Gabby Giffords has announced she and husband Mark Kelly are forming a new advocacy group: Americans for Responsible Solutions:
“Achieving reforms to reduce gun violence and prevent mass shootings will mean matching gun lobbyists in their reach and resources. Americans for Responsible Solutions, which we are launching today, will invite people from around the country to join a national conversation about gun violence prevention, will raise the funds necessary to balance the influence of the gun lobby, and will line up squarely behind leaders who will stand up for what’s right.”
I am pulling for Ms. Giffords, her recovery against the odds is an inspiration. I read her editorial and she doesn’t say anything specifically that she wants other than a conversation and to balance the NRA. She says that we haven’t done anything as a country and gives the impression that gun advocates don’t have solutions. This is simply wrong headed. Gun rights advocates do have solutions and we have taken meaningful action. Advocates have fought to allow for responsible citizen to carry guns in states like Arizona and Florida. Shall issue, right to carry states now outnumber no carry states by a wide margin. In Florida where more carry concealed weapons than anywhere else; violent crime and even gun specific crime is down.
Here is what congress should do: introduce new legislation that affirms the legal right of non felons who undergo simple training and are free of mental health issues to carry in all 50 states. These permit holders should be allowed to legally carry everywhere that government cannot assure armed protection such as courthouses or government buildings. In that same legislation they could reassert the federal background check system and strengthen it to include psychiatric holds for all transactions including the small number of private party gun show transfers. This is a thumbnail sketch and the details are very meaningful of course. The philosophy is simply that all law abiding Americans should be able to carry a gun concealed no matter what state they live in and that this right protects liberty and life for all. Many gun advocates would argue that we already have this right and to codify it federally sets the wrong precedent. I agree in theory but out of pragmatism I can accept federal oversight provided it is simple and clearly reaffirms the right to carry for self defense.
Ms. Giffords mentions her household has two guns locked up in a safe. I cannot help but wonder if she had one of those guns on her that day if something might have been different- perhaps not- but it is hard to argue that someone with a gun other than the killer might have made a real difference that day.
Mother Jones studied mass shootings and concluded that armed citizens would not have a positive affect on safety and that they had not stopped mass shootings: http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2012/09/mass-shootings-investigation?page=2
Is it any wonder that more armed civilians don’t stop these shootings given that all but one since 1950 have taken place in gun free zones. A couple of important facts overlooked here: The principal in Alabama that stopped the shooting: His gun was in the car because of the school restriction. The shooter had planned to go to another school so he did stop potentially more deaths. There are other cases overlooked here such as the shooting at New Life church in 2007. The other major problem here is that Mother Jones looked at shootings were more than 4 people were killed. If armed civilians fight back many times they stop the body count therefore averting a mass murder shooting. By simply having the right to carry in schools some of these monsters won’t even attempt to attack a school.
Numerous studies show that guns are used defensively as often as 2 million times a year. The vast majority of the time the gun need only be shown to break off the attack. One of the tactics on the left seems to be assailing the good because it is imperfect. Gun flights are horrible and should be avoided at all costs. It is almost always better to retreat and run from a gun fight even while armed. However when innocent children are slaughtered in great numbers it is obvious that a gun in trained hands could stop the killing. Imagine if the courageous principal had a gun and training. She may have been able to stop the attack or slow him down allowing someone else to overwhelm him or more kids to escape.
It is also important to note that Mother Jones also didn’t find a single person that did act in these cases and killed any bystanders, some of them lost their lives but they didn’t make the situation worse. CCW permit holders commit crimes about as often as police officers, the data shows they are very lawful citizens.
Mother Jones cherry picks their stats here but they ignore the fact that violent crime has dropped in every category since the lifting of the assault weapons ban in 2004. More than a million fewer people were killed in 2011 than in 2004. Having more trained people carrying weapons is not a panacea and certainly will not stop these mass shootings.However the evidence shows that they can make a difference.
Mother Jones also fails to mention that police officers have yet to make a real difference in one of these school shootings. In Columbine it took 2 hours for them to go into the school, heavily armed SWAT officers stood by and waited while a teacher bleed to death and many students were executed in the library. Even the school resource officer only managed to fire a few rounds at the shooters without hitting them.
The police cannot protect us, usually they arrive just in time to put up tape and start the investigation.
In 2004 an assault weapons ban for ten years expired. Did violent crime go up? The chart below speaks volumes I think. No not all of this is related to the assault ban, in fact I suspect it had little to do with it. It is important though because proponents of these bans and controls always say that crime goes up when gun laws are relaxed. Usually during recessions crime does go up. You also must remember that we also have almost 20 million more people so the fall is even greater on a per capita basis.
Population Total Violent Property Murder Rape Robbery Assault Burglary Theft Vehicle Theft
12-14-12, Sandy Hook Elementary School
It is 9:30am and Principal Dawn Hochsprung is meeting with a parent in her office, suddenly she hears the loud crash of glass and then gunfire…
4 months prior…
The Colorado theatre slaying hit Dawn hard and she decided she would not be a victim, so she took action. She travels to Front Sight in Nevada and took an intensive 4 day handgun course offered free to educators. She learns how to safely handle a gun and store it. She learns all about the immense responsibility of using a gun. She listen to instructors talk about how horrible any gun battle would be and the moral and legal implications of using a gun defensively. She learns how to present a weapon from concealment and fire a controlled pair accurately in less than 2 seconds. She was surprised to learn that she can fire a gun as quickly and accurately and many times better than a trained police officer. As a new comer to shooting she has no bad habits reinforced by years of practice with poor technique. She learns that firearms can be the great equalizer and that a smaller older woman could protect herself from a much stronger larger man. She learns about the combat mindset and being mentally alert and prepared. She wrote herself a letter describing how and when she would use a firearm, when she would choose to use force and when she would retreat.
