Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The Answer To Gun Violence Is ... More Guns?

In the wake of the shooting of Representative Gabrielle Giffords, there’s been a lot of print, broadcast media, and blogs devoted to the rhetoric, gun violence, and what should be done. This story, from Wonkette just caused my jaw to drop.

Dave Weigel over at Slate has the story:

Charles Heller, one of the co-founders of the pro gun-rights Arizona Citizens Defense League, tells me that the group has put together model legislation that would require the state to help train members of Congress and their staff in the use of firearms.

Because, after all, the best way to stop a crazed person from walking up behind you in a crowd and shooting you is to make sure that everyone is armed! Seriously, this is one of those moments when I realize just how far off the tracks some of the gun rights groups have gone. Let me make it clear, I’m not against people owning guns. I grew up in an area where most people had guns. I spent over a decade in the military. I’ve used a pretty wide range of different guns over my life, and I’m a pretty good shot. With all of that came a lot of lessons on responsibility and safety, often taught through the use of a hand applied to the gluteus maximus by adults when I was a child, and large numbers of push-ups in the military. Pain is educational.

What did I learn from that? A gun is a tool, it is not a toy. It is meant for one thing, to kill something. That once the bullet starts down the barrel, you can’t get it back. Any time you’re carrying one, you have to remember that. It’s increasingly apparent to me that a lot of people don’t think that way. They’ve paid too much attention to movie and television shows, and have confused that for reality. Even worse, the various advocacy groups seem to have forgotten it as well.

I remember the NRA’s response to the Virginia Tech shooting, and it lines up with this one in Arizona. Obviously, the solution to a gunman in a crowded area is to allow everyone to carry guns, so that one of them could stop the shooter. The reality? All that would have done is increase the body count. The idea that someone is going to be able to calmly pull out their own gun, correctly identify the shooter, and take them down while people are running around, screaming, and the shooter is still shooting is pure Hollywood. It doesn’t happen.

Ever see the reports (and videos) from police shoot-outs? I guarantee you every police officer has been trained extensively in using their weapons. They are required to be. They’re good shots. But you know what? In a real life situation, a lot of bullets get used, and only a few actually hit their intended target. I learned the same thing in the military. Yes, I’m pretty good on the range. In a field exercise? My accuracy went to hell, along with everyone else’s. There’s a big difference between being in a solid, locked position where you can breathe correctly, sight in, to squeeze off your shot, and running to cover, breathing heavily, trying to locate the enemy and shoot them while not getting shot yourself. That’s why the usual figure is something like a million rounds expended for every enemy death in real battles. So the reality is that anyone in one of those situations – who is not trained in dealing with them in the first place – is going to whip out their gun, and pump a lot of rounds at random in what they hope will be the general direction of the shooter. Thus upping the body count. That’s always assuming they manage to get their gun out, or don’t shoot themselves in the process.

So despite the fantasy that this group in Arizona has, the reality is that all they want to do is make things worse. But, that’s not the end of the ridiculous aspects. The NRA has been pushing various concealed or open carry laws in Tennessee, Virginia, and Georgia. They even want people to be able to carry them in bars and churches. In fact, they really got upset that the Virginia law banned people carrying guns in bars from drinking. No, I’m not kidding. So Georgia’s law is supposed to allow that. Guns and alcohol, just the thing everyone wants to see.

As I said, I grew up around guns. They were part of the culture. Almost every adult I knew had them, and used them. But you know what? Not a single one of them would have dreamed of bringing a gun to church, to public meetings, to schools, or to the local bars. It just wasn’t done. You didn’t bring a loaded weapon into the house, either. It was all common sense to them. Guns were tools they used, dangerous, and to be taken seriously. They knew exactly what a bullet could do – they were combat veterans and hunters. They’d seen it, and didn’t have any illusions about them. That’s the ethic I grew up with, and what I still have.

It’s one thing to argue that people have the right to own guns. Whether or not one agrees with that, that still is what the Second Amendment says. But, as with all rights, there comes a responsibility to go along with it. That is, there are indeed places where guns are not appropriate, where they should not be allowed to be present, and that if one doesn’t know how to use that responsibility, then they shouldn’t have them. The idea that you need to carry a gun everywhere you go, that you are going to use it properly in chaotic situations is a fantasy. The groups that promulgate the fantasy are not helping at all. They aren’t making things “safer,” they’re making them more dangerous. The answer to gun violence is not more guns, it’s more responsibility

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