TT #62: The He Said She Said of Gun Control
By Kyra-lin Hom
Since Hartford, Connecticut's elementary school massacre, gun control has been one of the hottest debates both in the political and social sectors right up there with global warming, healthcare and the fiscal cliff. Everyone from the President to the NRA, from the Tea Party to my hippy boyfriend's shoeless toes is weighing in. Scour the Internet and you will find a seemingly endless supply of statistics, facts, charts – usually in decent contradiction with each other – and rhetoric supporting both sides. It gets downright mind-boggling and not just a bit irritating. Like any other heated campaign, some 'facts' are simply wrong but most are real if somewhat academically questionable.
Yes, the number of firearm homicides in the US is at an all time low. But also yes, the number of nonfatal gun injuries in the US has been on the rise since 2008 – and gun suicides are the highest they've been since 1998.
Yes, gun-related crime in states with concealed-carry laws has been decreasing since those laws were put into place. But again also yes, gun-related crime has actually been decreasing in nearly every state. Pro? Con?
Here's another doozy that's been floating around. Yes, sales records show that the number of privately owned guns in circulation in the US is at an all time high and concurrently the highest of any 1st world nation. Yet statistics such as those provided by the FBI are also showing that the number of households that own guns is down. So either certain households are seriously stocking up, which is a distinct possibility, or the statistics are off. For example, the FBI statistics rely on households actually being honest about volunteering their gun-ownership status.
I've spent probably more time than is healthy not only reading up on recent gun control news but fact-checking sources, watching documentaries from both sides of the argument, reading comments and forums debating just this topic, and discussing the issue with people I know. And after all that, I have to say I really am tired of the same rhetoric over and over again.
I have stacks more that I wanted to read through before digging my hands into this issue, but I just couldn't read any more of the same. Remember when I wrote about Argumentative Theory a few weeks back? The front-running theory that states humans gained the ability to rationalize and argue so that we could persuade others to our side not so we could be fair and impartial compromisers? Well, I've been witnessing this en force.
The arguments all seem to boil down to this: personal freedom vs. national safety. It's all about fear. Some people fear guns. Some people fear being without them. Everything else I've encountered stems from here. These are deep-seated beliefs and traditions that cannot be affected in any quick or clean manner. Further, this issue boils down to trust. How much do you trust your fellow man (with or without a gun) and how much do you trust your government? Fear and Trust. That's why the Obama administration is being slammed by both sides, one saying that it's not doing enough and the other saying it's doing too much.
Gun culture, whether you are for or against, is at the soul of America. I'm actually a fan of guns. As a woman of small stature, I like how they have the potential to level the playing field. Besides, no lie, there is something uniquely fascinating about destruction and power.
Personally, I think that Canada's gun laws are the way to go. Among other things, full and semi-automatic weapons registered before a specific date are largely illegal (though I think it would be fun to have military sponsored gun ranges where non-military people can test out these weapons). Handguns require a license, and to get said license applicants must pass a safety course and a criminal records check and then finally be certified by a firearms officer. I also really like Chris Rock's comedy routine on gun control in which he proposes guns be available but the bullets be obscenely expensive. Not perfect, but entertaining nonetheless.
Banning, limiting, or, heck, even requiring a doctor's authorization before you can purchase guns isn't going to stop people who really want guns from getting them. Despite its strict gun control laws, Canada has still suffered from a handful of firearm massacres. People go crazy. Things happen. On the flip side, take Japan. Their gun licensing procedures are considered largely a formality (according to the Huffington Post) and yet they have one of the lowest gun death rates in the the world.
Obviously this isn't a one-bandaid problem. Bad people are going to do bad things, and stupid people are always going to manage something stupid. I'm all for keeping a gun in my belt for when that happens. But if giving up my future collection of AR-15 semi-automatic rifles is going to make it harder for someone to storm my niece's school with one, I'll be the first in line to hand it over.