Gun Control

UPDATED: Dec 19, 2012, Dec 21, 2012, and again on Oct 11, 2015

I will say it up front: I am a gun enthusiast. I love going out the the range and shooting. I love poking holes in targets at all sorts of distances. I support hunting. I support sport shooting. I support using guns to kill varmints. I support using guns for self defense and the defense of other innocents.

Recent events have caused the topic of Gun Control to come back to the forefront of all politically sensitive topics, with a major vengeance. I have lost many friends because of this topic, and I have gained many new friends. It is shocking how strong everyone’s feelings are on this topic.

I take a great deal of flack from friends that live in the US and those that live outside the US about my stance on gun control. Every time there is a shooting, I have to hear how there would not have been any issue at all but for the guns involved. I keep hearing, “Well, if they didn’t have a gun, it wouldn’t have ever happened.”

I am tired of pointing out that violence is always going to happen and people will die whether it is a gun, a knife, a rolling pin, or even a pair of scissors. Their stance is always, “Guns make it easier.” Actually, shooting somebody is far from easy unless you are skilled, but that isn’t my argument.

So, I pull out my links and I bombard them with stats, and they refuse to listen because they have already made up their minds. I am OK with them being anti-gun. I don’t have an issue with their point of view, and I don’t believe that I can convert them. However, I am damned tired of them making statements not found in fact and not being able to see logic.

I recently had somebody bring up the Holocaust in their support for gun control. I just couldn’t figure out how they saw their argument as having any support whatsoever. It seems to clear to me that if the citizens were armed, the perpetrators wouldn’t have been so keen on just breaking into homes and dragging people into the streets and loading them up to be processed. I imagine that the Jewish death toll would have been much smaller if they were armed, or at least the Nazi death toll would have been larger. However, I am obviously not smart enough to see that logic properly.

Common Anti-Gun Arguments include the following:

