The Gun Debate

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The topic of the week, and no doubt, the topic anytime we experience such heinous tragedies like the one that took place at a Parkland HS in Florida, is the issue of guns. No doubt, any loss of life is a tragedy, but losing 17 at once in a place where we Americans send our young ones is completely unacceptable.

Since that incident, new agencies have rolled out mountains of articles with lofty and emotional rhetoric but very little facts concerning the truth behind gun control’s success or lack there of. In fact much of the debate is centered around emotional responses as opposed to finding practical things that will truly work.

So far, more blame has been placed on the gun, specifically the AR-15 Rifle, than it has on the shooter. With that, many on the right have feared an emotional reactionary response by government officials to “fix” the problem. For them, a “fixing” of the problem is a restriction on their freedoms. Much of these emotional responses are not based in fact but ignorance.

I don’t blame the emotional responses. The events that triggered this latest hullabaloo around guns is undoubtedly an emotional one. What we cannot do, though, is allow emotions to supplant reason and logic.

I am a gun owning American. My job and my lifestyle require it. Even if they did not, I would still likely seek out ownership for the simple basis to practice a rare government protected right. While I sympathize with the emotional reactions from those on the left side of the aisle, I do not agree with their assessment on gun ownership in the USA. I am truly a gun skeptic and I believe there is great reason to be.

Below, we will challenge and address some common arguments from the left & anti-gun crowd, address common mistakes, note some peculiar inconsistencies, and offer my take on some Left & Right-winged solutions. I’ll try to be brief.

Common Mistakes

1. The AR-15 is an military grade assault rifle/weapon.

  • The AR-15 is not military grade nor is it an assault-rifle. The “AR” stands for Armalite Rifle, which is the name of the company. The AR-15 does not refer to any specific type of Rifle, thought it was originally created by Armalite, it’s become a common platform for rifles from various makers.
  • The AR is also not meant for military use. While the system was designed to be useful for the military, it was ultimately rejected as a weapon system that does not carry strong enough round (.223/5.56 caliber) among other issues. While the AR-15 has become a popular gun, and is growing in popularity for hunting, the system was not designed for hunting big game. Many hunting rifles have stronger and higher caliber ammunition, range and impact (aka more firepower) than the AR-15.

2. Automatic Weapons should be illegal/are illegal.

  • This one is a bit trickier. Technically, assault weapons are in fact illegal. The gun-lobby and gun owning Americans have accepted this concession and allowed the government to restrict the sale of automatic weapons to guns made prior to 1986.
  • Automatic weapons are effectively illegal under 3 certain conditions: 1) they require an extensive background and documentation which usually take 9-12 months of federal paperwork 2) the weapon cannot be made post-1986. All pre-1986 weapons are grandfathered and can be bought-sold with heavy restrictions 3) the documentation paperwork requires a $200 postage stamp (tax) and clean record. Due to the limitation and rarity of weapons, they often run in the high thousands.

3. Semi-automatic weapons vs. Automatic weapons.

  • The language surround guns, especially AR-15s, is often filled with adjectives meant to bring fear. “Military styled semi-automatic assault weapons.” The only accurate part of the quote is “semi-automatic.” Semi-automatic weapons are recoil powered engineering. The gun is only able to shoot one round, per pull of the trigger. Once the shell of a round is expelled from the chamber, another round is fed and locked in place for the next trigger pull. One squeeze, one round.
  • An automatic weapon is also recoil powered but mechanized in a way that allows multiple rounds to exit on one trigger pull. Often referred to as “machine guns,” like those found in The Godfather or Mission Impossible, automatic weapons are largely illegal in the USA outside above stated special licensing and/or governmental duty weapons (LEO, Military, etc).

4. AR-15s kill more people than any other gun.

  • The AR-15 is in fact a very uncommonly used weapon for gun related homicide. In fact, considering all types of rifles (beyond the AR-15), the vast majority are killed with handguns. Rifle related deaths are under 5% annually.

