I was reading yet another gun control article in the online edition of the New York Times this morning and, of course, I read through the comments section as well. It was rather disturbing. The amount of false information and just plain dumb ideas out there is staggering.
Full disclosure: I do not personally own a gun and never have. I have often considered getting one but I have a finite amount of money and there was always something else I would rather buy. However, I grew up around lots of guns, learned the shoot at a young age, and was taught a healthy respect for guns at around the same time I learned to walk. I have also worked in both the U.S. Army and the Texas Department of Criminal Justice and I was armed (and trained) in both jobs. I have a large amount of gun experience from hunting, military, and law enforcement angles.
I am an avid supporter of the right to bear arms and there are a number of critical myths that must be discussed and dismissed if there is ever to be a rational answer to this constant argument.
MYTH: Probably the most pervasive myth on this subject is the idea that the 2nd amendment only pertains to people in the militia (which is currently translated as military and police, a translation that, itself, does not hold up to scrutinization). Even if we ignore proper grammar (please note the comma placement) or definitions of the time (look up the 17th century meaning of "regulated"), this myth does not hold for a simple reason: The same Congress that put the 2nd amendment before the states also passed a law that defined the word militia for legal purposes. That law stated that the militia was all citizens who were otherwise of a legal age and allowed to vote. Restricting gun ownership to members of the militia would not then be much of a restriction, would it?
MYTH: The second most pervasive myth in the gun control story is that gun control laws are even worth writing. The majority of gun-related crimes committed in America are already committed with illegal guns or by people who illegally possess guns. Existing laws do nothing to slow down criminals. New ones will not do any better.
MYTH: It is commonly believed that we have a high rate of gun-related crimes because we have a high number of guns. Allow me to direct your attention to Switzerland where there is a gun in almost every home and no corresponding high rate of gun crimes. Do the math.
MYTH: Countries with strict gun laws have lower violent crime rates. This is a simply ridiculous claim. Mexico and most of South America have extremely restrictive gun laws but they are riddled with violent gun issues. And no, most of those guns do not come from America. The ATF's own report on the subject states that only about 17%-19% of those guns are from here and most of those were stolen from legitimate shipments to military forces. If we look at places like Great Britain and Canada, they actually do have a lower gun crime rate, but they have equal or higher rates in other violent crimes and those rates have gone up since their gun laws became more restrictive. I fail to see how trading one set of violent crimes for another is really helping anyone.
MYTH: Hand guns have no purpose other than killing people. This one just makes me laugh. It only gets stated by people who know nothing about guns. Even if we discount such things as competitive target shooting and plain collecting (two points that, arguably at least, don't actually address the myth), you have obviously never been out in the country if you believe this statement. I'll give you a simple example. When I was growing up, we had a small ranch in the south Texas brush country. My dad was out walking the brush one day [I believe he had been hunting - at any rate, he had both his rifle (which was properly slung for walking) and his pistol (which was holstered on his hip)] when he came within a dangerous distance of stepping on a rattlesnake. There was no way, in the close reach and time allowed, that he could unsling his rifle and bring it to bear fast enough to keep from being bit. He could, however, draw and use his pistol in the time and space allowed. I am personally grateful to report that this is exactly what he did and, because of that pistol, the snake died and my dad did not. In response to one of the commenters on that article, this is exactly why you often see cowboys wearing sidearms when they are in the field. It has nothing to do with romanticized dreams of the Old West.
MYTH: One of my favorite myths from the gun control lobby comes from those who actually acknowledge the true intent of the 2nd amendment. The admit that the point was to have an armed citizenry to defend against government abuses but claim that the point is moot now that the government has such things as tanks, bombs, and fighter jets. I have a one-word answer to this claim: Afghanistan. Using almost nothing but infantry-style and homemade weapons of the type that virtually any fool could make with spare parts, this country has fended off not one but two superpowers armed with the most advanced modern military hardware. Modern technology means nothing if you cannot fit it where you are using it or if you are not willing to use it in a given location. Take a look at Ireland during the height of the NRA conflict. How many tanks or fighter jets did you see England deploying?
MYTH: The final myth I want to cover here is the most ironic and the most disgusting - the myth that you do not need to defend yourself because that is why we have police. My instinctive response to this myth is laughter. It's quickly followed, however, by the urge to cry and then by anger. This myth is ironic because it is usually being spewed by people who are, in every other case, anti-police. It is disgusting because it is antithetical to everything a free society is supposed to mean. Dependence does not promote freedom. You are, in fact, not free in the exact degree to which you are dependent. Furthermore, the courts have upheld numerous times that the police are not obligated to protect you. Not only are they not obligated to protect you, more often than not they can't. The most common job of the police is to investigate and apprehend after the fact. Brings to mind the old adage, I'd rather be judged by twelve than carried by eight. The only person directly responsible for your safety is you. Abdicate that responsibility at your peril.
I'll illustrate my disgust with this last myth (and a common flaw with the gun control mentality) with a quote from one of the commenters: "Liberty is the freedom to make the choice to let someone else (like the police) carry the guns to protect you." We'll ignore, for the moment, the Orwellian implications in this sentence and pretend it is a serious statement that deserves a serious answer. Freedom is indeed a choice, but the freedom to choose one thing must also include the freedom to not choose that thing. Without both sides of the choice, you don't actually have a choice, let alone freedom. The commenter defeats his own position by making it a choice.
This is, at its root, the biggest problem with the gun control lobby. They want everything to be one sided and they want to call that one side a choice and freedom. Gun control advocates maintain that, if gun control can save one, it's worth it. By that same token, however, if responsibly armed citizens can save one life, isn't that worth it? Since these two statements must be equally valid yet cancel each other out, there is obviously a problem here. Emotional hand-wringing is not going to help anyone. Many claim to want "reasonable" restrictions. If you want to be reasonable, throw out the myths. Then we can talk.