Why Gun Rights Are Common Sense

Administrator’s Note:  A few weeks ago I wrote a post supporting strict gun control laws.  You can read that post by clicking this link, don’t forget to check out the comment section as well. The post caused a bit of a stir and what I was hoping would be a civil conversation turned into a name calling contest for the most part.  There were a few people who actually participated in thoughtful conversation and to them we are thankful.  One of those people was B. Roth (etcssmccrackin in the comments).  When we asked for rebuttal essays Mr. Roth was the only one to respond.  I have included that post below, in its entirety, and completely free of any editing.  We hope that you will continue to read and comment on the blog regardless of your view on this issue (there are even differing views among the administrators)  and we again want to encourage readers to make this site a place of discussion, thought, and civility for a generation of guys.  Thanks again to B. Roth for sharing his viewpoint.

May 18 1927, Oct 1 1997, and Apr 16 2007; three dates in American history when a single disturbed individual decided to murder multiple people.  For whatever reason that entered their diseased minds, these individuals made a conscious decision to violate perhaps what has been the most sacred of mans laws since the beginning of time.  On May 18, 1927, murderer Andrew Kehoe perpetrated the Bath School Disaster, which stands today as the most deadly mass killing in American history, taking the lives of 47 people and injuring 58 others.  On Oct 1, 1997, murderer Luke Woodham killed 2 people and injured 7 at Pearl High School in Pearl, Mississippi, after already having killed his mother at their home.  And on Apr 16, 2007, murderer Seung-Hui Cho killed 32 people and injured 23 during what most of us remember as the Virginia Tech Massacre.

While these events all share a tragic history as acts of mass murder, they each differ in one significant way: guns.  In the example of the Bath Disaster, the killer opted to use home-brewed explosive devices; one at his home, one at the Bath School itself which caused the most casualties, and a final one in his truck which killed the last few people including the murderer.  The killer’s only gun, a bolt action hunting rifle played an insignificant role, being used only to detonate the explosives in the back seat of his truck.  At Virginia Tech however, the killer’s guns played a much more prominent role.  The murderer ignored state law prohibiting guns on campus, and stalked the school shooting his classmates, before reaching his internal limit and killing himself.  The Pearl Shooting on the other hand saw a dual use for guns.  After killing his mother, the murderer arrived at the school and shot several students and faculty, stopping only when the Assistant Principle, having retrieved his own semi-automatic pistol, held him at gunpoint until police arrived.  What do three separate events in American history, spanning a timeframe of 80 years, prove?  Although some lessons may be derived, these incidents don’t really prove much, save perhaps that some people are so sick that they are capable of great atrocities, and that inanimate objects may be used for whatever purpose that their bearer intends, good or bad.

People in general and Americans in particular have great difficulty coming to terms with events of great tragedy.  They struggle to grasp the rationale and the motive, asking the media, our leaders, and themselves, “Why?”  A great number of people simply cannot deal with the idea that a single person or small group of people could have so much evil in their heart that they would do something so horrible, leading to the conclusion that “it must have been something else.”  Why else would people not believe that Lee Harvey Oswald, a trained Marine Corps rifleman, shooting from a distance considered elementary by those with similar training, could possibly murder one of the most beloved US Presidents by himself, or that a single insane student could kill so many at a movie premiere?  To handle the scale of the tragedy, we tell ourselves that “Oswald just HAD to have help; it MUST have been the CIA” and that “if only guns were banned, then all those people in Colorado would still be alive.”  On its face, it seems to make perfect sense, until one actually looks past the surface.

In the wake of killings such as those in Aurora CO, and most recently Oak Creek WI, many people clamor for tighter gun control based upon the above reasoning.  A glance at the numbers seems to reinforce that conclusion.  For example, out of an estimated US population in 2009 of 307 Million people, there were approx 102K deaths or injuries for the year.  In the face of that many deaths and/or injuries per year, it seems obvious that bans and regulation would make a positive difference, until one realizes that these are the numbers for deaths and/or injuries due to automobiles coming from approx 255 Million automobiles in America.  Looking at the numbers for guns instead, we see that out of approx 300 Million privately owned firearms, there are almost 42K deaths or injuries due to guns every year.  Breaking these numbers down to ratios, the odds of being killed or hurt by an automobile is approx 1 in 2500, whereas the same ratio for guns is approx 1 in 7143, meaning that a person is almost 3 times more likely to be killed or injured by a car versus a gun.  Of course, to suggest banning cars would be preposterous, due not only to their integral role in our national infrastructure, but their importance to our personal identity and way of life.  In short, the common sense realization that the good aspects of car ownership vastly outweigh the bad is readily obvious to all but the most extreme observer.  The rebuttal to this statement however is invariably that while cars are essential, guns are not, meaning that the detrimental effect of a gun ban would be negligible.

