Whenever I write an essay or argue a point about “gun control,” I always consider what the other side believes. While I’ve always had an individual-rights understanding of the topic, it took me the better part of a decade to construct what I believe is the logically defensible ideology to support that position. I have tried to repeat those logical points, sometimes ad nauseam, in order to reach a broad audience. After three and a half years that audience has about reached its maximum here, I think, but I’m not quite done yet. The other side certainly isn’t.
A long time ago I came across an anonymous quote:
Simply put, gun control cannot survive without an accompanying sea of disinformation.
This fact is one of the major reasons I started this blog. I’ve found through my studies that this is a truism that most people simply don’t recognize. I feel a need to counter that disinformation. I found another quote, courtesy of Triggerfinger that is almost a truism:
The difference between gun control activists and gun rights activists is simple: gun rights advocates know what they are talking about, because they have depth of knowledge and expertise about firearms and pay attention to the issue. Gun control advocates, for the most part, don’t know anything about guns, aren’t interested in guns, and only pay attention to gun issues when the latest blood-dancing press release arrives. There’s no sustainability.
All but the last sentence is correct. There may not be individual sustainability, but the bad ideas, the erroneous memes, live on.
Today’s example: an op-ed in the Philadelphia Inquirer. Let us fisk:
Control guns to stop the tide of death.
John D. Kelly IV is an associate professor and vice chair of orthopedic surgery at Temple University School of Medicine
Weeks ago, I witnessed – again – a young man’s needless departure from this life. Another victim of the senseless gunshot violence that has besieged our city.
Note: Not “senseless violence,” but “senseless gunshot violence,” as though it is not the violent who are at fault, but the guns. Not the person behind the trigger. Not the person who acquired the gun, loaded the gun, aimed the gun, and pulled the trigger – but the gun itself.
As an on-call surgeon, I ambled into the emergency room before I left for home that evening to be sure that no orthopedic care would be needed for the “trauma category one” I heard announced throughout the hospital.
When I entered the trauma bay of our emergency department, I was mesmerized by the surgeons who were trying heroically, albeit unsuccessfully, to revive the young man who had been shot in the chest, presumably at close range. In the cacophony of the life-and-death rescue attempt, I couldn’t help overhearing a nurse exclaim, “There is another gunshot wound to the abdomen on the way.”
The poor lifeless body I beheld was essentially dead on arrival. I was overwhelmed by the childlike countenance of this poor victim, who was reportedly 21 years old, but appeared still an adolescent.
A 21 year-old who the Bradys will count as a “child” in their statistics, but by any measure ought to be an adult. And why isn’t he an adult? Is that the fault of guns in society? Or is there a deeper problem that guns are a symptom, but not a cause of? Dr. Kelly doesn’t, and won’t, consider that question. He has bought the “guns-as-disease-vector” meme.
I remember my 21st year with the fondest of memories – family, friends, romance, sports, college, and the prospects of going to medical school. I grieve this young man’s truncated existence – the loss of yet another precious life, a life that will never experience the full joys of early manhood, of vocational calling, of marriage and parenthood – all the things I revere about my blessed life.
I can infer from this that Dr. Kelly, the fourth, was not raised in the “inner city.” That he was not part of the tiny identifiable population (young urban black males) who make up the largest portion of homicide victims in this country, at a ratio of 6:1 over any other group. That he was raised in a whole family, and was not exposed to drugs and violence and poverty and neglect from childhood.
But it’s guns that are the problem.
With every gunshot-related death I read about or discover on TV, there always seems to be a continual lament: This violence and senseless killing must stop. With the recent death of Philadelphia Police Officer Gary Skerski, the commemoration of the 25th anniversary of the slaying of Officer Daniel Faulkner, and the recent Springfield High School tragedy, the public outcry against gun violence seems to have reached its zenith.
For this month. But as I’ve pointed out, Birchwood, Wisconson is not Hungerford, England, and Philadelphia is not Dunblane.
Alas, nothing has changed. Yet one blatant truth remains: There are too many guns.
And this, ladies and gentlemen, is what every single one of us who believes in the right to arms must never forget:
The Other Side BELIEVES THIS. Absolutely. Without question.
It is their single article of faith.
And it is why we cannot trust them when they assure us that they “don’t want to take our guns away,” because if the “one blatant truth” is that there are “too many guns,” then the only answer is to reduce the number of guns.
This is simple logic.
