Monday, March 7, 2011

More guns is not the answer

There is an old and tired logic that says the solution to a problem is more of the same. That logic is often applied by those that are for the unlimited support of the Second Amendment. It is seeing a revival after the shootings in Arizona. Now that we have had a little time to reflect, let’s think about that logic.

Most are aware of the shootings. But to briefly recap, Representative Gabrielle Giffords and 18 other people were shot by a lone gunman on January 8, 2011. Representative Giffords was holding a public event at a Safeway Food Stores shopping center in her Arizona district. The gunman, Jared Lee Loughner, has been charged with the shooting and currently being held by Arizona authorities.

The gun of choice for Loughner was a Glock 19. It has a standard magazine size of 15 rounds and brags about its small size that makes it easy to conceal. Loughner was able to fire all the rounds from one magazine and was getting ready to replace it when the second one fell to the ground. An unarmed man managed to grab that magazine. Another unarmed man hit Loughner on the back of the head with a metal folding chair. He was subdued by many other people who where nearby.

The total time of the event before Loughner was subdued was less than 30 seconds.

The argument that is making the rounds is if a “trained, rationale person” had been at the scene with a gun, the number of people that were injured could have been less. That someone could have responded to the event by firing back at Loughner and preventing him from injuring more people. This is an old and tired argument in support of carry laws in the United States.

The truth is, this happen in arguably one of the most conservative states about personally carrying weapons. In fact, Arizona is making it even easier for people to carry guns in public. They just passed legislation that allows people that carry a gun to ignore policy in public places that asked that people not carry a gun. If the public place doesn’t scan for a weapon, it is not against the law to violate the policy. If more guns would have prevented this tragedy, why didn’t it in Arizona?

If someone had been on site that was carrying a gun, it is doubtful the “trained, rational” person could have been able to shoot back before the end of the first clip. By that time, even if the second clip hadn't fell to the ground, the unarmed people around the area would have been able to take him down.

Also, if many other people had a gun, you can be sure, not everyone would have been well trained and rational. In the confusion of the event, just like the confusion that comes from any crisis, people who are carrying might not have seen the entire event so they wouldn’t know who was the bad guy and who was the good guy. Everyone could have been shooting at anything to try and be a hero.

What makes things more difficult to support the logic, Loughner was not concerned about dyeing. There is every reason to believe that he choose such an event to find a bit of glory, no matter how perverted that thinking was. He anticipated going down in gun fire and still continued with his plans.

Finally, Loughner was able to purchase a gun from a local retailer in Arizona after passing a background test. But, Loughner's application to get into the Army failed because of a drug test. Should people that fail drug tests conducted by the Army be allowed to own a gun? He was kicked out of college until he could prove that he was mentally competent, yet he still was able to purchase a gun. Finally, he had been in trouble with the law before. Again, he was still able to purchase a gun. People who have had no trouble with the law and not a blemish on their record can be on a no fly list, yet Loughner was able to purchase a semi automatic hand gun that advertises how easy it is to conceal because of its small size.

For sure, one understanding of the Second Amendment guarantees our right to own a gun. That doesn't mean that right is absolute. A responsible community can place reasonable restrictions against those that abuse any of the rights in the Constitution. The right to carry a gun has very little time between its abuse and the injury that can be inflicted. Therefore, a responsible community can take a harder line restricting this freedom than with others.

The logic of more guns means less injured isn’t true. There are better ways to address this issue that don’t make the problem worse.

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