GUN CONTROL – MYTHS, LIES, AND STATISTICS

There are many misconceptions and outright inaccurate statements made by people, both in private and especially in the press on all types of issues, especially controversial political issues. As an engineering type, analytical and a little nerdy, I hate inaccurate statements which are not accompanied by all the appropriate caveats and context. In the next few paragraphs, I want to touch on a few of the inaccurate statements regarding guns (kinda at random) (maybe more than a few). If you really are just interested in my proposed plan, and don’t want to skim through this post, you can skip to my next post which covers that topic. Of course I would love it if you were to hang on my every word, and worship me as a god of intellect and erudition…haha.

One statement that really “gets my goat” (ya, I am an old baby boomer) is “We have a problem with guns in America”. Not only is this statement inaccurate, but it also misdirects our attention away from the more deeply disturbing problems which desperately need to be addressed. One of the real SYMPTOMS which needs to be addressed is the easy AVAILABILITY of guns to those individuals who should not have access to them. This is much different than saying that the problem is with the guns themselves. More importantly, there is a much more deeply disturbing problem which is responsible for a much greater number of deaths and injuries each year. We have a more pervasive problem with VIOLENCE in America. Violence, again, is itself only a symptom of even deeper root causes. Violence is not always carried out using guns. People die and are injured each year by knives, baseball bats, golf clubs, crowbars, heavy tools, strangulation, drowning, fists, etc. Any comprehensive solution to “gun” violence should not be made without considering the underlying root causes of violence in general. Controlling guns is not THE answer to all of our problems, but is only a band-aid on the much more general problem of violence. Our mental health system desperately needs reform and massive funding and the government needs to stop preventing the CDC from researching  the underlying causes of gun violence.  We need associated measures to fix the general problem of violence which will benefit the greater number of victims of violence, of which gun violence victims are only a subset.

Consider this – IF it were possible to eradicate all conditions in our society which drive citizens to kill or maim, would the access to guns then be a problem? The answer is actually “yes” when you consider that gun control measures are still needed to prevent gun accidents (mainly education and training), which are not the results of violence, but rather of mistakes in following gun safety measures. Some accidents will happen no matter what we do because humans are imperfect, and make mistakes. But there are still ways to reduce those number of mistakes, and make gun ownership more safe. The larger problem is NOT that guns exist, but rather that people become violent, and THEN use guns (and other tools) to commit violence against others. It is not a gun problem per se, but a problem of VIOLENCE in America, and violence is only a symptom of deeper root causes. For example, criminals are driven to violence out of desperation to survive (mostly economically) so they resort to armed robbery, or carry illegal or legal firearms for protection from police or other criminals WHILE they are trying to make money illegally. Some criminals do it simply out of greed to gain more, without resorting to more acceptable (legal) means to obtain it. Whatever the root causes, the real problem we want to solve is how to prevent average citizens from becoming violent in the first place. But that is not the purpose of my proposal to control the access to guns.

One fact which is not generally known, and may surprise you, is that, under federal laws, a person CAN own military-grade, fully-automatic firearms, silencers, and explosives. Farmers, for example, can get a license for explosives to blow tree stumps. By meeting the background checks, going through the proper procedures, and paying for a yearly federal tax stamp, a private citizen can own a range of military-grade weapons and silencers, LEGALLY. I do not know of any mass killings in recent history which were done using any of these types of weapons or by any LEGAL owner of such weapons. In addition, the weapons used in recent mass shootings were NOT of the type I am describing here. The semi-automatic rifles used in several of the mass shootings do not fall under these strict federal regulations, and are weapons which are available to the general public under the less strict laws which apply to weapons commonly sold in gun stores and through gun shows.

I know of such people who have jumped through all the federal “hoops” to own such weapons. They often use them in sporting events which generally involve timed obstacle course competitions. So, people who claim that there is NO sporting use for military type weapons are wrong. There do exist people who compete in such activities, and enjoy them. These are mostly held at shooting ranges which have a healthy amount of security. I have attended such events, and have had the opportunity to shoot several fully-automatic military rifles myself. There are also shoots which involve a number of people using machine guns, mortars, and other military weaponry to destroy various items downrange. Such items may include old cars, refrigerators, washing machines, barrels of gasoline strapped with dynamite, canisters of acetylene and other explosive gasses, etc. Now, this may not at all appeal to you, but it does actually appeal to some individuals. Just watching things being blown up, and feeling the concussions, is an interesting thrill (it is similar to the thrill of attending a drag race, smelling the nitro in the air, and feeling and hearing the rumble of hugely powerful engines). Before I lose you completely and you decide to be outraged, please give me a chance to finish. One interesting fact I will offer here is that these events have an astounding safety record. In the times I have attended, I know of, or have heard of, NOBODY ever being injured, let alone actually losing their life. These events are attended by people who have a healthy respect for the deadliness of these weapons, and exhibit very responsible conduct. Weapons are openly carried at these events with no fear for personal safety. Many attendees are ex-military personnel. These events are very strictly controlled. The point I am making is this: these are NOT the type of “gun nuts” who are a threat to the public safety. There are OTHER types of “gun nuts” who DO present a threat to society (mainly of the stupid or violent variety). Please do not point to the WRONG people when making judgements. The simple ownership of deadly weapons, even military-style weapons, is NOT, in and of itself, a threat to society.

