Sunday, July 22, 2012

Good People Shouldn't Have Guns

Everyone, even the NRA, says it wants to prevent more shootings like the one that just took place in Aurora, Colorado. But the NRA and its opponents have different views on how to prevent future violence. The NRA's proposals won't work, but neither will most of the proposals that are being championed by the other side.

The NRA's position is that the shooter had every right to have the guns that he used to slaughter twelve people and injure dozens more, but that he shouldn't have done it. They offer no suggestion on how to prevent future massacres, other than to say that offenders should be punished in order to deter other people from committing shooting crimes in the future. This proposal has proven to be totally ineffective.

Over the past decades we have vigorously prosecuted shooters and have repeatedly increased the sentences for their crimes, and yet the shootings go on. People who shoot up theaters don't care about the laws. The NRA also says that if more people carried guns, movie patrons would be able to protect themselves. Not only wasn't the Aurora shooter deterred by the possibility of armed defense, he anticipated it. He wore bullet proof clothing and tossed a smoke or teargas grenade into the crowd to blind anyone who might shoot back. He also carried multiple rapid-fire weapons. In preparation for the prospect that some of the movie patrons might shoot back, the shooter made himself more lethal.

The anti-gun lobby's major position is that we should screen people before permitting them to own guns, so that people who might shoot up a movie theater won't have guns. The problem is that no one has been able to figure out how to identify beforehand who might shoot up movie theaters, schools, workplaces, shopping centers, congressional meet-and-greets, or anywhere else. The rest of the anti-gun lobby's proposals, like trigger-locks, waiting periods, limits on the number of guns a person can purchase, and stamping identification on shell casings are totally irrelevant to most people who shoot up theaters.

The only way to prevent future catastrophes is to get rid of the guns. Very few other places in the world, maybe none, have as many privately held guns as the US has, and very few places, maybe none, have as much gun violence, other than in times of war. The recent shootings in Aurora have highlighted our problem, but every day people in the U.S. are shot to death – about 30,000 each year. The shootings take place in states where there are strict gun laws and in states like Colorado where there are almost no restrictions on guns. People can argue about what various studies of guns prove, but one fact that has been established beyond dispute is: more guns, more shootings. No guns, no shootings.

It will not be easy for us to get to the point where we no longer have to live in fear of people with guns, but we can do it. I suggest that good people start by getting rid of their own guns. I realize that both the pro-and anti-gun advocates have assumed that we need to do just the opposite – get the guns away from bad people. But until good people are willing to live without guns, they will not take the steps that will be needed to make sure bad people don't have them either.

Since everyone considers themselves to be a good person, if we can just get the good people to voluntarily live without guns, most of the problem will instantly be solved. The NRA thinks that its members are good people, so they should be the first to agree to give up their guns. But they won't, because they are afraid of bad people. Who do they think are the bad people? The NRA defines bad people as anyone who is caught and convicted of unlawfully shooting someone else, unless the NRA disagrees with the verdict, in which case they call the shooter a good person who was the victim of a miscarriage of justice. According to the NRA, until you are convicted, you are good. So, all we have to do is to get the guns away from people who aren't in jail. The people in jail already have had their guns taken away.

Actually, the NRA doesn't really believe what they say. They know that there are people who have not yet behaved badly but who might in the future. These are the ones the NRA's members want to defend themselves from. They are also the kinds of people who are members of the NRA. The NRA almost gets it right when they say that “guns don't kill people.” They forget that the rest of the phrase is, “people with guns kill people.”

It seems pretty obvious that the best way to protect everyone is to make sure that people don't have guns to use when they want to do bad things, and the only way to do that is to make sure that people never have guns. Of course, it will be hard, maybe impossible, to get rid of all guns. No law is perfectly enforced. But we have done a pretty good job of keeping people from owning and using tanks, cannons, grenades, missiles, and other weapons. We could certainly make it a lot harder for the sort of person who shoots up a movie theater to get the kind of firepower that will make him feel he can intimidate hundreds of people.

Gun lovers will insist that the second amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees them the right to have guns. Maybe it does, maybe it doesn't. The Supreme Court recently seems to be changing its mind on that and other questions. But so what? We don't need the guns, and we don't need the second amendment. We have repealed parts of the Constitution, and we can do it again. We haven't had a well regulated militia in at least a hundred and fifty years, we are long past the time when people with handguns would be able to defend themselves against the might of U.S. armed forces if the government became tyrannical, and white people no longer need guns to suppress slave rebellions or to murder Indians. Those are the reasons we got the second amendment, but times have changed, and we need to change, too, or we will doom ourselves to living in constant fear and inescapable violence.

1 comment:

  1. "He who sacrifices freedom for security deserves neither"- Ben Franklin.