By W. TIMOTHY SUTTON. Sutton hosts the Non-Aggression Principle Thursday nights at 8 pm on Free State Radio. These are his thoughts and his alone.
On Thursday a mad man entered a college classroom. A place of learning. He proceeded to kill nine people and injure many more. Predictably, the president, Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders and the media called for people to “do something” and for increased gun control. Predictably, the right-wing media and politicians talked past them and said it was a mental health issue, an issue of moral failing, or perhaps an anti-Christian attack. The left wants “assault weapon¹” bans and more background checks and unicorns & fairies. The right wants better mental health screenings, good guys with guns, and unicorns & fairies. Nobody is willing to acknowledge what the problems are, what the solutions for those problems might be, or why we are even having this debate.
America doesn’t have a gun violence problem. America has three gun violence problems. The largest is with gun suicides. Over 20,000 people per year take their own lives with a gun. I am unsure as to how people on the left who have been introducing physician assisted suicide laws for decades now can reason that we need to end these deaths, but I certainly believe we need to end them and that they are the largest problem with guns in this country. The next gun violence problem in this country is the homicides inflicting our inner cities. Chicago, Baltimore, Washington, Milwaukee, and St. Louis are seeing massive increases in the number of homicides. Baltimore is seeing higher monthly totals that any any time since the 1970’s when there was 50% more people in the city. These are incredible totals. The third gun violence problem is the relatively rare incidents like the one in Oregon last week. They seem to be increasing in frequency, (but may not be) but they are certainly not a new phenomena. The largest school massacre in the history of the United States occurred in Bath, Michigan in 1927.
There being three distinct gun violence problems in America necessitates different solutions for each of the problems. Neither side is saying this. There is no catchall solution for all three problems. Do not let them confuse you with numbers. Do not let them conflate suicides and homicides. Many publications will say there are 33,000 gun deaths per year. This true only if you include suicides. There are “only” 11,000 gun homicides in this country per year. That figure is still much too high, but it is a third of the one reported. Also when talking about suicides, do not be alarmed by the amount of gun suicides that the nation has. If our gun laws had a massive effect on the number of suicides, the sheer number of guns in this country should mean that our overall suicide numbers should be much higher than elsewhere. They are not. America is about 40th in the world in overall suicide rate. Below Japan, South Korea, and France. Countries with much more stringent gun control. The president also says that the third category of gun violence only happens here with so much frequency. Also not true. America is only 7th in the developed world per capita in such shootings. Again, still much too high but not first.
Assuming that, like me, you believe the suicide numbers are a problem, is gun control the solution for that? Obviously, not. Now, would a waiting period have some effect? Perhaps and maybe that is a good idea, but no other gun regulation could in any way lower that number. Short of banning guns outright, better background checks, “assault weapons” bans, magazine bans and the like will have no effect. Even banning guns outright may not have a large effect as the situations in Japan and South Korea show. What will work? Better mental health programs. Better financial situations. Better familial relations. A community that cares. Better education. Better addiction counseling. As an example of things that can help, Baltimore only has one substance abuse or mental health hotline number. This absolutely must change.
So would banning guns or making it harder to get them stop the second gun violence problem. The one plaguing our inner cities. No. Most of the guns used in those crimes were purchased illegally. Most of those crimes were performed by people already ineligible to own guns. They didn’t take a car to a gun show and load up a trunk full of guns. They went to the guy selling potato chips at the local market. Most of the guns used in crimes in Maryland, originate in Maryland. The solutions to this problem are not to get rid of the guns. Again “assault weapons” bans and magazine limits will do nothing to stop someone from shooting into a crowd of people and breaking a nine year-olds leg. Maybe a gun ban would be effective, but after you repeal the 2nd Amendment, good luck finding all 100 million guns, and like I said the shooter likely wasn’t allowed to possess the gun anyway. The solutions to this violence are multiple because it is a complex problem. One, end the war on drugs. Legalize all drugs and take the profit out of the gangs. This will necessitate other programs in dealing with the addicts and the public health consequences, particularly as heroin overdoses are on the rise, bu the violence will be reduced. Two, create jobs and education programs that give value to the neighborhoods and communities that have been devastated by a century of neglect. Once the drug game is no longer an option for the young men in these communities they will need programs to help them. These do not have to be governmental programs. Programs such as the Doe Foundation have been helping find jobs and placements for the less fortunate and have been very successful in doing so. We need communities that will instill values that say that it is wrong to steal. When an 83 year old man can’t take the money from his restaurant to the car, there are problems. We need mentors and guidance. This obviously, is not government’s job. But the people also need hope and to understand that working can pay off. People aren’t getting rich off of these crimes. They are crimes of survival. Let’s help them help themselves. Let us help them pursue happiness in the way the country intended for people to do so. Let us also not forget, that these crimes are decreasing. This year may have seen an increase but for the past twenty years, the crime rate in this country is decreasing. Meanwhile, the gun laws have gotten looser. Maybe there is no correlation?
