Kirk Whatley: Gun control quest gets ahead of itself
HADLEY — There is no doubt the shootings at the Sandy Hook Elementary School rocked our nation and the world. Everyone is searching for answers. In the rush to find someone or something to blame, many people chose to blame an inanimate object: firearms.
NBC News recently reported that the AR-15 style firearm, once thought to be the only firearm used in the killings, was not used at all. However, many politicians are still saying the AR-15 style firearm was used, continuing to perpetuate a lie.
And the witch hunt against an inanimate object continues.
Never mind that every one of the shooters involved in recent mass killings was on medication for mental or psychological disorders. That Hollywood and video games glorify violence and murder. That the family unit has been destroyed with an “anything goes” culture. That our culture is more interested in “things and bling” than right and wrong.
And that our children are being taught politically correct nonsense, that there is no “right or wrong,” only “shades of gray” because “who are we to apply morals to others?”
As a CATO Institute senior fellow wrote in 2007, “In 2004, the National Academy of Sciences reviewed 253 journal articles, 99 books, and 43 government publications evaluating 80 gun-control measures. The researchers could not identify a single gun-control regulation that reduced violent crime, suicide or accidents. A year earlier, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported on an independent evaluation of firearms and ammunition bans, restrictions on acquisition, waiting periods, registration, licensing, child access prevention laws and zero tolerance laws. Conclusion: none of the laws had a meaningful impact on gun violence.”
In 2009, CBS News reported on a similar finding from the CDC, conducted in 2007, that there was no proof that gun control laws reduce crime.
The Clinton-era assault weapons ban and high-capacity magazine ban expired in 2004. It was not renewed because even proponents were forced to admit it has no significant impact on crime committed with firearms. Yet, we are now moving toward another assault weapons ban. If the first one made no difference, why would people believe a second one will?
In looking at what can be done to try to reduce violence committed with firearms, there are many possible areas of agreement:
• There are more than 25,000 federal laws regulating firearms and ammunition. They should be enforced before more laws are passed.
• Instant background checks work the best. But not all states submit up-to-date information and mental health reports from many states lag. If a psychologist’s patient discusses fantasies of mass murder or killing someone, that person needs to be reported to state officials so the patient can be added to the “cannot buy” list.
• It is a felony for a convicted felon to be in possession of, or attempt to purchase, a firearm. Enforce that law with no exceptions.
• Set minimum sentencing for crimes committed with a firearm.
• Make it easier for law-abiding citizens to carry concealed weapons.
Author John R. Lott Jr. has documented, in his book “More Guns Less Crime,” that when states allow their citizens to legally carry firearms, crime plummets. This has happened in state after state. Illinois is now the only state in the union that does not allow its citizens the right to legally carry concealed weapons. Lawfully armed citizens have stopped many shooters from either killing or killing more.
What doesn’t work? Here is my list:
• Gun-free zones, for one. Every recent mass killing has taken place in such zones. The Aurora, Colo., shooter passed by seven movie theatres to get to the only gun-free movie theater in the area. All these zones accomplish is empowering the shooter to know that they will be the only one there with a firearm.
• Banning firearms based upon cosmetic features. The AR-15 style rifle shown in the news has the exact same mechanism of widely recognized “legitimate” hunting rifles.
• Easily countered micro-stamping or “ballistic fingerprinting.”
• Disarming law abiding citizens and leaving them to the mercy of criminals.
• Increasing the cost of either the firearm or the ammunition through taxes, because then only the rich and the criminals will have the firearms and ammunition.
Again, according to the CATO Institute, legal scholar Don B. Kates found that from 1974 to 2003, guns in circulation doubled, but murder rates declined by one third. On a state-by-state basis, a 1 percent increase in gun ownership correlates with a 4.1 percent lower rate of violent crime, Kates wrote.
He also found that each year, approximately 460,000 gun crimes are committed in the United States. But guns are also used to ward off gun criminals. Estimates of defensive gun use range from 1.3 million to 2.5 million times per year — and usually the weapons are brandished, not fired. That means defensive uses occur three to five times as often as violent gun crimes.
Lawmakers need to look at facts, history and realities. Passing laws based upon emotion and lies will only court disaster. Lawful firearms owners may be impacted today but it may be your cherished rights tomorrow.
Kirk Whatley lives in Hadley.