Friday, January 18, 2013

Gunning for You

I like guns. I shoot guns. I like wild venison and duck meat. I've had a gun near my pillow to protect me and mine from a perceived threat. I was a soldier who learned to operate, maintain and repair many kinds of weapons. I have been in the position where I had to consider taking another man's life away for a purpose. I never want to do that unless I have no other alternative. Nor, I hope, do you.

Hunting for food and sport
In my country we are now having a debate about restricting gun ownership. We can agree that we want to feel safe.  We can agree we do not want to be the victim of violent crime. We do not agree how to become safe and limit crimes.

The side against gun ownership is attempting to limit the access to certain types of firearms. To summarize their intention would be to say that guns do harm and that limitation of guns will limit the harm guns do.

The side for gun ownership wants to expand the number of guns. To summarize this position is to say that people need to protect themselves from crime and enemies domestic and foreign; more guns mean less harm.

Study with an open mind
A part of maturity and wisdom, in my opinion, is the ability to put aside my preconceptions and go seek information.  Researching facts allows me to become more educated and thereby have a more informed opinion. Below I try to share what I found. Maybe it can help you see better too.

This question of limiting access to certain kinds of weapons is nothing new. In feudal Japan there was an attempt to limit access to military grade weapons by only allowing Samurai to carry them. The British have long banned the carrying of firearms. Since the early history of the United States there have been attempts at limiting access to weapons starting at least with Andrew Jackson's presidency around 1830.

St. Valentines Day Massacre
During the Prohibition era, gangsters began to use some of the first automatic firearms with criminal intent. The Valentine's Day massacre became a public focus point resulting in the National Firearms Act of 1934 when fully automatic weapons became heavily regulated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF).

Even with those provisions being stopped and started, strengthened and weakened over time, the United States is commonly understood to have the least limitations of weapon ownership of any modern industrialized country on the planet.

Chemical weapons
should not be common
There is ample history of weapons' bans to draw upon in order to understand its effectiveness. However, much of research being done has NOT been from the objective view of “what are the facts so we can form opinions” but rather from the subjective view of “here is my opinion and the facts I found to back it up.” This makes finding studies with true objective analysis difficult at best.

Perhaps the most widely accepted objective studies involved using statistical analysis comparing gun ownership, level of gun controls, and crime rates.  The study was conducted in 1980 on 170 cities with 100,000 or more people. The results of this study was reported in the peer reviewed Journal of Quantitative Criminology. The models covered violent crime which frequently involve guns: homicide, suicide, fatal gun accidents, robbery, and aggravated assaults, as well as rape. It found the following seemingly confusing results:
  • The number of guns did not increase the number of violent crimes
  • When crime rates increased, more people acquired guns
  • Gun control did not decrease the number of guns
  • Gun control generally has no effect on violence rates
From this study, it is possible to conclude that gun control doesn't operate like the pro-gun or anti-gun debaters think. Below is an attempt to outline the finding, not justify it, so that we can consider our actions to reduce violence with better data.

Capone was just violent
Guns do not cause crime – The finding suggested that limiting access to guns will not decrease the number of violent crimes. Crimes occur for reasons having nothing to do with the weapons themselves. Violent crimes will occur because of other factors. We cannot then take the view that if we take away the guns we will be safer. Our wish to become safer by removing the weapons simply doesn't hold up, no matter what our intuition tells us.

Fear desires protection
Crime scares people – When we feel threatened, we protect ourselves. Purchasing or acquiring a weapon of violence makes us feel safer. It doesn't matter if we know how to use it, but the knowledge that a weapon is available to us reduces our fear of violence. This is a personal, internal experience of how human beings react to threats.

Gun smuggling
People will get guns – Attempts to take away weapons from law abiding citizens or potential criminals does not work. Both the lawful and criminal citizens will find ways to subvert the law and acquire the weapons they desire. The number of guns in a population is not related to the laws governing them. This process works much like the bans on alcohol or drugs; measures of law do not stop us from obtaining the things we desire.

Shoot out
Violence happens for other reasons - Human motivation for doing crime comes from other factors besides guns. People can be greedy, mean, unbalanced, over-emotional, impulsive, hyperactive, sensation seeking, and risk taking. These internal reasons that are in people drive them to commit criminal acts.  These motivations have no relation to the tools for violence at their disposal. The gun does not cause the crime, the person does.

Learning non-violent methods
In summary, more guns does not work and less guns does not work.  Our feeling of being protected is important to us.  Stopping violence is not about guns.  It would appear that both sides to this argument are wrong and right. Our intuitions about guns and violence could lead us to make bad choices that will not get the result of reduced violence we desire.

I have not been able to find an answer to how to reduce violent crime. This would appear to be a much harder problem than the pro- or anti- guns sides think.  Perhaps violence reduction can be found in other laws or in education. 

Learning about the
proper use of weapons
We can to find ways to identify people who would commit violent acts.  We can then reduce their motivations and lessen the number of crimes.

Education may also hold the key. We can education ourselves to prevent violence.  We can educate ourselves on the proper use of firearms.

I like guns. I shoot guns. I want the right to own them. I also want to be responsible and practical and decent to my fellow man. I don't fear my neighbors, rather try to love them. Even the ones who are not so nice.

1 comment:

  1. Very succinct. I appreciated the fact that you didn't take advantage of the causation/correlation vacuum that's typically used to justify either position (which is contradictory and, well...obnoxious).