Gun Control: A Starting Point
I had a problem with my car last week. It wasn't running well, and the engine seemed to be missing. I took it to a shop, where I witnessed the two mechanics argue about how to deal with the problem. One insisted that I needed new spark plug wires. The other argued that I needed a new fuel pump. They yelled back and forth at each other for several minutes before I was able to interrupt them long enough to tell them I was taking my car somewhere else, to a shop where they started by seeking the cause of a problem instead of just jumping to conclusions about what solution was appropriate.
As I witness the loud and somewhat vitriolic debate about the gun control issue, I see the same thing going on. One group insists that there are far too many guns in our culture, but they jump right to their proposed solution of more restrictive gun laws without giving any thought to that basic question -- WHY. I'm as conservative as anyone I know, and I am a big supporter of all the Constitutional Amendments, including the Second Amendment protecting the right to keep and bear arms. Still, I believe there are too many guns in our society. I have read that there are more than 200 million handguns, over 100 million gun owners, and over 64.5 million guns purchased in the last four years in America. I truly believe that is too many. I think there are too many people owning guns than is necessary, and more than is appropriate. I believe that many of those new gun owners have little or no training, experience, or expertise with their weapons, and thus they pose a potential threat to their neighbors. I do not hear anyone asking the obvious question: Why have 64.5 million guns reportedly been purchased in the last four years? How can we possibly find the right solution to any problem without first asking why the problem exists in the first place? I just don't think there are 64.5 million people who suddenly decided to take up target shooting, hunting, or gun collecting. What sense does it make to jump right to banning certain types of guns when we don't even ask why people are buying guns in the first place? I believe there are two main reasons why law abiding people in America decide to obtain guns.
First and foremost, people buy guns because they are afraid. They are afraid they and their families are in danger from criminals. They believe the police cannot offer them protection and our so-called justice system (which is neither just nor systematic) is unable to deal with bad guys who threaten their lives and property. If I felt that I or my family were in danger from crime in our neighborhood, I would obtain a weapon to defend us. If I noticed a number of burglaries or home invasions where we lived or in our workplaces, with little protection from the police, I would do whatever I felt I needed to do to protect us, including getting a gun. There have been times when I owned a gun. I worked for a short while as an armed security guard, and I had my own handgun. After I realized I did not want to pursue that career, I quit and sold my gun. When I lived in rural western Colorado, out in the country, I owned a .22 rifle for varmints, and even a 30-06 deer rifle. When we moved back into the city, I rid myself of both, because I no longer had a reason to keep them. As long as we feel safe in our home, I have no reason to keep a gun. But, once again, if I felt that my family was at risk from criminals, I would get and keep a gun with which to protect us.
The second reason I think people get guns is because they believe there will come a time when they will need one, but will no longer be able to get one. It seems reasonable to me that a significant percentage of the 64.5 million guns purchased in the last four years were bought because people believed that they might need one sometime in the future, but were afraid they will not be able to get one when they need it. Even people who live in safe neighborhoods now can fear what the future holds, and anything that threatens their ability to defend their families in the future can lead them to jump the gun (pun intended) and take preemptive action, now. Clearly, all the talk about new gun control laws restricting the ability to legally purchase guns feeds this fear and has the opposite of the desired effect.
Instead of screaming about banning guns, mostly the ones that "look scary", let's take a more rational approach. Once we take a long and strong look at why so many Americans feel the need to have guns, we can address those reasons and deal more effectively with the situation. There are a number of things we can do to make our society a safer place, and when we do so, I believe there will be far fewer people convinced that owning a gun is the only way they can protect themselves and their families. The best part of addressing the problem in this manner is that it can lead to fewer guns and fewer gun incidents without having to deprive anyone of their rights, as protected by the Second Amendment to the Constitution, to keep and bear arms. I have no fear of people who own guns because they enjoy target shooting, hunting, or gun collecting. If I feel safe in my home and my workplace, and have no fear that my rights will be taken away in the future, I personally have no reason to have a gun.