Sunday, January 30, 2011

What about Gun Control?

Last month’s tragedy in Tucson has spurred considerable discussion about gun control, an issue that always sparks lots of lively debate—which may be why the President refrained from talking about that in his State of the Union address last week. But I, for one, firmly believe that there is a need for greater gun control in this country.
I have recently become a supporter of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence and last week made a contribution to that organization in memory of Christina Green, the nine-year-old girl who was shot to death in Tucson on January 8.
Jim Brady (b. 1940), as many of you will likely remember, is a former Assistant to the President and White House Press Secretary under President Reagan. After being shot and nearly killed and becoming permanently disabled as a result of an assassination attempt on Reagan in 1981, Brady and his wife became ardent supporters of gun control.
In November 1993 during a White House ceremony attended by the Bradys, President Bill Clinton signed the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act into law. Paul Helmke, a former president of the United States Conference of Mayors, has been the president of the Brady Campaign since 2006. He expressed public regret that the President did not mention gun control in his speech last week.
In a January 26 posting on Brady Blogs (, Helmke wrote, “It wasn’t the lack of innovation, education, or investment, too many regulations or too much debt that ended Christina’s life and her dreams—it was a clearly dangerous man who had way too easy access to a gun with a high-capacity ammunition magazine— good only for killing many people quickly.”
Earlier this month, Helmke spoke publicly in support of H.R.308, the bill Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY) introduced into the U.S. House of Representatives on January 18. That bill is called The Large Capacity Ammunition Feeding Device Act, and it would ban magazines that carry more than ten rounds of ammunition. Rep. McCarthy knows about gun violence: her husband was killed and her son injured in a 1993 shooting.
No one is saying that all guns ought to be banned. The use of guns for hunting and even the possessions of handguns for protection by responsible citizens can surely be considered legitimate. But there must be some limitations on who can purchase guns and some restriction on the type of guns, and magazines, that can be bought.
According to the Brady Campaign, thirty-four people a day are murdered by firearms in the U.S. That means that every three months more people are killed by guns in this country than were killed by the terrorist attacks on 9/11/01, Christina Green’s birthday!
We citizens of the U.S. remain outraged at the deaths caused by the 9/11 terrorists—as well we should. But why are we not more concerned about the far more than 100,000 people in this country since then who have been killed by gun violence, including a child full of promise named Christina?


  1. Here are comments from Thinking Friend Tammy Watanabe, whom we first knew in Japan; on our way back from New Orleans this month June and I spent the night with Tammy and her husband, Fumiya, in Little Rock.

    "Your piece was very eloquent. I totally agree with your comments, and think that this piece should be widely publicized if possible. I think it helps to represent both sides. People are so worried about their gun rights, and I understand that, but there can be compromise. We can limit guns and the ammunition. We should be as outraged as 9/11 about the senselessness of it all. I really hope you will try to submit this to the newspapers both on and offline."

  2. Thank you for another great piece. It is stunning how difficult it is to enact sensible gun laws in the U.S.

  3. The shootings in Tucson were a tragedy. While I appreciate your desire and attempt to resolve horrible actions, your proposals will actually lead to greater violence and bloodshed. Simply trying to legislate to the desired behavior does not take into account human nature. It seems to make more sense to start with human nature and utilize it in order to achieve the desired outcome (much less violence and bloodshed).

    We as a nation have been down the path of both outright prohibition and legislative partial prohibition (alcohol, narcotics, guns, prostitution, etc.). In every case the long term consequences of well meaning legislation have lead to long term problems with explosive violence. It truly is nothing more than a supply and demand issue. Prohibition limits the supply(with the illusion of eliminating the product entirely), but does not affect the demand. So greater demand with lesser supply leads to problems and gangs usually try to fill the void. Eighty years after prohibition we are still dealing with the mafia--they simply supplied an illegal product which was in demand. The inner city gangs of the 1980's and 1990's provided an illegal product (narcotics) for which there was a demand. By eliminating the domestic production of illegal products, they have simply moved outside of US control and now are run by the Mexican gangs. If handguns are restricted further (there are currently thousands of federal, state, and local laws related to controlling firearms in the US), the demand will remain and the supply will be filled by those groups that are outside of the legal system either here or more likely elsewhere (e.g. Mexican, Russian, or Chinese gangs). In other words, this proposal is the ideal way to form a new black market.

    Further legislation to restrict guns feels positive, but it would have very negative consequences for those folks who believe and respect the rule of law. Our either/or mentality (prohibition) is not an improvement over the quarantining efforts in the Victorian era. As upside down as this will seem to many, fewer controls and an openly armed public would result in less violence. By eliminating or even lessening the ability of the law-abiding public to protect itself, the societal predators have little to fear from the larger society.