If the single tenet of the gun control faith is that there are too many guns, the end purpose of “gun control” must be to eliminate them, or – at a minimum – reduce the number to some arbitrary “this is OK” level which I suspect must be significantly close to “nobody but the police and the military can have them” as to be indistinguishable from zero.
Yet we’ve seen what that’s done for England. A complete ban on full-auto weapons? Gun crime increased. And full-auto weapons are still used in crimes, such as the January, 2003 shooting of two young women at a party in London, or a young man at a carnival in August of 2004, or the group, including a 14 year-old girl, arrested in October for supplying guns to criminals – including a sub-machine gun. What do they all have in common?
Youth gangs and drugs. Poverty and crime. Failed government policies based on “blatant truths.”
Oh, and full-auto, completely banned firearms on an island.
What about their ban on semi-auto and pump-action rifles? Gun crime went up. The ban on handguns? Well, according to the BBC, “there were 4,903 firearms incidents recorded in 1997 when Labour first took power” and banned handguns. In the 2004/2005 reporting period there were 10,979 recorded firearms crimes according to the Home Office. Fifty-eight percent of them involved handguns.
The handgun ban removed over 160,000 – legally owned – handguns from the UK with the insistence that the “number of guns” was the problem, and the promise that banning them would make the public safer.
Go ahead. Pull my other leg.
The British government estimated in 2000 that some three million firearms were held illegally there. Boy, those bans really worked well, didn’t they?
A wounded culture simply does not need more weapons to settle its conflicts. Until this truth is embraced and conquered, the carnage will continue.
Par for the course, once you’ve erroneously identified the problem, the platitudes commence. There’s a “wounded culture,” all right, but “more weapons” isn’t the cause of it, nor will removing those weapons cure that culture even if it was possible. England is the petri-dish that proves this. Until that truth is embraced, the real problems will never be addressed – because it’s far easier to point to an inanimate object than it is to overcome cognitive dissonance and accept the facts of human nature and failed social policies.
The state legislature’s failure last month to pass a paltry “one-gun-a-month” limit speaks volumes about Pennsylvania’s resistance to change. Who on God’s earth needs more than one gun a month?
Ah, yes. The “need” argument. Who needs “X.” Fast cars? Trans-fats? Cigarettes? Why not ban it? If you can limit purchases to one a month, why not one a year? One a decade? If someone is already a gun owner, how does limiting them to one a month stop them from committing a gun crime with one they already own? Or how does preventing a purchase from a dealer prevent a purchase on the street? Criminals won’t pay attention to “one gun a month” laws. They don’t pay attention to “murder is illegal” laws. This is another example of “feel good” legislation that acts as “the next step.”
The next step to what? To not taking our guns away, of course!
Because the “blatant truth” is the number of guns is the problem!
Pennsylvania eased restrictions on gun permits in 1985. Since then, the number of citizens authorized to carry a handgun has risen from 700 to 32,000.
Wait for it…
Guns are simply too accessible and too often used to settle disagreements.
By CCW permit holders?
Our beloved city saw 380 homicides in 2005, the most since 1997. Of those, 208 deaths were over “disputes.” Drug-related killings accounted for only 13 percent. This year, we are on track to surpass the total.
Again, BY CCW HOLDERS?
That’s certainly the implication he’s blatantly making. Oh, and according to the Pennsylvania State Police, there are currenly not 32,000 carry licenses on issue in Pennsylvania, but 101,643. This report does not mention how many of those permits have been revoked, so I must assume that (as it is in other states) the number is insignificantly small, but these are the people Dr. Kelly thinks should be disarmed.
Because we know they have guns. They’ve got a license to carry.
And what were those “disputes” about? Could it be “disrespect?”
I have had the profound privilege of caring for injured members of our beloved police force for the last 17 years. These men and women risk their lives every day for our society. Yet they continue to be outgunned by their foes. Even an Uzi submachine gun, classified as a handgun, is not difficult for a criminal to procure.
