Nothing will Prevent All Gun Deaths…but, That’s not the Point

A week into the new year, guns have been getting a lot of press.  Notably, President Obama has been very vocal in his intention to enact executive actions that he believes will help reduce deaths due to gun violence.  But, predictably, there has been an equally vocal backlash in opposition to both the President and his proposals.

Much of the opposition is related to the nature of the president’s proposals.  Because his attempts to enact laws regulating things like background checks and the amount of ammunition that weapons can hold have been blocked by Congress, he has now chosen to act through executive actions.  These are a way to bypass Congressional opposition, but they also do not hold the same power as law, instead serving more as guidelines for the enforcement of laws already on the books.  Still, gun-supporters are outraged by any attempts to regulate firearms, including those intended to keep them out of the hands of dangerous people.  But, Obama’s actions are legally sound, giving opponents little to do but rally behind their talking points and their general dislike of the president.

These attacks on the president have taken two basic forms.  The first is to mock him for his recent show of emotion.  In a speech detailing his executive actions, Obama shed a few tears:

Some have argued that this is a show of weakness by the president, or that his emotion has clouded his judgment.  I would argue the exact opposite.  Obama’s emotion shows that he is thinking quite clearly, and gives a strength to his arguments that dispassion would not.  The fact is that people getting killed by guns should make people sad.  Even more, it should make them angry.  Anything else shows a lack of humanity.  The president has obviously thought deeply about this, and his anger and frustration at being able to do nothing to stop it is showing.  He is also a father of two daughters, and a husband to a wife that he would be devastated to lose.  So, he has empathy towards those who have suffered just this kind of loss due to gun violence.  This empathy has made him even more determined to do something, even if Congress will not support him.  He is committed to act independently–not necessarily because he wants to, but because he has been forced to–and this shows a tremendous amount of strength.

The second way to attack the president is to accuse him of overreach.  Many on the right have compared Obama to a tyrant, dictator, or king, saying that he should do nothing unless he can convince Congress to act with him.  But, he is not writing law.  He is merely acting to make existing laws more effective.  His actions boil down to a few basic guidelines:

  • Increasing the number of dealers who will need a license to sell guns (thereby decreasing the number of sellers who are not required to run background checks on potential buyers)
  • Increasing funding so that more people can be hired to complete background checks within the required three-day timeframe (potentially eliminating the possibility of selling a gun to someone who would have failed a background check had it been completed in time)
  • Eliminating barriers that keep some mental health records from being included in the background check system
  • Enforcing rules requiring the reporting of stolen or lost guns
  • Increasing funding for research to make guns safer

None of these are radical ideas.  They are common-sense attempts to solve a serious problem.  Guns are getting into the hands of people who should not have them, and these people are using them to do terrible things.  We should all want to find a way to stop that from happening.  These actions are what Obama is doing, since he is being prevented from doing anything further.

Even more pervasive than the attacks on Obama are those on the perceived ineffectiveness of the proposed actions, the most common argument being that they would not have prevented any of the recent spate of mass shootings that have plagued the country.  This is partly true.  In most cases, the shooters in these incidents obtained their guns legally.  However, better mental health reporting could have prevented some from passing a background check.  And, the shooter in the South Carolina church would have failed his background check had it been completed in time.  But, because it took longer than the three-day window, he was sold a gun, which he then used to kill nine people.  So, these actions could very well have prevented some of these mass shootings.  But, even if they couldn’t, that isn’t the point.  Mass shootings make for good ratings on the nightly news, but they account for a tiny fraction of all gun deaths.

Using even the broadest definition of mass shooting shows they led to fewer than 500 deaths last year.  And, while every one of those deaths is tragic, they are dwarfed by the estimated 10,000 gun homicides that occur annually, and even further by the additional 20,000 gun suicides.  Many of these homicides are acts committed against an intimate partner or family member by someone with a history of violent behavior.  And many of the suicides are impulsive acts that would not have been successful had the person not had easy access to a gun.  These are the types of incidents that Obama’s actions could help prevent.  And, these tragic and often invisible deaths are just as important as those glorified on the news.

