Where your host attempts to explain to one of our British brethren the differences between protecting yourself with a gun and being a living target…
With the Oregon community college shooting still on everyone’s minds, the web is rife with hand-wringing, defending, blaming and similar commentary regarding the shooting, the shooter and, of course, the guns. We live in one of the few countries that constitutionally codifies the right to own a firearm, so whenever one of these terrible events occurs, the level of idiocy among the gun banning community increases to staggering levels. While the commentary from some pro-gun people can also occasionally be silly , the emotional and illogical arguments of some in the anti-gun crowd are far more interesting and fun to dismantle.
A prime example is this blog entry by a Brit named Glenn Browne, posted on Saturday. The commentary serves as an excellent example of how misconceptions about America, its citizens and gun ownership makes you wish they would just shut up.
Mr. Browne makes a number of assumptions about us, along with relying on data from some questionable sources to make his point.
First, he comments on something said by Obama, who, as all Americans know, is an expert on everything from mental health to people’s motivations:
…[Obama] makes a valid point that gunmen like this are not necessarily mentally ill people. Gun crime consists mostly of young men with anger issues who end up snapping and using their ability to freely own a gun to their advantage; and usually to the dismay of many innocent people.
No, sorry, Glenn, but in spite of the President’s presumed intellectual brilliance, he cannot conclude that Chris Harper Mercer wasn’t mentally ill. Mentally sound people don’t profess their admiration for, and jealousy over the publicity received by previous killers, such as Vestor Flanagan. They also don’t leave behind rambling notes discussing themselves and their perceived plights in the world:
The suspect allegedly left a note behind and investigators have it, CBS News has learned. Law enforcement sources say it is several pages long and in it, the 26-year-old made statements suggesting that he may have been depressed and angry.
…the multi-page typed note was a philosophical rant of someone who was mad at the world. The source said the note was focused a great deal on the suspect’s low opinion of himself.
The president may not be able to conclude the shooter was nuts, but I don’t think it’s too much of a stretch for the rest of us.
After posting a chart from Vox that claims the United States is a freaking shooting gallery with blood flowing in the streets, he drops this whopper:
In All [sic] states of the United States of America everyone is entitled to carry some sort of concealed firearm in public, while many of theses states actually allow the gun to be carried un-concealed in public. State level laws vary significantly in their form, content and level of restriction, but in general almost anyone is able to buy and own a gun for self defense.
The term “all states” (or “All states,” as he wrote it) is only partially true. Though all 50 states do have permitting laws for concealed carry, not all 50 states actually allow people to obtain those permits without extremely stringent requirements (for example, being in law enforcement). New Jersey, Maryland, Hawaii and Rhode Island are states with severely restricted permit issuance, as are specific cities like the District of Columbia, New York, Boston and Los Angeles, along with all federal military installations. In all these places, it’s nearly impossible for the average citizen to obtain a carry permit of any type. Browne gets it partially correct in the last sentence, but then drops the ball on the “almost anyone is able to buy and own a gun for self defense” part. Unless, of course, he’s including illegal, under-the-table sales by people who can’t get a permit.
But that would never happen because of gun control, right?
Mr. Brown then states that, since no one in the U.K. carries a gun, the homicide rate is very low (which is true), and he even points out that Britain doesn’t appear on the aforementioned Vox homicide-by-gun chart. Which makes sense, since no one in Britain can carry a gun. He then wonders rhetorically why the homicide rate is so low in his country versus the United States.
According to the chart on this page, going back a couple of years, the U.S. had 14,827 homicides (of any type) in 2012, a rate of 4.7 per 100,000, placing us 111th in the world. In 2011, the U.K. as a whole has 653 homicides, at a rate of 1.0 per 100,000, placing it 190th on this chart. (I should note that this chart uses information from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. They claim that there’s no international standard for reporting exactly what constitutes a “homicide.” But you don’t ever want to live in South America, most of the Caribbean and anywhere in Africa, if these numbers are remotely accurate).
Now, while Mr. Browne might celebrate his nation’s advanced standing in not killing a lot of people, there are a couple of things to consider. First, he’s correct: Americans have a lot of guns. However, one other thing we have is a far greater population size. The 2015 U.S. population estimate is almost 322 million (making us 3rd in the world), while the U.K. hovers around 65 million. With a population nearly five times larger, one can reasonably conclude that any activity would occur more frequently in the country with the greater number of people.
In all likelihood, most of these homicides were probably crime-related (consider the name of the UN group gathering these statistics), possibly involving gang activity, robbery, rape and drug sales. Now I know London and other areas in Britain have high crime rates, but considering our population size and our proximity to drug-producing countries (such as Mexico and Columbia), it makes logical sense that the levels of this activity would be higher here, leading to a greater level of related killings.
The FBI, incidentally, reports that about 8000 homicides were committed with a gun in 2012, the year we referenced above.
Consider this: it’s estimated that about 80 million people legally owns guns in America, and counting the ownership of multiple weapons, about 300 million guns are legally owned in this country. Using those numbers, we can easily calculate that, if all homicides were committed by that population of legal owners, the rate of those homicides would be 0.0001%. But it’s more likely that many of those killings were committed by people using illegally-obtained weapons. So that percentage would probably be even lower.
The rest of Mr. Browne’s post focuses on emotional questions and “what-if” scenarios that don’t strengthen his argument all that much. First, he says this:
Don’t get me wrong though, I understand why people would want to protect themselves and their family, but maybe not being allowed to own a gun so easily is a better way to control homicide in the country.