It’s not too hard in England, either, and sub-machine guns have been banned there since 1935. Also, Uzi submachine guns are classified by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives as fully-automatic weapons, not handguns, unless you’re talking about the semi-auto version called the mini-uzi. The full-sized semi-auto Uzi is considered to be a rifle. The submachine gun version is heavily restricted, and it is difficult for a law-abiding citizen to procure. But remember this Violence Policy Center advice from 1988:
Although handguns claim more than 20,000 lives a year, the issue of handgun restriction consistently remains a non-issue with the vast majority of legislators, the press, and public. The reasons for this vary: the power of the gun lobby; the tendency of both sides of the issue to resort to sloganeering and pre-packaged arguments when discussing the issue; the fact that until an individual is affected by handgun violence he or she is unlikely to work for handgun restrictions; the view that handgun violence is an “unsolvable” problem; the inability of the handgun restriction movement to organize itself into an effective electoral threat; and the fact that until someone famous is shot, or something truly horrible happens, handgun restriction is simply not viewed as a priority. Assault weapons—just like armor-piercing bullets, machine guns, and plastic firearms—are a new topic. The weapons’ menacing looks, coupled with the public’s confusion over fully automatic machine guns versus semi-automatic assault weapons – anything that looks like a machine gun is assumed to be a machine gun – can only increase the chance of public support for restrictions on these weapons.
Dr. Kelly provides another example of that “sea of disinformation” and his willingness to prey on the public’s ignorance.
Our country experiences 30,000 firearm-related deaths each year. The estimated cost to society – including loss of productivity, pain and suffering, and reduced quality of life – has been estimated at $63.4 billion per year.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, in 2004 the total was 29,569. Of those, 16,750 – 56.6% – were suicides. Yet America ranks relatively low for suicide internationally. Japan, with almost no privately owned firearms has a far higher suicide rate. France, higher still.
But guns are at fault for all of this?
There were 5,733 non-gun homicides and 15,689 non-gun suicides in 2004. What inanimate object is at fault for those? And why are we only concerned with gun violence? (And why don’t they call it the “Gun-Violence Policy Center”?)
Contrast these figures to countries with strict handgun prohibitions, where the number of gunshot-related deaths is but a handful.
Like England? Where the number of gunshot-related deaths has always been “a handful?” But has done nothing but increase since they addressed the “one blatant truth” that there were “too many guns?” Or how about Switzerland, where every eligible male of military age possesses a military (read: “full-auto”) firearm and ammunition for it, and handgun regulation is minimal?
Care to run that one past me again?
It is time we embrace the obvious. Unless we make it more difficult (if not impossible) to carry a concealable firearm, the loss of precious life will inexorably continue.
Yes, let’s “embrace the obvious.” How do you plan to accomplish this? Force everyone to walk around naked, or dressed in Saran-Wrap sarongs? How do you propose to make the some 65 million (in reality, probably far more) handguns already in private hands unconcealable?
I’m waiting for suggestions. You know, that don’t include “Mr. and Mrs. America, turn them all in.”
Let’s get back to the fundamentals: Life is more important than outdated “Second Amendment rights” or special-interest groups.
At least Dr. Kelly recognizes that the Second Amendment stands in the way of his vision of utopia. Unlike most, while he considers it a withered appendage, it’s not yet powerless to him. Life is more important than a lot of things. That’s one reason so many people have gotten concealed-carry permits, 101,000 in Pennsylvania alone. My “special interest group” supports the Constitution of the United States and all of the Bill of Rights. My “special interest group” recognizes that even über-liberal Alan Dershowitz understands the problem illustrated here:
Foolish liberals who are trying to read the Second Amendment out of the Constitution by claiming it’s not an individual right or that it’s too much of a public safety hazard, don’t see the danger in the big picture. They’re courting disaster by encouraging others to use the same means to eliminate portions of the Constitution they don’t like.
And so does Ninth Circuit Judge Andrew Kleinfeld:
About twenty percent of the American population, those who live in the Ninth Circuit, have lost one of the ten amendments in the Bill of Rights. And, the methodology used to take away the right threatens the rest of the Constitution. The most extraordinary step taken by the panel opinion is to read the frequently used Constitutional phrase, “the people,” as conferring rights only upon collectives, not individuals. There is no logical boundary to this misreading, so it threatens all the rights the Constitution guarantees to “the people,” including those having nothing to do with guns. I cannot imagine the judges on the panel similarly repealing the Fourth Amendment’s protection of the right of “the people” to be secure against unreasonable searches and seizures, or the right of “the people” to freedom of assembly, but times and personnel change, so that this right and all the other rights of “the people” are jeopardized by planting this weed in our Constitutional garden.
The populations of the states in the 9th Circuit could, if they wished, do as Washington DC has done and ban the possession of handguns, for all the good it has done DC. That Court has said that the Second Amendment does not protect against this. But Judge Kleinfeld understands the danger, and he is not alone. Dr. Kelly apparently rejects or has never considered the argument.