So, I commend the president on his actions.  I only wish he had the power to do even more.  The missing piece of any true gun-violence prevention effort is one that causes the greatest uproar any time it is even mentioned.  There are currently somewhere around 300 million guns in the United States.  But, there is no way to know exactly how many, where they are, or who has them.  The solution to this is simple.  All guns should be registered.

Registration should be part of any gun violence prevention proposal, and it is instead treated as a non-starter.  The only way to truly address gun violence and to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people is to know where guns are and whose hands they are in.  The argument that gun registration will lead to confiscation has no basis in reality, but is somehow accepted as truth.  There is absolutely no evidence that registering guns will lead to taking them away from anyone other than those who have demonstrated that they should not be allowed to possess them in the first place.

Like with all “gun control” proposals, registration would do nothing to change the status quo for those who legally own guns and handle them safely.  But, opposition to regulations is an admission of the dangerous nature of guns.  Law-abiding gun owners have nothing to lose by accepting new safety measures, and should support them.  Even more, they should support greater education regarding guns and crime.  People should know that overall crime rates are declining.  They should know that a gun in the home is far more likely to be used against someone in the home than an intruder.  They should know that owning a gun is an option, but not a necessity.  They should know the pros and cons of gun ownership, and that is a responsibility that should not be taken lightly.

But, rather than the freedom of choice over whether to own a gun, the gun lobby favors scare-tactics that encourage everyone to own a weapon, with or without the proper training or safety measures.  They know guns are dangerous, as illustrated by their attempts to prohibit doctors from talking about them as a health risk.  This makes their support for universal ownership especially suspect, as the only people who stand to gain are gun manufacturers, not other gun owners.  Yet, they still perpetuate fantasies of “good guys with guns” saving the day against “bad guys with guns” who are allegedly around every corner, despite all evidence to the contrary.

Still, the right to own a gun is protected by the Constitution, and it is not going away, even with the president’s recent executive actions.  But, that has done little to quiet the outcry.  So, one more time, law-abiding gun owners of America, no one is coming for your guns, unless you’ve done something to prove you are not capable of handling the responsibility that comes with gun ownership.  But, you should support any measure that force others to take that responsibility as seriously as you do.

 

Taking Guns Away from Dangerous People is a Good Thing

There are many things about living in California that frustrate me terribly.  But, things like the gun legislation passed this week remind me that, for all its flaws, my adopted home state still has more common sense than much of the country.

As the AP reports:

California will become the first state that allows family members to ask a judge to remove firearms from a relative who appears to pose a threat, under legislation Gov. Jerry Brown said Tuesday he had signed.

This legislation comes as a response to the shootings near the Santa Barbara campus of the University of California earlier this year.  But, even without the tragedy that provoked it, this is a measure that should have passed long ago.  It is obvious that keeping guns away from people who pose a threat to others is an easy way to save lives.  However, it is unusual that such a common sense solution can become law.

Even pro-gun folks can see the good in this idea, though they of course find a reason to object to any legislation that keeps guns away from whoever wants to own them:

“Our concern is not so much what they intended to do; our concern is with the method they put in place to address people with mental or emotional issues,” said Sam Paredes, executive director of Gun Owners of California. “We think this just misses the mark and may create a situation where law-abiding gun owners are put in jeopardy.”

But, what Paredes fails to see is how this prevents situations where common citizens, both with and without guns, are kept out of jeopardy.  Isn’t that far more important?  And, even for those aiming to protect the right of gun ownership, it is easy to see that some people simply should not have access to weapons, and that guns in the wrong hands can do a great deal of harm.

There is no reason to believe that this law will do anything to keep guns out of the hands of so-called “responsible” gun owners.  Just like background checks, this is legislation that will affect only those who should not own guns.

And, it is not just mass shootings that could be prevented.  As Don Thompson at Talking Points Memo writes:

Advocates say its greatest use actually might come not in preventing headline-grabbing murderous sprees, but in helping families deal with loved ones who are in danger of taking their own lives or who might be so angry or distraught that they could turn a gun on family members.

