Last Updated: Saturday, 27 January, 2002 20:10

Viewpoints


How I See It

I think two of the basic differences between people who are gun-control advocates and the people who are gun-rights advocates is the way they view reality and the way they perceive our constitutional rights. The people who advocate gun control also advocate intrusive laws, such as requiring child safety locks, storing guns in safes or strong-boxes and some have even advocated the idea of periodic "surprise" searches of gun owner's homes -- in direct violation of the 4th amendment -- to ensure guns are not available to children.

In contrast, most gun owners support not only the 2nd amendment, but they support the 4th amendment's restriction on searches along with all the other guarantees in the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights. An individual gun owner may not agree with your "free speech" advocating more gun control, but will defend your right to say it.

"We can't be so fixated on our desire to preserve the rights of ordinary Americans."
William Jefferson Clinton, USA Today, March 11, 1993.

Therein lies the first significant difference. Most gun owners, including the majority in the NRA, believe that all of our rights are important, while the gun-control advocates only believe in some of those rights. How else could they support and defend President Clinton's orders for invasive, intrusive "gun sweeps" in federal housing projects and subsidized housing?

The Reality Question:

From my perspective, gun control advocates don't seem to understand how swiftly crime can occur and how little time they have to summon the authorities. I performed an experiment for this article, by dialing another phone and letting it ring 4 times. Even using an auto-dialer, it took 30 seconds to ring four times. Four rings may not be unusual in your community's 911 system - or you may get a recording to stay on the line if things are busy.

Students:Set a timer and sit there doing nothing for 30 seconds to see how long
that really is. Repeat, but this time have another student bang on a desk or door,
shouting loudly for 30 seconds.

Of course, now add from two to eight minutes for what's called a "good" response time and see how long you have to wait for help to arrive. This is illustrative of the problem inherent in relying on others for your protection.

Another difference is that gun control advocates tend to "worry" about someone with a gun suddenly "going off" on a murder spree. This theme is repeated frequently and is a favorite argument. Yet they don't seem nearly as concerned about people going off with automobiles (and drowning their children) or knives (and hopping a rail car to escape) or even the most common weapons - hands and feet.

You may also have noticed a tendency with die-hard gun-control advocates to become emotional when their arguments are countered by logical or legal points. I've even encountered abusive language from them when arguing against their viewpoint. Instead of debating or asking for clarification on a point, we will hear emotional arguments like "Oh fine, you'd let everyone walk around with live bazookas and nuclear weapons!" Or "So you're in favor of just anyone at all buying any kind of gun to shoot up a school yard full of kids!" Such statements are, of course, rhetorical and absurd. No one supporting the 2nd amendment seriously advocates either of these positions. However, when I've used their tactics by saying something similarly absurd, like "So you believe a 98 pound young woman who is raped, beaten and knifed by a 230 pound man wasn't serious about her defense if she got hurt." The normal reply is that a gun wouldn't be any use because "a man that big would just take it away from her" - I guess we really see how "liberals" feel about the competence of women.

I have tried to track down some of the "facts" used by the gun-control proponents, sometimes spending many hours pouring though available government documents. Not too surprisingly, I've found that many of their "facts" cannot be verified. In some cases, government statistical groups are combined in some fashion to create a "statistic", but they never respond to requests for a source or calculation method. The "mythical" sound-bite used by President Clinton of "13 children a day" being killed by firearms is the classic example. In order to obtain that figure, one has to consider persons from 18 to 24 years of age, people old enough to be soldiers, get married or sign contracts, as "children". And since the accepted, dictionary, definition of "children" includes only those who are pre-adolescent, that means we eliminate the 13-17 year olds and arrive at a figure close to 1.7 children per day. While you may feel that your 14 year old is your "child", remember that Mr. Clinton carefully selects and parses his words as a lawyer, so the dictionary definition of child should stick, even if we have to argue what the "definition of is is."

Semiautomatic assault weapons are only slightly less deadly than machine guns. Pulling the trigger on these guns fires a single bullet, but also automatically loads the next bullet into the chamber, so that the user can fire up to 30 bullets in five seconds by repeatedly pulling the trigger.
     --HCI "assault weapon facts" web page.

What trash. Go try it sometime. Try firing a semiautomatic rifle at the rate of over 300 rounds per minute. Keep in mind that the fully automatic M-60 machine gun (used in Vietnam) fires at the rate of 550 rounds per minute. The .50 caliber Browning machine gun fires at 450 - 550 rounds per minute.

