Crosses honoring those murdered at the Century Theaters, Aurora, CO: How many more massacres, before we have THE discussion about reasonable gun control? (photo: L.A. Times).
Monday, July 23, 2012 Rochester, NY - In America, the carnage wrought by gunfire seems to never end. The names, the locations, and the deaths are more and more, a sickening blur: Columbine, Jonesboro, Virginia Tech, and now, an Aurora Colorado movie theater.
Yes, the 2nd Amendment of the U.S. Constitution clearly entitles Americans to "a well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed." To NRA members, as well as to more private, low key gun owners, the most important words contained in the 2nd Amendment are "...the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."
For at least two powerful reasons, the 2nd Amendment may be just as important to a functioning democracy as any other amendment, or edict of our Federal Constitution. Those reasons are:
1.) The right of citizens to feel safe in their homes (and businesses?), and the right to protect one's own life, and the lives of family members and loved ones, with deadly force, should deadly force be brought to bear on innocent, law abiding citizens.
2.) The right of Americans to own a hunting rifle for the purposes of target shooting, hunting for food, and/or hunting for sport.
Some would argue that an additional, third powerful reason that citizens should retain the right to own firearms is so that collectors, unapologetically, should be allowed to pursue their hobby, unfettered.
But it is difficult to argue with gun control advocates that point to the incredibly high rates of not only gun ownership in the U.S., but the relatively high rate of firearm related homicides in America, compared with other developed, industrialized, Western democracies.
Liars Sometimes Figure, but Some Figures Rarely Lie.
From a variety of sources, all found on the internet, come the following figures that highlight the danger of high rates of gun ownership, and the resulting high rate of firearms violence.
* Western and Central European homicide rate = 1.5 per 100,000 people.
* Canada: 1.85 per 100,000.
* United States: 6.1 per 100,000 people.
According to a small arms survey from 2007, there are about 90 guns per 100 citizens in the U.S., a much higher rate than in any other nation. However, far from high rates of domestic gun ownership keeping us safer, U.S. violent crime statistics are particularly high compared to other first world countries.
For instance, of the 2,503 homicides committed in California in 2005, 75% were committed with a gun. In fact, there are more homicides resulting from gunfire in California than in any first world country. And California only accounts for about 1/6 of the total U.S. number of homicides.
Approximately 1,000 - 1,500 fatal firearm accidents occur every year in the U.S. That's about 3.5 - 5 fatal firearm accidents per 1 million citizens - multiple times more than nations like Canada (2), France (1.1), Australia (1.1) Germany (0.4), the U.K. (0.1), or Japan (0.05).
According to ABC News, "Americans still kill each other with guns at a level that is staggering compared to the rest of humanity.
"A study in the Journal of Trauma and Acute Care Surgery found that the gun murder rate in the U.S. is almost 20 times higher than the next 22 richest and most populous nations combined.
"Among the world’s 23 wealthiest countries, 80 percent of all gun deaths are American deaths and 87 percent of all kids killed by guns are American kids."
Along with quite difficult social issues like abortion, the understandable tension between gun control vs. upholding the 2nd Amendment is an issue without easy answers or solutions. May I propose a possible compromise?
1.) A nationwide ban on all assault weapons, and hand guns. This ban would not prevent black market activity relative to the acquisition of these types of weapons, but at least law enforcement would have a new tool in trying to lessen the chances of the all too frequent massacre like we saw in Aurora Colorado over the weekend. Hand guns and assault rifles are responsible for a disproportionate number of gun related homicides in the U.S., compared to those committed with hunting rifles.
Also, hand guns, by their very size and nature, are concealable weapons, and are therefore inherently more dangerous than other weapons. With the exception of law enforcement officials and security guards, it is not clear to me why one must own and/or carry a hand gun.
2.) The 2nd Amendment shall be protected by allowing Americans to keep hunting rifles in their homes (and places of business, if they are owners or managers?), for protection against intruders (or perhaps, someday, protection against an unjust government?), and for the purpose of hunting and target shooting.
David Letterman said, "Charlton Heston once admitted he had a drinking problem, and I said to myself, "Thank God this guy doesn't own any guns!" Perhaps cruel, maybe not funny (Heston was a cinematic childhood hero of mine), but many a truth is said in jest.
Gun advocates will tell you it's not the gun that kills, it's the person pulling the trigger. True, but in a nation with drug and alcohol issues, if guns were less likely to be present during an argument, a whole lot of people that are now dead, might still be alive.
-Christopher J. Wilmot, Pittsford, NY
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