When about two-thirds of gun-related deaths are suicides, and homicides involving family members are far too frequent, enabling family members to remove weapons from the home can save lives, both their own and that of a potential suicide victim.

Of course, the actual success of this measure cannot be judged yet.  But, as gun-control advocate Amanda Wilcox says, “It’s hard to know how much it will be used or how much it will prevent.  It only takes avoiding one loss for this to be worth it.”

Is this REALLY where we should be spending all that money?

News came out today that Bill and Melinda Gates have made a $1 million donation to support a Washington state bill that would require background checks on all gun purchases.  On its face, this is great news, as the Gateses join fellow super-rich folks like Michael Bloomberg, Paul Allen, Steve Ballmer, and Nick Hanauer in donating towards sensible gun control initiatives.  And, while I wholeheartedly support any attempts to mandate background checks and any other measures that would limit gun violence, I was also a bit saddened to realize just how much money is being spent on this nonsensical debate.

Many are celebrating the Gateses donation, including Cliff Schecter at the Daily Beast:

Gates’s fame brings more attention and further legitimizes the initiative in a way that almost nobody else could. Once the Gates Foundation made it a priority to combat malaria around the world in 2000, it brought down deaths due to the insect-borne disease by 20 percent in 11 years, saving the lives of 1 million African children in the process.

Gates has the ability to grab headlines and make an issue go viral with the constant media coverage he receives, and the financial ability, if he wins, to fund similar efforts around the country. His involvement could be the answer to the public health crisis that makes American children 93 percent of those murdered in the 26 high-income countries around the world.

But, in those paragraphs lies the most tragic part of the entire debate, namely that so much money is being spent on it that could better be spent on other things.  The Gates Foundation has already shown the good that can be done by philanthropic billionaires, and its malaria prevention effort has already saved more lives than any gun control effort ever could.  And, sure, the million dollars donated in Washington is dwarfed by the budget his Foundation spends fighting disease, but even that million dollars could do a world of good if spent elsewhere.

But, because of groups like the National Rifle Association, who spend absurd amounts of money fighting any and all efforts to keep guns out of the hands of potentially dangerous people, Gates, Bloomberg, and all the rest are now spending their money fighting against the NRA.  And, the Gateses’ million dollars, along with the $50 million donated by Bloomberg, are still dwarfed by the hundreds of millions spent by pro-gun groups.  The Washington Post details spending from 2010:

2010-expenditures-by-gunissue-nonprofits_50365ef8c7c2d_w587

 

Just imagine what all that NRA money could be used for if not for their obsession with guns.  They could fight hunger and homelessness in America, cure disease, or fund research.  But, instead they choose to spend it on making it easier to buy guns.  What a waste.

So, yes, Gates and his billionaire buddies should be applauded for entering the fight against the gun lobby.  Their efforts, and their money, could potentially save thousands of lives.  It’s just a shame that they have to.

This Man Should Not Have a Gun, and He Is Not the Only One

Georgia has gone all-in on gun rights recently, most notably with their “Guns Everywhere” law that allows guns in churches, bars, libraries, and even airports and schools.  But, even for such a pro-gun state, this is inexplicable.  A man convicted of sexual assault who attempted to rape a woman with his gun has had his right to carry a firearm restored.

Think Progress reports:

A Georgia appeals courts decision upholding the sexual assault conviction of a former cop named Dennis Krauss is difficult to read. According to the record in Krauss’ trial, the former officer was dispatched to the home of a woman who called 911 alleging that her husband had hit her. Rather than arresting the husband, however, Krauss asked the victim to ride with him in his police car. Once she was in his car, “Krauss told the victim that he could take her to jail if he wanted to” or, if she did not want to be arrested, she could have sex with him instead. Krauss’ words, according to the court opinion, were “[w]e can go to the motel or you can go to jail.”

At the motel, Krauss drew his service weapon and told the woman that he wanted to anally penetrate her with the gun. When she refused, and began to cry, “Krauss then pushed her back, pulled off her pants, and had sex with her.” And then he drove her home to the same husband that led her to call the police in the first place.

