Predictably, the flames of the gun control debate have been fanned to an inferno since the latest tragedies that have occurred over the past year in Aurora, Clackamas, and Newton. The gun control advocates are screaming for more laws, restrictions, and regulations. The United States’ most prominent pro-gun lobby (the NRA) has called for armed guards in all schools. Both of these calls represent a threat to liberty in addition to being unrealistic and impractical, as I will attempt to demonstrate in this column.
I’ll begin with the more easily dismissed proposal, which is the NRA’s plan to place taxpayer funded armed guards in all public schools nationwide. There is little doubt that placing an armed guard inside a school would likely cause a would-be shooter to think twice about opening fire, in the same way that placing an armed soldier inside everyone’s house would probably discourage a burglary, or wearing a helmet 24 hours a day would reduce your chances of a head injury. The NRA proposal would create yet another vast theft-funded state army, not to mention the atmospheric effect it would have on schools. Fostering a culture of fear – and dependency on government for safety – is something any friend of liberty should oppose. Public schools resemble prisons more and more every day, we need not further this transformation in exchange for safety, real or perceived.
The statistics also do not favor this idea. There is no upward trend in mass shootings rendering the plan to put armed guards in schools a massive misallocation of time, money, and effort to combat a non-existent “trend.” Overall, violent crime, and gun crime, have seen a precipitous drop over the last 20 years even as gun control laws, such as the federal assault weapons ban, have expired. On top of that, you are still far, far more likely to be shot and killed by a police officer, even if you are unarmed, than by a mass-shooter at a school, theater, or any other area.
The NRA plan is in short, complete bunk.
On the other side of the argument, we have the familiar gun control advocates, claiming that further laws and regulations are needed to prevent such tragedies from occurring again. This claim is not only false, but also lies in direct contradiction with the principles of liberty and the intended purpose of the second amendment.
First of all, there is the same information pointed out above to dismiss the NRA’s plan; there is no upward trend of mass shootings, and violent crime of all kinds is continuing to fall. Therefore the gun-control lobby is attempting to fix a “problem” that appears to be fixing itself despite the absence of more laws and regulations. Gun control advocates have consistently failed to demonstrate exactly how more restrictions would make us safer. In regards to the Sandy Hook shooting, Connecticut already had some of the most stringent anti-gun laws in the United States, yet the tragedy still occurred. Columbine took place during the height of federal anti-gun laws being in effect. The most destructive mass shootings in US history have taken place in “gun-free zones,” a hallmark accomplishment of the gun-control lobby that has proven thus far to embolden would-be shooters and disarm those who could potentially defend themselves.
The plans forwarded so far by pro-gun-control advocates in the wake of the Sandy Hook tragedy yet again fail to demonstrate how such proposals would deter further mass shootings. The proposals include: a federal firearms registry, closing the so-called “gun show loophole,” preventing the sale of firearms between private individuals, magazine capacity limits, and – laughably – increasing the punishment for carrying a firearm in gun-free zones (It bears mentioning that the recent Clackamas mall shooter, after initially opening fire and killing two people, was challenged by a legal gun owner with a conceal and carry permit and subsequently retreated and took his own life once he was confronted). I would challenge even the most ardent gun-control advocate to demonstrate to me how any of the above would have prevented the Sandy Hook, Aurora, Virginia Tech, or Columbine massacres. In all of these shootings, the guns were either acquired illegally (Sandy Hook and Columbine) or purchased legally (Aurora and Virginia Tech) by the perpetrators — all of whom had no prior criminal history, thus no waiting period or background check, however far reaching, could have stopped the acquisition of their guns — weeks, months, or years before the shootings. The deadliest of the shooters, Seung-Hui Cho at Virginia Tech, used two pistols with standard size clips to murder 32 people. In other words, none of the aforementioned regulations could have stopped a suicidal maniac from committing these crimes.
