Friday, October 1, 2010

Gun control

I recently read an article touting the need for better gun control laws in this country and had to shake my head in disbelief at the lack of understanding (and slight disconnect from reality) evidenced within those 750 words. Just to be clear, I agree with the idea that there should be limits on how a weapon of any kind may be used but feel that we have far too many laws which focus on the possession or type of a weapon instead of what is done with it. In fact you could cover the necessary intent of many laws by enforcing the simplest ones. It is illegal to kill someone except in self defense. Why then must there be a law that says it is illegal to kill someone with a gun except in self defense? Additionally, why would there be laws which prevent a person from being able to defend themselves if it is legal to do so?

First let’s discuss laws related to the commission of a crime. Is it any worse for society to have someone who committed murder with a gun on the streets than someone who committed murder with a rock? The end result is the same, someone else is dead, so why should the punishment be any different? To that end, why should it matter if I threaten to kill someone by pumping my fist at them or by showing them a gun? I have indicated the same intent in both cases with the only difference being I have proposed a specific tool to accomplish the task in the second. Some will argue that the punishment should be more severe because the level of fear raised by the different methods of threatening can be significantly different. While it is easy to agree that a gun is clearly more easily capable of accomplishing the threatened task it is much more difficult to agree that we should litigate differently based on a person’s subjective reaction to a situation. Not everyone will have the same fear response to seeing a gun.

I will address issues with our justice system and the political influences that permeate it at a later time but will say here that if we enforced existing laws and severely limited the loop-holes that some lawyers abuse to prevent criminals from being punished we would find that violence drops much faster than by restricting law-abiding citizens from protecting themselves. More energy is spent each year on preventing your average American from purchasing a firearm than is spent on eliminating the ways in which a criminal might avoid punishment. To me there is something very wrong about this.

Now let’s discuss the ability to defend one’s self or family. A law abiding citizen will obey a law that prohibits the carry of a fire arm but a criminal does not care if there are additional laws on this topic, they have already decided that laws do not apply to them. In fact, additional laws restricting individuals from carrying a weapon only serve to make the criminal more secure in the knowledge that their victims will not have the means to defend themselves from attack. There have been numerous studies showing the direct correlation between restrictive gun laws and violent crime rates; the more laws, the more violent crime (please do some research before responding that this is not true, it is). When the general populace is disarmed criminals become more brazen because there is a very minimal chance that they will come across a victim that can defend themselves.

One of the issues with the laws around firearms that truly perplexes me is that the system allows criminals who have been stopped by a victim (or the criminal’s family) to retaliate against the victim. There have been many stories over the last few years illustrating this. If a person breaks into your house at night, has a weapon, and comes into your bedroom it is a logical assumption that they intend to do you serious harm. Why then should they (or their family) be able to sue you if you seriously injure or kill them. It was not the victim that went into the criminal’s home and threatened them yet some lawyers with no commitment to justice have been able to convince a judge or jury that the criminal should be rewarded for their violation of the law with a monetary settlement. I truly believe that there should be significant reform in this area and that “castle doctrine” type laws should be expanded to cover your entire property as well as your vehicle (car-jackers be ware). Instead of the criminal that is now paralyzed being given thousands of dollars they should be put on trial for the break-in and sent to jail. The preparedness of the victim should not be a reprieve from punishment for the criminal.

On a personal note and without any malicious intent or desire to play the part of the hero, I carry my sidearm with me whenever it is legal and safe to do so. No one has ever known that I am armed except for my wife and I’ve never had cause to change that. Being a law-abiding citizen I have only recently been able to carry my concealed weapon into a restaurant when we go out to eat since VA was, until this past July, one of the states that prevented concealed carry in any establishment that serves alcohol, regardless of whether the permit holder was drinking or not. I no longer have my customary 1 beer or glass of wine with dinner and am fine with that (doesn’t hurt to cut out those calories anyway). Many gun control advocates tried to convince those making the laws that this change would lead to a wild-west atmosphere in every restaurant in town. This did not happen and I am grateful that rationality won out over unsubstantiated fear-mongering on this particular issue.

In closing I’d like to say that I truly do hope that I never am put in a situation that requires me to use deadly force to protect myself, family, or another victim but would do so without guilt if there were no other way to ensure our lives were safe. I detest the idea of killing another human being but would rather live knowing that I was forced to kill a criminal than with the knowledge that I could have prevented the death of an innocent person and did nothing.