Guns in America
If you are one who tries to endure this column each week, you probably know that I try to avoid political discussions. But once in a while, I just have to set the record straight.
This time, I will try to stick with facts as reported by the Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy, FBI crime reports and research by John R. Lott Jr. at the University of Chicago on the relationship between crime and gun control laws, particularly the relationship between crime and concealed as well as open carry laws that have been passed by many states in the last 20 years.
If you are a firearm owner, hunter, target shooter, like to take the kids plinking with a .22 rim fire, or keep a handgun rifle or shot gun discreetly stored somewhere for self defense, you probably are grateful for the Second Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, which acknowledges your right to own firearms. If you are much more liberal than I am, you probably are tired of hearing about the Second Amendment and may think that people like me try too hard to ram it down your throat. I will dispense with ramming it down your throat and simply state that I consider the inclusion of the right in the final document to have been inspired.
I grew up at a time when there was a shooting range in the basement of Pocatello High School. I never did shoot at that range, but I did take my first National Rifle Association-sponsored rifle marksmanship course at the ROTC shooting range in the basement of Reed Gym at Idaho State University. It was also common to see rifles or shotguns in racks in the cab of pickup trucks parked along the street at Pocatello High School because we often went jack rabbit or pheasant hunting after school. In my case, my father made me return home to get my rifle or shotgun if I planned to hunt after school.
Today we live in a more urban society, and many people don’t grow up with guns in the home and don’t receive the training we did. Some people are afraid of firearms because they aren’t familiar with them. Many don’t ever touch a firearm until they sign up for military basic training and a few year service as a soldier.
There are many politicians who would have you believe that if guns were outlawed our crime rate would magically drop to unheard of lows. Do you really believe that?
Let’s look at some facts. There are about 270 million civilian firearms in America; 200,000 times a year women use firearms to defend against sexual abuse; and three fifths of polled felons say they won’t mess with an armed victim.
Have you ever been told that a firearm in the home is more likely to injure a family member than a criminal? The fact is that guns are used 80 times more often to protect life than to take one. As a matter of fact, just the presence of a gun in a would-be victim’s possession often ends the issue without a shot being fired.
It is true that the United States has the highest gun ownership rate in the world, with 88.8 gun owners per 100 residents. Yemen, Switzerland and Finland, rank second, third and fourth. However, Honduras with 91.6 homicides per 100,000 residents a year has the highest intentional homicide rate in the world with El Salvador, Ivory Coast and Jamaica ranked second, third and fourth.
In the decade following the Labor Party’s election and banning of handguns in 1997, the number of recorded violent attacks in the United Kingdom rose by 77 percent to 1.2 million in 2007. That is two attacks every minute. Kitchen knives are being used in as many as half of all stabbings in the United Kingdom. The United Kingdom ranks as the most violent country in Europe with 2,034 violent crimes a year per 100,000 people, compared with 466 violent crimes per 100,000 people in the USA.
The data from the USA and every other country in the world uniformly suggests that when firearms are banned and people can’t protect themselves. violent crime increases rapidly.
We also have data from the USA that suggests gun ownership reduces violent crime. An analysis of FBI crime statistics found that states that adopted concealed carry laws reduced murders by 8.5 percent, rapes by 5 percent, aggravated assaults by 7 percent and robberies by 3 percent.
With one exception, every public mass shooting in the USA since 1950 has taken place where citizens are banned from carrying guns. Despite strict gun regulations, Europe has had three of the worst six school shootings.
In 1982 Kennesaw, Georgia, passed a law requiring heads of households to keep at least one firearm in the house. The residential burglary rate dropped 89 percent in Kennesaw, compared to 10.4 percent in Georgia as a whole. Today the violent crime rate in Kennesaw is still 85 percent lower than Georgia’s or the national average.
We do have a crime problem in the USA, but research has shown that gun control will exacerbate those problems rather than solve them. I believe our founding Fathers knew what they were doing when they included the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
The Second Amendment isn’t about hunting or sport shooting. It is about one’s right to defend one’s self, family and keeping the public trust in the hands of the people where it rightly belongs.
Smokey Merkley was raised in Idaho and has been hunting since he was 10 years old. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.