– NYT: https://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/14/sunday-review/the-assault-weapon-myth.html (Left lean)
– HP: https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/assault-weapons-deaths_us_5763109de4b015db1bc8c123 (Left Lean)

5. The NRA controls the gun conversation and is the most powerful lobby in Washington DC.

  • The NRA is one of many lobbying organization that run around DC but in terms of power, it is the largest pro-gun lobby representing 5 million gun owners and approximately 1 in every 5 gun owners.
    When compared to other lobby organizations, the NRA is quite tiny:

“1998 and 2016, the NRA spent approximately $13 million on all candidates, parties, and leadership political action committees, according to the Left’s favorite fact-checker, Politifact. The NRA also spends money on “outside expenditures,” meaning ads they cut themselves, for example, in the amount of $144.3 million, plus another $45.9 million on lobbying. That’s a grand total of $203.2 million on political activities over 18 years, or approximately $22.6 million per 2-year election cycle. The NRA spends far more in presidential years than non-presidential years — according to OpenSecrets, the NRA spent some $54.4 million in 2016 on politics.”

“According to the National Institute for Labor Relations Research, labor unions spent $1.713 billion on political activities and lobbying for the 2016 election cycle alone. That’s not unusual: they also spent $2.2 billion on political activities in 2008 and 2010, and $1.69 billion in 2012.”

– DW: https://www.dailywire.com/news/27236/kimmel-media-say-nra-buys-politicians-heres-why-ben-shapiro (Conservative lean)
– OS: https://www.opensecrets.org/lobby/top.php?indexType=s (Nuetral)

Common Arguments

1. Mass shootings don’t happen like this in other countries.

  • The left likes to point at Europe as the “civilized west” and supreme example of how a nation should be run. So while it’s easy to point to the world and prove that the US isn’t completely out of control, comparisons with the likes of Mexico or Brazil will win no one over. So what if we compared the USA with Europe?

“Here’s the list of the 18 countries with the top death rate per million people from mass public shootings from 2009 through 2015:

Norway: 1.888*
Serbia: 0.381
France: 0.347
Macedonia: 0.337
Albania: 0.206
Slovakia: 0.185
Switzerland: 0.142
Finland: 0.132
Belgium: 0.128
Czech Republic: 0.123
United States: 0.089
Austria: 0.068
The Netherlands: 0. 051
Canada: 0.032
England: 0.027
Germany: 0.023
Russia: 0.012
Italy: 0.009

– CR: https://crimeresearch.org/2015/06/comparing-death-rates-from-mass-public-shootings-in-the-us-and-europe/ (Nuetral)

* It should be noted, Norway’a high number is inflated by one major mass event resulting in 77 murders. America is a nation of 325+ million people so perspective is important.

2. The 1994 Assualt Weapon Ban continuation would prevent mass shootings.

  • According to statistics, the AWB of 1994 had little to no effect on crime, as most gun related homicides were committed with non-assault weapon handguns.
    Pre Assault Weapon Mass Murder Incidents resulted in 8.2 deaths per incident. 7.4 deaths per incident during the ban and 8.8 after the ban. This is within the margin of error. Also, the greatest issue at hand is actually the amount of mass incidents, not the type of weapon used or number of killed.

– NR: https://www.nationalreview.com/2016/06/assault-weapon-ban-no-orlando-shooting-guns/ (Conservative)

3. Australia’s gun buy-back program eliminated mass shootings, why can’t we follow suit?

  • The Biggest problem with this argument is that it completely ignores the 2nd Amendment which is based in the natural right to self defense and freedom from tyranny (we’ll come back to that soon). Australia does not have a Bill of Rights with a guaranteed protection of the legal ownership of arms (guns).
  • Furthermore, Australia had a very low amount of mass shooting events to being with. In fact, the mass shooting incident occurrences were so low, “zero” mass shootings fall within the margin of error for the total count prior to the ban, making the post-ban measurements fairly inconclusive.
  • Lastly, the gun by-back program has led to a rise in violent crimes. It’s fairly easy to find your prey when your victim is guaranteed to be unarmed.
    The gun confiscation also had no significant affect on murder rates and suicides.

– Univ of Melbourne: http://c8.nrostatic.com/sites/default/files/Lee%20and%20Suardi%202008.pdf
– Center for Crime: http://c3.nrostatic.com/sites/default/files/Baker%20and%20McPhedran%202007.pdf

4. The 2nd Amendment was written in the 18th Century when muskets were the gun of the day so it is therefor unfit for today.