The Connecticut school board decides to allow trained teachers to carry concealed weapons in September and Dawn arms herself with an easy to use Glock 40 caliber handgun. She practices at a local range and does dry firing rehearsals once a week at home.
Dawn springs into action she pulls her gun at the ready at her side and leaves her office. A man with a rifle is firing indiscriminately into a classroom approaching the door. He doesn’t see her and his back is turned. She fires twice hitting him center mass in the back. He falls and two other teachers tackle and seize his guns. Ten minutes later the police arrive- the shooter dies at the hospital. Dawn’s secretary and 2 children are also dead. Dawn prevents countless deaths, the shooter had over 200 rounds of ammo and 4 guns. Dawn is celebrated nation wide as a hero and example to many others.
Principal Dawn did act, she heard shots and despite having nothing to fight with she charged the gunman courageously. She could have locked her office and called 911- she didn’t- she fought back and she died a hero; gunned down- defenseless against a man with a gun.
The murder/suicide involving NFL linebacker Jovan Belcher has again brought up the debate about guns and “gun culture.”
Bob Costas quoting columnists Jason Whitlock during halftime of Football Night in America:
“Our current gun culture, Whitlock wrote, ensures that more and more of domestic disputes will end in the ultimate tragedy… and at more convenience store confrontations over loud music coming from a car will lead more teenaged boys bloody and dead. Handguns do not enhance our safety. They exacerbate our flaws, tempt us to escalate arguments and bait us into embracing confrontation rather than avoiding it….“What I believe is, if (Belcher) didn’t possess/own a gun, he and Kasandra Perkins would both be alive today.”
Many have already made the completely logical argument that guns are merely a tool and that the killer was Belcher. You do not need to be a powerful man like Belcher to kill and can do so with many tools not “controlled” by the government. Some have pointed out former former Costas’ colleague O.J Simpson who is alleged to have killed his ex wife and Ron Goldman with a knife.
It is an absolute fact that we have tremendous gun violence in the United States. Young men kill each other in the streets of American cities all too often and guns are certainly the tool of choice. We have many guns in America and we have more permissive laws than many other places and so some correlate the guns with the violence. This misses the point, violent people do violent things; we have a problem with violent people not guns. A gun is inanimate it doesn’t do anything on its’ own. A gun in the hands of a responsible trained good person will be a tool for justice and peace not violence. Researcher John Lott studied gun use and found that guns may be used defensively as many as 2 million times a year. The vast majority of the time just brandishing a gun stopped the attack and no one got hurt. There is a perception problem because we rarely hear about guns being used defensively and we hear daily about criminals using guns. When I was a kid my father used to say “I don’t choose to have a gun but the criminals don’t know that- and that protects me.” Just the mere fact that we can own firearms and that many do is a powerful deterrent. In England when gun ownership is nearly outlawed home invasions that involved occupants went up dramatically. London now has many more home invasions than NYC.
As with anything else there are some who abuse their gun rights, but the vast majority of gun owners are safe and responsible with their guns and only own them to either protect their home and loved ones or in sporting. Economist Steven Levitt found that one child under 10 drowns annually for every 11,000 pools while 1 child under ten dies annually for every one million guns a difference of over 100 times. Advocates do not ask government to control swimming pools. We have hundreds of millions of guns many more than there are swimming pools and it is very easy to pull a trigger- so why don’t more kids die from guns? The answer is quite logical, the vast majority of guns are owned responsibly. I own a few guns and have a very curious and impulsive 7 year old. Not only are my guns extremely secure but our 7 year old has been trained as well and has a respect for guns also. I would never, ever trust him with access to a gun but I know that he is less likely to play with a found gun somewhere else than another child with no experience with guns.
I believe strongly in gun training and have trained at Front Sight near Las Vegas, Nevada. For every minute spent firing live weapons we spend nearly an hour talking about safe handling, storage and the responsibility of owning and caring weapons. Front Sight has a mandatory lecture on the laws and ethics of defensive gun use. Gun owners know that even brandishing a weapon is a last resort to be taken very seriously. The justice system is already tilted heavily against defensive use of guns; there are powerful incentives for responsible gun use. The vast majority of gun owners will never even brandish their guns defensively. Concealed weapons holders are some of the most law abiding people in the nation according to stats from Kansas and North Carolina.
Whenever a senseless gun crime that gets national attention occurs it is easy to focus on guns and many people have a visceral, emotional reason for wanting to further limit or outlaw guns. This kind of thinking is one sided because it fails to look at alternatives and facts. Guns are also tools for justice and peace. Chicago and Washington DC have some of the highest gun crime rates despite having completely outlawed the carrying of guns. More laws only effect those who respect the law.
No one will ever know what was in the head of Jovan Belcher or if the outcomes would have been any different had the laws in Kansas banned him from owning guns (assuming he abided by the laws). I haven’t been able to find any information about Jovan’s father and all the articles have mentioned only a mother. The lack of father figures in the lives of young men is cited again and again as a major factor in their criminality. Having a strong male figure for boys is essential to their upbringing. Mothers are just as important- maybe even more so- but it is hard for mothers to serve both functions. Men must be held accountable for their children, we are losing generations of young men in our country and the lack of fathers are a big reason why. I found it interesting that Jovan sought out two possible father figures to thank them before ending his life; maybe having a stronger male role model as a boy would have tempered some of the obvious rage that boiled over as a man.