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Archive for January, 2013

Guns are tools

Posted by Keen Observer on January 13, 2013

Sandy Hook was a horrible, horrible thing. No child or its parents should have to suffer through what those people did. At least one teacher died a hero, not knowing if her efforts to protect her charges would be successful. People the world over could stand to emulate her behaviour.

Utoya was a horrible, horrible thing. No child or parent should have to suffer through what those people did. Premeditated murder of dozens of people not known to the shooter, while security forces were mobilised over a devastating bomb used as a mere distraction, is nothing more than psychopathy.

Both of these horrific crimes were perpetrated on innocent children for the most part. Both were perpetrated in so-called “gun free” zones, either by designation or de facto. The body count was much higher in Utoya, at least in part because the shooter wanted to kill as many people as possible In Sandy Hook, I’m not sure that was his goal. What was semi-ironic in this to me is that Utoya is in Norway, a country that has gun-control restrictions at least as severe as in Canada, and perhaps more so. Yet the shooter still managed to end up quite well-armed.

One thing that immediately leaps to my attention in both cases is how within hours, and wholly expectedly, the cries began to be raised before the bodies were even cold (or counted): Ban guns; Restrict Guns; Register Guns. In Norway, not much can be done, given the state if its laws. In the US, the semi-regular cries to make responsible firearms owners into criminals have taken on a fever pitch. Echoes of it appear in Canada, especially with the federal government recently striking down the legal requirement to register long guns that have been legally purchased.

The primary difference between gun-control arguments waged in the US and gun-control arguments waged pretty much anywhere else is this simple little sentence attached to their constitution via the amendment process:

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.

That’s it. The sum total of Amendment II to the US constitution, and it’s been argued over since it was written down. To me it looks pretty clear: “…shall not be infringed.” People mostly seem to argue over the inclusion of the Militia into this clause, but to me, based on the structure, it’s only there as a preamble and justification for allowing unrestricted access of the people to arms. Any kind of arms, since there is literally no restriction to this element. Though a howitzer would probably be pretty awkward to carry around with you. In fact, my reading posits that the only constitutionally-valid option available to the Americans is registration and licensing. That’s it. And Amendment X already has allowed that in place on a state-by-state basis, if so desired. And just as a reference, the state of Vermont has the fewest gun laws of any state in the Union (including Texas), and it also has the third-lowest total crime rate. The only law they seem to have is a “must-issue” law, in that if someone asks to be issued a permit for ownership or carrying, one must be issued to them.

Now, it is possible that Americans would genuinely want to restrict this stuff constitutionally. That’s fine. There is a process in place since the country’s founding to amend the constitution. Knock yourself out. But until then, it seems to me that the hue and cry being raised is all about increasing political capital and/or statist control, and not about safety or the children. Because you see, there is little to correlate increased gun ownership with increased violence, and almost nothing to correlate it to mass shootings on any sort of realistic basis (I wish I could remember where, but I saw one statistic that showed Canada had a higher rate of school shootings than the US on a per-capita basis). I’ve seen a couple of recent suggestions, in fact, that gun violence correlates pretty well to drug trafficking more than anything else, and can be inversely correlated to the removal of lead from paint and gasoline. A different study correlates an inverse relationship between increasing gun ownership and decreasing murder rates in the US, using the FBI’s own statistics.

But among all the various studies, what it comes down to–in my not-so-humble opinion–is people. People will kill. People will kill (if they’re of a mind to) using whatever tools are available to them. Guns are handy, but so are chemical explosives or cars or propane tanks or edged weapons. Japan or China has had about eighteen separate mass killings with edged weapons in the last five or ten years (don’t remember that source today, either). The worst was about eight people killed with a meat cleaver. The truth of the matter is, you can’t prevent psychotics or sociopaths from killing…at least, not until they expose themselves, and then dang it if you don’t wish you were carrying that day.

There were about a dozen mass killings in the US last year. Twelve people showed how fucked-up nuts they were. Out of a population of some 350 million. To my recollection, only Sandy Hook got this kind of coverage or reaction. And there were about 9000 non-justified gun homicides in 2011 (based on FBI stats and rounded off). So, because of these people, there is wailing and gnashing of teeth to abrogate the constitutional rights of the other 349,990,988 people (roughly), or else “you just don’t care about the children, you monster!”