Krauss was convicted of sexual assault against a person in custody, and this one instance of sexual assault is far from the only allegation against him. According to theAtlanta Journal-Constitution, “[h]is record was filled with allegations of misconduct: that he beat a prisoner so severely the man’s brain bled; that he threatened to fabricate charges against a suspect so he could sleep with the man’s wife; that he pressured at least 10 women for sex to avoid arrest.” The former cop, for his part, is unrepentant. When asked about his sexual assault conviction, he claims that “[t]here wasn’t any crime,” and that “I was dealt a bad hand.”

And yet, in July of 2013, the Georgia State Board of Pardons and Paroles restored Krauss’ right to carry a firearm. According to a Journal-Constitution tally, he is one of 358 violent felons who regained these rights over a six year period. That includes 32 violent felons who killed someone, and 44 who committed sex crimes. One man regained his right to own a gun in 2012 after serving a 10 year sentence for child molestation and aggravated child molestation. Some offenders regained their gun rights after being convicted of crimes such as armed robbery, burglary or aggravated assault.

Surely, even the state of Georgia can see the dangers of letting a man like this carry a weapon. This is a man convicted of a violent crime and who allegedly committed numerous others.  He used his gun to coerce a woman into non-consensual sex, and then attempted to violate her with that very weapon.  But, apparently, the right for a manany manto carry a gun outweighs the right of women not to be sexually assaulted.  Rapist, robbers, murderers, and even child molesters are allowed to carry weapons, and that is completely ludicrous.  Each of those 358 violent felons has victimized people, and can now carry a weapon that will allow them to continue their abhorrent behavior.

Courts have ruled repeatedly that violent criminals can have their right to own a gun revoked.  Yet, somehow, women and children still get little protection.  There has been resistance to keeping guns from domestic abusers or people with violence-related restraining orders.  And, in Georgia at least, even serial rapists are free to carry weapons.  Or, is sexual assault not a violent crime?  Are women not people who should be protected?  How about children?

This issue goes far beyond the Second Amendment.  For all the gray area over what the founders may have intended, no one could argue that they thought violent criminals should have weapons.  This issue is just further proof that women, children, and other victims of violent crime don’t matter to GOP lawmakers, at least not as much as guns do.

Abusers Should Not Have Guns, and Gun Owners Should Agree

As the gun debate continues, Congress finally held a hearing over the link between domestic violence and gun-related homicide.  Everyone, including gun owners, should naturally support efforts to protect abuse victims, but that sadly has not been the case.  Various proposals have been raised attempting to expand the regulations keeping domestic abusers from owning guns, but they have naturally met resistance from gun groups, including the NRA.

Current laws prohibit violent felons and certain people with restraining orders or misdemeanor domestic violence convictions from owning weapons, but these bans do not extend to other potentially violent people.  There are no laws in place to keep stalkers, those whose domestic violence convictions apply to attacks against people other than a spouse, or those whose restraining orders are merely temporary rather than permanent from owning all the weapons they please.  The proposals blocked by gun groups merely seek to broaden the bans to include these additional classes of potentially dangerous people.

Studies showing the increased risk for women when domestic violence and gun ownership are combined are numerous and terrifying.  Nearly half of women murdered by guns are killed by their intimate partner, and women are five times more likely to be killed by their partner when a gun is present in the house.  This threat even extends to mass shootings, as 57 percent of these kinds of sprees involve an incident of domestic violence.

The claim that keeping guns out of the hands of abusers is just an attempt to limit gun ownership simply does not hold water.  These are people who have already proven themselves to be dangerous.  Allowing them to own weapons that can be used to kill their partners (or former partners) is beyond irresponsible.

I have written before about how all gun owners are accountable for the actions of all other gun owners.  The case of domestic abusers having firearms is a perfect example of this.  As always, this type of legislation would do nothing to limit gun ownership for law-abiding citizens.  It would merely keep guns out of the hands of people with a history of violent or threatening behavior against their partner.  Responsible gun owners should want this as much as anyone else.  Surely they don’t condone this type of violence.  They should applaud any attempt to keep dangerous people from owning weapons, if not for their own safety, then for the safety of the 46 women a month who are shot and killed by their intimate partner.