  • Guns are always involved in mass murders because they are able to kill so easily. As usual, it is an exaggeration, but there is a bit of truth in this. In recent years, the numbers look something like this according to USA Today:
      • Lone Gunmen account for less than half of mass murders (four or more killed by the attacker) for 2006 to 2010
      • Two or more killers (not always gunmen) are involved in about a quarter of the time
      • A third of the killings didn’t involve guns at all
      • In cases when guns were used, handguns are the most used over shotguns and rifles of all types (including the AR)
  • Nobody has a need for automatic weapons. This is really a common statement that makes absolutely no sense, and clearly shows the ignorance of the person that says it, as automatic weapons have been illegal for private use since 1934. To get an automatic weapon involves going through a horribly long and expensive process that requires the involvement of the BATF. Despite that, there just haven’t been any mass killings that involved an automatic weapon since then. There have been a couple of cases of murder (not mass murder, though) involving automatic weapon since then, and if I recall correctly they were in 1988 and 1990. Feel free to look it up. What bugs me most about this statement is that it shows the ignorance of the person that makes this statement. They obviously have no clue about firearms and are just repeating what they have heard from the anti-gun side of the house.
  • There is no reason to have magazines that hold 30 rounds. OK, why 30? I don’t know why people keep throwing that number out there other than that is what can be readily purchased. So, let’s say that the limit is 10 rounds like the current laws in California. So what? This is an argument that shows clear ignorance of today’s weapons, as it is incredibly easy to swap out magazines whether it is a rifle or a hand gun. It has been easy since the early 1900’s. I can swap out a magazine in well under a second. So, that argument just doesn’t make logical sense to me. I have addressed this topic in a bit more depth, here.
  • People don’t “need” ARs. Why ARs? Why are these spotlighted? Well, it is obvious that one was recently used in a mass killing. So, this is a typical knee-jerk reaction by the anti-gun lobby latching onto a single weapon type because it just looks like a “mean” weapon (see below for the definition of an AR) . In reality, it is just as easy to fire multiple rounds from any typical semi-automatic (meaning, not a revolver) pistol than it is to fire those rounds from an AR. I have a real issue with the “need” part of the statement, though. We don’t “need” many things in life. Why should anyone be concerned with my “wants” vs “needs” when they don’t care when it comes to huge cars and SUVs that spew out more pollution or the resources used for that huge house that they don’t need? There are a couple of great comparisons to cars that are capable of doing 100mph or more over the speed limit. Obviously, they are not “needed” at all and put people’s lives at risk when irresponsible drivers use them.
  • There isn’t an actual use or reason for owning ARs. See above about ARs. Despite the obvious reason of sport target shooting, there are many reasons for own ARs, but I am not going to go into each of them, you can get more information, here. Let’s just say that hunting laws restrict the size of the bullets based on the targets and some animals require a smaller round. Also, some nuisance animals are incredibly hard to kill unless you can shoot at them multiple times. During the Las Angeles riots, many shop keepers used ARs to defend their property and their lives from looters and rioters because the Police were not able to do it, and very few of them had to actually fire the weapons as rioters and looters decided to stay clear of those shops. 
  • The AR was designed to kill. The AR was not designed to kill. It is designed to create serious wounds. If a soldier is wounded, not only is he taken out of the battle, but at least one other soldier is also taken out of the battle to care for the wounded soldier. While an AR, like any other gun in the world, can kill, it isn’t as likely to kill as most hunting rifles. An AR-15, for example, shoots a .223 (5.56mm) caliber bullet that is much smaller than a hunting rifle uses. The AR-15 round is very low on the power scale as compared to hunting rifles. (see below for the definition of an AR)
  • ARs are inexpensive and easy to use to kill. Yes, they are inexpensive compared to many items in life that are purchased, but ARs really are not less expensive than most other rifles. While ARs are easy to replicate and most skilled machinists can create parts for them fairly easily, the same is true of almost all guns. I would say that most ARs are about the same price as most hunting rifles. However, I heard somebody compare the cost of bullets per dead person (again, in an attempt to show how evil ARs are), and they totally flipped out on me when I pointed out that anyone of most any age can buy a couple of gallons of gas and cause a raging fire that can kill hundreds of people for less than $10. It isn’t about money. It is about the evil.
  • During the time of the second amendment, they used muskets, so nobody should have anything greater than that. I laugh when I hear this one. Really? That is absolutely ridiculous. The intent of the second amendment is to ensure that we, as citizens, are able to defend ourselves against a tyrannical government. Don’t believe me? Read the Federalist papers and you will see it is pretty clear. Hamilton and Madison are really clear in their intent, and Jefferson is also pretty clear in his assertions that Government gets its power from the governed and that governments should fear the citizens vs the other way around.

What is an “AR” Anyways?

People seem to really like throwing around “AR” thinking that it means one of two things.

  1. Automatic Rifle
  2. Assault Rifle

The “AR” in AR-15 stands for Armalite, the company that created the AR-15. It does not stand for anything else.

OK, let’s pretend it stands for Assault Rifle. Our Government, actually, uses “Assault Weapon” in these discussions as it is a pretty clearly defined term. It is clearly defined because they defined in in the Assault Weapon Ban As defined by the Government, it is a rifle that has a detachable magazine and two of the following characteristics:

  • a folding or telescoping stock – An AR-15 can have a standard stock, one that has multiple positions, and potentially a folding stock, which is rare. Telescoping is not necessarily the same thing as adjustable.
  • a pistol grip that protrudes conspicuously beneath the action of the weapon – An AR-15 normally has a pistol grip. Does that really make it a more powerful weapon? Of course not.
  • a bayonet mount – Really? The ability to add a bayonet makes it more powerful? Very few AR-15s that are for sale have bayonet mounts because they are a waste of time and money to have on the rifle and nobody would use them.
  • a flash suppressor or threaded barrel designed to accommodate a flash suppressor – All this does is stop the shooter from being blinded by the flash of the rifle, and secondarily, it makes it harder to see the flash from a distance. It has no impact on the power or accuracy of the weapon.
  • a grenade launcher – If you have a grenade launcher and grenades for it, then I would say you have one really powerful weapon, and one that is absolutely illegal in a private citizen’s hands.

So, let’s take the Bushmaster that was used in the Newtown attack. If the pistol grip was removed, it would not be considered an “AR” per Government definition. Many hunting rifles are classified as Assault Rifles under this definition.