Society’s cultural ills, including the dissolution of family, departure from God, and the degradation of mores, will not be cured overnight. In the meantime, guns remain the default option for conflict resolution, and more guns lead to more killings. One more senseless killing is one too many.
Excuse me for now. I must rest and prepare for the next call. I pray my spirit can withstand what befalls my eyes in my next sojourn to the ER.
And here I will ask Dr. Kelly Joe Huffman’s “Just One Question”:
Can you demonstrate just one time, one place, throughout all of human history, where restricting the access of handheld weapons to the average person made them safer?
Because that’s what Dr. Kelly is advocating.
The only people he and those like him can disarm are the law abiding, as England has discovered. All they can accomplish is to build a population of disarmed victims for what we know is a small but willing pool of violent criminals who will never be prevented from getting all the weapons they want or need. England and Wales may not have the murder rates that the U.S. does (and never has), but their rates of many other violent crimes – muggings, home invasion, assault – outstrip ours now.
As I illustrated in Questions from the Audience?, the United States just went through a decade of significantly declining violent crime – including homicide – while “the number of guns” here increased each and every year. During the same period, the UK experienced significantly increased violent crime, even though they banned handguns. How does Dr. Kelly reconcile this fact with his belief that “too many guns” are the cause of violent crime? I submit that he cannot.
His position is, as it is for all who support “gun control” as a solution to violent crime, based on an erroneous ideology. His solution is, as Mencken (or someone) put it, “simple, neat, and wrong,” but it’s the one “solution” that all fervent gun-control supporters believe. “If we could only get rid of the guns…” But we can’t. They’re not going to go away.
And that is why we must reach those fence-sitters out there and educate them. The best way I can think of is to make them shooters too. As Teresa Neilson Hayden put it:
Basically, I figure guns are like gays: They seem a lot more sinister and threatening until you get to know a few; and once you have one in the house, you can get downright defensive about them.
I think Mike S. Adams might be on to something. Interesting idea, anyway.
UPDATE, 1/1/06: Dr. Kelly responds:
Kevin, thanks for writing. I am all for individual rights but life is sacred. Too many guns end up in the wrong hands. Whatever reason, the youth of North Philly too easily obtain firearms which are designed to seriously wound. Furthermore, the folks who wrote the constitution also owned slaves. Times do change and we have not demonstrated that the masses, unlike you, can responsibly control firearms. Peace, JK
My reply to the good Doctor:
You didn’t read the piece, did you?
Read your email to me carefully. What you’re saying here is that “the masses” – your words – are “the wrong hands.” Apparently I’m OK, though.
Sorry, Doc. “The wrong hands” belong to about 1% of the total population – i.e.: by definition, not “the masses.” But your “solution” is to disarm them, with the erroneous belief that doing so will disarm “the wrong hands.” We have evidence that this doesn’t work. That the fundamental idea behind it all – that there are “too many guns” – is in error.
Are you familiar with the term “cognitive dissonance”?
Oh, and as to “the Founders owned slaves” – yes, they did. And seventy years after the ratification of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights we went to war over that. Following the war, we amended the Constitution. Read the Fourteenth Amendment, ratified in 1868, the one that contains this clause:
No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.
Are you familiar with the Dred Scott decision? The 1856 Supreme Court case that declared that blacks, free or slave, could not be citizens because:
For if they were so received, and entitled to the privileges and immunities of citizens, it would exempt them from the operation of the special laws and from the police regulations which they considered to be necessary for their own safety. It would give to persons of the negro race, who were recognised as citizens in any one State of the Union, the right to enter every other State whenever they pleased, singly or in companies, without pass or passport, and without obstruction, to sojourn there as long as they pleased, to go where they pleased at every hour of the day or night without molestation, unless they committed some violation of law for which a white man would be punished; and it would give them the full liberty of speech in public and in private upon all subjects upon which its own citizens might speak; to hold public meetings upon political affairs, and to keep and carry arms wherever they went.
I don’t think the “privileges or immunities” language in the Fourteenth Amendment was an accident. I think Chief Justice Taney quite well understood what the Founders intended with the Bill of Rights, and he and six others on the Supreme Court denied fundamental human rights to blacks because they were “the wrong hands” in their eyes.
So you’re in good company. You’ve just broadened the bigotry.
UPDATE: The good doctor sent another reply. So did I.