Are there certain events which erase logic? Some event that is so illogical that the only way to respond is by being equally as void of reason? That is what many politicians would have you believe. People that would always argue that gun control does not work, in the same way that the drug war did not work, and prohibition did not work, are now somehow switching their positions because of a terrible, beyond tragic event. Many of them now say, the events of Friday change my position on gun control. Was it that before they were pro-gun violence and now, after another school massacre, they have decided to become anti-gun violence? Or is something else at work here, the same force which makes the same politician decry the crippling debt and deficit, but raise spending? The reality is that certain events make logic and reason a political liability.
Take, for example, the legitimate proposal of placing armed personnel in schools so that if someone walks in with a gun, a responsible person already on the premises can respond, quicker than police. For a politician to suggest this, however, would mean a barrage of hate from everyone who incorrectly thinks the presence of guns are the main motivator behind senseless crime–or rather, crimes that make perfect sense from the shooters’ perspective. Should a deranged person kill himself, resigned to the fact that no one knows him or cares about him, or should he go out in a blaze of “glory” that will make people hate him, notice him, and remember him? This is what these shooters are thinking, so the media is a far greater motivator of “senseless” violence than the mere presence of a tool which could be used for violence. It is not about shooting a gun at people, it is about the attention one gets from doing so.
But instead of suggesting a ban on news stations reporting the identity of shooters (showing any potential shooter that his quest for name recognition will come up short), politicians suggest banning the guns used to commit the atrocity. Take a look at the chart below, which gives the number of deaths per year in America from various causes. This chart speaks volumes about the real versus perceived risks of certain behaviors. Although almost half a million people die from tobacco use each year, we are able to classify their deaths: they did it to themselves, they were old already, something’s going to get you in the end. It is sad, not tragic.
Look down the list to motor vehicle accidents, and we have a harder time blaming the victim. Some children die in car accidents, many people before their time, and often it is not entirely or even remotely the fault of the person who died. How do we convince ourselves that cars do not need to be outlawed? Well because of their benefits of course. As a society, we have decided that 43,00 deaths a year is an acceptable price for the convenience of getting places quicker. So then why do people get worked up about homicides with a firearm, when three times as many people are killed in car accidents? The answer: because the perceived benefits of gun ownership are much less than the perceived benefits of car ownership.
You can’t exactly measure “lives saved by firearms in 2012”. Who knows if the mother of an infant would have been killed by the knife wielding men who broke down her door, before one of them was fatally shot by her, protecting herself and infant with a shotgun. Who knows if the 12 year old who shot an intruder when she was home alone in broad daylight would have made it out alive, or unscathed. What we do know is that people protect themselves using firearms on a regular basis, though you might not think so judging by the mainstream media–they prefer not to report the cases all over the country every day where tragedy is avoided because of a responsibly armed citizen. The people with the shortest stature and the lowest muscle mass should be the most pro-gun, as guns level the playing field. You do not have to compete for the biggest muscles in order to be safe and able to protect yourself, you have the right to defend yourself using a gun. My sister wrote an article called “Girls, Guns Are Our Friends”, which deals with the subject of refusing to be a victim.
But back to the subject of the perceived low benefits of guns, which leads to their unpopularity. The perception is that some people like to hunt, and others like to target shoot, and because of these groups of people the rest of America must put up with gun violence. Quite the contrary is the truth. Everyone on my street is safer because I own a gun. If I didn’t own a gun, everyone on my street would still be safer, because guns are legal to own. Everyone on a street in New Hampshire is even safer than the people on my street, because it is easier to own a gun, and more people own one in New Hampshire.
A criminal would rather rob an unarmed victim, a rapist would rather rape an unarmed victim, and a murderer would rather not die while performing his sick pass time. The fact that criminals do not know which victim has a gun, means everyone is safer. If criminals knew no one had a gun, everyone would be more at risk. People in gun free zones like schools are at extreme risk of falling victim to gun violence, because criminals know that no one else in that zone has a gun, nor a snowballs chance in hell of defending against someone with a gun. If it were that easy, why wouldn’t we create violence free zones? For that matter, 100% of the Unites States is a drug-free zone… how’s that working out?
I do not have a stunted capacity for empathy, and neither do the people who argue against more gun control. We are as deeply saddened as every other well adjusted individual in America, we just do not want to see more people fall victim to gun violence, because of an illogical emotional response to tragedy. The police chief of St. Louis brought up a good point, that after 9/11 we had a conversation about how to make planes safer, and since then, pilots have been allowed to carry guns on airplanes. No hijacker knows which plane has a gun, and which doesn’t, which means the fact that any pilots carry guns, means all planes are safer.
Take a look at the chart again. Notice that homicides without firearms is still nearly 5,000 yearly. Are we to believe that the knives, baseball bats, cars, and hands used in these other homicides are what caused the murder, and that had these items not been available, the murder would not have taken place? Until we are all living in padded rooms in straight jackets with our jaws wired shut, there will be people who want to, and succeed in harming others. The best thing we can do as a society is give victims every tool in the box in order to avoid harm, and fight back against aggressors.
Another oft overlooked point in these tragedy’s is that someone saw this coming. There were warning signs, there were people who could have intervened, but they did not. In his article, “Mass Shootings and Mental Health -At What Cost?” Dr. Faria discusses the mental health of the most recent and high profile culprits of shooting sprees. Essentially he points out that making an effort to help the people who fall through the cracks of society would prove more effective in deterring violence than banning guns would.
While the media has sensationalized violence and the mass shootings of hapless victims (who are virtually forgotten), they have not given defensive, beneficial uses of firearms (e.g., protecting or saving lives and property), the attention these positive acts deserve, which go usually unreported…
And the media moguls need to get their minds together to begin the systematic de-sensationalization of crime and making morbid celebrities out of criminals.
In medicine, surgeons cannot guarantee results. Complications and sometimes bad results occur; the same can happen with guns. Firearms in the hands of terrorists, criminals, or the mentally deranged, are dangerous. Those using the latest tragedy, eliciting emotionalism to push for another round of gun control (5) — while ignoring the accumulated objective research published in the criminologic or sociologic literature (6) — are not only sensationalizing violence and not lamenting the deaths of the innocents or sympathizing with their families, but attempting to score points, political points at the expense of the victims.
I will close with a familiar quote from the great man, Benjamin Franklin, which applies in many contemporary aspects. “Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.” And the absence of liberty and safety is exactly the position our surrender of freedom would put us in.