures when one side insists on more gun control as the only solution. We have tried gun control for decades, yet other solutions are still mocked.

    I am not opposed to new laws, or even new gun control laws, but they have to make sense, align with our Constitution, and be fairly applied.

    For instance, critics argue we can’t have even one more gun on a school campus without endangering our children or ruining their education. Children are already surrounded by guns everywhere else. What’s the psychological harm of two or three more at their school? Wouldn’t we discourage shooters if they knew some were carrying, but they didn’t know exactly who? Shooters prefer gun-free zones. It improves their “success” rate. However, any compromise solution which increases guns by any number greater than zero must be avoided. It would mean guns might actually solve some problems. Mind you, I am not saying arm everyone or that more guns are the ultimate solution to every problem, but why not get inside the mind of the shooter when searching for solutions? I suppose because such solutions would taint their argument. More lives are lost by the inability to bridge the gap and find common ground.

    By the way, the latest gun control bill passed by the US Senate last week, grants $300 million for school security (a drop in the bucket for a government that likes multi-trillion dollar bills), and appears to avoid arming anyone within schools.
  • Finally, there is a protected right to bear arms in our Constitution. Our foreign friends, like my critic, just don’t understand our culture or the importance of our Constitution. We can surely conduct a debate on repealing the second amendment, but it won’t get far. Although a sizeable portion of our population wants it eliminated, they are very far from critical mass. Even Representative Ocasio-Cortez, as progressive and in as safe as seat as they come, claims to be pro-second amendment. It is not politically feasible for her to say otherwise.

    Many of us believe our Constitution has served our country well. It is a source of pride for us. It was unique for its time and it has transformed us into a better nation (as we hold ourselves accountable to principles not originally put into practice). It has kept us a moral, strong, and yet benevolent nation which has done so much to make the world better. The Constitution unites most of us on the Right. Checks and balances, separation of powers, individual liberties, liberty for all, and Federalism are fundamental concepts. They used to unite a much larger portion of our citizenry. Unfortunately, the Left today has far less regard for the document (or far less appreciation or understanding of it if they still respect it). They either believe it has failed us or is outdated.

    A hundred years ago, President Woodrow Wilson made the case against the Constitution. https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2018/may/30/woodrow-wilsons-case-against-the-constitution/. Wilson’s view has gained significant momentum the last few years.

    This view of the Constitution is actually the bigger underlying problem, the one that prevents the two Americas from agreeing on much of anything today. Gun control is the portion of the iceberg above the water, but our common fundamental beliefs on liberty are the issues below the water. I want the American flag, the Constitution, and the Declaration of Independence (the greatest document ever written) to unite us. Others think the pride flag is a more unifying symbol. We will never bridge that gap. Never. The two sides cannot co-exist; the country will be split apart if they do.

Stats

Sometimes the numbers tell the story–if interpreted correctly. With regard to my comment: Mass shootings with rifles account for fewer than 1 in 1000 of all gun deaths, my debating partner said:

“That only tells us how, the amount of gun deaths is alarmingly high in general”.

Can we verify the gun rates in the U.S. are alarmingly high? The numbers seem high. The U.S. ranks second worldwide in total gun deaths. However, when compared to the rest of the world, using a per capita basis, it is not so much:

https://worldpopulationreview.com/country-rankings/gun-deaths-by-country

Countries with the Highest Rates of Violent Gun Death (Homicides) per 100k residents in 2019
  1. El Salvador — 36.78
  2. Venezuela — 33.27
  3. Guatemala — 29.06
  4. Colombia — 26.36
  5. Brazil — 21.93
  6. Bahamas — 21.52
  7. Honduras — 20.15
  8. U.S. Virgin Islands — 19.40
  9. Puerto Rico — 18.14
  10. Mexico — 16.41

The US homicide rate in this table is 4.46 per year. That’s one-eighth of El Salvador’s rate and one-quarter of tenth ranked Mexico. Unfortunately, there are no numbers for about half the world’s countries, but still the U.S. falls below virtually all of South and Central America, Mexico, South Africa, and the Philippines. All of Europe, Australia, Japan, Korea, and India do much better certainly. However, if the problem were the number of guns themselves, the country with nearly 400 million civilian owned weapons, virtually half of the world’s supply, should certainly should rank higher, not somewhere near the middle of the pack.

The US ranks second in suicides by guns, a statistic better correlated to the wide availability of guns. Still, those who want to commit suicide have many other options available to them, many less painful or difficult. Reducing guns is unlikely to reduce suicides. Half the top ten in gun suicides are European countries. What does this say about them and their restrictive gun policies or the determination of those who want to commit suicide?

