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Wednesday, January 25, 2006

It's Time to Outlaw Handguns
The Second Amendment only grants a communal right to have a well organized militia. Once the Federal government raised an army, the entire Amendment should have been voided; but an overreaching Congress decided to alter the text of the Amendment without putting it through the ratification process. The Supreme Court has never held that individuals have the right to bear arms via the Second Amendment, despite the propaganda of pro-death groups like the NRA.

Since the basis in law exists, I would argue that state legislatures and/or Congress should ban all handguns. These weapons are nothing more than killing machines that serve no legitimate, non-criminal purpose. Hunters do not use handguns, so the sporting argument fails to apply to a handgun ban. Law-abiding people who own handguns for "protection" are 22 times more likely to accidentally shoot a loved one than they will shoot a criminal. The Medical Journal of Pediatrics estimates that 1,400 children are killed by guns every year. We can squabble statistics, but there can be denying that but for handguns, thousands of people would still be alive. 3,000 people died on 9/11; that led to two wars, the massive erosion of our civil liberties and a universal dedication to opposing the evils of terrorism. But when many thousands more die from the terrorist at home -- handguns -- America is silent and doesn't do a thing.

I usually don't read news accounts of crime because they are sensationalistic and mostly irrelevant. But a recent story documented how an 8 year old boy found a handgun in a hidden container in his father's home and then used the gun to shoot a girl, nearly killing her. Worse, the father had taught his son how to use the firearm, likely for "protection" or "sporting" reasons. That grizzly education helped his son violently attack a fellow human being.

The other side of this debate will say that it's up to parents to be more responsible. I have a real problem with that argument because the logic of it necessitates more gun killings. Humans are flawed creatures. We make mistakes and it's unavoidable. Robotic machines may be incapable of error, but humans are not. Even if parents use 100% strict vigilance in protecting firearms, children will still find a way to find them and use them to kill others. Further, not all adults are created equal. As long as you aren't legally retarded or a convicted felon, the state allows you to own firearms. Many people with low IQs or simply a lack of foresight will inevitably use less than 100% strict vigilance in maintaining their firearms.

Do gun owners generally use vigiliance in securing the safety of their weapons? No. "A 2002 University of North Carolina study found 36 percent of gun owners with young children in the home reported keeping a firearm loaded; 50 percent of them failed to lock the weapon or store the ammunition in a locked box."

So if you want to defend the legality of handguns, you have to be comfortable with the unavoidable fact a certain percentage of guns will be used to accidentally kill people. You have to be comfortable with the fact that thousands die every year to maintain a "right" that provides people with no liberties. If you want to use guns for sporting, buy a rifle. If you want to protect yourself, buy a baseball bat. Handguns don't help do anything but kill innocents. If we are to respect life in this nation, we need to end these easily avoidable deaths.

Comments on ""


Blogger Tran said ... (12:46 PM) : 

I will expound further later, but for now I will put this idea out there: the current expansion of federal power is exactly the reason why the framers of our constitution included the right to bear arms in "organized" state "militias." Our forefathers repeatedly dealt with and recognized the various evils inherent in a powerful central government. This right was never intended solely as a substitute for a federal military, it was primarily considered a necessary safeguard against opression by a militarized central government.

While I concede that many innocent lives are lost to gun violence, I cannot agree that the right should be given up. There are just too many countries around the world in which the unarmed citizenry is held hostage by their own government. So, as I said previously, though I may not (currently) feel obliged to exercise the right - I would be loathe to abandon it altogether. If anything is to be done, it should be the imposition of strict criminal penalties for negligent storage of firearms, rather than barring ownership altogether.


Anonymous Tom said ... (2:45 PM) : 

I agree with Tran and also concede that many innocent lives are lost. I also fear an unintended consequence of San Francisco recently passing measure H (which bans guns in the City) will be to encourage more violent crimes (such as armed burglary/robbery) in the City, as criminals will be comforted that anyone they confront in San Francisco will not be armed.

If guns are outlawed than only outlaws will have guns.


Blogger Michael Alexander said ... (3:08 PM) : 

Criminals willing to use a gun during a crime don't think like us. They don't conduct rational cost/benefit analyses like so many conservatives would like us to believe. It strains plausibility to say that "I wouldn't rob that home because they might have a gun, but if I know that the city has an ordinance prohibiting firearms, then I'll go ahead and rob the home." Not one criminal will think in such a manner. Even if one or two isolated incidents such as this do arise, the massive decrease in gun fatalities will more than outweigh any potential "harm."

Second, if guns are outlawed, the supply of guns will decrease. Sure, only outlaws will have guns, but guess what? A whole lot less of the outlaws will have guns. The black market for guns is directly fed by the legal market for guns; if the legal market disappeared, the prices on the black market would skyrocket. After several years of the gun ban, very few handguns would be available in the black market and the high costs would make them essentially unavailable to criminals.

