The Division of Vital Statistics reports that there were 33,736 firearm deaths in 2014, and according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, 67% of U.S. homicides were committed with firearms.
So clearly gun-related murders are something we should be discussing, however both sides have been just going off half-cocked on the issue. The left wants to attempt mitigating gun violence by putting restrictions on firearms in the form of more extensive background checks, forced registrations, and the banning of “assault-style weapons” (whatever that means). Meanwhile the right in congress has just been rehashing the same 2nd amendment argument without offering any counter-solution to crime.
Many countries and American cities have tried the left’s plan. The graph to the right (taken from the UK’s Home Office) shows the UK’s murder rate leading up to, and after their 1997 handgun ban. Notice how the numbers spiked heavily shortly after the ban was implemented. At its peak of 18 homicides per million in 2003, the UK decided to hire around 20,000 more police officers, which is around the time the homicide rate fell.
Australia is often used as a successful example of gun laws. And to their credit, mass shootings did greatly decline following their strict National Firearm Agreement in 1996. However, if we direct our attention to the second chart (taken from the Australian Institute of Criminology) we find that the homicide rate has continued to fluctuate like normal, to include reaching its peak height after the ban.
We’ve seen similar results here in the U.S. The graphs below (both taken from www.justfacts.com who constructed the graphs using FBI annual reporting statistics) show Chicago and DC’s crime rate before and after their respective handgun bans and the courts repealing of those bans.
Whether gun ownership reduces crime may be unclear. But what is clear is that gun control has no realistic correlation to violent crime. The numbers fluctuate so dramatically that it’s hard to make heads or tails of anything. Regardless, neither mainstream side seems to be talking about the real problems.
In fact, I’ve seen various reports from the left claiming that Chicago is an unfair example because they have so much more poverty and gang violence than anywhere else, which contributes to unparalleled violence – but if that’s the case, then why don’t these sons of guns do something about poverty!? You can’t solve a problem by treating the symptom! But that’s all the left is trying to do. Just treat the symptom to make it look like they’re doing something useful with our money when the statistics show they’re not.
So let’s look at some real solutions to stop gun incidents and violence in America.
- Destigmatize Guns – Respect, Rather Than Fear Them
What’s worse than a bad guy with a gun? – A good guy who’s terrified of guns, or even a bad guy who’s overly nervous with their gun. The more normalized we make our culture to guns, the less scary guns will become.
Obviously I’m not saying guns can’t be incredibly dangerous. But there’s a huge difference between fear and respect. Any good gun owner can tell you that you have to have a lot of respect for your firearms – and seeing how an estimated 55 million Americans own firearms (according to a 2015 Harvard study) versus a mere 8,454 homicide deaths in 2013 (according to FBI crime statistics), clearly that’s a vast majority of gun owners.
Respect is different from fear in this respect: when you fear something, you run away from it or panic when you’re around it. On the other hand, when you respect something, you handle it gently and you actively care for it and seek out the safe use of it.
Stoves can be incredibly dangerous. What kid hasn’t burnt themselves on a burner? Or adult, for that matter (I know I’m guilty). But we don’t fear stoves. We teach our children to have respect for stoves, knives, and other kitchen appliances. That respect ensures that they’ll be conscientious of the potential dangers and have a proper sense of situational awareness when they’re around such items. Without proper respect for these items, kids get burnt or cut. But with too much fear of these items, kids get all shaky and nervous and they get burnt or cut anyway. After all, it’s pretty hard to have situational awareness when you’re overly nervous.
It’s the same with large dogs. Or vending machines (you laugh, but more people die from vending machines than from shark attacks). Or anything potentially dangerous.
Not to mention, criminals seek out that which will strike fear into their victims. They count on their average victim being clueless about firearms and on them being too terrified in the face of adversity to do anything about them. A good knowledge of firearms and a keen sense of situational awareness may just save your life. For that matter, being armed yourself in case you find yourself in an unfortunate situation may just save your life. You’re better off firing bullets at an armed criminal than biting the bullet on the floor while you wait for someone more prepared than you to save the day.
At any rate, if more people owned and respected firearms rather than feared them, it might not be as fun or convenient for criminals to use them.
- Treat the Problem, not the Symptom
We mentioned this issue earlier. Banning guns only treats the symptom, albeit poorly. But let’s dig deeper on this issue for a change and take a look at the underlying reasons for violent crime (armed or otherwise). I think it’s clear that the main issues beneath violent crime are poverty and mental health.
It’s no surprise that a majority of violent crimes are committed in impoverished areas. It’s also no surprise that desperate times call for desperate measures for a lot of poor communities. When you’re worried about feeding your kids, keeping decent clothes on their backs, a roof over their heads, food in their bellies, et cetera, you sometimes have to start getting crafty to meet those ends.
Worst of all, folks living deep in poverty often deal with those living in poverty around them stealing from them, or worse. This leads them to have to harden up if they want to survive. Sometimes that hardness surfaces itself to the rest of society. After all, when you’re deep enough in debts, it can be easy to feel like you have nothing to lose.