  1. Greenland — 16.36
  2. United States — 7.12
  3. Uruguay — 4.74
  4. San Marino — 4.08
  5. Montenegro — 3.40
  6. Argentina — 2.67
  7. Finland — 2.66
  8. Monaco — 2.64
  9. France — 2.64
  10. Venezuela — 2.50

Unintentional injuries (accidents) are another problem with firearms. The CDC estimates 20% of injuries are unintentional. I don’t know how gun safety can be legislated and effectively enforced. The NRA, who folks love to deride and blame, does more than any other to promote gun safety. Promotion of gun safety might be one area that government could encourage; they financially support so much else, but it won’t be allowed because so many believe guns are bad and they wouldn’t want to do anything which might encourage gun ownership.

Police

Let’s examine a couple of my critic’s proposals. First, he argues for better trained police to protect us:

One would think that the solution to the first source of fear would quite obviously involve attempts to develop a more efficient police force, a more equal society with less desperate people to turn to crime and at very least better regulation of guns, but for some reason there are plenty of people, who do not see any of those as solutions. Instead they would arm the teachers.

Our police force [in Finland] is also very well educated for the job. Their education lasts for three years minimum and they need to have a college degree and military service done as an officer trainee done before they can even apply. Compared to many police in the US, who only have a brief half a year course for the job.

You [the US] need a better and more reliable police force, more equal society and less, not more guns.

I would note that in 2020, the US saw a significant increase in homicide gun deaths. The impetus was the death of George Floyd. More than 25 people were killed during protests of the death of one man. What sense does that make?

Furthermore, “defund the police” became the mantra for many. George Floyd’s death was the responsibility of one person. Neither George Floyd nor Officer Chauvin should be proxies for the rest of America, but that is exactly what they have become. They were two flawed individuals who represented themselves only. The Left’s preferred narrative says Floyd’s death proved the American police are overwhelmingly racist and their activities had to be curtailed. They finally had a case that fed the narrative better than the dozens of others they had tried in the past. Still, it was never proven during the Chauvin trial that Floyd’s death had anything to do with racism; it wasn’t even alleged as a motivating factor. The two men had a relationship prior to this incident; perhaps there was personal animus. There was nothing about Chauvin’s past history or associations that would lead us to racism.

Defund the police was the most moronic policy ever imagined; the damage it did and the lives lost from it were immense. I never imagined leaders in our country to be so stupid and so irresponsible. In the aftermath, police forces were abandoned by elected leaders: budgets cut, officers unfairly accused, police told to stand down when they should have engaged, morale was permanently damaged, on and on. The most predictable result ever followed: a massive increase in homicides in cities across the country as individual police thought twice about getting involved in an incident for which they might be unfairly accused. West Hollywood, even after dramatic crime increases, is sticking with this insanity as reported this week: https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/liberal-city-votes-to-defund-police-during-crime-wave-pzmvhgm5q

Let us note this increase in violent crime in 2020 had nothing to do with the prevalence of guns in our society, or an increase in gun ownership. In addition, the problem with violence in the US is largely restricted to large metropolitan areas which are almost exclusively governed by one political party. District attorneys put criminals on a merry-go-round. They are arrested dozens of times and let go repeatedly. I have watched it happen at home (I live near one of the twenty largest cities in the US). It has been happening for decades all around the country. George Soros, who came from Europe (and collaborated with the Nazi party in his youth), has focused on electing politically motivated DAs who are largely responsible for this merry-go-round. Police arrests the same people and the justice system lets them go until they finally do something very serious.

America has had its issues with race in the past, but it was in the past. Today America is a true melting pot of nationalities, races, religions, and more. I encounter it daily: in my workplace, in my neighborhood, in my church, at Wal-Mart, and everywhere else. I think nothing of it (except when the Left throws it in our faces). Americans today are as tolerant a people as they have ever been. Yet, the accusations of racism, from one political party towards another, never stop. It is the cause for every problem. It is total and utter BS.

You also cannot easily convince me the lack of police training is a major source of our problem. The attrition encountered in the last two years may have left us in such a place, but that is due to moronic policies designed to achieve a political goal (foremost being the defeat of President Trump in 2020). The police in the U.S. are overwhelmingly professional, well trained for their jobs, and vastly under-appreciated.

US Military

The second argument by Mr. Rauttakky is this:

The second problem stems from the time when the US constitution was written. It was made by revolutionaries wary of a global empire they were breaking of from, in a time when the native nations of America were still strong and the firearms mentioned had not seen rapid development from the flintlock musket in over a hundred years. The “founding fathers” had very little reason to expect weaponry to change in the foreseeable future. Certainly they could not pass laws concerning modern automatic firearms, or what the future may hold for us in that regard. Their concern about armed militias was a question of federal army being too weak to protect the land but powerful enough to set up a dictatorship. The modern US military is one of the most powerful and certainly the most expensive armed forces on the planet. It really does not require any help from some random militias and even less from some individual gun owners.