To answer some of the other emotional arguments that people make about guns, especially after a publicised mass shooting, I will offer another assertion. IF a person is “responsible” by my definition (given in the first post of this series), then no amount of weapons surrounding such an individual will EVER cause, coerce, or incite them to kill another human being. If simple access to deadly tools were sufficient to drive someone to commit violence, then we would expect chefs, constantly surrounded by deadly knives, to have the highest rate of violence. But we know this simply is not true. If such a “responsible” person had access to the nation’s nuclear launch codes, those weapons would never be a threat to anyone, because such a person of integrity would never launch them. Only such “responsible” and conscientious people as these should be allowed access to deadly weapons, and such a person would never pose a safety concern to society.

Here is another FACT that some people do not want to hear. There is a related statement that causes controversy because it leaves out important caveats. It is also used improperly as an emotional appeal against gun control. Both sides of this particular argument make me angry, because they are both guilty of lies and deception. The statement is “guns don’t kill people, people kill people”. This misused statement is mostly true, but leaves out important points like “the easy access of guns to violent individuals increases the number of violent gun incidents”. Let me explain further.

If a pistol (let’s say it is even loaded, but with the safety engaged) is laying on a table. It is a scientific FACT that if no human being touches it (or any animal, extreme condition, or moving object disturbs it), it will NEVER fire on its own – it is an impossibility that it will do damage by itself. A gun is an inanimate object and by the laws of physics, cannot fire without human intervention. This is absolutely true. On one hand, stop blaming the tool itself for causing anything. It is inanimate, has no brain, cannot make choices, cannot move on its own volition, has no will, and cannot incite a person to violence. Without a human to fire it, it is nothing but a worthless dead hunk of metal. It is most definitely the human being who kills with it, and the blame for its misuse falls squarely on the human who makes that choice or mistake to misuse it.  It is only a tool and the argument that it was designed to kill (which is only a strawman argument) is completely immaterial to the subject of gun violence against humans. The fact that it is, and was designed as, a deadly weapon has nothing to do with the actual conditions which drive a human being to pick it up, and use it to kill or maim another human being.  With imperfect human beings, accidents will occur because people make mistakes. However, the safety of a weapon is solely the OWNER’s responsibility. Accidents are horrible, but it was not the gun itself that chose to fire on its own, some person HAD to point and pull the trigger, whether intended or not. If unintended, the responsibility still completely falls on the human(s) involved, NOT on the tool itself. It makes no logical sense whatsoever to try to blame a lifeless hunk of metal for a mistake committed by a human being.

On the other hand, the AVAILABILITY of such tools, to the WRONG people, IS a serious problem. The (my) goal is to devise a system which keeps the WRONG people from buying guns and ammo, while allowing the “responsible” gun owners full access to all the guns and ammo they want – so long as they continue to own them “responsibly”.

Again, I just cannot personally stand assertions which are not completely factual and logical, and not based on common sense, with all caveats carefully stated, on BOTH sides of any argument. Gun control advocates and “gun nuts” alike just drive me crazy with their emotional and misrepresented and downright deceptive arguments. God gave us a reasoning mind, and expects us to make full use of this faculty (whether you believe in God, or not)!

I get pissed at our damn crazy and purchased politicians, and press, on BOTH sides of the gun control argument, never accomplishing anything to help their constituents, who they are elected to represent.   And I am infuriated with those responsible for reporting the FACTS, fairly and objectively, who totally give us corporate and political propaganda instead. Vote ALL of our corrupted politicians out of office, make bribery illegal again like it should be, and get honest and uncorrupted individuals into office who will actually speak for “We the People” as the founding fathers meant it to be! As for the corporate-controlled and extremely biased news media, they have the most incredibly low numbers of viewership because the general public has caught on to their tricks.  Most younger people get their news from Internet news outlets like TYT (The Young Turks, the largest independent Internet news channel in the world), which actually present the news with all he facts so people can see what is really going on, and make decisions based on objective reporting instead of propaganda. Sorry for the digression.

