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Lowering firearm death rates, a pro-2A perspective.

Response to an article by Jarvis DeBerry | 2/ 4/2015
According to a VPC report, Louisiana has the 2nd highest number of deaths by gunshot, per capita (19.15/100k). Jarvis DeBerry, a writer for the NOLA Times-Picayune, asked to hear from pro2A people on how to go about lowering that number. I don’t know how serious Mr. DeBerry is… many times, folks asking for input from the other side of an issue are less than genuine, but in this instance, Mr. DeBerry seemed earnest enough, and even if he’s not, it’s an interesting exercise. I’ll bite.
 
In the interests of full disclosure, here is some biographical data. I’m not a resident of Louisiana, and don’t regularly travel there. My home is in rural Missouri… number 13 on that list you refer to, so we’re not so far apart from that perspective. I am, as requested, firmly in the pro 2nd amendment camp. I’m an NRA certified firearms instructor, competitive and recreational shooter, gun collector, concealed carry permit holder, and member of a plethora of pro2A groups, both national and local. I’ve been politically active on pro2A issues for a couple of decades.
 
Before I talk about gun safety, I want to address the source of your statistics. The VPC is an anti-gun organization. To the VPC, there is no such thing as a positive use of a gun. Guns are themselves evil, and no civilized person should desire to own one. Data from this source is suspect, simply because of the source. For instance, you’ll never see information from the VPC showing that the gun homicide rate is down 50% since 1993, or that non-fatal violent crime is down 70% in that time, despite gun ownership rates rising dramatically. Trying to use their propaganda as a basis for a civil discussion is in itself problematic, but I’ll do my best.
 
The first step in solving any problem is in understanding the problem. 19.15 deaths per 100,000 people. Looking at Department of Justice statistics (http://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/fv9311.pdf), the numbers are a bit different. According to the DOJ, US average was 3.5/100k, with the south being the worst region, at 4.4/100k. The VPC is including accidents, suicides, police shootings, etc., and no doubt using the highest estimates they can find to support their pre-defined position. The DOJ is only counting homicides, as reported by police agencies.
 
A quick word on suicide: I have been personally touched by suicide, on more than one occasion. I have lost family and friends. On this subject, I would just say that guns don’t cause suicide. The highest suicide rate in the world is in a nation almost totally devoid of firearms in the hands of civilians. People who have come to the regrettable decision that their problems are so bad that there is no other recourse but to kill themselves will find a way to do so. I’d love to see suicide just go away, but I wouldn’t have any idea how to go about making that happen, so I’ll leave this tragic subject alone.
 
As I mentioned earlier, homicide rates have fallen dramatically since the 80’s. Continuing that trend is a noble goal. Personally, I don’t see any difference between someone committing homicide with a gun, and someone doing the same with a knife, baseball bat, hammer, or their bare hands. If I remember correctly from Sunday school, Cain killed Able with a rock. It’s simply not possible to ban every object capable of inflicting a fatal injury. I’m no expert, but it seems to me that the leading factor in homicide rates for a given area is probably poverty. Agreed? NOLA has its share, as does St. Louis, and every other city in this nation. The highest murder rates are, in fact, in locations where gun control laws are at their most restrictive. I believe Chicago is still at the top of that chart. Gun control, in my humble opinion, isn’t going to do much to reduce poverty, gang membership, illegal drug usage, etc. The only thing I can think of that might lower homicide rates would be punishment for those that have been caught.
 
The latest stats I can find for time served for violent crime is from 1995. (http://www.iapsonline.com/sites/default/files/Prison%20Sentences%20and%20Time%20Served%20for%20Violence_0.PDF) According to that report, the average term of imprisonment for a convicted murderer is 71 months. Just under 6 years. I’d be interested in looking at more up to date stats, but I can’t find any. I have no reason to believe that the average time incarcerated has changed. Seems to me, if that average were higher, it might serve as a better deterrent.
 
Accidents: I have an 18 month old grandson living with me. We are well aware that, in a normal household, there are all sorts of things around that could injure or kill my grandson. Heck, we have a swimming pool… statistically far more dangerous to my grandson than my guns are. At all times, my guns are either (A) under the direct control of a competent adult, or (B) locked up.
 
While we’re on that subject, I don’t believe that so called ‘safe storage’ laws are a good idea. I’ve got teenage daughters and grandkids. We have friends with young children. Keeping my guns locked up is a reasonable precaution. If I lived alone, in a higher crime area, perhaps having a loaded revolver in my nightstand where I can get to it might be a good idea. It’s an individual choice, dependent on conditions, and should remain so.
 
