Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Good guys with guns

The new rallying cry of the gun crowd is this: "The only way to solve the problem of bad guys with guns, is to have good guys with guns." I know the feeling. Having been robbed more than once, the idea of: "if I only had a gun", crossed my mind many times. I'd whip it out of my belt, point it at the perp and say Dirty Harry style: "Go ahead punk, make my day." Then I think about it a little and realize that's just a bunch of crap.

The point is, anyone who intends to do harm to you always has the element of surprise on his side. There is no contest, by the time you know what's going on, any criminal with half a brain already has a plan to do whatever he (or she) intends to do, while you are only beginning to process the information. Unless you're suspicious of everyone and walk around with a gun in you're hand, you simply can't  react in time to do anything about it.

Well, the argument goes, if there are other "law abiding" private citizens carrying guns on the street, they could come to your rescue. Frankly I'm not sure I want some guy on the street with a gun coming to my rescue, especially if my attacker has a gun. Personally I'd rather give a robber the twenty bucks in my wallet than be caught in crossfire.

There are certainly instances when "good guys with guns" use them to minimize crimes. Occasionally you read about the grandma who holds burglars at bay until the police arrive, or a guy carrying a piece who successfully intervenes in an assault. But these stories are the exception not the rule. More often you read about children who shoot themselves or their siblings with their parents' guns, or tempers flaring between friends and family and an otherwise "law abiding citizen" in the heat of passion, shoots his loved one.

Someone I work with just lost his best friend. This friend saw a guy trying to steal his car parked in the driveway. He got his gun, went outside and got into an altercation with the thief. The police were called. The two men struggled and eventually my colleague's friend shot the would be thief in the leg. Just then the police arrived. They drew their guns and demanded the shooter put down his gun. When my colleague's best friend didn't put the gun down immediately, the police shot him dead.

There is no end to news stories about good guys with guns either killing themselves or their loved ones. Just last week, South African athlete Oscar Pistorius shot and killed his girlfriend because he apparently thought she was a burglar.

I could go on and on. The point is, guns are here to stay and there is nothing we can do about it. What truly bothers me is the absurd argument that guns keep us safe. The law of averages says that if you or I carried a gun, we'd be more likely having it taken and used against us than we would using it to protect ourselves.

The gun lobby has nothing to fear. If anything, it has made tremendous gains in the past thirty plus years. I remember the seventies well. The murder rate back then was worse than today and there was a huge outcry to ban handguns. Some municipalities including Chicago and Washington passed laws forbidding the sale of handguns within their city limits. Those laws were recently overturned by the Supreme Court. Laws prohibiting or limiting the manufacture and sale of assault weapons, (like the one used against dozens of children and teachers in Newtown, CT), that were once on the books, have been allowed to expire. Most states now have, or are about to pass laws permitting the carrying of concealed weapons in public, something that was inconceivable thirty years ago. Today instead of trying to ban handguns, we're trying to limit assault weapons. At this rate, in thirty years we'll be desperately trying to control the sale of submachine guns and surface-to-air missiles.

And still the gun crowd cries foul whenever a voice of reason says we need to find a way to limit the availability of these killing machines. I'm afraid it's going to take a lot more innocent women, men, and children to needlessly die before we come to our senses.

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