There are numerous problems and caveats to actually solving the problem of gun violence in a way that does not unreasonably impact “responsible” citizens who deserve the freedom to own their guns in peace, while also effectively protecting the lives and health of innocents in American society. The greatest problems are not simply the access to weapons, OR even that these weapons are available, at all, to private, “responsible” citizens. One of the REAL problems (even though it is not a ROOT problem, but just a symptom) is how to keep the WRONG people from accessing weapons, while NOT demonizing the guns themselves, the “responsible” owners, or resorting to total confiscations of ALL guns.

I have a plan which I will outline in the next post in this series. But continuing, I feel obliged to say a few words about the second amendment to the Constitution, since it is at the heart of the gun control issue.

Again, there are two sides to every argument, so I consider both sides. AS ORIGINALLY INTENDED BY THE FOUNDING FATHERS, the second amendment has absolutely nothing to do with PRIVATE ownership of firearms. Read the “Federalist Papers”. The second amendment was originally written to apply ONLY to the federal military and federally-controlled state militias. State militias were TEMPORARY extensions of the federal military, under direct control of the federal government in times of danger to the public, whether from outside, or internal to the United States. This means that any private ownership of guns OUTSIDE of those militias, constitutionally,  falls upon the federal and/or state/local legislatures to regulate by the passing of laws. It was not originally a constitutional right to private citizens who were NOT in a state militia. These are facts, research it for yourself before you try to argue with me, because I HAVE researched it. My main reference is the “Federalist Papers” which are easily available to anyone who can “google” it. The intent of the founding fathers is quite clear.

But what about today? Over the years, courts, including (I believe) the Supreme Court, have made rulings which interpreted the application of the second amendment to apply to all citizens (of a certain age, under certain restrictions). I have not fully researched this subject, so I am not totally positive about all the specifics. But let me approach it from another direction. The Constitution specifically guarantees the right to LIFE for all citizens, regardless of age or any other restrictions. Thus, if someone is threatening a person’s life, I believe the threatened person has a Constitutional right to preserve their life, or lives of any other innocents, by any and all means at their disposal. Basically, a right to self-defense, which I personally extend to protecting family, and any other defenseless person (the right to be a good samaritan, knight in shining armor, or champion). The right to own weapons is tempered, and rightly so, by the right to life, and the safety of the public. Similarly, a person’s right to free speech is tempered by the right to life, and general public safety. So, by your words, you cannot incite a mob to violence or shout “fire” in a public place and cause panic, or use “hate speech” to incite violence (maybe, I am not completely up on the whole hate speech thing). This should be common sense to most people, but I see a lot of people in whom common sense has never taken root. Even if it were possible to take away all guns in the hands of criminals (which practically, it is NOT, today), still, I think responsible citizens should be allowed guns with which to defend their right to life. Now don’t give me the argument that “having a gun to protect yourself, many times simply fails” because the victim cannot get to it fast enough, or that “the gun could then be taken away and used by the criminal to commit further crimes”. I am not denying the validity of both arguments IN THEIR PROPER CONTEXT AND WITH PROPER CAVEATS.

But even in cases where an intruder has only a knife, or just their hands, there are many people (like me) who simply do not have the ability to fight hand-to-hand with an intruder and have any chance of protecting their right to life. So these “responsible” citizens should have the opportunity to use guns (the great equalizer) in self-defense. Besides, the argument is a moot point since criminals DO have guns, and have them in spades, now, and in any foreseeable future. Come back and talk to me when all criminals have actually been deprived of guns. As long as there are militaries on earth, and manufacturers of weapons, there will be those who figure out how to make money getting them illegally into the hands of criminals. Get rid of all the world’s militaries, end all wars, and destroy ALL the weapons they possess, then we can talk about taking guns away from citizens, when they are no longer threatened by governments, militaries and criminals. Don’t hold your breath, it won’t happen in our lifetimes.

One small tidbit about gun safes. Any adequate gun safe is made so secure that it would take a criminal time, effort, and a good acetylene torch to cut through one and get to the gun inside. That’s IF they don’t destroy the gun in the process. Further safety can be accomplished by bolting a safe to the house itself, making it even harder and more time consuming for an intruder to steal.

