A Look at Gun Control

In the wake of the massacre in Aurora, Colorado a few days ago, the topic of gun control has come back into the limelight, with impassioned arguments on both sides. I’ve kept an open mind, and have been weighing the issue from what I consider to be a pretty objective standpoint.

I’m not a hunter. I don’t own any guns. Frankly, they scare me. As someone with bipolar disorder, I don’t want to be able to take my life as easily as reaching into a gun safe if my depression ever gets that bad. I also know that I would never forgive myself if my young daughters somehow got past the protection of a gun safe and managed to kill themselves or someone else. And the odds of ever needing to protect my family from intruders here in Orem, Utah, are slim to none.

The question this week is, How could we have prevented the killings in Colorado? I’m about 90% settled that more stringent gun control is not the answer.

There are oversimplified arguments coming from both sides. I’ll alternate between left-sided and right-sided statements as I dissect these.

From the right:

Bearing arms is my Second Amendment right. That includes what you’re calling “assault rifles”.

Well, okay then, what about deadlier weapons? Do you have a right, if it were possible, to build your own nuclear bomb? Only the truly nutty would say yes.

It’s not a straw man argument. It’s a legitimate question. Where is the line drawn as to how much power to kill a citizen is allowed to have?

When the folks on the left suggest legislation that will restrict what you deem your right, they’re totally within the bounds of the Constitution. The exact wording says your right to “keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed.” So, yeah, you have the right to bear arms, but you’ll never convince anybody that new laws cannot determine which arms (without infringement of your rights). The law has to determine that, because otherwise you’re interpreting the Constitution as allowing every American their own stash of WMD.

(Which is incorrect.)

From the left:

If the shooter hadn’t had access to a gun capable of firing so many shots, there would have been far fewer deaths.

If James Holmes’ goal was to kill a lot of people, there are plenty of other ways to do it. About six months ago, a suicide bomber in Syria killed 26 people and injured 63 others. If you don’t have access to guns, bombs are the obvious choice, and it’s what they use in other countries. Here’s a lovely list of terrorist attacks so far in 2012.; just looking at the bombs, suicide-style or otherwise, I count 88 attacks in the first six months of 2012, with a total of more than 1600 deaths.

[Side note: this is a creepy thing to be writing about when there are really loud fireworks going on right now. (Today is Pioneer Day in Utah, celebrating the arrival of the pioneers to Salt Lake Valley.) (Celebrating with explosives, naturally.)]

I wish we could stop mass murder by simply banning certain types of guns. But the deranged, the psychotic, whoever, will always be capable of killing in large numbers if they want.

From the right:

If somebody in that theater had been armed, the shooter might have killed far fewer people.

I highly doubt it. In a darkened theater, full of tear gas (where did he get tear gas, by the way? Do we know yet?), the most prepared gun-nut is going to have a hard time “taking down” a heavily-armed man wearing friggin’ body armor. Seems much more likely is that someone else will get in the defender’s path and get shot by friendly fire.

The theater where James Holmes opened fire is a gun-free zone. No guns allowed. If it hadn’t been, we can presume that maybe some law-abiding citizen would have been packing heat of their own. But I think it would only have made things worse in the case of Aurora.

From the left:

We don’t want to ban all guns. Just certain types of guns.

Let’s take them at their word for a moment. How do you propose to do this? We can ban further sales of guns that match certain criteria, but how do they expect to get existing guns away from their owners? Especially when the gun-owners consider it a constitutional right?

Making certain guns illegal will, in my opinion, create an underground market. Prices will go up. There will be more money to be made, just like in the drug trade, and crime and violence will ensue.

And that’s the deciding factor, to me. Even if gun control would save lives, I just don’t see how it’s feasible in a country that already has a buttzillion firearms in the hands of its citizens.

Some statistics estimate there are 1.5 million assault rifles in the U.S. (but beware — the term “assault rifle” is a vague word with shifting definitions). That’s an awful lot of guns to try to control. It’s also an awful lot of guns that aren’t killing anyone.

We want to believe that something as simple as a law could prevent evil acts from happening. I truly, truly wish there was a way to reduce gun-related crime with legislation, but I don’t believe there is. The answer is in changing the hearts of the people inclined towards violence. Education. Religion.

The Gospel.

If you had taken away James Holmes’ access to guns, he could still have created bombs. But if you could have changed his heart, he wouldn’t have committed such an atrocity.

(This is not to diminish the role of medication. Surely James Holmes is messed up in the head, and would probably have been helped by some psychiatry, if he were willing or compelled.)

So that’s where I stand today. Like I said, I’m only about 90% convinced this is the right answer to the initial question. Sound off below if you can see where I’m wrong.

One thought on “A Look at Gun Control”

  1. Been giving some thought to your blog post, and there are areas I agree and areas I don’t.
    First, I think that the whole issue of whether gun control laws would have reduced the number of guns or created an underground market depends in part on how long ago said hypothetical gun control laws went into place. If they went into place the week before the tragedy, there would be little chance that anything would change. If they had gone into place a century before, however, there’s a chance that the type of gun he used wouldn’t even have been invented, since there wouldn’t be a market for it. Also, while initially there might be an underground market, and there will likely always be some illegal guns, the number of guns can be reduced substantially if they are more restricted.
    Second, I agree with you that, in this case in particular, the shooter probably would have found some other method of causing harm, likely through bombs of some sort. However, the thing about homemade bombs is that they tend to be bulky, ineffective, require special materials, or all three of the above. He may well have been able to kill and hurt people, but I think it is unlikely he would have been as successful. Also, guns are made by experts, tested and improved under controlled conditions by companies with large budgets. There was almost no chance that something unexpected would happen with the guns he was using. Had he been forced to make his own weapon, he would have had to make it and test it using his own limited budget, with the chance of injuring himself in the meantime or being noticed by someone else. I’d personally rather he be forced to do that, rather than leveraging the expertise of hundreds of engineers and designers.
    Finally, I think that generally speaking, it doesn’t make much sense to base the question of gun control laws and such around an incident like what happened in Aurora. In general, it is a bad idea to make a rule based on the exception. Things could have been done to reduce the damage or make it harder for the gunman (like making it harder to get 6000 bullets delivered in the mail), but it seems unlikely that any reasonable level of restriction or surveillance would have prevented him from doing some harm. However, there are a lot of other times and places where making it harder to get a gun would have prevented harm from being done, or would have made it easier to catch the person who did the harm.

Comments are closed.