Why gun restrictions are not the solution

How can we prevent more violence? How can we stop bad people from going on killing sprees?

We can’t.

That’s the stark reality.

We can blame society, we can blame guns, violent video games, how parents raise children, how the media sensationalizes these massacres, or a host of other factors. But there isn’t one reason why these things happen. There isn’t one thing that we can eliminate that will make these things impossible. For as long as there are people who have the volition to act as morally autonomous beings, these tragedies will be possible. And there is nothing that can stop that.

These incidents are rare. The overwhelming majority of us will never directly face a tragedy like this. Unfortunately, some people do. And for the people who do, it is tragic. For those of us who are never in one of those terrible situations, we can mourn the lost and remain vigilant. But it’s Utopian thinking to try to envisage a way in which the possibility of these tragedies is eliminated. The freedom of man is a great thing, but the consequence of our freedom is that we can utilize that freedom for the purpose of harming others. I’m appalled that these things can happen, but the reality cannot be altered.

For so many people, in so many articles, from so many politicians, in the wake of last week’s tragedy, it seems like a foregone conclusion that gun control necessarily needs to happen. More laws need to be in place. Mark Levin made the astute observation that the same politicians who talk about gun control are protected by guns an security on a daily basis.

But what about for the rest of us? Is the solution that we need to make a war on decent people having guns? The same politicians who speak out against firearms are also protected and kept safe by security who carry them. But the average person can’t afford security. How are we to be safe? Will laws make us safe? Of course not! How many laws did Adam Lanza break? He murdered his mother, stole her firearms, trespassed at a school, murdered innocent people, etc., etc., etc. He already broke laws. The laws didn’t stop him. In extreme situations, the laws don’t matter. And they especially don’t matter when a crazed murderer is on a suicide mission.

When I heard about the teachers who had died in this shooting, I had absolutely no doubt that we would hear stories of tremendous heroism and bravery. I had absolutely no doubt because those types of stories always emerge from these tragedies. At the Aurora shooting, three men died to protect the women who were with them. On 9/11, a group of people sacrificed themselves for the sake of protecting other innocent lives when they crashed their plane in a field. Every day, we have police officers and men and women serving our military who risk their safety to protect our communities and our country. There are always people willing to pay any cost to stop evil. I so often wonder about the prevention of these tragedies if more people were armed.

I’m not saying every random person ought to have a gun. But for people who are law abiding citizens who have been properly trained and who know how to shoot, I feel that they have far more potential to keep us safe from spree killers than any law or firearms restriction. Regardless of assault weapons, a person on this type of suicidal rampage can make other instruments of destruction. ON the same day as the Connecticut tragedy, a man went on a stabbing spree of an elementary school in China. The worst school massacre in American history was from a bomb, not an assault weapon.

Instead of trying to pretend that these incidents can be avoided, I feel that it is more practical to ask: what can be done when these events are actually happening to protect people? I believe that the best solution is for people to legally carry guns. The school and the movie theater in Aurora were both gun free zones. Who knows what could have happened in these events if someone had been carrying a firearm. There’s no way to know if it could have made a difference. But considering the great loss of life in both situations, I struggle to believe it could have done any harm.

On Sunday night, in San Antonio, it looked like another tragedy was in the works when a man opened fire at a restaurant and then proceeded to continue firing shots as he neared a movie theater which was next door. An off duty police officer (who was working security) fatally shot the gunmen.

I realize that it was someone who did work in law enforcement, but there’s nothing inherently special about a police officer. I feel that there are other people who can save and protect lives (with the right training).

When I say that these tragedies cannot be totally avoided, I’m not saying we should be fatalistic and wait for the next terrorist to strike. We should ask why he did this, what were the signs, could things have been prevented, what changes can be made to make people safer. After 9/11, changes were made with airline security. In America, there has not been a high jacked plane since then. Part of the reason is undoubtedly because of enhanced security features and because of more law enforcement on planes (with guns!). Changes were made. I’m not saying that nothing should ever be done in the aftermath of any tragedy. People who are troubled and who show warning signs of violence need to be helped. But guns will always be around and no law can change that.