Using the Pearl High School example however, we can see an instance where the presence of a gun had a positive effect, leading one to ask: If there are approx 42K deaths or injuries due to guns per year, how many “positive effects” are there?  These effects are known as Defensive Gun Uses or DGU’s, and depending on what study is used, they happen between 800K and 2.5 Million times per year in America.  Using the average of the number range, this means that approx 1.65 Million people successfully defend themselves with a firearm every year, compared to 42K adverse effects per year.  Additionally, the raw data of gun deaths and injuries must be looked at.  For example, the majority of those instances consist of criminal use in violent crime, often against other criminals.  Looking at the skyrocketing violent crime rates in the UK and Australia following their gun bans, it becomes obvious that lacking tools, the criminals simply continued their activities using different tools, and without armed “victims”, actually increased their activities.  The next highest sub-group within the gun deaths is individual suicides, acts which are also independent of the tools used.  For the sake of argument, even using the raw 42K numbers, Americans actually defend themselves with guns 39 times more often than they are victimized by guns.  Therefore, analyzing the ratio of good vs. bad, and looking at the historical examples of increased violent crime rates after gun bans, it would seem obvious that the good of gun ownership far outweighs the bad.

The issue essentially boils down to personal choice and the question of removing the ability for some people to make their own personal choice.  Should a person be allowed, for example, to publicly burn an American flag, to wear uniforms or medals that they have not earned, or to protest at funerals?  Absolutely they should, thanks to their inherent right to free speech.  To this point, many gun ban proponents state: “But, free speech is restricted.  After all, you can’t yell fire in a theater, right?”  Actually, you can yell it, and in some cases you are morally obligated to yell it.  The difference is that the results of free speech are regulated.  For instance, to yell fire when there is none or to accuse someone of a crime they did not commit will carry a penalty under current law.  The actual ability remains uninfringed.  If freedom of speech was treated the same as the right to keep and bear arms, a person would have to undergo a background check, pay a fee, obtain a license, and then would be allowed to speak only in certain “authorized” areas.

At the end of the day, people oppose or support things for a myriad of reasons, some of which are defensible or able to be actually “proven”, some of which are not.  Religious or pacifist beliefs for example are a personal choice, and may have their roots solely in how a person “feels” about something, or how a religious text says they should feel about it.  What is truly great about freedom is that those viewpoints are not only allowed, but essential to liberty itself.  The question remains however, of exactly what is right or ethical insofar as making laws for the public at large.  Should the citizenry of the entire United States of America be held to the essentially unsubstantiated “beliefs” of anyone, even a majority much less a minority?  If it is numerically verifiable for example that the possession of guns is less onerous than the possession of automobiles, that the instances of total violent crime tend to increase in the wake of gun bans, and that the instances of lives saved by guns outweigh the instances of gun violence by a factor of approx 39 to one, then how is it ethical to propose a gun ban based upon those “beliefs’, removing the personal choice of all Americans?  Long story short.  It’s not.

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11 Comments on “Why Gun Rights Are Common Sense”

  1. jumpingpolarbear
    August 14, 2012 at 6:35 am #

    The gun question is a really tough one. The recent tragedies just highlight that!

  2. August 14, 2012 at 8:47 am #

    As a law abiding citizen it is tiring to see politicians try to take away my gun rights because of some criminals actions. Yet when someone kills someone with an automobile you never hear anyone trying to ban autos. Criminals do not obey the law so gun control only disarms the law abiding citizen.

  3. curtisrrogers
    August 14, 2012 at 5:30 pm #

    First of all thanks for writing the post. I have a few questions/statements.

    I am not sure that the stats on DGU’s are actually relevant without further clarification. What constitutes a DGU? If 1.6 million people pulled a gun on someone because they felt threatened then I would say those people overreacted. There needs to be more specific data here. Are these people who got into a fist fight and pulled a gun? Similarly, if these people responded to a gun attack with their own gun then I would say it is a wash because if the gun of the attacker could be eliminated then there would not be a need for a gun to defend oneself with.

    Another question I have, why have people not thrown a fit about states and cities banning texting and driving as an infringement of free speech? It seems, and I could be wrong that people are more than willing to give up this “right” without objection. I guess what I am really trying to point out here is that I think there are larger issues at play here and that America’s attachment with guns is beyond what people feel is their “right.” It is almost as if there is some type of twisted religious/nationalistic zeal that is associated with gun ownership.

    My last question, for now, is a hypothetical, much like the ones proposed to me and my original post. This question is open for all pro gun folks. If the outlawing of guns would 100% guarantee that instances of mass killings such as what happened in Colorado, Milwaukee, etc. would be prevented, would you agree to it?

