(The Myth of) Gun Control as a Panacea
Submitted by Amar Ali
In light of the horrific tragedy in Connecticut, liberals (not to be confused with leftists[i] ) have decided to take this opportunity to push a political agenda. Inevitably, this leads to dubious arguments rushed to by emotionally moved people trying to justify drastic and sometimes extreme policy positions.
What better time and opportunity to deconstruct this myth and inject a broader perspective?
The most common and tired false rationalization is that guns kills, therefore, gun control, or banning guns would lead to less deaths. Coincidentally, on the same day as the Sandy Hook tragedy, 22 children in China were attacked by a man wielding a knife[ii]. Does this mean we must ban knives or have “Knife Control”? Most would respond no. In fact, it has been shown that more people have been killed with Hammers and Clubs[iii].
Of course the common retort is that guns are different, that they can be controlled and would lead to a decrease in crime. Problem with that theory is that criminals rarely follow the law. Does a person willing to commit an illegal homicide care whether their gun is legal? And in reality, it shows as crime has increased after bans in UK[iv], [v] and Chicago[vi],[vii] and the after strict bans. Reports show that homicides in Chicago outpace that of Afghanistan[viii] and it is the only major US city to see increases in homicides.[ix]
Here gun opponents will eagerly jump up to point to Europe to demonstrate cases of “successful” gun control. Unfortunately, these are merely resorts to straw men and red herrings as the consequences sought, such as the reduction of violence, are never achieved. In fact, violent crimes are greater in jurisdictions with gun control, [x] than those without, especially the oft-cited Britain and Australia[xi], [xii], [xiii], [xiv] . Britain is the perfect example, being the most dangerous country in the EU[xv] and one of the most in the world. No wonder self-appointed gun control crusader Piers Morgan was so desperate to leave his home country!
Let’s also not forget the cherry-picking of these countries. Israel, a country surrounded by its enemies, has not suffered such horrendous acts since 1974[xvi] because it does not make its school “gun free zones.” Thought interestingly enough, suicide bombing is illegal, yet barely a year passes without Israel facing one.
This is no mere coincidence or correlation. As interviews show, even criminals admit to the deterrent power of guns.[xvii] If anything, guns save lives, [xviii],[xix],[xx] as most famously in a Youtube video that went viral not too long ago of an elderly mad chasing two young thieves out of an internet café with nothing but his handgun[xxi]. But that is not the only scenario, in fact, there are many others that go unreported or under-reported every day[xxii], [xxiii],[xxiv]. And its not limited to random cases. A study from the Harvard Law School debunks any claims to correlation between higher gun ownership rates and higher crime[xxv] .
The common response to that is something along the lines of “possibly in small scenarios, but there’s no defense of automatics, they cause the mass shootings.” Oregon[xxvi] and San Antonio[xxvii] are just two of the most recent cases where mass shooters were taken down by armed civilians, among others[xxviii]. Let’s not forget that David Gregory, host of NBC’s Sunday weekly “Meet the Press” broke DC Law on TV by displaying a 30-round magazine, which is illegal to own in Washington, D.C.[xxix] If a TV host can get away with it, what hope do we have against determined criminals?
Well this maybe, the opponents argue, but we can’t deny that the Federal Assault Weapons Ban had a positive overall effect on guns and mass shootings. Just look at the increase in shoots after the expiration of the ban. Actually, the data begs to tell us otherwise[xxx]. Also, Switzerland, a land abound with guns, especially the “military style” ones our opponents decry, has the lowest crime rates in the world[xxxi].
Now the proponents of gun control would beg us to heed the advice of police officers, those on the line of duty whose job it is to protect us from crime, to enact gun control. Nothing could be further from the truth since a, there is no consensus in the law enforcement community on the issue, and b, in fact some advocate for repeal of gun control[xxxii].
If only it were limited to that, we wouldn’t have such a problem. Alas, the so called “defenders of the second amendment” have their own theories. They believe that a “culture” of violence is at the root of this dilemma we face of mass shootings[xxxiii]. This is rebuffed by anecdotal reference, most prominently by the acclaimed actor Samuel L. Jackson who said,
“I don’t think it’s about more gun control. I grew up in the South with guns everywhere and we never shot anyone. This [shooting] is about people who aren’t taught the value of life.”[xxxiv]
Well, let’s not stop at just anecdotal evidence. A Study by the Center for Eurpean Economic Research has shown that video games have led to a reduction[xxxv], not increase, in gun violence.
Of course, if guns are truly the evil concoction of Satan himself, why is it that prominent liberals such as Vice President Joe Biden[xxxvi] and Senator Dianne Feinstein[xxxvii] have previously advocated for and personally carried firearms?
Undeterred, our opponents would ask, why can’t we negotiate and compromise on assault weapons? No one needs those; we can trust the government, no need to be paranoid.
Throughout history, especially in the 20th Century, one of the greatest non-natural causes of death has been some action of the government, whether its war [xxxviii], mass murder[xxxix],[xl] or other incidents provoked by the state[xli],[xlii], [xliii].
Well, this is a tragic part of our history, but what does it have to with school shootings? Along the lines of the above mentioned experiment was one called Project MK Ultra[xlvii], which was conducted in part to learn more about mind control, assassins, and interrogation, among other things. Thankfully, it was abandoned in 1977.