I have also noticed that websites of gun-control groups have a tendency to produce some "facts" then add to those facts some "case studies" which give a narrative example, such as a story about someone being killed. Yet these carefully selected stories never mention gang connections or that a significant portion of "youth homicide" victims are gang-members. Nor do these stories ever indicate that the "victim" was killed by an abused spouse. For many years, the National Rifle Association has run a column in their membership magazine called The Armed Citizen which reprints news articles about self-defense with a firearm. Each entry must be from a newspaper with the paper's name and date. The NRA has never had enough room to run all the submissions they receive, yet it generally covers one or more magazine pages.

Constitutional Rights:

Another of my peeves with pro-gun-control people is the way they are willing to completely trash the constitutional rights of others. And I'm not speaking only of the Second Amendment here, either! They are willing to subvert the freedoms in the entire Bill of Rights to achieve their goals. By way of contrast, most gun owners will defend the rights of all Americans to speak out on issues (even gun control), to worship the religion of their choice, to have a fair trial and so forth.

Sarah Brady is the chairman and national spokeswoman for Handgun Control, Incorporated and she too had indicated her disdain for the constitutional rights of gun owners who are otherwise law-abiding.
...I don't believe gun owners have rights."
     -- Sarah Brady, Chairman, Handgun Control, Incorporated,
        from the Hearst Newspapers Special Report, "Handguns in America" October 1997

If you think about this idea very long it becomes frightening. According to our Constitution everyone has the same rights unless they have been stripped of some through a conviction - also known as "due process". Yet Mrs. Brady claims that equal protection shouldn't apply to a some people. If she can push legislation that denies one group's rights, who will be next to claim that a different group doesn't have rights? Who will be the next target of this discrimination?

The most recent vocalization of this came from Rosie O'Donnell, the comedienne and talk show host. And while many people may dismiss her as another "Hollywood airhead", remember that her stance was apparently so well liked that she was a featured guest leader of the Million Mom March.

"I honestly think - and I am not an expert on the amendments - I think
the only people in this nation who should be allowed to own guns are
police officers. I don't care if you want to hunt, I don't care if you think
it's your right. I say 'sorry'. It is 1999, we have had enough as a nation.
You are not allowed to own a gun and if you do own a gun, I think you
should go to prison."
     -- Rosie O'Donnell, April 21, 1999

Through that one statement, Ms. O'Donnell indicates that she favors the government removal of a legal product from the hands of its citizens (without compensation, that violates the 5th amendment) and the summary incarceration of gun owners, thus violating the 6th (trial by jury), 8th (cruel and unusual punishments) and 9th ("other rights") amendments.

But let's suppose, just for the moment, how loud Ms. O'Donnell would be screaming if a famous public figure declared that their opinion was that any homosexual person found alone with a child should be thrown in jail and their property confiscated? Yet, Ms. O'Donnell advocates equally draconian measures against firearm owners with hardly a peep out of the media.

That there are people who think this way is not news to gun owners. Nor should it be news to millions of people of Jewish faith who know first hand what it's like to be a demonized group. Many gun owners are well educated and familiar with the history of how power corrupts the minds of political people. An African-American NRA member once asked me how long I thought it would be before Mrs. Brady's "certain classes" of people excluded African-Americans, or people on welfare or people who home-schooled their children. It was a sobering question.

The Cost-Benefit Question

One argument you'll hear is the damage done by firearms outweighs their usefulness in our supposedly modern society. But is that really true? Let's take a look at this question.

The question itself begs for a cost-to-benefits analysis. A fancy way of saying "is something worth the price?". One the one hand, the anti-gun lobby says the price is too high in both monetary terms and in terms of lives lost or shattered by the use of firearms. They focus on the cost in medical care and lost wages that result when someone is injured by a firearm and the claim is that it runs into the billions of dollars (combined medical and lost wages). This is a steep "cost" hurdle to overcome so the benefits must be pretty high for us to keep them around, right?

Let's talk about a world without firearms. No guns at all, not even for the police. Will this be the utopia that the anti-gun lobby implies waits for us? Not hardly.