  4. DHJ's arguments are unconvincing. Admittedly, there are many factors involved, but according to, the latest statistics available show that the annual number of firearm homicides was 9,369 for the U.S., 47 for Japan, and 14 for the U.K.

    That means one out of every 32,447 Americans were murdered with a gun, but only one out of every 2,700,000 Japanese and one out of every 4,357,000 Brits.

    Guess which countries have strict gun control laws and which does not.

  5. The first response I received yesterday was from "Pastor George," a Thinking Friend in Canada, and I post his comments with his permission.

    "I support you 100%. I, too, believe we need strict gun control across the nation. In Canada, the former Liberal government (which would be somewhat parallel to the Democrats) put in legislation re gun control. Millions of dollars went towards this movement but we still have problems ... people continue to get killed across the nation. Several years ago, four RCMP officers were gunned down by a madman in northern Alberta (Mayerthorpe). In the City of Calgary, we have had all kinds of shootings leading to death. Same can be said in other not only large metropolitan cities but in smaller communities as well. Not only must we have gun control legislation ... we must also tighten all the loopholes and there are many."

  6. As usual, my esteemed Kentucky friend made a brief and pertinent comment:

    "A good question, Leroy! Access to military-type weapons is surely not needed for hunting or personal protection."

  7. If 70% of all crimes in the US are related to the illegal drug trade and the majority of the remainder of the homicides are due to domestic violence, then what affect will further gun control have on these types of episodes. My guess is that the headline makers of these random episodes of violence against groups will be limited marginally at best and the narcotic gangs will have a new growth industry.

    While it is factually true that the Japanese and the Brits have stricter controls and lower homicides, multiple factors as noted are in play not the least of which are far less diverse and open populations, far more traditional lifestyles, and far more tolerance of top down interference in individual lives.

    The communities in this country that have the most restrictive gun laws (e.g. Chicago) have some of the highest rates of gun violence in the country. Essentially in Chicago, for example, a law abiding citizen can not own a gun.

    To reduce the violence, a change in the illegal drug policies of the country is needed. This will have no affect on these random episodes (which are horrible), but it has the potential to greatly reduce the overall gun violence. The Brits are facing far greater levels of terror which are unrelated guns but are due to cultural diversity clashes.

    If citizens are treated like children (current laws), then they will generally act as children. Personal responsibility with reasonable laws is the answer.

  8. The last post hopes for what is right. But our culture has far too many people who act only in what is best for them in the moment. Too many people don't use common sense, nor come close to acting responsibly. These are the people who make tougher gun laws necessary.

    The majority of crime and violence in this country doesn't involve a gun, however the reason so many guns are used to kill people in this country goes deeper.

    Too many people who use guns and commit other crimes do so with no regard or respect for human life.

    Will tougher gun laws change how those people think and act toward their neighbors? No, why would it? What it may do is prevent one of these persons from killing someone else. Since we can't control their behavior, why not do something to limit their ability to act unresponsibly?

    It seems that 9,369 firearm homicides is enough evidence to show there is a problem. Why would we only hope people act responsibly and contribute to the deaths of more?

    Our dilemma is using legislation that may restrict an individual's right, but may (and will) protect the public safety.

    No one is advocating taking guns away. Stronger background checks and a waiting period will keep many guns out of people's hands that may act irresponsibly.

    If that kind of legislation saves lives how can we responsibly oppose it? How is that Christ-like?

  9. Another Thinking Friend in Kentucky sent the following, and he also talked with the writer of the letter cited, an attorney, and got his permission to post his comments.

    "I surely agree with your current 'What About Gun Control?' I had just clipped the following from our Lexington (KY) Herald Leader, 'Readers' Views.'

    "Handguns our own WMD for self-destruction"

    "I happened to receive a membership solicitation from the National Rifle Association on the Saturday of the Tucson massacre. The letter advised me of the terrible things the 'radical billionaires and the freedom-hating Hollywood elite,' were trying to do. These rascals wanted to restrict or eliminate guns, 'just like they did in England, Canada and Australia.'

    "I was mortified and wanted to find out for myself how you could possibly enjoy a peaceful, safe existence without handguns. The numbers were eye-opening.

    "In Canada in 2006, there were 190 firearm homicides with approximately 142of those being by handguns. In Australia in 2005-06, there were a reported 42 handgun homicides. In England for the years 2004-2005 there were 22 handgun fatalities. The three-nation total was 206 handgun homicides.

    "By comparison, the FBI reported 10,100 firearm homicides in the U.S. in 2005, about 7500 of those by handguns. In one year alone, we equaled (or exceeded with all firearm homicides considered) the American deaths from 9/11 and all the years of armed conflict in Iraq.

