Saturday, May 02, 2009

U.S. and gun control: wise or foolish?

0. An old friend of mine recently wrote on his blog the following:
[The second amendment] has widely been interpreted (erroneously, I believe) to give every American the right to own any kind of gun they please. I believe the Fathers would have worded the amendment more carefully if they could have foreseen how many innocent people were being slaughtered daily in one of the most advanced countries in the world.
He goes on to cite sobering statistics concerning the various groups which die of gun deaths in the U.S. He closed by accusing the N.R.A. and other lobbyists of being responsible for keeping Americans asleep on this issue. I have, on and off through the years, owned guns, and have more than once considered joining the N.R.A., so in many ways my friend brought the issue to a point in my mind.

Admittedly, gun ownership in the U.S. is a very tricky issue. I will grant that many undesirable deaths are indeed caused by the prevalence of guns in America. However, I believe there are other matters regarding gun ownership that are worth considering.

1. First, Many of the deaths in the U.S., about 81 per day in 2004, are by suicides, particularly by white males over 40. So if one adjusts for those deaths, 25 of the 39 deaths per day in that age bracket are for people who are choosing to end their own life. This hardly counts against gun use, since people use autos and other technology to end their lives too.[1]

2. Second, although guns cause lots of undesirable deaths in the U.S., which is a bad thing, they also save lots of lives and injury by preventing many crimes. In fact, an academic study on this advantage showed a clear preventative use of guns which far outweighs the damage done by them:
"The most comprehensive study of defensive gun use, by award-winning criminologist Gary Kleck and Marc Gertz (1993), found that handguns were used for defense nearly two million times per year, amounting to two-thirds of defensive gun uses. Kleck separately studied National Crime Victimization Surveys and found that people who use guns to defend themselves are less likely to be attacked or injured than people who use other means, or no means, of protection. Kleck has concluded that guns are used to defend against crime 3-4 times more often than to commit it. Forty states have Right-to-Carry laws allowing people to carry concealed handguns for protection away from home, and such states have lower violent crime rates, on average, compared to the rest of the country. Since 1991, the number of states that have Right-to-Carry laws has risen from 17 to 40 (an all-time high) and violent crime has dropped 38 percent."[2]
3. I conclude, then, that the gun, like the automobile, does result in many injuries and deaths, but the benefits that autos and guns offer actually outweigh their liabilities.

4. Finally, I like the idea of there being a registration database for handguns, since these types of guns are most likely to be used in a crime. Also, it is enlightening to consider that virtually no gun crimes are committed by people who are N.R.A. members, so perhaps the key is some sort of certification program in addition to a registration program--at least for handgun ownership.



[image] "What is 'gun control'" (Accessed 5/2/2009)

[1] "An accounting of daily gun deaths" New York Times

[2] "Handguns:Summary" NRA Website

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At 2:38 AM, Blogger woofmutt said...

I’m too disinterested (and a little lazy) to read the report cited in the NRA article about guns being used to prevent more crime than commit crime. So being lazy I’ll have to assume the cases where guns prevented crimes involved witnesses to the prevention other than the gun owners themselves. Otherwise it could be seen as believers claiming the thing they believe in was the thing that saved them.

But it doesn’t really matter if it’s just the testimony of the faithful. Gun control doesn’t really seem much of an issue anymore except to those with something to gain by getting gun owners paranoid that their guns will be taken away. (The NRA, gun makers and sellers, etc.)

September 11th changed the nation’s idea as to what constitutes a threat and what is a “tragedy.”

The type of news stories which once got the gun control debate going (Columbine, the classic disgruntled worker) now rarely last a week and often never even make national news.

It seems the country has come to accept that sometimes a nut job will use guns to take out a fair amount of people.

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