A study by Professor Gary Kleck at the University of Florida indicates that civilians alone use firearms somewhere around 1.5 million to 2 million times each year to thwart a crime or to protect themselves. Further, his study indicated that very few of these incidents resulted in death and only a slightly higher number resulted in injury. It seems that most criminals either flee or submit when confronted by a citizen with a firearm rather than risk being shot. What's this mean? This means that without firearms it is likely that a majority of these crimes could be successful! And what is the cost to society for this? I don't have a quantitative answer but condider that in each case a citizen was present which means he or she would be confronting one or more felons while unarmed. What? That's okay because the bad guys would be unarmed too? But would they? It's already against the law for drug dealers to carry guns, but they do. Why wouldn't many of these same criminals be armed with a knife or some other weapon? This would seem to shift the burden of death and injury from the criminal element to the citizens trying to defend themselves or their property. This is not a good trade in my opinion.

We can also draw some parallels from the U.K. here too. In the mid 1990's the British severely restricted firearms after a shooting in Dublane. Handguns were turned in after being banned. Rifles and shotguns, those that are still allowed, must be stored in an "inoperable" condition. The theory was that this way, no one could use the firearm in a moment of rage or anger. Their already tough licensing program was tightened even further, reducing the number of firearms in civilian hands. And what has been the result?

In Britian, the rate of "hot burglaries" (what we call home-invasion robberies here in the U.S.) took an alarming jump. It seems that the criminals figured out that with guns locked up and many people having alarms on their homes the best way was to wait until their victims were home, the alarms were off and then force their way in to terrorize the victims in their own homes. And many of these incidents involve several criminals ganging up on the victim. This does not happen in the U.S. because, as one incarcerated burglar said, stating the obvious, "that's a good way to get shot". We actually saw a wave of this kind of crime here in the U.S. when large numbers of Vietnamese immigrants arrived. People who did not know they could keep guns (after being naturalized) and often kept money and valuables at home. We see that guns form a very real deterrent to crime mainly because the criminals don't know who has a gun in their house or not. A good benefit because otherwise we'd have to add a rise in home-invasion robberies to our lives.

In 1985, the National Institute for Justice reported that:
60% of felons polled agreed that "a criminal is not going to mess around with a victim he knows is armed with a gun."
57% of felons polled agreed that "criminals are more worried about meeting an armed victim than they are about running into the police."
74% of felons polled agreed that "one reason burglars avoid houses when people are at home is that they fear being shot during the crime."

Remember a few years ago, around 1995-1997 we were seeing a spate of car-jackings around the country? This crime would quite likley resurrect itself as it would be well known that motorists were defenseless. And these crimes don't always involve just the theft of the car. People have been kidnapped, raped, beaten and robbed as the result of car-jackings. Some states, notably the state of Louisiana, passed laws authorizing the use of deadly force to stop one of these crimes. As news reports started coming out about car-jackers being shot in different states the popularity of the crime declined significantly.

Summary

The point here is that by abolishing legally owned firearms we would see an increase in crimes, not a decrease. On the order of one or two million additional crimes per year. Certainly there were be fewer deaths by firearms, but this might be outweighed by deaths from beatings, stabbings or other violence. But we'd also have to weigh the cost of people terrorized in their own homes, afraid to answer a knock at the door.

Criminals would quickly figure out that most average (unarmed) citizens can be overwhelmed by even a small group of criminals. Firearms crimes might drop, but we'd see a rise in other crimes, such as assaults and rapes because a group of criminals may be emboldened by their numbers.

Likewise, we'd see "new" crimes being committed. Car-jackings, home-invasions, gang robberies on busses or subways and so on, because the criminals would be secure in knowning that few citizens would be able to stop them.

Cost of abolishing firearms
Between 1 million and 2 million more crimes annually.
Increase in crimes committed by multiple assailants.
"New" types of crimes, such as home-invasion robberies or car-jackings
A shift in injuries and fatalities from the criminals to the citizen
A rise in "intimidation" crimes where criminals intimidate people to give up their valuables to avoid injury implied by the criminal's demeanor.

And, we have to weigh the costs like the anti-gun lobby wants us to do. What is the loss to society of Joe Dopehead, shot while beating up a woman for the ten dollars in her purse? But in the gun-free society, what is the loss to society because Mrs. Citizen dies as a result of the beating inflicted by Joe Dopehead? Ask yourself which is more likely to have contributed to the good side of our society.

Here are some differences in the opposing viewpoints on other topics and tidbits. I'll let you decide if one side is right or wrong. Hysterical or logical. Paranoid or pragmatic. If you have comments, click the link at the bottom of the page to e-mail me.