Categories: Commentary, Culture

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2 replies

  1. What if a Newtown happened every day? Would you feel differently? I don’t know, I kind of feel like the president said it well on Sunday — maybe it’s possible that we aren’t doing enough, and we aren’t doing the right thing. Consider that more preschoolers were killed by guns in the years 2008-09 than were police officers killed in the line of duty. In all, 5,740 children and teens were killed by guns in the same time frame. That’s three Newtowns a week. (source: http://upwithchris.tumblr.com/post/38067278926/a-grim-reminder-that-children-are-often) Can nothing be done to prevent these deaths? Or can we wave away all of them with “if only…” explanations? “The parents should have kept the guns safer,” “there should have been depression screening for that kid that shot themselves,” “people need to be more educated about gun safety,” basically anything but “yeah, maybe all of these things, and maybe also we can do a little bit more about guns”? “The most recent analysis of data from 23 industrialized nations shows that 87 percent of the children under age 15 killed by guns in these nations lived in the United States.” How much longer do we want to continue dominating THAT statistic?

    You are right about one big idea here. Not every massacre can be prevented. It’s actually kind of bad to make policy based on these sorts of extreme examples, however much we want to prevent every single one of them. Rash policy is the enemy of smart policy. But all the more reason for us to look at how we might be able to mitigate the thousands of gun deaths (mostly suicides) each year that don’t make the news, the thousands of deaths that we’ve convinced ourselves are the “price of freedom,” or not a societal problem, or something that we can’t change? If you’re right about our ability to prevent every massacre, you’re really, really wrong that the answer to “how can we prevent more violence” is “we can’t.” Now, your answer might be “we can, but I don’t prefer any of the solutions to the status quo on gun control,” but to say “we can’t” prevent more violence seems borderline nihilistic, and belies the trend. Other countries have; is there anything we can learn from them? How many of them have solved it with more civilian guns? (Worth noting here that violence in general in this country in general is on the decline, and this has been the trend for a couple decades or so at this point. That’s a good thing. But these mass public shootings aren’t on the decline, and that’s a bad thing. )

    Seems like everyone agrees that mental health counseling and early intervention should be part of a solution here. But is there any sort of gun safety measure you would support after something like this? Bullet taxation, bullet rationing, banning high-capacity magazines, banning semi-automatic weapons, closing the gun show “loophole,” gun buyback program, requiring every gun to have child-safety features, or any other idea? Or are we at about the right level of gun safety in this country? Or is the problem so insurmountable that you support some gun control measures, but nihilistically don’t expect them to work, so what’s the point? (I must admit I find it difficult to dismiss that last sentiment myself…) The military has fully automatic weapons; they’re illegal for civilian use, and rightly so. Perhaps we should spend some time thinking about whether or not we agree with this, and if so, why?

    No, I’m not convinced much by this essay. There’s a lot of anecdotal evidence, a lot of hands being thrown up (“who knows if more guns would have helped or hurted?!”), a lot of half-baked arguments, and too many assertions left lonely to facts. It just seems like the same essay you would have written before the last spree killing, and before the one before that, and before the one before that one, ad infinitum. I’m ready to try something new–and that means new meaningful gun safety regulations–and hopefully policymakers will come to the same conclusion.

    Sorry for the length; it’s a bit unfair to throw all this up here, so please don’t feel an expectation to respond, and certainly not point-by-point. Always glad to hear your take, however frustrated or dispirited I sometimes (although by no means always) come away from it.

  2. I always appreciate your responses Jason. This one was really good. I’ve just been so busy with finishing up some papers that I haven’t had much time to respond. But what you said is very thought provoking.

    Certainly, I’m not saying that nothing can be done to help. There may be things that will be beneficial. I just don’t believe that lots of new laws will make much difference. I don’t feel that laws stop people who are suicidal. You might say “but laws can hinder his ability to acquire the weapons!”

    As with so many other things in our society, I think everyone agrees on the conclusion we would like to see (less senseless violence like this), but the disagreement comes in the avenue of getting there.

    Again, I’m sorry I can’t say more. But I loved your response.

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