Luckily, there are a few such gun owners who do support this potential legislation:

But not all gun-owners are siding with the NRA to fight these stricter gun controls. “I am a gun owner. I was shot and left for dead by my own gun,” says Christy Martin, a former championship boxer whose ex-husband was sentenced in 2012 to 25 years in prison for attempting to murder her with a firearm. Martin flew to Washington, DC this week to attend Wednesday’s hearing, at the invitation of Everytown for Gun Safety, a gun control group backed by former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. “I consider myself a physically fit, somewhat strong woman, mentally strong, emotionally strong, but it didn’t matter,” she says, noting that her ex-husband had a history of stalking behavior prior to the attack, and that she’d like to “close up some of those loopholes for stalkers.”

And closing those loopholes is exactly what the proposed legislation, including a bill from Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), seeks to do.  And, it should not be only the victims of these horrible attacks who support it.  But, the NRA has called her proposal “a backdoor attempt to limit gun ownership,” and said it, “manipulates emotionally compelling issues such as ‘domestic violence’ and ‘stalking’ simply to cast as wide a net as possible for federal firearm prohibitions.”

Downplaying the terror of domestic violence and murder at the hands of an intimate partners as merely “emotionally compelling” is heartless.  These are people who live in fear and are killed by a person they loved and trusted.  They deserve our help and protection, and keeping their partners from owning a weapon that can be used against them is the very least we can do.

Whatever the Problem, More Guns is not the Solution

Pro-gun folks are getting ambitious with their new proposals.  They used to merely oppose legislation that would hinder the ability of people to own as many guns as they want, regardless of their criminal history, mental health, or ability to handle their weapon safely.  Now they want to push legislation that would encourage or even require more people to own guns.

Take the recent commentary from NRA News Commentator Billy Johnson titled, “Everybody Gets a Gun.”  Though he conceded that his ideas “may be seen as ‘ridiculous’–even by ‘Second Amendment advocates,'” I don’t think this admission comes close to expressing just how ridiculous his proposal is.  It is flawed from beginning to end.  But, it is a telling indicator of where some of the more extreme pro-gun supporters hope to go with gun policy.

All emphasis in the following excerpts is mine.  Johnson begins:

As a country we have an education policy. Imagine if that policy was about limiting who has access to public education. I mean, let’s be honest, the danger in educating people to think is that they might actually start to think for themselves. Perhaps we should think seriously about who we give access to knowledge. They could use it to do a lot of damage.

As a country we have a far reaching public parks program. Imagine if that program was designed to limit who has access to those parks. You littered once in high school, sorry no park access for you.

As a country we have labor policies designed to ensure that people are given access to jobs regardless of gender, race, or creed. Imagine if that policy withheld certain types of jobs as only the purview of the government elite.

Here Johnson sets up his straw men, hoping that he can convince people who guns are actually comparable to any of these things.  But, let’s break them down, one at a time.

First, he compares the right to own a gun to the right to an education.  While it is true that only one of these things is mentioned in the Constitution, his argument actually defeats itself.  He claims that knowledge in the wrong hands can be a dangerous thing.  This is the very crux of the argument for gun control legislation.  None but the most extreme anti-gun advocates is seeking to outlaw guns completely.  Most are merely hoping for measures are put in place that limit who has access to them, ensuring that they do not end up in the wrong hands.  Even if Johnson is attempting to be sarcastic or ironic (and he may very well be, to be fair), he fails in this attempt.  Claiming that knowledge can be dangerous but ignoring that guns can be is idiotic.  Or, assuming he is being sarcastic, he is admitting that guns can be dangerous and we should “think seriously about who we give access to” them.  Either way, the argument fails.

Next, he says litterbugs should be kept out of public parks.  This is obviously a reference to legislation that keeps violent felons and those with violence-related restraining orders from owning weapons.  But, his analogy is offensive as it compares acts of violence with littering.  I think the victims and survivors of these acts would dispute the similarity to leaving trash on the ground in a public place.  Surely, even Johnson can see the difference.  And, if this is merely an attempt at humor, again, he has failed, as there is nothing at all funny about violence or trying to prevent it.

