As someone who has done a complete 180 from liberal firearm skeptic and supporter of gun control to now being an ardent supporter of second amendment rights (and a responsible gun owner), I feel like I am uniquely qualified to speak to those individuals whose views I used to share. I’d like to believe I’m a reasonable and objective-minded person, and I want them to read a different perspective on gun control — one that arises from personal experience and research and is not filled with the hyperbole and mis-information we see all over television.
I feel like many people, including most liberal politicians, treat gun control like most conservatives treat sex education or climate change. Their views and thus the policies they support are based entirely on ideology, with only the most cursory attempts at studying the facts. They are blinded by confirmation bias, cherry picking factual evidence to support their foregone conclusion. This is why gun owners can find it hard to even come to the table to have the “gun control” conversation; they are convinced the other side made up their collective minds long ago and are NOT interested in an honest discussion. Many times, it seems their sole focus seems to be on restricting gun rights as much as possible, regardless of whether or not it will help to prevent tragedy. Unfortunately, after the spectacle in the media I’ve seen in the past few weeks, I’d have to agree.
But let’s back up for a moment.
I was raised in Idaho (and now reside there), but I didn’t hunt and I wasn’t much of an outdoorsman when I was young. After graduating from high school, I decided to head out east to go to college in urban Pittsburgh — not exactly a bastion of second amendment rights supporters. I didn’t own firearms and didn’t know anyone that did except for family back in Idaho. The only day to day interaction I had with them was reading about another drug or gang related shooting near campus. In that environment, lacking any practical experience with or knowledge about firearms — in essence, seeing them solely as accomplices in crime — it is easy to understand why so many in urban areas tend to favor strict gun control.
And that was the boat I started in. Up until a few years ago, I genuinely didn’t understand America’s fascination with guns, seeing them mainly as a tool of law enforcement. I didn’t mind hunting rifles, but felt that semi-automatic pistols and “assault rifles” didn’t have much of a legitimate purpose for civilians and thus reasonable they be restricted. Similarly, I didn’t understand the antagonism against gun control measures like national registration, mandatory permits, etc. Not understanding the modern context under which they exist, I thought of the NRA as gun-nut extremists who seemed to want abolition of all gun control. I was indifferent to the second amendment, perceiving it as an anachronism written for a different time. Overall, I accepted the argument that we needed more restrictive policies to reduce gun violence in our society, and that the more guns in the hands of citizens, the more problems would come from them.
Those days are long behind me, and in hind-sight I am surprised how off-base I was with what I considered reasonable views. For the record, this change didn’t happen overnight. My opinions slowly changed as I took the time to learn about firearms and how to responsibly handle them. This phenomenon only increased the more I learned and the more experience I accumulated. I believe actual experience owning and shooting firearms is the singular element that will always separate those on opposing sides of this debate. It is only with this experience that you can understand the perspective of the gun owner.
I started taking courses at a local gun shop for firearm safety and proper shooting technique, and then defensive shooting, concealed carry, etc. The excellent instructors (retired law enforcement) really opened my eyes as to how many home invasions, muggings, assaults, attempted murders, etc were stopped short by armed citizens, and how to protect yourself. I came to realize how short-sighted I was being with regards to keeping myself and my family safe, both at home and out in public. And although law enforcement is certainly important, you are ultimately the last line of defense between an attacker and your family and It is your responsibility to be able to defend yourself. I’ve had arguments with people who claim that they don’t need to have firearms in their house; that they don’t choose to live in fear and are counting on the statistical improbability that they will be victims. I view that decision the same way I view not wearing a seatbelt or buying a car without airbags. Although it is unlikely that I’ll end up in a severe car accident, why would I take the chance? Why would I purposefully put my family at risk — however small — when I could spend a small amount of time and money to buy the tools and learn the skills I need to defend them. Although unlikely in my lifetime, I certainly hope that someday firearms won’t be necessary and that everyone can feel safe and keep their doors unlocked at night. But that is not the reality in my neighborhood, and I doubt it is in yours.
