There have been more and more postings saying less and less about guns in the United States of America. The postings from the left usually point out that sometime somebody somewhere got shot and we have to do something about it. The postings on the right show American flags and pictures of the Constitution. I'd like to spend a few paragraphs responding to both sides and suggesting a solution which should satisfy both sides, but probably will leave many of my friends whining about it.
Let me make an analogy between the United States of America and a high-school cross-country team.
When I joined the cross-country team in high school, somewhere upwards of 95% of my classmates did not. They exercised their Calvin-Coolidge choice not to run. Those who did not like running for an hour or two after school every day simply didn't elect to join the cross-country team. It would have been absurdly out of place for somebody to join the running team and then to complain vigorously on the evils of running and to try to persuade the rest of us to give it up. If some of those 95%-plus woke up one morning and found themselves enrolled on the team, then they would simply quit the team.
Similarly, 95% of the world accepts government's rule in regulating personal weapons. Whatever one may think of guns, it's easy to find a place with strong gun-control laws on any of the six populated continents spanning our planet. It's about as easy to live in a gun-regulated place on earth as it is to attend high school without being on the cross-country team.
In 1789 a bunch of people established a new nation far away from all the other nations as a Guns-and-Freedom club. That was 227 years ago, long enough for those who don't like it to find another home. The Constitution of the United States of America that mamby-pambies issues like free speech and a free press with phrases like "Congress shall pass no law" uses its strongest, most direct language that gun ownership "shall not be infringed." As rude as it is joining a cross-country team and putting down running, it's just as rude to come here, to live here, and to complain about the rules in our founding documentation. It's the position of a whining, sniveling malcontent.
I'm here because I embrace the values here, so this is my home. If you don't like those values, then that's fine, it's not your home, you're welcome to stay here, but please don't desecrate my home by putting down our values. We're happy to have guests and one of our main principles is to treat guests with respect, even guests who don't respect our values. Even if you don't agree, we appreciate respect for our values in return.
If people have guns, then people get shot. Against my cross-country-team analogy, the argument can be made that running doesn't kill people while having more people have guns does kill people. There are oodles of web pages pointing out that more people die from guns in the United States than in other places.
If those are people who can leave the United States, then staying here is a choice along with the risks. Pompeii and Santorini have volcanic history, Bangladesh has floods, San Francisco has earthquakes, India has brutally hot weather, and the Kinshasa Highway in the Congo has horrible diseases.
But is the risk higher? Different countries count their killings differently, but I notice that the comparisons are made with countries that have a smaller population and are usually comparing specifically gun deaths. Cambodia has few guns but much violent crime. Also, these comparisons use total counts, not per-capital counts. Comparing published homocide rates by country we see the United States is #114 out of 218, not even in the worse half of the list.
Also according to Wikipedia the United States has 17% more AIDS suffers than Zambia, but I'm still not running to central Africa to protect myself from this terrible disease. With almost twenty times more people here than there, the statistic of counting just total AIDS cases doesn't make sense. Similarly, comparing absolute violent-crime death counts is specious.
Besides, howcum the overwhelming majority of gun-violence deaths in the United States happen in gun-free areas? They happen in "progressive" cities with strict gun control, usually in schools which are extra-gun-free zones? Comparing like to like, apples to apples, here in the United States, we see that the areas where we do the most to keep guns out are the areas with the most gun violence.
My German friend put on Facebook how proud he was of Germany's low violent death rate over the past few decades. I asked him how far back his statistics went. Did they go back to 1938 when gun-control became a reality, when the Holocaust started? If we add 13 million to the numerator of Germany's violent-death fraction, it doesn't look like a ratio to be proud of.
Stalin's Russia had terrible purges, more than Hitler's 13 million I'm told, and Mao's China was a similar bloodbath. Both enforced strong gun-control laws. Would an armed populace suffered the same fate? I don't think so.
Before the gun-control people get into a snit and say they didn't support Stalin, Hitler, and Mao, I should point out that the progressive left in America did support these three, and quite a bit more awful stuff. It was the conservative right in America that opposed them. (Until just a couple of years ago, I always just associated the American left ideologically with the really awful parts of the last century. When Pete Seeger died and I read his biography, I realized the support was real, singing songs and raising money for these terrible causes. Current support for similar ideology and causes tells us there has been no change in their views, no "learning curve" in the American left wing.)
One Facebook meme says nobody needs 900 rounds per minute to kill a deer. My friends on the right remind me that the Second Amendment was not written to protect the American people from deer.
"An armed society is a polite society," says the right wing. Are they right? I think so, and people I know who have traveled to well-armed places confirm it. One friend's rug-buying trip to Oman comes to mind. I know I sleep better knowing that my neighbors protect themselves and that a nasty person who breaks in to a house on my block probably won't be happy with the response. As I said in an earlier essay, police response to crime is a poor first line of defense. It really makes more sense to have people defend themselves and to have the police detaining and arresting criminals so the criminals don't get shot.
When I look at all the lowlifes who can go out and buy a gun, I'm not always happy about it. Picturing people like Clive Bundy packing pistols isn't the most reassuring mental image. Still, I see the rampant crime in gun-free areas, the severe historical consequences in other countries, and how few shootings happen in well-armed communities. It seems to work better when people make their own decisions than when the government makes those decisions.
Most "Second Amendment gun nuts" aren't suggesting that everybody should get a gun. On the other hand, having our government tracking every firearm creates concern. The scenario of having a Schutzstaffel (SS) in a civilized, Western nation doesn't seem far fetched as it actually happened in a recently-disarmed Germany. As many Americans think it can't happen here, we remember how few people in Germany thought it could happen there. The Constitution of the United States is clear that the former is less of a risk than the latter.
We can do better, however. I'll start with an analogy. When the government instituted nasty, invasive probes on airline passengers, they also instituted a program called Global Online Enrollment System (GOES). It allows an airline passenger to enroll as a Trusted Traveler who can bypass the most-invasive aspects of the passenger screening. They don't have to know who I am or where I'm going to know I have a background check when I travel.
Similarly, we could have a background check that simply makes someone of voting age, not suspicious, and not a felon eligible to buy firearms. The government doesn't have to know who has what guns, only that Trusted Individuals can buy and carry guns. (A GOES Trusted Traveler should be trustworthy enough.) A private institution has the option of being a gun-free zone and those who carry have the choice of checking their guns at the door or taking their business elsewhere.
I believe in America, I like America, and I choose to live in America. America is a Guns-and-Freedom club and it's right there in our country's owner's manual. 95% of the world is different and I respect their difference when I visit them. I like living in a place where a significant fraction of people are armed and I'm comfortable that those who do not like it have plenty of reasonable-alternative choices of places to live.
The protection-from-tyranny argument for gun ownership is clear. The lower-death-rate-from-guns argument against guns does not pan out. So long as there is one country that has a well-armed population, even if it's only five percent of the world, then people have the choice to live there or not to live there. Taking away that choice is both irresponsible and nasty.
Given the terrible track record of the American progressive, liberal, left wing, I certainly don't take their opinions seriously without a lot of factual evidence. In addition to the factual evidence pointing the other way, a well-armed, gun-toting America has been a beacon of hope and freedom to an oppressed world. I'm a smart, well-educated person who has given this much thought and the logic is clear. There is a direct connection between the freedoms distinctly American and the distinctly-American lives we live here and those freedoms include guns.
As I said before, you don't have to like Americans and their guns. If you pick a place at random to live on this planet, the odds are overwhelmingly high that you'll end up in a gun-controlled place. You have to want to live here and living here includes guns.
6:00:17 Mountain Standard Time (MST).
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