The third type of gun violence is the newsmaking mass homicide events like in Oregon, Charleston, Aurora, New Town, Tucson, Va. Tech, Columbine etc. First, again, this is not a new phenomena. Bath, Michigan, Charles Whitman in Austin, the rash of McDonald’s killings in the 1980’s. The phrase “going postal.” None of this is new or unique. Somehow these events are distinguished from the Charlie Hebdo attacks in France or the mad man in Australia last December in the chocolate shop with an AK. Heck, there would have been another mass shooting in France last month but for a couple of US Marines on holiday. But these attacks don’t count. Let us, assume that these shootings in America must be responded to², what is the appropriate response. “Assault weapons” bans? This is just silly and of course a misrepresentation by the gun control lobby. “Military-style” weapons are not on America’s streets. There is a difference between automatic weapons and semi-automatic weapons. There are no guns that are particularly lethal. Cheap handguns are the weapon of choice for most inner city killings and in mass shooter events there have been a wide range of weapons used. There have been two killings with automatic weapons in 80 years. Whatever features that the politicians want to ban are simply superficial and will not in anyway effect the killing ability of the weapon. For example in Maryland, Governor O’Malley passed some of the strongest gun control laws in the country. However, his gun bans completely allowed the use of AR-15’s with heavy barrels but ban them without. This has no impact at all on their lethality. Additionally, semi automatic rifles that look like normal hunting rifles are not banned at all even though based on the caliber of those weapons they are probably more lethal than the banned weapons. Ok so “assault weapons” bans are out, how about magazine bans? Well, unfortunately for those Congresspeople like Diana Degette, magazine bans are also ineffective. One, magazines do not dissolve. Two, they don’t deal with the multiple gun issue. Three, it really isn’t that hard to change a mag quickly. Anybody with even a modicum of training can do it in seconds. Ok so that’s out how about a right wing solution, good guys with guns. This is also a fantasy. Sure sometimes, people can be stopped by good guys with guns.³ But other times a “good guy with a gun” will leave it in the john. And let’s remember the marines that stopped the attack on the train in France didn’t have a gun. But let’s be honest, you have to be highly trained to be effective in this situation. Most people won’t be and this will prove to be a public safety hazard at worst or neutral at best. So what is the solution? Well, better background checks are needed. One, we need to enforce the laws already on the books, making sure people like Jared Loughner and Dylan Roof do not slip through the human error inherent in the system. Two, again, and this is a theme, we need better mental health programs. Republicans cannot be hypocritical on this. THIS is something that must be funded, but of course we must make sure that the money is being spent wisely. Three, vigilance. Everyone must be aware of the warning signs that things like this can happen. They exist. Four, training for the general public for situations like this. How did the monster in Oregon kill 9 people? Was he spray shooting? What could have been done to stop him? If the reports about holding hostages are accurate it seems to me that something could have been done to stop him from killing all of those people, but people don’t really know how and haven’t been trained for such situations.
Let’s be honest folks. This is a complex issue that shouldn’t be decided by emotion or the words of long dead scoundrels. While the whole reason the American Revolution started was the British advancing on the arms depots in Lexington and Concord, if repealing the 2nd Amendment would stop the violence in this country it would be worth it. The 2nd Amendment protections from tyrannical government have been muted by the advent of chemical weapons, tanks, and A-10’s. But no, the 2nd Amendment shouldn’t be repealed because, it’s pointless to repeal it and the benefits of self defense, hunting, and sport shooting outweigh the nonexistent benefits of repeal. None of the policies advanced by the left would solve any of the three gun violence problems this country faces. We need slow improvement in our morals. We need better mental health care. We need to enforce the laws we have. We need better training and education. It gets better. You know how I know, because it has been for the last 30 years.
- All weapons are assault weapons. That’s what makes them weapons.
- Which may not be true of course. Just because something terrible happens, that doesn’t mean that there is an appropriate or necessary policy response. Sometimes terrible things are the price we pay to live in a free society. We could end all automobile accidents by banning all cars but that is silly. Of course if the standard is “if it could save one life” then it would be necessary and proper to ban all cars, knives, bathtubs, swimming pools, and anything else that has killed anyone. We would all live in hermetically sealed containers and not be allowed. There would be no risk at all in life. This is obviously ludicrous.
- For a list of times good guys with guns have stopped these attacks see here.