The more informed I became about gun control (and the associated politics) — and this really only happened in the last few months — the more I realized how absurd and counter-productive a lot of it can be. After reading about the experiences of cities like Washington DC and Chicago (whose violent crime spiked after enacting new handgun bans), states like Vermont and others (whose violent crime rate actually dropped after passing laws legalizing concealed carry) and countries like Australia and the United Kingdom (click here for a video on the Australian experience) I have to believe that anyone who takes an honest, unbiased look at the sacred cow of Gun Control will have no choice but to agree with me on many points. That is not to say ANY form of gun control is bad or won’t work. I think most gun owners are open to new ideas for combating gun violence, including mass shootings, but its hard not to get discouraged when the only suggestions being put forward are not based on sound reasoning or statistical evidence.
Recently, it seems that gun control has become a goal in and of itself, regardless of any measurable effects on gun crime, and just another football for politicians. This perception has been crystallized by the knee-jerk reaction to the Sandy Hook school shooting, with all manner of interest groups and politicians prescribing gun control “solutions” that don’t address the underlying root cause of gun violence and won’t do anything to stop it.
This is what scares gun owners:
Gawker publishes NYC gun permit holders
Lawmaker calls for confiscations of semi-automatic guns
Columnist calls for repeal of second amendment and death of gun owners
Map of gun permit holders
Let’s talk about the most popular rallying cry, the so-called Assault Weapons Ban
Piers Morgan of CNN has been screaming about “assault weapon killing machines” for a few weeks now:
MORGAN: What I haven’t heard is one coherent reason why any civilian in America needs an an AR-15, military style, assault weapon. Tell me why you need one.
What the uninformed like Mr. Morgan don’t understand is that the focus on so-called “assault rifles” is a complete red herring. Although used in recent high-profile shootings, the AR15 (and similar “scary looking” rifles) are no more or less dangerous than common wood-stocked hunting rifles which also can accept detachable magazines.
image source: californiayankee.net
The proposed legislation bans these rifles based SOLELY on aesthetic features that have zero effect on their lethality. How many instances of gun violence are perpetrated with a rifle-mounted WWII-style knife bayonet? Similarly, How does a telescoping stock or pistol grip make the gun more dangerous? How does a flash suppressor – which is designed to keep the bright flash from temporarily blinding the shooter — contribute to gun violence?
source: USA TODAY
Despite their appearance, these are not fully-automatic military weapons and are otherwise functionally identical to many classical-looking semi-automatic hunting guns. They are not owned exclusively by psychopaths looking to commit mass murder, they are owned by millions of law-abiding Americans and available at your local Wal-Mart. They are akin to the Honda Accord of rifles, a modular design whose parts can be swapped out and customized, hence their popularity with gun owners.
Yet despite their popularity, the AR15 (and all other so-called “assault rifles”) only account for a tiny fraction (2-3%) of incidents of gun violence.
If handguns can be just as deadly as an AR15 in a mass shooting and are used in 95% of gun crime, why aren’t gun control advocates trying to ban handguns instead?
Seung-Hui Cho, the man who committed the single most deadly mass shooting in US history at Virginia Tech University did not use an AR15 or other “assault rifle”, he murdered 32 people with a 9MM pistol and a back-pack full of 10-round magazines.
As an aside, while I personally don’t think it would have much effect on mass shootings (it only takes a second to reload a magazine — see Virginia Tech Massacre), I can at least understand why people would support the idea of simply banning large capacity magazines. But instead, politicians create sweeping new restrictions on particular guns they don’t like and don’t want us to own. Similarly, they insist no one needs these “high-powered rifles”, despite the fact that the 5.56mm round it fires is much weaker in power than most calibers used in larger hunting rifles.
Worse than that, despite all of the media focus, the politicians know full well that a new Assault Weapons Ban will have essentially zero effect on gun violence and mass shootings. This isn’t speculation, this is based on extensive research conducted on the last Assault Weapons Ban that expired in 2003. This is well-known to the author of the bill, Senator Feinstein:
Despite being studied by various academics, there was no conclusive evidence found to support the idea that the Assault Weapons Ban did anything to prevent violent crime:
* A 2004 review by a National Research Council panel noted that academic studies of the assault weapon ban “did not reveal any clear impacts on gun violence” and noted “due to the fact that the relative rarity with which the banned guns were used in crime before the ban … the maximum potential effect of the ban on gun violence outcomes would be very small….”