In Canada, some firearms laws have been on the books since about 1935, because we have no such constitutional protections. A recent study by an ER doctor, Cailin Langmann, showed an actual inverse correlation between the enacting of the three main stages of Canadian fireamrs laws and crime rates. The more restrictions put in place, the worse crime gets. Anecdotal evidence from other places shows similar results, in that crime almost disappeared in a Georgia town after a law was passed to require gun ownership by the head of household. The states in the US with the most restrictions–Illinois and California–are also the most violent states. But you won’t generally hear this sort of thing in the “popular” news media, because it doesn’t fit the narrative: “Gun Ownership is Evil!” In fact the news article I read about this in the National Post ridiculed the results as being suspect, because Dr Langmann is a known supporter of gun ownership…without noticing the irony that they said nothing about the contrary position being held by an organisation dedicated to ending personal gun ownership.

I wish that I owned a few weapons some days, but I’m not going to, not in this climate. Even though the long-gun registry has been destroyed (fuck you, Quebec), just applying for and getting a Possession and Acquisition Certificate (PAC) surrenders rights to the state that ought not to be surrenderable. Even if I didn’t buy a weapon after acquiring the PAC, the state now has the right to enter my home for any or no reason at all and search the fuck out of it…just in case I store a bullet next to a gun, or some bullshit. The laws are incredibly restrictive and do nothing for anyone. And I don’t want to deal with that. And then I’d always have to worry about using such a weapon to defend myself in my home against an intruder. There have been too many cases of people doing that and getting arrested for it, which is absurdly wrong. If I don’t have the right to defend myself by whatever means necessary, then I have no rights at all. And as some others have pointed out, that right was enshrined in the Diefenbaker Bill of Rights (passed in the early 1960s), and it has never been contradicted in law. However, it seems that the courts need a specific law to hold their hands and explain things to them, so the sooner a Castle Doctrine is enshrined in law, the happier I’ll be. But the registry itself should be a warning to Americans: it just won’t work. Registered firearms kill people all the time. But most handgun murders in Canada aren’t with registered weapons, because, you know, criminals don’t register their fucking guns! And though it’s easy to be accused of Godwinism in any argument, the comparison with Nazi Germany is valid in this case, because they instituted gun-ownership restrictions on the Jewish population. See how that worked out?

Beyond the hysteria of the gun-control crowd, it boils down to this: firearms are tools, nothing more. A weapon is inert and useless, until it is wielded, and it must be wielded by conscious act. It doesn’t matter if it’s a gun or a knife or a bomb or a fucking baseball bat or a garden trowel. It just lies there until someone picks it up and uses it. Guns are especially inert, because not only does the weapon have to be acquired, it has to be loaded with ammunition that also has to be acquired, aimed, and a trigger pulled. And you have to hit what you’re aiming at, which may be dozens of feet away. To me, the only sane response to crazy people on a rampage is not to be helpless before them, not to be out-gunned by them, and not to let the state make us all into victims by preventing that and preventing preservational self-defence. Because a gun in your hand can be an amazing equaliser, and for an assailant not to know who is armed and who is not makes them less likely to attack randomly. Psychopaths will still be psychopaths, but a rampage is a lot easier to stop when someone besides the shooter is armed. And that’s another key point to remember: “When seconds count, the police are just minutes away.” Police aren’t a preventative measure. They are there to clean up afterwards, and in some cases cause the problems (but that’s a different rant).

So let’s do away with the hand-wringing and pearl clutching and the “won’t someone think about the children”-ing. I used to hate the phrase when I was younger, but you really can’t argue with it: guns don’t kill people; people kill people. But you just can’t seem to argue that proposition with the gun-control crowd. Because, “you’re an evil child-killer, you monster!” You can’t reason with the unreasonable, and you can’t argue someone out of a position they weren’t argued into in the first place. But hysteria serves no one, and I really wish it would stop.

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