After all most of the time using the gun would be totally unjustified! – I have NEVER had to hold, own or use a gun to protect myself or my family, so it just sounds like an excuse to be power crazy and threatening to me.
His first mistake is assuming that the person looking to harm your family is going to be concerned with laws that say they can’t own a gun. Creating a law that says “you can’t own a gun” is one thing. Assuming that people will obey that law is another, and is frequently the issue we face in America.
No one ever expects Mr. Browne (or anyone else) to use a gun in an “unjustified” manner. We have laws to this affect; one cannot just draw their gun and shoot someone because of some perceived threat. Since he’s admittedly never even held a gun, I fail to understand how he can believe that doing so automatically makes one “power crazy and threatening.” The first thing I thought of when I first picked up a gun was “be careful and don’t do anything stupid.”
There are two main reasons to own a gun in my opinion, the first because you LIKE guns and use them for sporting activities, or because you like to kill people!
Right. 80 million gun owners just like to kill people. If this were the case, our streets, highways and homes would be flowing with rivers of blood, don’t you think?
I mean who gives anyone the right to take another person’s life? Ok so there are situations where extreme force is necessary, such as someone attacking your children, but as we have proved in Britain time and time again, and for many years, there are other ways to defend yourself and family without falling into the realms of using a gun and probably ending up in prison for murder; who will protect your family then? I think there is a fine line between self defense and murder in the case of using a gun.
Browne makes the assumption here that there is some kind of “right” to take another person’s life. In fact, our Constitution is pretty clear that “life” is a fundamental right, enumerated at the very beginning of that document. The right to live is the central argument for those of us who are against abortion, euthanasia, and the death penalty. He apparently confuses the “right to take a life” (which really doesn’t exist) with the “right to defend yourself against harm.” And he’s correct; there is a fine line between self-defense and murder. Most law-abiding gun owners in America are well versed in this difference, and very likely far more knowledgeable about gun and defense-related laws than the average person.
These are the responsibilities of being a law-abiding gun owner.
Browne does bring up one interesting point: potential prison for murder for an act of self-defense in his country. I believe that in the United Kingdom, a person can be tried and potentially convicted for murder even when using a gun in the process of defending their property or other people. I won’t pretend to understand how this is possible or why the law would be designed to permit this to happen. But in the U.S., laws that allow for self-defense, such as “stand your ground” laws, are specifically written so that a specific and immediate threat must be present when someone uses a gun for protection.
Mr. Browne then asks one rhetorical question after another regarding locked guns, unloaded guns, making enemies…you can read those and judge his logic yourself. But he makes two comments that are contradictory all on their own. First, he says this (emphasis is mine):
The main reason someone own a gun in America is the belief they need it for protection, but protection from what? If another guy was pointing a gun at you, how do you find that your gun is protecting you? Can you physically move faster than a bullet? I think not…so the idea of either one of you having a gun is just beyond me. What happened to good old, honest fist fights to defend yourself?
So if a guy with a gun breaks into my home and threatens my wife and me with a gun, I’m supposed to ask him to put down the gun and accept my challenge to a good old fist fight? I’m pretty sure the last thing I hear will be peals of laughter as he guns me down, fists raised. But then he comes back with this:
Take a burglar for example, they are coming into your home to steal your TV, your iPad, maybe even your car keys, but what is the likeliness of them coming in with a gun to murder your family? If they are intending on murder, you must have made some serious enemies! In the case of a burglar, what use would your gun be when it’s locked in a cabinet? Do you think the burglar going to stand there and wait for you to open the cabinet, pull the gun out, and then continue with the episode until he is shot dead? In the time it took you to get to the gun, unlock it, load it, and point it at the guy he will have already bashed you on the head or simply ran away….so what is the point in the gun?
No, idiot, I don’t think the burglar is going to wait until I take the gun from a locked cabinet, which is why my loaded weapon is at the ready in a location where I can reach it quickly. I use my gun safe to lock up guns I’m not using (i.e., taking to the range, cleaning, etc.) so I know they’re secure when I have people visiting or when I’m away from my home.
In the same breath, he first asks why we can’t just duke it out, but he doesn’t understand why a gun-toting burglar wouldn’t just wait for me to unlock, load and rack before trying to shoot me.
In my personal case, I have a security system in my home that we arm at night. If someone attempted to break in, the alarm would activate first, hopefully making the would-be burglar run away. If not, it would give me ample time to grab my weapon and confront someone.
He also makes the assumption that using a gun in self-defense automatically means firing the weapon at someone. I don’t know anyone, even the most ardent gun owner, who wants to intentionally shoot someone. The point of drawing the gun is to make the other person reconsider what they’re doing, stop their actions and surrender. I believe Mr. Browne would be surprised how many times a situation like this occurs in America yearly. The threat of using a gun can often be as powerful as actually pulling the trigger.
In the end, he fails to realize that the large number of guns and gun owners in the United States has nothing to do with what happened at that campus last week. That was the act of a disturbed man, who entered a room full of unarmed people, and knowing they could not defend themselves, cowardly demanded they declare their religious beliefs, then killed them or wounded them based on their answers.
This wasn’t about concealed carry, open carry, permits or self-defense. This was about a degenerate subhuman using unarmed people for target practice. We all speculate about what may have happened if one person in that room was carrying their personal weapon. There may have been an opportunity for someone to fight back, not with their fists, but with something to equalize the situation.
Until people like Mr. Browne understand the difference, we’re always going to have to fight this battle.