So what’s the big deal? A few unfortunate people were affected but the tragedy was contained. We can’t seek utopia. It not as if there was a mass orchestrated effort to limit entire groups of people from being able to defend themselves.
From the KKK[xlviii] to the Black Panthers[xlix], it was well understood that in the latter parts of the 19th earlier part of the 20th Century, efforts to restrict firearms ownership were subversive methods of disarming certain “questionable” groups, specifically minorities[l].They have played no small part in aiding the struggle of African-Americans during the civil rights era[li].It is no coincidence that gun control laws were “the Klans favorite laws”[lii] as they limited the ability of African-Americans to stand up for their rights and let the Klansmen run wild. Especially in US History, gun control has gone hand in hand with the subversion and potential control of “undesirables”[liii]
Gun control proponents would counter that it’s the past, today things are much different. We are past the civil right era, the Klan is no longer a threat, and with the re-election of President Barack Obama, we are now a post racial society. Government is far more benevolent and cautious and won’t cave into the demands of those who seek injustice or the inept.
If Only this were true.
From those across the border to those halfway around the world, the US government is still, albeit unwittingly, causing the deaths of innocents. Once such example is Operation Gunrunner. This is a current project of the ATF[liv] in which the government aimed to limit the availability of arms to drug traffickers by supply them with arms and tracking them so as to entrap them at the most opportune time. Unfortunately, not only did the arms make it into the hands of the drug cartels, they have been used to kill innocents in the border region[lv], [lvi], [lvii], [lviii] .Let’s not forget that in Mexico, guns of all sorts are illegal[lix], [lx]. Fear not, citizen, the government is just as capable of provoking the deaths of innocents around the world. In its crusade against terrorism, the use of unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones, to hunt and kill suspected terrorists, the US Military, at the behest of President Obama, has engaged in a policy called “double tap[lxi], [lxii] , [lxiii]”. What it means is that after initially striking a target, the drone circles back around and fires again with little time between the two strikes. This results in the deaths of first responders trying to save innocent lives. If this weren’t bad enough, the imprecision and vast expanse of the chosen targets is so large that innocents are guaranteed to be victims. Under the Obama administration alone, the US drone program has caused the deaths of 178 children in Pakistan and Yemen[lxiv], [lxv], [lxvi]. What means do these people have of defending themselves? Gun control didn’t work for them.
Allowing these hypotheticals to run wild, let us assume we could not only ban all guns, but confiscate them, shut down any gun making factory, and stringently regulate metals; this would solve all our problems, correct? Not really. As some technology enthusiasts may have already encountered, we live in an era where any non-electronic item can be reproduced at an individual scale. Welcome to the world of 3D Printing[lxvii], where everything from wrenches to bicycles can be “printed” by anyone, at any time. This includes guns[lxviii] as demonstrated by amateur hobbyists on a youtube video[lxix] and dozens of media pieces. So what? Representative Steve Israel has introduced a bill to ban this advance in technology[lxx]. Music piracy is also outlawed. How is that working out for the RIAA [lxxi], [lxxii], [lxxiii]?
Here people begin to ask, if guns are so great, why did they cause such an evil as Sandy Hook? Well, for one thing, the fact that the government requires schools to be “Gun Free” as mandated by the Gun-Free School Zones Act of 1990[lxxiv] maybe part of the problem. As demonstrated above, when no deterrent is present and people are like – if you’ll pardon the cliché – sitting ducks, criminals will gravitate towards such easy targets[lxxv].
But let us suppose that the gun lobby could be completely neutered and we could place a ban on all guns and impose rules to restrict the use of guns even to those who were authorized, would this stop the atrocities? This above-mentioned place is not a hypothetical, but exists in the real world. It’s called a military base. Unfortunately, even military bases are not immune to crime, not even mass shootings. Fort Hood is an example of such a tragedy occurring in a completely controlled environment.[lxxvi]
Now the critics will object by saying that clearly criminals looking to profit (as in the case of petty thieves, drug runners, or terrorists) would have nothing to gain from committing the atrocity that took place in Sandy Hook. While they are technically correct, this still does not mean the banning of guns, even if successful (which will be addressed below) will stop such atrocities. For it doesn’t seek the root cause of most of these tragedies. And that is mental health.
It is now well known that the shooter in Sandy Hook, Adam Lanza, was suffering from a mental illness[lxxvii], [lxxviii]. He is not alone. Many mass shooters and killers are known not only to be suffering from mental illnesses, but even taking medication for them, usually anti-depressants[lxxix]. Clearly, even the medication is not working[lxxx]. But how many times has the pharmaceutical industry been brought up? But then again, why would they? Would the media, who receive the largest chunk of “pharmaceutical promotion” spending (30 billion in 2005 alone[lxxxi]) bite the hand that feeds? In fact, “big pharma” has spent more on advertising than on research and development[lxxxii] in 2008.
So the real debate need to be about the roots of the desire to commit crime, links to mental health and how it leads to such atrocities, and what is the best way for ordinary citizens to protect themselves against all enemies, foreign or domestic. I believe the latter has already been resolved by the aforementioned. Maybe it time we start talking about the real issue at hand, the desire to commit these acts in the first place.
For as long as there is a will, there is a way.
The views expressed in this Commentary do not necessarily reflect the views of the Purdue Review or the staff. This Commentary is representative of the views of the original author only.