Criminals taking guns away from people whose self-defense attempt is a failure remains somewhat problematic. Let me offer this: if a person stores loaded weapons in a safe way (in a SAFE with quick access only to the owner(s)), then either the defense attempt is successful and the criminal is defeated or dead, and the weapon is safely still in the owner’s hands, OR the owner was not able to get access quick enough and is likely dead, but the criminal does NOT have easy access to a securely locked-away gun and still does not possess it. The third option is the problematic one in which the owner gets the gun out, but is not successful in disabling the attacker. Then, the gun may be stolen, and this case remains problematic. Storing guns in quick-access safes is not 100% going to stop guns from getting into the wrong hands in case of intrusion and attack, but it would greatly REDUCE the problem, if gun owners would simply be “responsible” as I described in the first post in this series. Nothing is EVER going to make this world completely safe, accidents of all kinds are going to take lives. It is not about preventing ALL gun deaths (today at least), but harm reduction to a point that is much easier to accept. Once you end war and destroy every military weapon in the world, then come and argue with me about disarming citizens, but not before. The right to LIFE, above all else, is most sacred, and anything that increases a citizen’s, and the public’s, safety should be the top priority when Constitutional rights collide. When the rights of an individual collide with the rights of the public, again, the public welfare should take priority. Any good compromise maximizes the good for all people, and as much as possible, preserves each of a citizen’s Constitutional rights. This happens to be a case of an individual’s right to keep and bear arms vs. the general public’s right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. In fact, the only people who will be losing the right to purchase and own guns (by my proposal) are the people who are a threat to the general public safety. Nothing is being taken away from “responsible” citizens in terms of rights. What is being asked for, is that citizens make a small amount of effort, in the name of the right to keep and bear arms, so that the safety (right to life) of the public can be ensured to its greatest degree. By making this effort, you may save the life of a family member. Is that really too much to ask? In the next post, you will see how much effort my proposed plan requires, which is quite reasonable IMHO (“In My Humble Opinion”, for those of you who don’t know, and are too lazy to google it).

The number of times a criminal is successfully thwarted vs. a criminal is successful, is a small percentage. This is true, but it does not take away from the fact that SOME lives and properties ARE saved by personal defense with a firearm each year. The basic issue is not taking guns away from everyone, but taking them away from those who are not “responsible”. Taking them away from the “responsible” would not increase public safety, because they are NOT the ones committing the violence, and doing so would prevent some, even if only a few, from being protected by guns from attackers. So, there is no benefit whatsoever in preventing “responsible” citizens from owning their guns, apart from a few times when a human mistake leads to an unfortunate accident.

We have not gotten to my plan yet. Patience, there are a LOT of issues revolving around gun control which I want to give my opinions on before I present my plan in the next post.

What about those poor misguided souls who insist they want their military-style rifles in case the Government becomes tyrannical. I hate to break it to you, but we are already there…pretty much. The Constitution prohibits the use of the federal military against US citizens on US soil. However, do you really think that a TYRANNICAL government will hesitate to use the military against a mass of revolting citizens, regardless of constitutionality? Hmmm, really? Now granted, I HOPE our soldiers would of good conscience and refuse to fire upon US citizens on US soil, BUT do you want to count on that? In any tyrannical government, there will be at least a few high-ranking military personnel who are complicit in the corruption of the federal government. With all the drones, bombs, etc. in our military arsenal, do you really believe that every citizen with a gun, revolting against the federal government simultaneously, has ANY chance in hell of overthrowing a tyrannical government? Hmm, really? I think a handful of corrupt individuals, controlling a few drones and sophisticated weaponry could massacre any such uprising. Remember, they have tactical nukes and drones…we have guns. I personally think it is “no contest”. If anyone thinks it could work, even if MOST of our soldiers also join with the public in the fight, I think you have badly underestimated the military power of a few. OK, this is a particular point I will consider arguments against, but give me some specifics that will convince me a revolt has any chance of succeeding. It will take a lot to convince me that it is, indeed, at all possible. In the days of our founding fathers, and through early history, the weapons (muskets and cannons) available to the military, were also available to all citizens, thus a civil war was actually possible. “Civil” war? What is civil about a war? Anyway, today is a completely different story. My view is that the general public has lost the ability to wage a successful revolt against the federal government, so the argument that citizens need guns to overthrow a tyrannical government, is either weak, or totally moot.

OK, I know this is being nitpicky, but the semi-automatic AR-15 rifle, even though its designer intended it for military use, is NOT the same as the fully-automatic and select-fire M16 rifle (even though they look very much alike) that has had wide use in our military. A semi-automatic rifle can fire one round for each pull of the trigger. Is it a tremendously deadly weapon? Of course! Is it a modern weapon used in our military? Nope. M4, M1A, M60, M16…these are past or current types of military weapons. A select-fire rifle fires 2 or 3 rounds for each pull of the trigger, generally. A fully-automatic weapon fires continuously so long as the trigger is held depressed (until it runs out of ammo, of course).