Anti Gun Viewpoint Pro Gun Viewpoint
We need to repeal the 2nd Amendment and get rid of all the guns. The Amendment does not grant the right, it only limits the government's ability to remove or reduce the right. The right would still exist as part of what are called the natural rights of free men.
Guns are the source of crime and need to be banned. Criminals are the source of crime, no matter how they are armed.
Passing restrictive laws against guns will reduce gun crime. Address all crime and not just crime with guns. To date, no gun law has been proven to reduce crime or homicides, not even the Brady Law. 1
A gun's only purpose is to kill Tens of thousands of guns are used only for competitive target shooting, informal target shooting, skill competitions and historical reenactments.
You're safer if you don't have guns in your home. You're safer if you do have guns in your home and are properly trained to handle them safely.
If you have a gun at home you'll use it against a family member in a moment of anger or rage. On average, police have visited a home five (5) times before a domestic violence homicide takes place. Further, the majority of these homicides involve the use of alcohol or drugs at the time of the homicide, regardless of the weapon used.
People who own guns are just murderers who haven't killed yet. There are estimated to be between 80 and 100 million legal gun owners who have no desire to kill anyone. And by using this logic, journalists are insurrectionists who haven't yet called for overthrowing the government.
Citizens carrying guns in public will kill each other over minor things like a traffic accident. Carrying a gun is an enormous responsibility and never taken lightly. Carrying a gun means going out of your way to avoid a confrontation if possible. The statistics from Florida and Texas show lawful gun carrying citizens are much more law-abiding than "average" people.
If someone wants to rob you, no resistance is the safest course. If you are attacked by a criminal, resisting with a gun is statistically the safest thing to do.2
In an emergency, dial 911 for help and protection. Calling 911 means the police are still at least several minutes away and the knife wielding thug isn't going to wait that long. Plus the police have no obligation to provide timely protection.
Inexpensive guns are poorly made "Saturday night specials", malfunction often, are too inaccurate and the weapon of choice for criminals. Inexpensive guns offer the poor a method of protection, are useful for backpacking or fishermen. The "Saturday night special" term is racist and demeaning to African-Americans.
Expensive, $1,200 - $1,500 "assault weapons" are the weapon of choice for criminals. A criminal's weapon of choice is whatever kind of gun he can buy. Statistics show that "assault weapons" are used in less than 2% of any gun related crime.
Assault weapons are too powerful for civilians to own. Most hunting rifles have more power and better range than an "assault rifle". But the latter are better for home defense and combating multiple attackers common in urban crime.
Assault rifles are too inaccurate and low powered for militia purposes. The AR-15/M16 is becoming preeminent in the Camp Perry national target matches and the US government deems them suitable for issue to combat troops.
By putting a big tax on guns we prevent criminals from getting them. Drug dealers can afford to "throw away" a $90,000 airplane smuggling $10 million in drugs, a $1,000 tax isn't much of a deterrent, except to hard working law-abiding civilians.
Very accurate rifles that can shoot over 200 yards are "sniper rifles". Get a clue! Most common hunting rifles are accurate out to 300 or more yards.
The 2nd Amendment allows states to have a National Guard The 2nd Amendment, ratified in 1787, isn't about the National Guard that was created by Congress 130 years later in 1917.
Handguns aren't protected because they don't have a militia purpose. The military has tens of thousands of handguns which are issued to officers and aircraft crews.
We can't let people own military assault rifles because you don't need an assault rifle to hunt deer. So-called "assault rifles" DO have a militia purpose which has been used as a test to try to eliminate handguns. Let's get this straight...If it has no militia purpose, citizens shouldn't have one, but if it does have a militia/military purpose, it doesn't have a sporting use? Which version wins?
The "easy availability" of guns today is the cause of so much crime. Crime was lower when guns were easier to buy before 1968, when you could buy a gun with no paperwork and walk out with it. No Form 4473, No Brady Form, No background check, No waiting periods. Before 1968 guns were available through mail order catalogs too.
Gun purchases should have a 3, 5, 10 or 15 day waiting (or "cooling off") period. Such laws haven't historically prevented crime, but have prevented people from buying guns when needed for protection - such as women being stalked and during the L.A. "Rodney King" riots.
Gun sales should be limited to one per month. Such laws prevent a person from buying both a handgun and a shotgun for self-defense if needed on short notice.
