Maybe I am taking those who are calling for “more guns” too seriously; maybe its just a Straw Man tactic to caution the rest of us from going too far the other way. Yet I keep hearing from many people that “arming more citizens is the answer to stop these violent crimes.”
A lot of people believe that assassins, such as the ones we’ve seen in Connecticut, Arizona, Colorado, Wisconsin, Virginia (the list goes on and on), would be stopped short of their murder sprees if citizens were carrying firearms.
They give me the impression that this is so logical to them that they don’t need to listen to the debate asking for more strict rules governing the proliferation of guns.
Research about gun ownership, however, tells a different story:
Americans own 300 million firearms. 35% of our private residences own at least one gun. According to a survey conducted by the Archive of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine, 40% of the children in these homes know where the guns are stored and 20% have handled the guns without adult supervision or even knowledge of the handling.
Emory University conducted a study that determined that the likelihood of a murder occurring in homes that have guns nearly triples. 77% of those killed in their homes were murdered by someone they knew with no signs of forced entry, whereas, strangers account for less than 4% of the murders.
- An estimated 41% of gun-related homicides and 94% of gun-related suicides would not occur under the same circumstances had no guns been present.
- Higher household gun ownership correlates with higher rates of homicides, suicides, and unintentional shootings.
Let me tell you what would really happen in a country of citizen-cowboys.
Imagine a Fall afternoon and we are among several parents waiting for our children outside of the elementary school. The school is locked, as it has been for several years, so that people can’t go in, unaccounted for. It’s been a logical safety measure since Columbine, but as often happens, someone sneaks in when the door opens for one reason or another.
I follow the “strange person” down the hallway and I observe that he is approaching a child at his locker. Suddenly, he reaches into his coat and starts to pull something out—-it fits into the palm of his hand—it’s black and metallic!
I don’t waste a second—that child’s life is in danger—I pull my revolver from my own coat and fire at the assailant before he can get off a round!
A teacher, armed, of course, sees me shoot the strange man, but it turns out that the teacher knows him but doesn’t know ME! She returns fire! Other parents and teachers, many are armed, join the fight, but no one knows what is happening- all they know is that there are children in the line of fire!
Bullets fly before SWAT contains the situation. Who knows how many people are now dead or wounded?
As it turns out the “strange man” was a substitute teacher who was reaching into his coat to return a cellphone, that had been confiscated, to the boy.
There are those who will scoff at any hypothetical and dismiss it as so much hyperbole, but the truth is, I could have written hundreds of different scenarios that all could have played out the same, or worse. Variations would become reality from the exponential possibilities that result from untrained, civilian judgments.
Civilians are not trained as police, detectives, or as soldiers, to contain violence or to preserve or investigate crime scenes. If we use the statistic showing that homicide in the home increases with gun ownership by a factor of 3, there is no reason to assume that assaults outside the home wouldn’t increase similarly in a vigilante America.
At schools, at banks, movie theaters and shopping malls, the result would be fewer answers and many more unnecessary deaths.
Nevermind that the reality of vigilantism will crowd our courts and prisons as anyone who kills, innocently or not, in self-defense or upholding “Stand Your Ground” laws, must be prosecuted in a society predicated on justice.
As we consider where to go next with regard to guns in America, let’s use logic procured from rationality and research and allow for reason to reveal the evidence we’re looking for. That approach should be a benefit to all sides.
References: Harvard School of Public Health: Harvard Injury Control Research Center. Homicide – Suicide – Accidents – Children and Women, Boston: Harvard School of Public Health, 2009, http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/research/hicrc/firearms-research/guns-and-death/index.html
Kellermann, Arthur L. et al., “Injuries and Deaths Due to Firearms in the Home,” Journal of Trauma, Injury, Infection, and Critical Care, 45(2) (1998): 263-267
Kellermann, Arthur L. MD, MPH, et al., “Gun Ownership as a Risk Factor for Homicide in the Home,” New England Journal of Medicine, 329(15) (1993): 1084-1091
Kellermann, Arthur L. et al., “Suicide in the Home in Relation to Gun Ownership,” New England Journal of Medicine, 327(7) (1992): 467-472
Wiebe, Douglas J. PhD. “Homicide and Suicide Risks Associated With Firearms in the Home: A National Case-Control Study,” Annals of Emergency Medicine 41 (2003): 771-82.