So what can we do about this? Both sides have interesting theories. You know, if the left took all the money it’s been spending on anti-gun lobbying and anti-gun legislations and buyback programs, they could probably afford to get more people out of poverty, which – while not a long term solution to poverty – would certainly do more to decrease violent crime than preaching gun control has.
Here’s another solution: reduce taxes so that poor people can keep what they earn. So that businesses can afford to hire more workers. So that the option to start a legitimate business can be more affordable to more people, who then can create jobs to even more people. A young single mom might have her cosmetology certification or something, but just wait until she finds out about all the red tape she’d have to jump through, what with permits and registrations and taxes and whatnot.
You can’t even operate a lemonade stand on your own property without paying a bunch of money to the state and filling out a whole bunch of paperwork! It’s so much easier to just sell dope under the table, which itself brings up the fact that a lot of the violent crime we see is a result of the War on Drugs, but that’s another argument for another day.
- Mental Health
I can’t possibly believe that anyone dense enough to perform a mass shooting at a school or a church or a movie theater can possibly be in their right state of mind. Which brings us to mental health. Maybe the left could use all their lobby money on hiring more school counselors. On looking for ways to make therapy more affordable. Or even just on destigmatizing mental health so that people will go get help when they need it. Before they start shooting people for no good reason.
I battle with depression and anxiety. I get it. Before I decided to go see someone about it, I was filled with anger and misplaced emotions all the time. I had really bad road rage. I yelled at my kids more often than I’d like to admit. I was in general a very unhappy and stressed out person. Honestly, if I hadn’t gone to get professional help when I did, you might be seeing my name on the news following some tragedy instead of on this friendly blog.
But I can’t preach enough about how hard it is to get help. Therapy isn’t exactly advertised heavily. And there’s so much stigma attached to it that many of us avoid seeking it out at all costs. “Therapy is for crazy people. I’m not crazy!” Yeah, I remember saying that to myself. I hear that assumption from so many different people too. But we can’t all bottle up all our emotions all the time.
So what if you’re depressed? Or even worse? Hell, there’s psychopaths and others with all kinds of severe psychiatric issues who live normal lives because of therapy. But it has to be caught early. It has to be taken care of before it takes care of you.
This is a serious issue we need to address, especially with our children. Why don’t these kids who shoot up their schools get the help they need prior to shooting their peers? It’s not necessarily a question of hiring more counselors even, although that might be reasonable to discuss. It’s about simply destigmatizing mental health. It’s about opening a national dialogue about mental health. Maybe if we all knew how to recognize the signs and we all looked out for each other and weren’t afraid to open up when we’re falling, maybe then we could save a life or two. Is our pride more important than that?
- Teach Gun Safety
Guns exist in our society. It’s a fact that the left is going to just have to deal with. It’s in our second amendment. It’s a natural right. We don’t need to be taking people’s guns away. We need to be teaching kids from an early age all about gun safety.
Practice trigger discipline, don’t point your weapon at anyone or anything you don’t intend to shoot. Learn how to load and unload your weapon safely. There’s so many cardinal rules when it comes to firearms, yet so many children (and even some gun owners) aren’t taught basic gun safety.
This could easily be taught in school, although parents should actively be teaching their kids gun safety in the home. If you have kids, you know that they will get into things. Kids are crafty. Not to mention that no matter how unloaded and locked up and hidden away your guns may be kept, that doesn’t mean your kids’ friends’ parents are equally as diligent.
Bottom line, we want our kids to know how to respect firearms and how to behave around and handle them safely so that if ever they find themselves around a gun, they know what to do. A kid who learns gun safety from movies and video games is going to get themselves and those around them hurt accidentally. We may as well avoid that outcome by teaching all kids all about firearm safety, which goes along with destigmatizing guns and gun culture in general.
We have the tools to reduce gun incidents – and gun violence in particular – in this country. But we can’t solve the problem if we keep misplacing our efforts. It’s been shown time and time again that banning guns solves nothing. We should instead focus on destigmatizing guns. We should be solving the problem and not just treating symptoms. We should be working more to solve poverty and destigmatize mental health. We should be teaching gun safety to our nation’s children.
As the NRA’s motto goes: “guns don’t kill people, people kill people.” So let’s help people any way we can. I can’t believe helping people is something we have to debate on with the left, who claims to be so much about helping others. It might look great on paper, but the stats don’t lie. The issues are still there, and always will be there until we do something about them.
National Vital Statistics Reports. “Deaths: Final Data for 2014.” http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nvsr/nvsr65/nvsr65_04.pdf
UNODC “Homicides by firearms.” 2010
UK Home Office. “Supplementary Volume 2 to Crime in England and Wales
Australian Institute of Criminology. “Homicide Statistics.” http://www.aic.gov.au/statistics/homicide.html
Just Facts. “Gun Control.” http://www.justfacts.com/guncontrol.asp