Gun owners should be limited to only one box of ammunition at a time. Many people shoot dozens of rifle rounds or hundreds of handgun rounds in a session in order to become proficient. Rifle ammos is packed 20 per box. Shotguns are 25 per box and pistol is 50 per box. Couldn't ammo makers "skirt" such a law by just making the boxes bigger?
Anyone who owns a gun and uses it but hits an innocent person is negligent and a criminal. This is so silly I love it. Limit the ammo people can have to practice and then proclaim they're criminally negligent for missing their target. This is would put the government into the position of creating the problem in the first place.
The 50 caliber rifles are excessively powerful "sniper" rifles unsuitable for hunting or sport shooting. The low price .50's start around $1200 up to $6000 or more. They are also very heavy and awkward (starting around 16 lbs and about 3 feet long), making them unsuitable for criminals. But they are suitable for bench-rest shooting competitions where they are most frequently used.
Gun makers should know that their products might be used in a crime and should be liable if they are used to hurt someone. Anything can be wrongfully used. Guns, cars, hammers, ice-picks, computers, etc. Only the person using the tool or device is responsible for how it's used. This is attempting to blame a typewriter for libel or the spoon for Rosie O'Donnell being fat.
Gun makers flood the areas surrounding places where guns are banned, creating a market for criminals. Gun makers sell to distributors who sell to retailers who order them for their stores. Guns are sold where there is demand for them. Every time a new law threatens to restrict or prohibit a gun, demand for the type goes up.
Having too many guns around means someone will get killed. Why is it that there are almost no fatalities at shooting ranges and gun shows?
If we eliminate guns the suicide rate will go down. People intent on suicide will switch to bridges, tall buildings or other methods, as in Canada.
Gun makers market their guns to women by playing on their fears. Advertisements play on people's fears to sell products such as security alarms, safes, mace/pepper sprays, auto-security systems, even soap, shampoo, mouthwash and feminine protection products. What's your point?
Only the police need high capacity "clips" for their guns. There's no reason a civilian needs to shoot that many bullets. Police operate in groups, with backup, radios and helicopters armed with infrared/night-vision systems, while civilians face their attackers alone, without backup and often in the dark. 3
Only the police and military should have guns. In recent years, police officers have been known to murder spouses, families, suspects and others. D.C. police shoot too much, LAPD officers frame suspects, a Philadelphia cop sold police-seized guns for profit, three Chicago officers robbed drug dealers. Why are they more trustworthy? 4
We know banning guns works and reduces crime. Is that why Washington D.C.'s murder rate is 69 per 100,000 -- due to gun bans and Indianapolis' rate of 9 per 100,000 is due to a lack of gun control?
People can't be trusted with guns which is why we need a gun ban. If the people can't be trusted, why do you trust them to obey such a law?
If my gun owning neighbor ever yells at me or threatens me we need a law that allows the police to take his guns away until a psychologist says he's not a danger. What happens if a non-gun-owner yells or threatens someone? What are they deprived of? This sounds spiteful and prone to abuse.
Handguns have too many controls for civilians to learn how to use them properly. Handguns have about 4 controls. Average automobiles have about 20 controls.
All or most of the "pro-gun" arguments are NRA propaganda or misinformation from the gun-lobby. While many arguments and articles are written by pro-gun supporters, a growing number of neutral scholars are writing more pro-gun legal articles. In fact, I have never heard of a constitutional researcher switching their viewpoint from individual rights to embrace "collective rights" based on historical evidence. But several researchers have switched to the pro-gun viewpoint.
All the court decisions to date "favor" the view of gun control advocates. Unfortunately the judicial history of the 2nd amendment is pretty thin. But this is where our 1st amendment rights were in 1904 until Justices Brandeis and Holmes began accepting arguments about free speech. Prior to then, people could be arrested for what, today, is considered protected speech.

Footnotes:
1As I was writing this article the Washington Post reported a new study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association that the 1994 Brady law has had no effect on firearm homicide and suicide rates.

2National Bureau of Justice Statistics, 1996.

3Indeed it would seem that the police, with their tactics and ability to coordinate groups of officers would have less of a need for high capacity magazines than the civilian who is "on her own" and incommunicado most of the time.

4See this site's page Only The Police And Military Should Have Guns for reasons why the police are not especially trustworthy.

  There you have it. Now you can see some of the opposing viewpoints and how both sides attempt to debate the issue (or claim they debate it). If you have thoughts or opinions, click the e-mail link below and let me know!

 


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