  • First, repeat fire weapons, though rare, were around at the time of the American Revolution and were a growing technology the founders were aware of – as a number of the founders were engineers, scientists and inventors in their own right. (Daily Caller: Right lean http://dailycaller.com/2016/06/29/these-guns-dispel-the-notion-the-founding-fathers-could-never-have-imagined-modern-assault-rifles/)
  • Secondly, the 2nd Amendment was written in 1789 and ratified in 1791 in the immediate aftermath of the Revolutionary War with Great Britain. The founders understood rifles and arms to be important tools to help toss off tyranny – not just good for hunting. In fact, “arms” can be easily noted to be the most advanced weapons of the day and included canon weaponry. While I am not clamoring for the average person to have jet planes or nukes, the pro-gun American has given up numerous concessions and rights concerning what they could own as a firearm.
  • California has even moved to ban magazines larger than 10 rounds, understanding that such is sort of a workaround toward ridding of weapons entirely.
  • Important to note, the amendment is not relegated to a “militia” solely but supports the existence of an individual right (meaning regular citizen ownership).

“Before a standing army can rule, the people must be disarmed, as they are in almost every kingdom in Europe. The supreme power in America cannot enforce unjust laws by the sword, because the whole body of the people are armed and constitute a force superior to any band of regular troops that can be, on any pretense, raised in the United States. A military force at the command of Congress can execute no laws, but such as the people perceive to be just and constitutional; for they will possess the power.”- Noah Webster, Father of American Edu

– Vox – Left lean: https://www.vox.com/2016/8/22/12559364/second-amendment-tyranny-militia-constitution-founders
– NR – Conservative lean: https://www.nationalreview.com/2016/04/second-amendment-protects-individual-right-keep-bear-arms/

5. Guns murders top 30,000 per year therefore guns ownership is no longer justifiable.

  • One of the major issues with the Gun Statistics shown nationally is the lack of understanding behind the definition of Homicide. In fact, if you look up “homicide” on dictionary.com, you’ll be told that it is an “unlawful killing of another; murder.” This is not entirely accurate. Homicides, from a legal understanding, also include self defense, suicide, accidents and manslaughter.
  • You’ve probably read this before in some form but it’s worth noting: (note the most data from 2014/15 estimates unless otherwise shown)

The U.S. population 324,059,091 as of Wednesday, June 22, 2016. Do the math: 0.000000925% of the population dies from gun related actions each year. Statistically speaking, this is insignificant! What is never told, however, is a breakdown of those 30,000 deaths (2015 est), to put them in perspective as compared to other causes of death:

65% of those deaths are by suicide which would never be prevented by gun laws. Suicidal people will find a means to kill themselves without guns. Guns merely make the act quick and painless. Suicides are not a crime.
• 15% are by law enforcement in the line of duty and largely justified (99% of the time).
• 17% are through criminal activity, gang and drug related or mentally ill persons – gun violence
• 3% are accidental discharge deaths

So technically, “gun violence” is not 30,000 annually, but drops to 5,100. Still too many? Well, first, how are those deaths spanned across the nation?
• 480 homicides (9.4%) were in Chicago
• 344 homicides (6.7%) were in Baltimore
• 333 homicides (6.5%) were in Detroit
• 119 homicides (2.3%) were in Washington D.C. (a 54% increase over prior years)

Essentially, 25% of all gun crime happens in just 4 cities. All 4 of those cities have strict gun laws, so it is not the lack of law that is the root cause.

This leaves 3,825 for the entire rest of the nation, or about 75 deaths per state. That is an average because some States have much higher rates than others. For example, California had 1,169 and Alabama had 1.

Now, consider which states have the strictest gun laws, such as California, so it is not guns causing this. It is a crime rate spawned by the number of criminal persons residing in those cities and states. So if all cities and states are not created equally, then there must be something other than the tool causing the gun deaths.

Are 5,100 deaths per year horrific? How about in comparison to other deaths? All death is sad and especially so when it is in the commission of a crime but that is the nature of crime. Robbery, death, rape, assault all is done by criminals and thinking that criminals will obey laws is ludicrous. That’s why they are criminals. It should be noted, the vast majority of these victims are minority men.

But what about other deaths each year?
• 40,000+ die from a drug overdose–(2017 number is now 50,000 from Heroin alone).
• 36,000 people die per year from the flu, far exceeding the criminal gun deaths
• 34,000 people die per year in traffic fatalities(exceeding gun deaths even if you include suicide)

Now it gets good:
• 250,000+ people die each year (and growing) from preventable medical errors. You are safer in Chicago than when you are in a hospital! (Note* these do not include troublesome prescription signing).