Secondly, completely banning firearms does not necessarily correlate with a drop in violent crime, or even gun crime. Chicago enacted a sweeping ban on handguns and has seen their violent and gun related crime increase, culminating in 500 homicides in 2012, the highest since 2008. Washington D.C. enacted a similar ban on guns in 1976, and saw their murder rate increase an average of 73% while the national average dropped 11%. But what about places like Great Britain and Australia, who banned guns years ago? It’s an undeniable fact that more people are killed with guns in the United States than in Britain or Australia. However, overall violent crime has increased in Australia and Great Britain remains staggeringly violent, with a violent crime rate of 2,034 incidences per 100,000 people, worse than South Africa, and far ahead of the US with a rate of 466 per 100,000 and dropping; lower even than Canada. Therefore you can reasonably conclude that the banning of firearms does not make us more peaceful or even safer. In fact, of the five deadliest non-war related massacres in US history (in order: 9/11, Oklahoma City Bombing, Mountain Meadows Massacre, Bath School Bombing, 1962 Continental Flight 11 bombing) only the 1854 Mountain Meadows Massacre involved guns when a Utah militia ambushed a wagon train and killed up to 140 people. Even the deadliest school-related massacre in history, in Bath, Michigan, involved home made explosives.
While it is true that gun crime specifically dropped in Britain and Australia when their bans were enacted, there are also examples in countries like Switzerland and Finland where gun ownership is relatively high, that have even lower gun crime rates than countries with strict restrictions on guns. There are also many states such as New Hampshire, Wisconsin, and Iowa that have very high rates of gun ownership but roughly the same amount of gun crime as the UK or Australia. If you were to look at all the statistics in a scientific way, detached from emotion, you would see that there is simply no conclusive evidence that restricting/banning guns equals less crime. To suggest otherwise simply displays a confirmation bias. Outside of disinventing guns, more restrictions or bans will not prevent violence.
Thirdly, there is the issue of the second amendment. While I have my own issues with the constitution as a voluntaryist – I view it as a well-intended failure that has been used to legitimize the state and its inherent violence — there have been the familiar croons from the gun control lobby indicating that the founders never envisioned assault rifles and the like, that the second amendment only refers to the military or uses like hunting and other sport. There is of course no historical basis for any of these claims. The second amendment was written by a group of men who had just fought a long and bloody war against their government, and an armed citizenry was key in their victory. The 2nd amendment exists as a further check on government power. It exists in case the people must once again fight their government to reject tyranny. It is well and good for a gun control advocate to suggest that if you are in danger you can just call the police, but who do you call when you need protection from the police or other government agents?
I’ll end with some musings on the actions of our political class of late and the disgusting irony on display. We have Diane Feinstein calling for strict legislation. Ironic since she once publicly claimed she needed her concealed pistol for protection and continues to have armed security to this day, yet would gladly remove that right from ordinary Americans.
I have watched both of President Obama’s recent speeches regarding the Sandy Hook massacre and gun control. I am not one who buys the argument that we must refrain from discussion on a particular topic due to a recent tragedy, so I won’t criticize the President on his timing as some in the pro-gun lobby have. I will however point it out for what it was: a creepy, contemptible, bald-faced play on the fears and emotions of the public to advance an agenda. I could not help but be reminded of many of Bush’s speeches after 9/11 which were used to forward dubious actions such as the Patriot Act, torture and rendition, and two bloody and unnecessary wars. Reactionary politics are typically the most destructive. It is the height of irony to watch a man, through crocodile tears, bemoan the deaths of those killed at Sandy Hook and Aurora yet oversee and approve military strikes that result in the deaths of far more children abroad committing tragedies on the scale of Sandy Hook roughly every 10 days. He approved the assassination of at least two American citizens with no due process including a 16-year old child, Abdulrahman al-Awlaki. President Obama said in one of his speeches regarding the victims of Sandy Hook that they: “”had their entire lives ahead of them – birthdays, graduations, weddings, kids of their own.” Apparently Abdulrahman al-Awlaki was to be denied these things, for a “crime” that the United States has refused to define or provide evidence.
Excuse me if I am skeptical of a proven mass-murderer’s call to restrict our freedoms.