Then, Johnson compares gun owners to those affected by discrimination due to their “gender, race, or creed.”  And he tops off this failed comparison with the right-wing buzzwords “government elite,” hoping to appeal to the paranoia of many gun extremists.  One would assume that he is trying to make an analogy to the fear that the government will come take all the guns away from regular citizens, meaning only the government itself will be allowed to bear arms.  Again, this is playing into the extremist paranoia, and doing so through an apples-and-orange comparison between the right to discrimination-free employment and the right for unhindered gun ownership.

But, all of that is just the set-up.  Now, we get to the heart of Johnson’s proposal.  He continues:

The point is that as a country we often write policy to protect access to something; education, parks, jobs. But one for one of the most important protections, a constitutional right, we write policy designed to limit access. Among Second Amendment supporters it’s common to talk about U.S. gun policy. We worry that policies will encroach on our rights; we share our concerns about overreaching gun policy that fails to make any of us safer.

But we don’t spend nearly enough time asking what is the purpose of policy and what should the purpose of gun policy be? We don’t have a U.S. gun policy. We have a U.S. anti-gun policy. Our gun policies are designed around the assumption that we need to protect people from guns, that guns are bad or dangerous. But what would happen if we designed gun policy from the assumption that people need guns — that guns make people’s lives better. Let’s consider that for a minute.

Gun policy driven by people’s need for guns would seek to encourage people to keep and bear arms at all times. Maybe it would even reward those who do so. What if instead of gun free-zones we had gun-required zones?

It is a common tactic among pro-gun supporters (or “Second Amendment” supporters) to fall back on the Constitution.  Yes, the Constitution does have an amendment that refers to a right to bear arms.  But, there has been great debate over the ambiguously worded amendment and just what it actually does intend to protect.  The Amendment reads, “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”  It was only with the recent Heller decision by the Supreme Court that this was found to refer to the right for all people to own guns of any kind without restriction.  But, even after that, the court has upheld numerous restrictions, as various states and cities have implemented legislation seeking to limit gun violence.  But, gun supporters have been bolstered by the Supreme Court ruling, to the point that they believe their right to keep and bear arms should supersede the Constitution’s promises to “establish Justice,” “insure domestic Tranquility,” or “promote the general Welfare.”  These far-less-ambiguous promises are exactly what Johnson mocks with his earlier dismissal of education, public parks, and jobs.  Surely, if limits can be placed on access to these, the same can be done for guns.  But, Johnson calls such restrictions an “overreach.”  He then claims that gun policy “fails to make any of us safer,” despite proof that states with more gun legislation in place have lower rates of gun violence, and vice versa.

Next, Johnson makes a blatantly false assumption and then uses it as the basis for the rest of his commentary.  He asks, “what would happen if we designed gun policy from the assumption that people need guns — that guns make people’s lives better?”  The answer is simple.  We would be making policy based on a false assumption.  We might as well make gun policy based on the assumption that guns can make people fly or grow to be ten feet tall.  All are equally ridiculous.

But, Johnson is undeterred, next suggesting that what we really need are “gun-required zones,” an apparent reference to the erroneous belief that criminals seek out gun-free zones for their killing sprees, though that argument has been debunked.  So, now we have false information leading to a proposal that is itself based on the false assumption that people have a “need for guns.”

Now, we come to the big finish.  Johnson concludes:

Gun policy driven by our need for guns would insist that we introduce young people to guns early and that we’d give them the skills to use firearms safely. Just like we teach them reading and writing, necessary skills. We would teach shooting and firearm competency. It wouldn’t matter if a child’s parents weren’t good at it. We’d find them a mentor. It wouldn’t matter if they didn’t want to learn. We would make it necessary to advance to the next grade.

Gun policy driven by the assumption we need guns would probably mean our government would subsidize it. I mean, perhaps we would have government ranges where you could shoot for free or a yearly allotment of free ammunition. Sound crazy? Think about it. Education, healthcare, food, retirement, we subsidize things we value. Gun policy, driven by our need for guns would protect equal access to guns, just like we protect equal access to voting, and due process, and free speech. Our Founding Fathers believed that we did need guns. That’s why they codified our access to guns into the Constitution. But the idea of a gun policy that does justice to their intentions sounds ridiculous. What does that say about us? Even as Second Amendment advocates we can’t fathom a world where we would treat guns as a need.