Some notes I added: 893,000 abortions conducted in 2016. Again, the vast majority of these victims are minorities.

  • Most Importantly are the statistics on how many lives are SAVED per-year because of firearms. Give the number of instances are difficult to measure, the low number of lives saved is still significant: 250,000. The high end of possible lives saved using guns is 3 million.

– FBI: https://ucr.fbi.gov/crime-in-the-u.s
– Times – Left lean: http://time.com/5011599/gun-deaths-rate-america-cdc-data/

Peculiar Inconsistencies

Left:

  • I’m not sure if it’s extremely ironic or simply ignorant that the left has a general depiction of police and law enforcement as nominally corrupt, racist and otherwise cruel but also want government & Police to have the only right to bear arms.
  • Take it a step further and call it downright suicidal to believe President Trump is a fascist, or the reincarnation of Hitler, yet also desire for his government to eliminate the protections of the 2nd Amendment.
  • The left was quick to point out the failures of law enforcement deputies to enter into Thw HS and perform their duty to stop the killer – yet they still maintain the belief that we should not allow people to own various types of firearms (or all types of firearms) in an effort to defend themselves. Can we or can we not count on government to protect us?

Right:

  • Isn’t it a bit contradictory to believe federal government is terrible at conducting backgrounds for potential incoming refugees but its completely satisfactory and even overbearing for simple background checks for firearm purchases? Mind you there are major differences to note but this seems to fly in the face of “the central government is no good” idea presented by the right.
  • The right doesn’t trust public education at the collegiate and secondary school level as they believe children are becoming increasingly “indoctrinated” with Leftist worldview but definitely don’t mind giving the same people firearms in the classroom.
  • The right openly supports statistics showing the failures of gun control but also supports the suppression of research by the CDC.

 

Commonly Presented Solutions

Finding solutions to the problem at hand is not simple. Both sides are seeking very practical solutions that can be put into place immediately. Here are some I have commonly heard requested:

Left:

1. Require gun owner licensing, gun registration and liability insurance as with vehicles.

  • First and foremost, all legal firearms are registered, like vehicles. This is primarily to keep documentation for ownership and doubles by helping in criminal cases (serial numbers).
  • The obvious issue here is that vehicles are not constitutionally protected. Driving a vehicle is a privilege. Owning a firearms is a Right.
  • Since the Federal government determined firearms as a Right afforded to individuals, placing barriers in front of said Right (like requiring insurance or licensing) create significant problems.
  • Consider the right to vote. In the Jim Crow South, barriers were placed in front of minority voters by requiring tests or taxes at the voters poll. These restraints on firearm ownership would likely be translated in a similar way.

2. Ban AR-15s or semi-automatic rifles.

  • As explained above, banning either of the above mentioned weapons is problematic in that it will be considered a great incursion on gun rights. Furthermore, the argument for banning such weapons is extremely weak as noted earlier, rifle homicides account for less than 5% of all gun deaths in the United States.

3. Voluntary surrendering of high powered firearms.

  • I may sound like I am repeating myself but the left’s fascination of blaming the AR-15 is blinding their ability to see the real issue – and it’s not the gun – it’s the person behind the gun.
  • AR-15s account for a tiny percentage of gun crime. Even considering the last major mass shootings, the simple handgun (in its various caliber and types) out-kill rifles by over 95%. In fact, knives are responsible for more deaths than the AR-15, annually. (FBI: https://ucr.fbi.gov/crime-in-the-u.s/2016/crime-in-the-u.s.-2016/tables/table-12)
  • The recent viral videos showing law abiding gun owners surrendering, destroying and otherwise “quitting” their AR-15s is nothing short of stupid. Listen, if they do not feel they can be responsible for the weapon, then more power to them but their act is nothing less than “virtue signaling.” By that I mean, it acts as a “show of pompous morality” than anything actually effective. In one case, a man who had an AR-15 for over 30 years surrendered his weapon as if it would one day leave his home and commit a crime on its own. Why not keep the weapon and use it for good? The left wing media posts and praises these ideas and in doing so it willing to shame all those who maintain their weapon for their protection.

Right:

1. Armed Guards at schools.

  • While posting arm guards at schools would act as a “targeted hardening” tactic used by airports, sporting arenas and high value personnel (politicians), doing so may create nightmarish logistical and financial issues for many cash strapped states and local school districts. Where would the money come from? If the money is federal by what means, what training and who are the actors? The solution can work but would create other issues. Are those worthwhile?

