Tuesday, February 26, 2013

The Case for Looser Carry Laws

Keeping guns out of the hands of criminals is something I can understand. What I don't understand is why  those who put so much effort trying to keep guns out of the hands of criminals seem to be putting so much effort into keeping guns out of the hands of law abiding citizens as well.

The difference in those two goals should produce incredibly different initiatives, but time after time we see state and federal laws that hurt law abiding citizens more than criminals. Banning the sale, purchase, or transfer of any certain types of weapons only prohibits law abiding citizens from acquiring them. Laws that prohibit anyone from carrying firearms in certain locations or under certain circumstances only limited firearm carriers to two groups: law enforcement and criminals. That's interesting, but we'll come back to that.

It would seem the overall purpose of gun control is to save lives. Preserving life is a noble cause. Did you know that guns are used by private citizens to stop crime about 2.5 million times per year? To be fair, there are people who contest these numbers. That's fair. So, what if we cut it in half? 1.25 million. And just to be extra fair, let's cut it in half again. 512,500. In 2011 there were just over 11,000 firearm homicides in the US.  But we're not just talking about homicides. We're talking about crime. Based on these numbers and some very sloppy math on my part, it looks like a little more than 250,000 total crimes are committed with firearms in the US per year between homicides, robberies, and assaults. Whether you find these numbers compelling or not is up to you, but consider the quarter of a million incidents difference in the two data sets.

But we haven't really touched the topic of carrying firearms yet. At this moment there are states and cities in the US where concealed and/or open carry is illegal for most of the population. Even in jurisdictions where carrying is legal, there are many specific locations where it is still off limits: schools, government buildings, places of worship, bars, and other locations. It all varies from one jurisdiction to the next.

One thing we have all noticed over the last few decades is a lot of mass shootings. You may have noticed that many of these shootings happen in schools, one of those locations where only two groups of people can carry guns: law enforcement officers and criminals. But law enforcement officers generally wear uniforms. So when they are present they are easy to target or avoid, and when they are not present it is pretty obvious.

I hear a lot these days about "Police being outgunned."In fact the President of the United States mentioned it at his recent state of the union address:
Police chiefs are asking our help to get weapons of war and massive ammunition magazines off our streets, because these police chiefs, they're tired of seeing their guys and gals being outgunned.
But the problem is not really police officers being outgunned. It's us, everyday, law abiding citizens, who are outgunned. 72 police officers were killed in the line of duty in in 2011 but in 2012 law enforcement officers killed 583 people. By contrast, the total number of people wrongfully killed by lawful concealed carriers for all time is less than 500 people. It sounds to me like the cops aren't outgunned. The fact that they can carry firearms anywhere and everywhere at all times, usually wear body armor, and often have fully loaded AR-15s and shotguns locked in the cars they drive would present a completely different picture to me, and in this picture the cops are not outgunned. We are.

Some still argue that the common denominator here is guns: take away guns from everyone and nobody dies. How about we look at some comparisons before we try that though. Apparently about 195,000 people are killed by medical errors per year in the US alone. The highest number I have ever heard for deaths caused by firearms in the US per year including homicides, suicides, and accidents was around 30,000. Based on these numbers you are over six times more likely to be killed by a doctor than by a gun. So while we're taking away all the guns, be sure and take away all the doctors. Oh and don't forget cars, which produce over 40,000 deaths per year in the US.

The fact of the matter is we can't take away all of the guns because it is A) Impossible B) Incompatible with our cultural and legal construct and C) Will create an unnatural balance of power.

If you have learned anything from all this information I hope it is that people can and often do use firearms for good. No matter what you prohibit, there are still people who will break the law and in the case of firearms, that leaves criminals with the advantage. Firearms are unique in that respect. When laws prohibit the use of other things like narcotics, criminals are not at an advantage by using them. They are at a disadvantage. Since the opposite is true with firearms it would seem counter intuitive that we would make them illegal or restrict them in order to disadvantage criminals.

The fact of the matter is, restricting how, when, or where a law abiding citizen can carry his or her firearm leaves that person vulnerable to criminals who are stronger, more numerous, or better armed. If the police could be there to stop every crime that would be wonderful, but as you may have already heard, when seconds count the police are only minutes away.

Ultimately you have to decide based on logic, the numbers, and your basic American instinct for liberty if you think it makes more sense to leave yourself at the mercy of a turf war between cops and criminals or if you believe that self defense is a right and a duty that we as Americans should uphold at all times and in all places.

1 comment:

  1. Well said buddy, but the Officers Down is just gunfire not total.