Johnson has gone off the rails, contradicting himself at every turn.  He now claims that young people should be educated to use weapons, just like they are taught “necessary skills,” after earlier stating that education can be dangerous (unless maybe he is joking again; it can be hard to tell).  Then, in his most disturbing statement of all, Johnson says, “It wouldn’t matter if they didn’t want to learn.  We would make it necessary…”  Without making too many assumptions about Johnson’s political beliefs, wouldn’t this be the very type of government tyranny that Second Amendment folks are so worried about?  Johnson then calls for government subsidies for guns since “we subsidize things we value,” like education, healthcare, food, and retirement.  Again, aren’t these examples of government tyranny?  While I am surprised that he admits that those are things we value, guns clearly do not fall into the same category–at least not unless you are still buying into the false assumption that guns are something “we need.”

He concludes by saying that even the pro-gun crowd “can’t fathom a world where we would treat guns as a need.”  But, clearly he can.  Not only can he fathom it, he can come up with a dubious justification for it.  And, while this may be merely a tongue-in-cheek thought exercise, this kind of thinking can have real-world consequences.

For example, look at the recent legislation in Kentucky that seeks to arm survivors of domestic violence.  This shows the danger of treating guns as a necessity rather than as something that can be used to do great harm.  Rather than taking steps to keep people with a history of violence from gaining access to a weapon, Kentucky has now placed the burden on the abused, encouraging them to arm themselves, even though having a gun in the house drastically increases the likelihood that a domestic violence attack will result in the victim being killed.

The idea that guns make people safer is dangerous, and the idea that guns are something that people “need” is even more so.  While guns may be protected by the Second Amendment, regulations on them are also protected.  And, these regulations are necessary.  The right to own a gun is no more sacred than the right not to own one, or the right to be free from the fear of having one be used against you.  But, the NRA keeps pushing.  And, though Johnson’s proposal is admittedly ridiculous, it justifies laws like the one in Kentucky, where the answer to a problem of violence is more guns.  And, more guns should never be the answer, no matter what the problem is.

 

Stand Down, Don’t Stand Your Ground

So, it appears that another piece of pro-gun mythology has been debunked.  Two studies, one from Texas A&M and one from Georgia State, have found that “Stand Your Ground” laws do not deter crime, and instead actually increase homicide rates.

The Texas A&M study found that the law accounted for an additional 600 homicides in states with “Stand Your Ground” legislation in place, an increase of 8 percent.  The study simultaneously “found no detectable decrease in burglary, robbery or aggravated assault.”  The Georgia State study, using different methodology, found a similar increase of 7.1 percent.  Importantly, neither study found that the increase was due to justifiable homicides—that is, shootings in which a shooter is “standing his ground” against an imminent threat.

It was suggested by pro-gun groups that “Stand Your Ground” laws would lead to a decrease in crime, as criminals would be aware that homeowners (or other victims) would be justified in shooting them.  This would supposedly act as incentive for criminals not to engage in criminal behavior.  This has proved not to be the case:

“Collectively, these findings suggest that incentives do matter in one important sense: lowering the threshold for the justified use of lethal force results in more of it,” the authors concluded in the report. “On the other hand, there is also a limit to the power of incentives, as criminals are apparently not deterred when victims are empowered to use lethal force to protect themselves.”

Though it is interesting to see that data backs up the beliefs of those opposed to the law, it is really just common sense.  If people are given more freedom to shoot their guns without legal consequence, they will shoot their guns more often.  And, if someone believes that they are “standing their ground” they will not look for ways to avoid confrontation, and might even seek it out.  The better solution would be to give people reason to avoid confrontation altogether.  Involving firearms only escalates situations that might otherwise be defused.  Guns embolden people who might otherwise rationally seek to settle arguments without violence.  Giving them more freedom to use their weapons in situations where they are not needed was a bad idea from the start, and now there is data to confirm it.