* In 2004, a research report submitted to the United States DOJ and the National Institute of Justice found that should the ban be renewed, its effects on gun violence would likely be small, and perhaps too small for reliable measurement, because rifles in general, including rifles referred to as “assault rifles” or “assault weapons”, are rarely used in gun crimes and that is just the beginning. If you would like to read more, see:
So why is the focus on a new, just as ineffective “Assault Weapons Ban” instead of trying to prevent deranged individuals from getting access to ANY firearms? And more importantly to preventing violence — actually protecting the vulnerable like school children when evil individuals inevitably get access to some type of weapon, whether a gun, knife, crossbow, bomb, etc. Without a reasonable explanation, I have to assume that the legislation is purely political in nature, and driven by an ideological gun-control lobby who is far more interested in their anti-gun agenda then in effective solutions to reduce violence.
Unfortunately, this is par for the course. There are a whole host of other gun control laws that while perhaps well-intended, are just as ineffective as the “assault weapons ban”.
Although this post is already too long, it wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the ever-popular “Gun Free Zone”
I honestly don’t understand the conceptual foundation of a “gun free zone”. Ignoring for a moment that every mass shooting in the last fifty years has occurred in one (including the “Batman shooter” in Colorado who actually drove out of his way to a specific theater which banned concealed weapons from their premises), the idea that the mere presence of concealed weapon holders is more dangerous than allowing criminals or homicidal lunatics to be the only ones with a firearm in a particular area is just flat-out lunacy. For this policy to work, you’d have to live in a world where police are all-knowing, and could immediately spot those individuals not following the law. It requires a canyon-sized logical leap that the individuals that commit gun violence are the same individuals who will abide by the “no guns” rule, which is just preposterous.
And on the contrary, there are many cases where concealed weapons holders have interrupted gun violence just by their mere presence, many times not even firing a shot. And then there is the case of Suzanna Hupp, a concealed weapons holder who normally carried a revolver in her purse, but was forced to hide under a table while a madman murdered dozens in a small restaurant in Texas (including her parents) because of gun restrictions at the time.
View the video to hear her compelling testimony to congress advocating for concealed carry laws
I understand the human desire to do SOMETHING about these vexing mass shootings (and general gun violence) so that those poor children in Sandy Hook did not die in vein. But the best way to serve their memory is to have a rational discussion about effective strategies and means to preventing future violence. It is NOT by using this tragic event as a political springboard to advocate policies that have been proven not to work. Everyone needs to come to the table without any preconceived notions of firearms and gun control, and certainly without the irrational ideology and paranoia that is rampant on both sides. The extreme elements of both sides need to marginalized. only Only then can sane adults come together and determine what will actually be effective.
This man does not represent the vast majority of gun owners:
Gun control advocates need not see gun owners as the enemy, most of them that I know are intelligent, reasonable, sane individuals who enjoy hunting or target shooting, as well as just want to be able to defend their family and themselves. They are not paranoid anti-government extremists living on a compound. And that cuts both ways. Everyone that wants to see revised gun control is not an evil representative of the UN one world government, wanting to take all your firearms to establish a tyrannical dictatorship. There are millions of reasonable people who will listen to facts and evidence, and just want something to be done to keep crazy people from obtaining firearms. Unfortunately, the extreme elements on both sides get all the media coverage, and certainly there are far more pro-gun control voices than gun-rights advocates in the mainstream media.
This post is not meant to discuss reasonable solutions, that is for another day. but I wanted to quickly say that a good place to start looking is the national background check system. It is currently missing a lot of data, mainly as a consequence of the federal government not providing the funding it promises. There is a lot of state data on mentally ill and felons that is not making it into the system. Why not start by fixing and extending it?