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Gun Control Is Not The Answer

Gun Control Is Not The Answer

In the wake of this summer’s terrible crimes in Texas and Ohio—before the facts were known—came the familiar calls for gun control. 

That’s because cynical politicians seek to exploit tragedy to ram through ill-considered and longstanding policy objectives while emotions are high and reasoned debate is all but impossible.

Never mind that these “solutions” rarely have anything to do with the actual facts of the incidents themselves, much less would have prevented those incidents had they been in place beforehand.

The solution to preventing acts of terror and violence by bad or deranged people is not to weaken the ability of good and rational people to defend themselves.

And the idea we’re only a few “common-sense” gun laws away from eliminating the problem of evil in American society, or that it would have been done already were it not for the NRA or others standing up for our founding principles, is a fable.

The solution to preventing acts of terror and violence by bad or deranged people is not to weaken the ability of good and rational people to defend themselves.

Simply put: gun control is not the answer.

Some people don’t want to hear that. They would like to believe the lies told by opportunistic politicians and activists who pretend to have easy answers.

Others gain a self-righteous sense of satisfaction by pointing the finger at the NRA for supposedly ignoring or even causing the problem.

But outrage is not an argument, and facts are stubborn things.

Like all decent Americans, the members of the NRA grieve for the victims of violent crime and pray for an end to it.

And we don’t apologize for our support of the Second Amendment.

It is, in fact, the very recognition that violent crime can and does occur that drives a majority of gun owners to arm, equip and train themselves.

We want to protect our lives and our families.

We want to be a force for good in our communities.

Far from the paranoia or the “hatred of the other” that the fake news media attribute to gun owners, it’s the love of our families and neighbors, and the peaceful enjoyment of law and order that motivate us to be proactive about safety and security.

These concepts are not difficult to understand.

The urge for self-preservation and self-protection is one of the most fundamental attributes of all living things.

Even the people most loudly calling for gun control understand the need for protection. They either have it—in the case of politicians, celebrities and media figures who live and work guarded by armed security—or they assume someone else (i.e., the police) will provide it for them.

Yet, most people do not have the benefit of armed guards. And, as good as they are, police cannot be everywhere at once or respond quickly enough to prevent every tragedy.

There is no way to document every instance in which a gun is used defensively nationwide—particularly because it most often occurs without a shot being fired, much less anyone being injured or killed.

But even the most conservative estimates acknowledge it happens hundreds of thousands of times a year. Some surveys, including one by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, indicate that people defend themselves with a firearm over a million times a year.

Each day, I get multiple news alerts of people who used firearms to defend their lives at home, at work and in public places. I mention some of those stories elsewhere this month in the pages of this magazine.

Their stories rarely make national headlines. And the gun-control math that says any prohibition is worthwhile if it saves “just one life” somehow never accounts for the innocent lives saved by defensive gun use.

I can assure you, though, that these are people like you and me with others in their lives who love them and depend upon them.

But let’s consider just a few of the “solutions” that gun-control advocates propose, to see how effective they might be at ending criminal acts of mass violence.

First, we have to acknowledge that mass attacks are not strictly a firearm-related problem—even though you might think so if you only watched CNN, MSNBC or network news.

Two academics are compiling databases of mass attacks, including by means other than firearms. Their findings illustrate the chilling fact that evil expresses itself in a variety of ways.

Clayton Cramer teaches history at the College of Western Idaho. He is compiling an encyclopedia of mass attacks in America. He notes that arson—including by simple means such as gasoline or lighter fluid—has been used well into the modern era and was the method used in the worst mass killing in modern U.S. history.

Likewise, James Alan Fox, a professor of criminology, law and public policy at Northeastern University, has partnered with two news organizations to compile a database of U.S. mass killings of four or more people. As of late July, 22 percent of the documented incidents in Fox’s database occurred without the use of a firearm.

In an article publicizing the effort in USA Today, Professor Fox wrote: “Of course, none led to calls for banning gasoline and other accelerants or proposals to limit the size of knives. It is the politics and controversy surrounding gun control that highlight mass shootings above the rest.”

Professor Fox, it should be noted, is not against gun control. But he still prefers to keep the focus on human life, not politics. “It is surely fruitless to assess the relative severity of mass killings on the basis of weaponry,” he stated, noting that our concern for the victims should not depend on the means of their deaths.

The NRA exists to protect the rights of its members, and we will not allow them to be scapegoats for crimes they did not commit.

Even as I write this, police in Orange County, Calif., are investigating a one-man stabbing rampage that left four dead and two seriously injured in what investigators are calling “random acts of violence.” Was there any national outrage about that?

Calls to ban so-called “assault weapons” are among the most common responses to mass killings. But most of the people leading those calls do not understand modern-firearms technology and are unable to explain the characteristics of the firearms they hope to ban.

Assuming they mean AR-15s and the like, that would mean banning America’s most popular types of center-fire rifles. Past bans have focused on simple features of the banned firearms—like bayonet lugs, pistol grips and even barrel shrouds—but many gun-control advocates are now focusing on banning all semi-automatic rifles. 

Obviously, if all or most semi-automatic rifles were banned outright, the law would surely run afoul of the Second Amendment itself, which the U.S. Supreme Court has said protects those kinds of arms “in common use for lawful purposes.” Industry experts estimate there are over 16 million center-fire semi-automatic rifles in private hands in the United States. To put this in perspective, these rifles are more common than the most popular brand of pick-up truck sold in America today.

The more honest anti-gun academics and political pundits will, in moments of candor, admit the futility of banning semi-automatic long guns, other than as a symbolic measure meant to condition the public to accept broad limits on the right to keep and bear arms.

But for gun owners who would see that as a reasonable concession, consider the fact that mass killings have occurred with every major type of firearm platform—including handguns, shotguns and manually-operated rifles. If gun-control advocates insist on blaming the guns for these acts, where will the banning stop? How can it?

Also commonly proposed is banning the private transfer of firearms so that all transfers have to get government permission with the attendant record-keeping and background checks.

But there is no way to enforce this requirement in real-time, particularly for those who wish to obtain their guns for illegal purposes. Criminals already ignore existing laws to get the guns they use in their crimes.

On the other hand, most mass shooters are not career criminals and nearly all have passed background checks to get the guns they use in their crimes. Background checks obviously look backward to documented acts. They cannot predict future intentions.

But the lesson isn’t that nothing can be done. It’s that the real solutions must target harmful behavior and actors, not the exercise of constitutional rights by upstanding Americans.

The NRA exists to protect the rights of its members, and we will not allow them to be scapegoats for crimes they didn’t commit.

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