February 07, 2013

Common sense, violent crime, and personal firearms

From Fox News:
Own a gun? Buy violence liability insurance
Gun control hearing draws hundreds to Annapolis
Gun control misfire in Georgia will cost lives
Chicago buyback funds used by pro-gun group for NRA shooting safety camp
Los Angeles buyback offers groceries for guns
Seattle police tracing missile tube collected at gun buyback event
Universal background check debate gets heated at Congressional hearing

From CNN:
Special page for gun debate in the news
Death of Chris Kyle highlights divisions in gun debate
Loaded language poisons gun debate
How the violent mentally ill get their guns
Newtown calls on Connecticut to lead the way on gun control
Gabby and Mark Giffords are the new Bradys of gun control
January 2013 FBI background checks are second highest ever

In all of these articles, op-eds and supposed analysis of how dangerous America has become due to the Second Amendment there is not a single mention of either the three legal precepts that created the issue in the first place or the three most important scientific studies related to this issue:

ATF: National Firearms Act of 1934
Wikipedia: United States vs. Miller, 1939
Wikipedia: 1994 Federal Assault Weapons Ban
Koper, Woods, and Roth (PDF): An Updated Assessment of the Federal Assault Weapons Ban
John Longenecker: Safe Streets in the Nationwide Concealed Carry of Handguns
John R. Lott, Jr.: More Guns, Less Crime; Third Edition

I could sit here and waste time writing a long summary of all these articles. Sadly, I know for a fact it would not make a difference. For anyone who takes the time to actually read the legal precepts and the science, there can be only one conclusion: America is one of the safest countries in the world and the reason we are safe is because we own firearms. Unfortunately, this debate has never been about science and law. Nor has reality been a major factor in the way either side approaches this debate. For some reason the core argument of both positions has always been and still remains an emotional call to utopian thinking. The anti-gun crowd swears by all that is holy that "common sense" clearly demonstrates that if we had no guns in America we would have less violence. The pro-gun crowd, on the other hand, swears by all that is holy that "common sense" clearly demonstrates that because we have guns in America we already have less violence.

The Twentieth Century is rife with examples of tyrants and dictators who destroyed their own people by the millions. Lenin, Stalin, Hitler, Mao, and Pol Pot, are household names everywhere in the world where education and mass media are both available. Every single one of these men based their power on the exclusive control of firearms and other weapons. It was only by removing from the general population the tools of self-defense that they were able to both rise to power and consolidate it. Disarming the general population was the key centerpiece to their theory of power and control. It was the one thing they all agreed on. Every tyrant down through history has operated the same way. For example, after the samurai disarmed the farmers in Japan in the Tenth Century for nearly a thousand years there existed two clearly distinct social classes, an armed political class and the disarmed peasant class. Also in Asia, every time a new family gained control of the Imperial throne in China their first act was to disarm the opposition. Here in the United States we have the example of the end of the Civil War when the Union moved to disarm the southerners, driving many of them into the still untamed western territories where they not only kept their firearms they used them to became sheriffs, outlaws, saloon owners, cattlemen, miners, and merchants. As the south broke free of the shackles imposed on them by the Reconstruction Era one of the first things every state did was seek to disarm the former slaves in an effort to insure they could not oppose the imposition of new legal structures designed to keep them second class citizens. History is very, very clear on this lesson: disarming the peasants is the key to restricting power to a small elite.

There has been very little genuine scientific study on what links exist (if any) between violence in America and American ownership of firearms. However, international studies conducted by scholars in Finland, the United Kingdom, the United Nations, and others consistently point to the United States as one of the safest countries in the world. We are never at the very top, and seldom in the top ten, but there are around 300 sovereign nations in the world so when they rank the United States 26 out of 300, that is more than high enough to meet my standard as "one of the safest". It is also worth noting that over at the Guardian website they have put together a very interesting world map comparing gun ownership and gun homicides. Some of the data is suspect. Nonetheless, one important point illustrated by this map is that even though the United States has the highest personal firearm ownership in the world their firearm-related homicide rate falls far below many other countries. When flipping through the three versions of the map notice especially Brazil, Columbia, and Ecuador. These three nations form a prominent arc of extremely high firearm-related homicides despite falling into the lowest personal firearm ownership category. The relationship between limited firearm ownership and firearm-related homicide is not as easy to demonstrate as the anti-gun crowd would like us to believe. (As an aside, another interesting tidbit is that even though over the past decade both Britain and Australia have taken legal measures to severely restrict personal firearm ownership they both now have extremely high per capita violent crime rates. Severely restricting personal firearm ownership has not helped these two countries reduce their overall violent crime rate.)

If we take all of this raw data into consideration, what is the "common sense" solution to preventing another incident like the Newtown massacre, the Columbine massacre, the Virginia Tech massacre, the Beslan massacre, and the Dunblane massacre? Every time one of these horrific tragedies occurs, and there most certainly will be more of them, innocent lives are destroyed and the entire future of our world is endangered. After all, everyone agrees that our children are our future. Despite this agreement, abortion kills millions of American children every single year. How is it that the same people who are outraged by Sandy Hook are staunch, vocal defenders of abortion? How is it that the same people who are outraged by abortion are also staunch, vocal defenders of the individual right to own semi-automatic rifles and handguns with high capacity magazines? Apparently "common sense" has two completely different meanings for people on both sides of this debate. With this in mind, it seems to me that the only "common sense" conclusion that can be reached is that "common sense" has little or nothing to do with any of it.