2. Arming teachers:

  • President Trump stated he would be willing to create a system of bonuses for teachers who would be willing to carry arms in schools. While there is precedent for arming teachers (See: Israel), are we really asking underfunded teachers to spend money on guns, ammunition and training?
  • Another form of this idea to remove the “gun free zone” posting at schools and allowing teachers who are already trained to carry at their own will and giving tax credits to them for continuous training.
  • An acquaintance of mine challenged this position by suggesting the level of liability on teachers who shoot would be overwhelming. While this is certainly an issue, I asked if it would be worthwhile giving the students and staff a chance to live as opposed to waiting many more minutes for police response. He responded by saying they did not deserve said chance because the risk of liability and the possible proliferation of firearms is not worthwhile. Interesting.

3. Mental Health Reform

  • When the federal government shuttered mental health programs all over the US, treatment for people suffering from mental health issues were reprioritized to the bottom. Now, many suffering from such issues end up trapped in a revolving door of prescriptions, institutionalizations and confinement.The issues go unaddressed and often go overlook.
  • Many of the recent mass shooters are all shown to have some form of mental health problems. Increased prioritization of mental health issues may result and/or help remedy such mass events and/or decrease instances of suicide via firearm.

The issue surrounding guns is not one to be taken lightly. Neither is the conversation. Far too many people, on both sides, are simply unwilling to meet on middle ground and discuss the issues. The Left screams that the right is complicit in murdering children for it desire to maintain their rights, and the Right screams at the Left for being complicit and willing to surrender all of their freedoms to the Leviathan.

I do not have immediate solutions to the problem. I do believe America can bolster and encourage long standing dramatic cultural changes that can ultimately fix or at least help allege some of what we are experiencing. Our issues are a deep heart (or spiritual) problem. When you look deeper at the profile of such mass killers, you will find common issues like mental health and other less glaring but very important issues like the lack of a strong biological father figure in the home.

Am I seriously asking for more fathers to be men in hopes of helping curve violence like that scene in Las Vegas and Parkland? Absolutely. Consider the insanely powerful statistics for the “father effect” on a household and how there is a dramatic decrease in likelihood to use drugs, be incarcerated, experience mental health problems, become violent, become a criminal etc., if a father is in the home.

(Fatherly – liberal lean): https://www.fatherly.com/health-science/science-benefits-of-fatherhood-dads-father-effect/
(FOTF – conservative lean): https://www.focusonthefamily.com/family-q-and-a/parenting/the-significance-of-a-fathers-influence

There are also other spiritual remedies for America. While we declare, “In God We Trust,” yet we have shunned and expelled God from schools, even pushing away common sense rules like the Ten Commandments (which most people both secular and spiritual would declare as a good list of rules). We can’t hold prayers in school or even discuss True morality, instead we have replaced it with relativist thought and Darwinism. Ironically, those who taught such ideologies picture themselves as the moral superior individual.

Finally, there is also one immediately applicable solution. Media and others must stop enticing more violence by “celebrating” and “memorializing” these mass shooters. When Dana Loesch of the NRA stated the media loves mass shootings, she did not say this out of anger but rather enlightenment. Media has always stated, “If it bleeds it leads.” Such stories circulate in our media for months and lead on every headline. Unfortunately,  publicizing these killers names and faces, actually encourage more people to seek out fame through similar means. So far, only one small but influential media organization the conservative oriented, Daily Wire ran by Chief Editor Ben Shapiro, has vowed to stop publicizing these killers names and faces. It’s a very practical move. If mass media would be willing to join the Daily Wire, then perhaps some of these potential killers would lose their desire to act. One could say, until they act, the mass media is far more liable than for the next mass shooting than any claim made against the NRA.

So lets continue to pray for this nation as we struggle through such tragic times. While the left may mock our prayers, we know their effectiveness in transforming the hearts and minds of both the prayer and those it’s directed toward. Action of course, is a part of any good plan.

– (LAT – left lean) http://www.latimes.com/science/sciencenow/la-sci-sn-mass-shooters-fame-infamy-20151002-story.html
– (UA – left lean) https://www.as.ua.edu/2016/04/27/when-fame-breeds-infamy-shooters-who-want-attention-a-growing-phenomenon/

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