Another note on ARs. They are not nearly as accurate as the typical hunting rifle. They certainly don’t have the ability to shoot as far as the typical hunting rifle, and they don’t have near the power of a typical hunting rifle.

While on the topic of supposed Assault Weapons, I love this article from the New York Times on the Assault Weapon Myth. It is a nice ready.

Vividness – Impact on Calls for Gun Control

I just read a great blog today that describes the concept of “vividness” and how the vividness of the Newtown incident is impacting so many people in how they view gun control. Basically, the author has put together some great information regarding the call for Gun Control. While it is a blog (just like this is a blog), the author has done a great job of attributing the referenced materials and providing a nice way of introducing the point. The basic point of this concept is that people put themselves into the situation and can feel the horror of it. For example, when we read about kids playing on a iced over pond and falling through the ice and drowning, we immediately put ourselves as young kids into the situation, or our own children. We imagine the cold water hitting us, flailing in the icy water trying to get out of the water, and then just going under the surface and drowning. It is a vivid image that sticks in the mind.

The absolute horror of young children being killed is just about as vivid an imagine that can be painted in the minds of adults. Thinking about what it would be like if it were us, or if it were our children, makes us feel that we absolutely have to do something to prevent it from happening again.

However, what the author points out is that the actual numbers are not bad at all. Yes, he said it, and I am repeating it: The numbers of people killed in mass murders like Newtown are not excessive by any means. The numbers are, in fact, statistically insignificant. It is the vividness that makes everyone want to take action. People feel that something must be done, and screw all of the excuses that other might make. They feel that those people that won’t support taking action must be broken in the head.

My Point of View

Anyway, I will outline my point of view here, and from here on out, I will provide this link every time they start in about the evils of guns. Here is my outline:

  1. The Bill of Rights is pretty clear on our rights as citizens here in the United States.
  2. Police response is not acceptable.
  3. Private citizens have a natural right to protect themselves.
  4. Well researched studies have shown that firearm availability does not impact suicide rates, homicides, or other violent crime.
  5. Gun free zones are similar to heavy gun control laws in that only criminals have firearms and law abiding people are left unable to defend themselves.
  6. Criminals don’t obey the laws.

Bill of Rights: 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.

Many gun control advocates insist that this means that only Militias like the National Guard should have firearms. This is far from true as the intent is clearly that the citizens must be able to defend themselves from Government when the governed no longer consent to be governed by the Government. The National Guard is not a Militia, it is an extension of the US Army. National Guard units can be Federalized at any time and deployed just like a regular Army units. While I hope it never happens, if you look around at the world, you will see all of the upheaval as citizens revolt against their Governments. It is easy to see that the intent of the founders of our nation is that citizens be able to protect themselves from a Government that is oppressive.

The intent of our founding fathers was pretty clear in the different federalist papers. See Madison and Hamilton, in particular. The idea around the second amendment seems pretty clear. I would also guess that it is the second amendment because it was not an after thought, and I consider each of the amendments just as valued.

The United States Supreme Court has upheld this view of individuals having the right to bear arms. In 2008, District of Columbia v. Heller, the US Supreme Court ruled that an individual right to gun ownership is present in the Second Amendment.

Police Response

It scares me when I think about how slow Police response is to crime in progress. Even Priority 1 calls can take 5-15 minutes in most cities. Don’t believe it? Do some searching on “Police Response Statistics” and see for yourself.

You know what? Criminals are usually in a hurry as they don’t want to be caught, and they really have issues with victims wanting to use the phone to call the Police.

My own personal experience is limited, but we had an attempted home invasion when I lived in Colorado Springs, Colorado. It took almost 15 minutes for the Police to arrive, and my door frame had cracked while my wife and I tried to figure out our escape route. BTW, the Police were too late and a violent act had to be committed in our defense. Another example in our case was a few years ago. At the time, my wife and I were out at dinner. Our kids called us and told us that they thought they had heard somebody coming in through the basement door and that they heard voices in the basement. They called us after they called 911. They were extremely scared as it took forever for the 911 operator to take their information and worried that it would take even longer for the 911 operator to get the police dispatched. We told them to leave the house and go to the neighbor’s house. We left our money on the table to pay for dinner, drove at normal speed limits to the house, and we beat the Police by several minutes. While the sample size is small in our case, it does coincide to what the statistics say about response times. Basically, you need to hope that if you are attacked that you can survive long enough for the ambulance to arrive and save your life, assuming you were not killed right away. At the minimum, we can absolutely depend on the Police to do the chalk outline around our bodies if they get there too late.