What threat are you referring to? The US military secretly planning on a military coup to set up a tyranny, that is only withheld because the US military is so afraid of the abundance of revolvers and AR-15 rifles of the general public?

The problem here is far more subtle than the US military using its power to attack its own citizenry. Folks like me are distrustful of a government which has grown ever larger and has increasingly intruded on civil liberties. The US federal government was relatively small until the 1950s. My father told me of the railroad tracks which ran through the heart of Washington, DC in 1950. The government has grown exponentially during the last 70 years. The federal government is now the country’s largest employer with almost 3 million employees. State and local governments employ another 18 million. Government’s intrusion into our daily lives is ubiquitous.

The strongest reason for the people to retain the right to keep and bear arms is, as a last resort, to protect themselves against tyranny in government. – Thomas Jefferson

In the last two years, the government attempted to regulate our daily lives and demanded all Americans be vaccinated against COVID. They demanded children be protected from a disease they are not at all impacted by. We have overbearing policies based on highly questionable metrics. The government seeks to dismantle our rights, especially the first ten Constitutional amendments (not just the second), to advance their own power. This is the concern.

When government fears the people, there is liberty. When the people fear the government, there is tyranny. – Thomas Jefferson

Jefferson’s aphorisms pithily sum up our concerns which remain relevant today.

My friend mentions the increased lethality of weapons today. However, our Civil War, 160 years ago, was the bloodiest war in our history, in large part because of the lethality of the weapons used (and the combatants inexperience with such weapons). This was America’s first modern war. We have dealt with this threat of violent weapons since then, effectively at times and ineffectively at other times. In the 1920s, organized crime controlled the streets of America’s cities with automatic weapons. We addressed this problem and cleaned up the streets. By the time of World War II, weapons, including automatic weapons, were universally recognized as extremely lethal. Tens of millions died in the worst war in human history. Wikipedia estimates 3% of the world’s population died during that war. That was eighty years ago.

Mayor Guilani dealt effectively with violence in New York City in the 1980s, one of the few big city mayors to do so in my lifetime. Times Square became a vibrant and safe place to walk thanks to the focus on stopping crime–all crime. It can be done again, but not if we have a merry-go-round for criminals, not if we continue to “defund the police”, not if we ignore the real problems to focus on political advantage in the gun debate.

The wide access and lethality of weapons has remained a constant throughout much of our nation’s history. Despite protestations to the contrary, automatic weapons have been banned for civilians for nearly 80 years. Granted, today’s semi-automatics are more lethal than their forebears, but is the lethality truly the problem? Mass murders in the US are relatively rare. An overwhelming number of murders are on a small scale; increased lethality is not a factor.

Our inability to effectively address our homicide rate seems to be a lack of will more than anything else.

Legislation

In 2022, the US Senate again passed bi-partisan legislation to “solve” the gun problem. https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/us/the-senate-just-unveiled-a-new-bipartisan-gun-bill-here-s-what-s-in-it/ar-AAYITCe

The bill introduces red flag laws which can be manipulated by an over-zealous government. In addition, do we want to monitor the entire population to find those needles in the haystack? School security and mental health are addressed also. This is all to the good, but will the paltry, non-credible, amounts allocated do anything significant on these fronts? I am dubious. The bills limits gun rights for those under 21. This doesn’t actually address the problems that either my debating partner nor I have been highlighting. Still, they “did something” and they will campaign on that accomplishment.

Here are few simple measures that I think would do better:

Arm a couple folks at schools and other key places, folks we can trust, folks that are well vetted. This is one way we addressed the problem of airline terrorism in 2001 and that hasn’t been a problem since. I don’t advocate handing out guns to the entire teaching staff, but a few strategically placed ones cannot hurt.

I agree with my debating partner that focused police training could not hurt. There were a number of tragic, almost unforgiveable, police errors during the Uvalde, Texas shooting. Better training to deal with this unique threat could help. Or maybe we should just defund the police instead?

Finally, let’s not publicize the names of mass shooters. I don’t want to hear their names or read their ridiculous manifestos. I don’t want to hear from their acquaintances either. Don’t give them the publicity they so very much want. Perhaps denying their 15 minutes of fame might discourage these obvious nut cases.

My debating partner and I discussed much more than this, but I think this hits the key points. As I said in the beginning of my first post on this topic, I don’t have all the answers, but I do think we should look at this rationally and try to forge solutions to solve actual problems.

One thought on “Too Many Guns or Something Else?

  1. A guy from Finland has an opinion on our gun laws? Maybe he should think how easy it was for the nazis to take over Europe because the Europeans were all unarmed. The Europeans caused 100 million deaths or more in 30 years from 1914-1945. The Europeans are almost as bad as he democrats – no solutions only nonsense. Dictators love when the population is unarmed
    Russia in the 1920’s
    China in the 1940’s
    Cuba in the 1950’s

    Like

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