Well, it’s been about a week since the shootings in Colorado. Twelve people killed, dozens injured, by a man the state will probably go out of their way to try and murder. Three of the five hospitals treating patients from the shooting have waived all the fees and bills, which is nice. Sucks if you’re someone who got shot without being shot at the theater, mind you.
For the last week I’ve heard people talking about how this shooting was caused by or made worse by our culture, our society, mental health problems, emotional problems, violent films and the like. I’ve seen much hand-wringing and navel-gazing on the part of all sorts of people. But what I haven’t heard, on any kind of real scale (Fareed Zekaria being a notable exception), is that maybe, just maybe, our stupidly-high levels of gun ownership and the availability of military-grade weapons to civilians might have contributed to the problem.
The simple fact is that guns do kill people. They are made to kill people and things. Sure, some people use them for target shooting, but they are in the vast minority. These are weapons designed to kill and injure people and animals at a distance. They serve no other real purpose.
Now people justify private gun ownership in many ways. They talk about how you need one for protection, which makes almost no sense. If you’re out and about and someone tries to rob you, give them what they want. It’s less morally and ethically messy than killing them, and if you tried to shoot them, you might miss and hit some innocent person, which will give you a whole host of problems. If you’re worried about someone breaking into your house, buy a home alarm system. They aren’t that cheap, sure, but, again, less morally and ethically messy. If you really feel the need to have a gun for home protection, buy a shotgun. You don’t even need to have it loaded. I can just about guarantee that the sound of it being racked will be enough to make just about anyone run for it.
Some people want guns just to have guns. I can understand, appreciate and support that. If you want to have a collection of historical guns, or pistols or something like that, go for it. The Second Amendment doesn’t clearly support your right to do so, but the Supreme Court has interpreted it that way, so knock yourself out. But just like you’re not allowed to own an array of surface-to-air missles, perhaps you shouldn’t be allowed to own, say, an AR-15. Come to that, perhaps you don’t need to own any kind of a semi- or fully-automatic gun. Why do you need to fire that many shots that quickly? There’s no way it can be justified on personal defense or hunting grounds.
Also some people say that you need guns to defend yourself in case the government does “X” which removes your freedoms. So you can then fight back against their tyranny with your guns. Given that the government has everything up to and including nuclear weapons, I’m fairly sure a civilian uprising against it would not work. Just a hunch, mind you.
The fact is that while tighter gun controls, including what kind of guns people are allowed to own, how many working guns they can have, how much ammunition they are allowed to have and who is allowed to have a gun in the first place, would not have likely prevented this tragedy. But if the guy had gone in with, say, a pistol and a shotgun, with limited amounts of ammunition, I’m willing to bet it would have at least had a lower body count. That’s not everything, but it is something.
We have a bizarre fixation on guns in this country. We own about half the number of civilian-controlled firearms in the world. Not surprisingly we have, by several orders of magnitude, the largest number of gun deaths in the civilized world. Correlation may very well actually be causation in this case.
Simple logic dictates that when you allow almost anyone to buy almost any kind of gun, and allow them to own multiple guns, and allow them to stockpile a batallion’s worth of ammunition, you’re going to have large-scale gun crimes. It will happen. If you’re comfortable with that, fine. But I’m not and I want to see more, tighter, better contols on these guns.
People kill people, yes, and they do it much more easily and in far greater numbers when they are heavily armed. We need stronger, better, affordable mental health options, too, among other things, but step one is making sure that when someone goes off the rails they can’t get their hands on military weapons. That’s just common sense.