Don't forget that so-called "Saturday Night Specials," dirt cheap black market guns, originated from the legal market. Eradicate the legal market and the black market will shrink.

The ability to own arms does not give us any protection from the government. Remember, I am not calling for a general gun ban but rather one on handguns alone. If some crazies want to arm theirselves in a right wing militia, they'll just need to use rifles.

Also, I think it's apparent that harsh criminal penalties for negligent gun storage aren't going to solve the problem. People dumb enough to improperly store a gun probably aren't versed on the law either. Also, it attacks the problem only after a catastrophe occurs -- the dead citizen cannot be brought back to life via a harsh penalty for negligent gun storage. We need these penalties, despite their limited effectiveness, but they aren't the solution to the problem.

Both of your stances require you to accept that the benefit of owning a gun for protection (the "benefit" of which is nonexistent according to empirically proven facts) is more important than preventing the deaths of thousands of American citizens every year.


Blogger Tran said ... (3:43 PM) : 

As to the non-deterrence argument: that is patently false. While it is true that most criminals do not perform a cost-benefit analysis that the reasonable person would, it is an over-exertion to argue that they do not fear armed conflict. Personal experience suggests that this argument must fail.

Even the most ignorant and thoughtless criminal has the common sense to assault the meek. That is pure primal instinct. Criminals are, in fact, dissuaded by immediate threats, evidenced by the fact that few criminals knowingly commit crimes in the presence of cops (except those to high to care).

Have you ever sped in your car? (certainly yes). Then you have disregarded future consequence, but that alone would not suggest that you would knowingly speed past a police officer.

While I acknowledge that there is, and always will be, some criminal element out there completely oblivious to any consequence of their actions, from a biological stance, we are all genetically programmed to avoid immediate threats, with but the rarest exceptions. This includes even the most ignorant criminal. Thus, while it is patently true that most criminals do not perform an objectively reasonable cost-benefit analysis, one cannot realistically argue that criminals perform no cost-benefit analysis, as this is patently false.

Further, while it is true that a decrease in the legal market for guns will hinder the black market, that alone is insufficient. Drugs and firearms enter and exit this country illegally on a daily basis, and firearms are manufactured all over the world. One inevitable result of disarming the citizenry is to provide a greater pool of "weak" prey to armed criminals.

If you honestly think that criminals do not perform some cost-benefit analysis and prey on the defenseless, consider this: simply posting an "ADT" sign on your property results in a substantial decrease in the likelihood of a burglary. Those with ADT signs posted suffer far less robberies than others in the same neighborhood without them.

As to your argument about the imposition of negligence penalties, I agree that it initially deals with the problem only after the tragic loss of life. However, this and every other criminal law in our nation flows from the basic idea of general deterrence - when one person is punished for a violation of the law, it serves to deter others as well. When Zeke's buddy Billy Ray goes to prison for failing to reasonably secure his fire arms, Zeke (a law-abiding citizen) will be inclined to lock up his guns lest he suffer the same consequence.

Cars kill more people than guns. Should we take away all cars simply because a handful of idiots drive negligently?


Blogger Michael Alexander said ... (5:18 PM) : 

Perhaps some criminals will commit crimes they wouldn't otherwise if the city has a ban on handguns. I personally doubt even one criminal will, but perhaps 2 or 3 or maybe even 100 will. The deterrence effect that legal handguns provide to criminals is minor at best. Speeding is much different because the reward is direct and immediate. You are 100% certain to have a perfect crime if no police are present. The "reward" of an citizenry sans handguns is much more indirect and uncertain. Perhaps the crime will go better, perhaps it won't, perhaps the owners will own guns anyways, perhaps they will have a high tech security system. The primary costs and benefits that criminals will consider will be the chance of detection vs. the size of the score. Criminals attack from positions of advantage so they don't have much to fear from an armed citizenry. Even if you have a gun, a criminal is likely to put you in the position where you will be unable to use it.

More importantly, however, the real question is not if or how much the availablility of handguns deters crime but is actually this: Does the benefit of ridding San Francisco of handguns outweigh the costs? I claim the costs are few to none; you claim that the costs are perhaps greater. Under either determination of the costs, however, I don't see how you can rationally argue that more people will live from the availability of handguns than people will die from the availability of handguns. Considering the stats that demonstrate that you are much, much more likely to kill a loved one than kill an intruder, it seems obviously
apparent to me that the benefits of the handgun ban far outweigh the costs.

My preceding logic is exactly why I don't argue that cars should be banned. Cars, unlike guns, have substantial benefits that outweigh the costs. The costs to the economy would be enormous if cars were outlawed. The poor, who live further from their places of employment than do the rich, would lose their jobs and be doomed to horrible living conditions. These risks are real, dramatic and would change the face of America forever. Outlawing killing machines that mostly just murder innocents won't change a thing other than to save lives.


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