So, how about accidents? Education. My wife and daughter are already educating my grandson on how to stay safe in this world. It’s called ‘parenting’. A recent lesson for him was that the stove may be hot. It was taught without burning the kid, and he seems to have learned the lesson. At this point, firearm safety education is more for the adults watching him. As he gets older, we’ll start educating him more directly. Kids see guns on TV, even the Bugs Bunny show… If a kid sees a gun lying around, looks like a fun toy to them… as does just about anything else they can pick up. Hiding them doesn’t work. I’m fairly certain that my parents didn’t have any hiding places I didn’t find while I was growing up… We must teach our children.
 
The current educational philosophy seems to be that, since guns are bad, no child will ever encounter one, so they don’t need to know anything about them. They live in a ‘gun free zone’, after all. Unsurprisingly, this isn’t working (look back at those statistics!). Guns exist. They’re not going to go away. Every person, including kids, needs to know what they are, and what they should do if they find one. It’s every bit as important as teaching our kids not to touch the stove. I would propose a very simple first step… add the NRA’s ‘Eddie Eagle’ program to every public school curriculum, grades K-3. (http://eddieeagle.nra.org/)
 
You might note that I’m not recommending more laws. That’s because more laws can’t reduce gun violence. Laws are about punishing criminals. They only deter crime when the criminal weighs the possible repercussions of their actions and decides against committing the crime. All gun crimes are already illegal, with very serious penalties. Any criminal who picks up a gun and commits a crime with it
realizes fully that if they get caught, they’re going away. Extending the time they spend incarcerated may help, I honestly don’t know. I do know this, making something already illegal even more so does not prevent crime… unless of course, we were to make guns unavailable to the criminal.
 
It’s already illegal for a criminal to purchase a gun. They either steal them, or buy them from someone else who did. The whole ‘gun show loophole’ is a fallacy… you can’t buy a gun legally from a gun dealer, gun show or not, in this country without undergoing a background check. It’s a federal law. It’s also illegal for an individual to sell a gun to a felon… but there’s no easy way to verify that. I would support opening up the current NICS system to allow private citizens to verify that a person is allowed to own a firearm. I would not support making it mandatory… I don’t need NICS to tell me that it’s OK to give a gun to my daughter. If I were selling one of my collection to a stranger? Yeah, I’d run a NICS check, if I could. Current law won’t allow me to do so. If I want to do that now, I have to go to a dealer, and pay him for the privilege. Most of my gun-owning friends use a concealed carry permit these days to verify that a stranger has the right to own a gun.
 
Really, the only way to get guns out of criminal’s hands entirely would be to get rid of guns. Do you think, if we gave the VPC and their ilk exactly what they want: To quote Sen. Feinstein, ‘Mr. and Mrs. America turn ‘em all in.’ Could we possibly be as successful in riding our nation of guns as we have been in ridding it of illegal drugs? I doubt it, really… Drugs are a perishable commodity. They must be produced in huge quantities to feed the demand. A firearm made a hundred years ago is just as capable today as it was when it was new. Also, you should know that guns are not terribly complicated machines… given a moderately well-equipped workshop, I could build one from scratch in a few hours. Like it or not, the genie is out of the bottle, and there is no way to put it back. Guns are here to stay. The only possible effect of banning guns would be to take them out of the hands of law abiding citizens.
 
Even if that were not the case… say, for instance, that Harry Potter came up with a spell that would make anything capable of launching a bullet just disappear. Would that lower the violent crime rate? Probably not. If you look back at history, the era just prior to firearms becoming commonly available was not exactly a time of peace. Before firearms, the strong preyed on the weak. Women, being physically smaller than men, were particularly at risk. When the common weapons were clubs, knives, and swords, the big, strong, experienced fighter had a huge advantage in any conflict. Firearms, like ‘em or not, are indeed the great equalizer. It’s the only tool ever invented that gives a smaller, weaker person the ability to defend themselves against a larger, stronger attacker.
 
That brings me to my next point. The VPC and their cohorts would have us believe that guns are without redeeming value. There is nothing good that can come of owning one, no reason for civilized people to want one. They’re patently and demonstrably wrong. According to the latest CDC study, guns are used far more often to stop a violent attack than they are in committing one. (http://www.nap.edu/catalog/18319/priorities-for-research-to-reduce-the-threat-of-firearm-related-violence)
 
Even discounting sporting, competitive, and recreational shooting, something which countless millions of Americans enjoy, guns have a net positive effect on our civilization.
 
Education is the key. Sticking our kids in a ‘gun free zone’, where even forming a pop-tart into the shape of a pistol is a grave offence (http://www.cbsnews.com/news/examiner-recommends-school-board-uphold-pop-tart-suspension/) is not helping to reduce gun violence. Ignoring a problem seldom helps to make things better, and an enforced head-in-the-sand attitude towards guns in our schools is doing a grave disservice to our children.
 
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