I told you, as an analytical type, I prefer precision in statements, and the “media” is adept at butchering journalism and constantly making inaccurate statements, or promulgating outright propaganda, as are our corrupted legislators. Most of it is intentional political manipulation via propaganda, deceptive rhetoric, and emotionally-charged arguments. Almost all of our politicians are bought by corporate interests (like the NRA) through unlimited donations to political campaigns, and the major news media outlets are owned by 6 major corporations (maybe fewer as I write this). All of those corporate elite stick together, and we lovingly refer to them as the “establishment” (since at least the ’60’s, maybe earlier). Legalized bribery now exists. Corruption by any other name still smells to high heaven! Sorry for yet another rant…

How about this statement, inferred from statistics: the US has the largest per capita number of guns in the world, and the highest rate of gun violence, thus it is the “guns” that are causing the violence. Get rid of the guns, and get rid of the gun violence. Oh, this is a tricky one. Correlation does not prove causality!!! There are also statistics from other countries which indicate the opposite correlation, they got rid of the guns, but violent deaths and crimes continued to increase. If you could ever truly get rid of the guns, which we have not been able, so far, to do, then GUN deaths would certainly decline. But what about violence in general and murder itself? If I had the energy, I would use other “statistics” to refute this fallacy, but I don’t have that much energy. This series of articles has been hard enough to write as it is.  The number of guns is not the ONLY factor in gun violence. Let me instead use a simple, common-sense argument to make my point. Simple is better; statistics are tricky and slippery. When people are prosperous, healthy, and happy, they are less violent, or not violent at all. It is no secret, we have millions of people in poverty. Many of them are working multiple minimum-wage jobs just to keep food on the table. US citizens have been struggling increasingly just to survive. It is also no secret that huge numbers of people are unhappy, and angry, especially with the corporate and political systems which have forced them into this struggle just to survive in the first place. Couple that with racial, economic, and other injustices and inequalities which beat people down, and it is no wonder we have so many people who are pushed to violence and past their breaking point.  The rate of violent crimes has been slowly decreasing for the last decade, the level of deaths committed by guns has been more or less stable the last few years, and the number of mass shootings per year varies from year to year, but is not significantly different.  One problem with this year, is that the number of deaths due to mass shootings is very high this year. The main problem is not increasing deaths or violent crimes, but rather that the level of violence in the US and the number of deaths due to guns in the US has been consistently “heads and shoulders” higher than most other developed countries on earth.  The shear number of gun deaths each year is terrifying.

It only makes sense that happy, healthy, prosperous people simply don’t kill others, they have no reason to. Angry, stressed people are much more likely to become violent.  I still submit that happy people don’t kill no matter how many guns they have. The ROOT causes of violence go much deeper than simply the easy access to guns. The fact that violent people CHOOSE to use guns is because guns are the best available weapon. Getting rid of guns, if it were possible, may get rid of GUN violence, but not violence itself. If violent people don’t have guns, they will still use knives or other weapons to kill, rape, and pillage until we treat the true causes of violence itself. My basic point is that the stated statistic is NOT the entire equation of the problem of violence. There is much more to it than that. It is not guns themselves that turn people into killers. I have owned guns for years, but those guns have never made me kill anyone. It is simply a ridiculous argument to blame the whole problem of violence on the tool chosen to commit that violence. The “establishment” wants to distract us from thinking about the rapidly increasing gap between the filthy rich and the poor which is creating more and more desperate, angry, and poor people who have no outlet for their desperation. The simpler argument is that desperate people are become violent because that’s the way humans work. Push them too far, and they snap, and resort to violence. Measures which get guns out of the WRONG hands is a good thing, but do not make the mistake of only controlling the tools used to do violence, while failing to treat the underlying root causes of violence.  It is not simply the number of guns which accounts for the reasons why we have gun violence, there are many more factors at work here.  To claim that getting rid of all guns will get rid of violence is not only incorrect, but quite naive and misleading.  If it were even possible to get rid of guns (we have been trying for years to rid America of illegally possessed guns, and completely unsuccessfully), violence itself, which is truly what we need to prevent, will still be a huge problem until we focus on the root causes of violence (which is not the guns).

In addition to gun deaths each year, there are large numbers of people NOT killed by guns. Every year, people are beaten to death, knifed, strangled, etc., and sometimes even poisoned to death. Fix the root causes that turn people into killers, and you also reduce ALL violence regardless of method used.

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