Guns (Out of) Control

I hate to get political but there are times when I just can’t help myself. As I am sure you are aware, this morning a man shot and killed a news reporter and camera man on a live local news broadcast in Virginia. As if that wasn’t enough, the man later posted a video of the incident from his perspective on social media. The shooter then took his own life by turning the gun on himself. It was a truly horrific scene and I cannot imagine what the loved ones of the deceased are going through.

It comes as no surprise to any American that it didn’t take long for things take a political turn with the incident being used by conservatives and liberals alike to promote their differing gun control agendas. After all, we are coming up on a Presidential election year. No opportunity to poke their rivals across the aisle can be wasted. It’s a sick reality, but it’s the world we live in. While the left shouts for stricter gun laws, the right fires back with their typical “guns don’t kill people, people kill people.”

Warning: Political Rant to Follow.

The conservatives are technically right. Guns are inanimate objects. They can’t do any destruction on their own. It takes a person on the other side of the gun to pull the trigger and harm someone else. However, shouldn’t we use any means necessary to make it more difficult for guns to fall into the hands of people who may cause harm others? Call me crazy but wouldn’t less guns equal less gun violence?

I’m sick of right-wingers defending the 2nd Amendment like it’s their child. God forbid anyone suggest that we make a change to the Constitution so that it’s a tad more difficult to go purchase a killing machine at Wal-Mart. Although, ironically, these defenders of freedom are the same people who want to change the 14th Amendment so that they can deport every single person in this country who can’t trace their bloodlines back to the Mayflower. All lives matter unless your grandparents somehow found their way to America undocumented, I suppose, but I digress.

Let me get back on topic. Can we stop treating the Constitution like it’s the Gospel for God’s sake? Don’t get me wrong. I love the Constitution. I am a lawyer for crying out loud. It is a great document that has served as the basis of a political system that allowed the U.S. to become the most powerful nation in the world. It gives me the freedom to write this post. What it is not is the divinely inspired word of God Almighty. The Constitution was written by a bunch of white, male landowners in the 18th Century who have absolutely nothing in common with you or me. That’s exactly why the Founders had the foresight to provide a way to make changes to it when changes are necessary. Countries, people, systems, and technologies evolve, folks. And that’s okay! As times change, it is important to look to the past and determine what is good and what can be discarded.

Guess what? Shockingly, times have changed a little over the last 200 plus years. In 1791, the 2nd Amendment made a whole lot of sense. Private gun-ownership was necessary to protect a young nation from foreign invasion. The alternative would have been for the U.S. to maintain a standing army. This would have required a quarter of the male population to enlist in the armed forces and would have crushed our economy. Today, the money we spend on defense makes up nearly half of the spending for the entire world. Joe Schmo doesn’t need to own a gun so that he can be ready for militia service at the drop of a hat. In 1791, we needed private citizens to be ready to fight. Not so much in 2015.

Maybe I am just naive, but why does everyone need a gun so badly? I honestly can’t comprehend it. To put it simply, where there are more guns, there are more homicides. There is no debate regardless of what you may hear on Fox News. A little institution of higher learning I like to call Harvard did a study on the relationship between gun availability and risk factor of homicide. What did this study find? I’m glad you asked.

  1. Case-control studies, ecological time-series and cross-sectional studies indicate that in homes, cities, states and regions in the US, where there are more guns, both men and women are at higher risk for homicide, particularly firearm homicide.
  2. Across developed countries, where guns are more available, there are more homicides. These results often hold even when the United States is excluded.
  3. After controlling for poverty and urbanization, for every age group, people in states with many guns have elevated rates of homicide, particularly firearm homicide.
  4. States with higher levels of household gun ownership had higher rates of firearm homicide and overall homicide.  This relationship held for both genders and all age groups, after accounting for rates of aggravated assault, robbery, unemployment, urbanization, alcohol consumption, and resource deprivation (e.g., poverty).

Regardless of location, population, gender, age, wealth, etc., if guns are more widely available you can expect more murder.

I say all that to say this. If we have the ability to lessen the amount of gun violence, why wouldn’t we do it? Are we afraid we might drop to number 2 in the world gun murder rankings?

I must say that some of my best friends in the world are gun-owners. They own rifles and shotguns for hunting and as a method of defending their homes. I believe they should have that right. There certainly isn’t an easy answer and I don’t claim to have the solution.  But what if I told you that in 2012 there were 8,855 fire-arm related homicides in the United States and 6,371 of those were attributed to handguns. Seems like taking handguns (and assault weapons) out of the equation might prevent a lot of murders.

Unfortunately, our beloved country is not a place that makes change quickly. Neither side should hold their collective breath for sweeping reform to come like a thief in the night so that we’re living in a gun-less utopia tomorrow morning. As tragic as today’s incident was, it is almost certain that nothing will change in the near future. I guess we’ll just have to wait until the next mass shooting to have this conversation again.

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A lucky man. Also a lawyer. Classic oxymoron.

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