So, who in their right mind would like the Police to be the only ones that can respond to a home invasion or some other violent crime? Imagine how poor response times are for those that live in rural locations. I can’t imagine living in a rural location and not being able to defend my life and the lives of those in my household.

Please don’t get me wrong. I fully support the Police. However, I realize that they have limited resources and can’t be everywhere at once.

I love the saying, “You may not like guns and you might not believe in God. However, if somebody breaks into your home, the first two things you will do are to call somebody that has a gun (like a cop) and pray they get there in time.”

Private Citizens Protect Themselves

The National Self-Defense Survey and studies done by the Police Foundation and sponsored by the National Institute of Justice concur that well over 2 million crimes are prevented every year by private gun owners. Even the highly anti-gun National Crime Victimization Survey stated that the number was well over 700,000. If we choose to use the clearly biased number of 700,000, that is a large number of crimes that are prevented by citizens each year. Thirteen other surveys conducted by several organizations show a range between 800,000 and 2.5 million. These surveys and studies have been peer reviewed. What this means is that others, with similar credentials and knowledge of the topic, have reviewed the methodologies used and verify that the processes are all valid. A nice article was recently published where a top anti-gun researcher reviewed the methodologies used by one of the major studies and concurred that while he didn’t like the resulting conclusions of the Kleck and Gertz survey, he had to admit that he couldn’t find fault with their methodology.

This peer reviewed and published paper does a nice job of describing the prevalence of defensive gun use: Armed Resistance to Crime.

For those that insist that all of those studies are from the conservative world, we also have the 2013 study that was commissioned by Obama’s administration by the CDC.

I am sure many people will try to take the stance that criminals can take away guns and use them on the victim. Yep. It does happen about 1% of the time. If you do the research, you will find that very seldom do citizens have to discharge their firearms to prevent the crime, and when they do, very few criminals are severely injured or killed. That does not mean that we should disarm citizens.

Studies

There are all sorts of studies out there. The focus on most gun control studies are the number of gun related incidents per capita and comparing that number in the US vs other countries. Those comparisons are invalid just like comparing how much energy we use vs the rest of the world and not taking into account how spread out we are in our country vs how close the populations are in other countries. One study stands out in my mind because the researchers compared actual violent actions (gun involved and non-gun involved) to reach the conclusion that some societies are more violent than others and gun availability has no impact on the number of violent crimes. I highly recommend reading this study which can be downloaded here: http://law.bepress.com/expresso/eps/1564

Guns do not make people more violent. The violence levels are similar when looking at non-gun related violence.

Gun Free Zones

Gun free zones are the perfect example of the lack of logic when it comes to gun control laws. In a gun free zone, it is illegal to carry a firearm whether it is concealed or not. So, in a gun free zone, the only person that will have a gun would be a criminal. Those criminals know that they don’t have to worry about law abiding citizens protecting themselves in these locations. Hmmm, guess what happens when criminals decide to start shooting? Yep, we wait 5-15 minutes (or more) for Police response, and by then it is all over. In many cases, the Police wait outside until they get proper orders and can setup properly. They almost never go charging into the fray. Don’t get me wrong, they are heroes, but they are also trained to act certain ways to use certain procedures.

Many of the recent mass murders involved gun-free zones.

Criminals Don’t Obey Laws

I think this is the clearest of arguments against gun control laws. After all, if there is strict gun control, then we are at the mercy of criminals. After all, criminals have shown all over the world that they can get guns despite whatever laws are in place. Why is it so hard to understand that laws just don’t matter. Even in cases where we have seen mass shootings, many laws are broken. Laws don’t stop criminals from breaking them.

Closing

Yes, life is precious. However, we need to realize that just because certain incidents make great news stories, and are vivid, does not necessarily mean the issue is a big as the news and politicians make it.

More people die from falling off of chairs. Don’t believe it? Check the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s Violent Death Reporting System

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