    Thanks again for writing

    • Bradley Roth
      August 14, 2012 at 6:29 pm #

      Using a battery of questions designed to weed out things like defenses against animals and incidents that did not involve a viable threat, (such as investigating a midnight noise with a gun in your hand) the misc studies considered a valid DGU as: “defensive action against a human (rather than an animal), involving actual contact with the person being defended against, in which the defender could state a specific crime which he or she thought was being committed at the time of the incident, and in which the defender’s gun was actually used in some way, even if it was only as part of a verbal threat.” Additionally, the “filter” questions sought to eliminate instances where the respondent was acting “officially” (as police, military, or other job related) and based upon similar studies the “defender started it” aspect is generally discounted because respondent’s rarely admit to something that implicates them in a possibly illegal act. That being said, the researcher admitted that the intent of the study was not to determine the legality or morality of the act, but that the testing protocol most likely took into account and discarded most such incidents. The defense against a gun however, is certainly not a “wash”. In fact, based upon the increasing violent crime rates in many of the places with gun bans and the indication that criminals, even in the unlikely scenario where they somehow can’t get their own illegal gun, will simply use another weapon, the “successful DGU” would simply move to a different statistic, that of “violent crime victim”.

      As far as the texting laws, I think that current laws actually represent the “punish the offending incident” model that gun laws SHOULD be. For example, nobody is physically prevented from texting while driving, just as nobody is physically stopped from yelling fire in a theater. To make the comparison with proposed gun laws, the text policy would have to be almost complete removal of the capability from all phones unless one passes in depth background checks, applies for a permit, or is law enforcement. Additionally, I think that any “good” from texting while driving that could offset the impairment that invariably follows would be a spectacularly hard sell, especially when one considers that hands free and even simply talking on the phone are generally still completely legal. To answer your question, I think it’s probably because most don’t view texting as an inailable human right, with significant and demonstrable life saving positives. Also, if a “right” has the potential to save lives and potentially deter/defend against tyranny, doesn’t it deserve a significant amount of “zeal”?

      And, in answer to your last question, I would support your proposal if and only if your magic could also 100% guarantee for all time that: all violent crime (with ANY weapon, including bare hands) would also totally disappear, all threatening and/or dangerous animals would respond to a stern admonishment, that no tyrannical or corrupt government at any level would ever suppress the rights of any citizen, and that all of the above depended solely upon my willful acquiescence of my rights.

  4. Zach
    August 15, 2012 at 8:05 pm #

    Curtis, with regards to your last question, absolutely not. With the bulk of firearms enthusiasts we enjoy shooting itself. Hunting, competition, or just going out and plinking paper. While self-defense is a priority, that’s not the only purpose for our guns.

    Also, our right to bear arms is meant not only for self-defense, but also as a means to protect ourselves from tyrannical governments, a last line of defense against invasion, etc. even if those are unlikely scenarios.

    If you were guaranteed that the government would always act in your best interests, would you give up your right to vote? It would be a dangerous gamble, same as giving up our right to bear arms.

    What the 2nd amendment discussion boils down to, I believe, is that you shouldn’t oppress the whole based on the actions of the few, otherwise we’d all be slaves with no rights. Some people just make really bad choices.

    ETA – Looks like Bradley hit on some of the same points.

  5. Anonymous
    August 15, 2012 at 8:22 pm #

    “I guess what I am really trying to point out here is that I think there are larger issues at play here and that America’s attachment with guns is beyond what people feel is their “right.” It is almost as if there is some type of twisted religious/nationalistic zeal that is associated with gun ownership.”

    That happens when one is on the outside looking in.

    I am not a sports fan and to me many sports followers seem fanatic (a person with an extreme and uncritical enthusiasm or zeal, as in religion or politics.). Hence the term sports fan. Rather than rail against them, I am glad that they get so much enjoyment out of their pastime.

    I am what may be considered a gun nut. I have semi automatic rifles that I enjoy shooting. Since I am familiar with them, they do not seem scary to me but when someone on the outside sees an AK or AR type of weapon they seem to get very emotional and irrational.

  6. Anonymous
    August 15, 2012 at 9:41 pm #

    A gun is a tool nothing more nothing less. It is the person behind the tool that makes it good or bad, The largest mass murder in one incident commited IIRC 87 counts of Murder using $1.00 of gasoline. It was the Happy Land Night Club fire in NYC. If there was a CCW at that location and was able to stop him before he ignited the gasoline it would never have happened. I am still waiting for the public out cry from this incident to ban the unleaded gasoline “It’s for the Kids”.

  7. FlashHole
    August 15, 2012 at 10:08 pm #

    As Zach stated, the absolute best argument for gun ownership is a defense against a tyrannical government. That is the main reason the Founding Fathers gave us the 2nd. There are plenty of other good reasons to own a gun, but that is the one that counts.

  8. Secede
    August 16, 2012 at 6:38 am #

    Im with Zach and Flash. With out guns we are powerless against our government. With that said I would be a criminal if guns where baned.

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