    "The Taliban, al-Quida and the insurgents are not nearly as efficient at killing us as we are.

    "The Tucson massacre will be forgotten because another one will take its place. We have not mentioned the accidental deaths that occur or the life-altering non-lethal injuries or the robbberies made possible with the use of handguns.

    "Handguns are America's weapons of mass destruction, and it is within our ability to begin slowing the insanity, if we choose to do so."

    Benjamin P. Hicks

  10. Couldn't agree more with your comments, Leroy. The "It's not constitutional" argument breaks down somewhere. Surely the framers of the constitution were not advocating that every citizen has the right to possess any type of weapon. There must be a limit somewhere. We all do not have the right to carry a nuclear device or surface-to-air missiles. The problem we have is where that line should be drawn. Currently it is much too far on the permissive side. Also, many years ago I lost all respect for the National Rifle Association when they came out against legislation that would put colored markers in dynamite that would allow the tracing of where it was sold. They are not an organization protecting the rights of sportsmen and carriers of guns for protection.

  11. Once again, dramatic reduction in firearm homicides in the US would occur with the reasonable reexamination and change to our 40 year plus "war on drugs". By trying to prohibit illegal drugs, the US has simply created a gang growth industry which violently protects its turf especially in the inner cities where the majority of gunshot homicides occur. Having lived four years in an inner city and having 5 homicides within a half mile of where I lived, I too think that something needs to be done. However, more laws geared toward the restrictions of the law abiding populace will not reduce firearm violence. It will encourage an already burgeoning black market in firearms in the US.

  12. The Brady Bill was popular after Brady (and Reagan) were shot, but the NRA has been an absolute machine in destroying any politicians who have stepped into their way ever since. I believe the most that we can hope for in the US is a little trimming around the edges.

    The first issue, is to read the second amendment sensibly. Like much of the Constitution, it sets up a balance to be struck. On one side is the right to bear arms, and on the other, the need for a well-ordered militia. While a lot can be debated about what both terms mean, it is clearly not the wide-open gun store the NRA consistently backs.

    The second issue, is to look for those edges where progress can be made. There is no excuse for selling large clips allowing dozens of shots to be fired at one time. There is no reason not to make a serious effort to keep guns out of the hands of seriously mentally ill persons. After a crazy man is arrested for a crazy deed, justice is helpless. We are left with nothing more than a crazy debate over whether the shooter is insane. One look at his crazy picture goes a long way towards answering that question in Tucson. Even if we convict him, even if we execute him, that does nothing to balance the multiple deaths and injuries he has caused, the blow to the entire American body politic he has delivered.

    It is true that prohibition failed, and failed horribly, as Al Capone proved. That does not mean we are wrong to have the laws about public drunkenness and drunk driving which punish certain specific behaviors connected with the consumption of alcohol. In a similar way we can fence in some of the more extreme situations involving guns. And then we can start the long process of teaching our nation how to handle both alcohol and guns. There are nations like Switzerland and Israel that have high gun ownership rates with low gun violence. And that would be a great improvement for the United States.

  13. DHJ and I were obviously writing at the same time last night, so I did not see his post before composing mine. Now that I have seen it, I heartily endorse it. The war on drugs is an abomination that has been a disaster for all concerned, except the war profiteers. Not only is it helping to spread gun violence throughout our own country, it is also the direct cause of the recent deaths of tens of thousands of people in Mexico, and is literally funding the Taliban in Afghanistan. The war on drugs is not just failing, it is terribly counterproductive.

    Well, it has one virtue. The war on drugs is an outstanding poster child for the old saying, "The road to hell is paved with good intentions."

  14. Allan Aunspaugh sent sent by e-mail these comments that he wanted to have posted here:

    "Since both of my parents grew up in rural Arkansas, visits to grandparents afforded opportunities to hunt and shoot guns. It is a hobby I have enjoyed for years and I own several guns. (this might come as a surprise to some of your readers) All of my guns are locked up and the ammunition is stored in a separate location.

    "While I would not like to have my guns taken away from me I could condone some restrictions. My guns are used for hunting, sport and personal protection. I see no need for a military style assault rifle or a 30 shot clip. So I could agree on restrictions on those items.

    "The NRA is afraid that if they give an inch, the government would take a mile. But I believe cooler heads could prevail."

  15. " Just imagine what it looks like when all these
    handguns just leap up, in the air, and shoot all these people"
    You know it does not happen this way. There is a "dearranged person"
    pulling every one of these "triggers" "(WHY)? "
    "(WHY)? " "(WHY)? " "(WHY)? " ????

    Leroy, have WE forgotten our "roots" in Christianity ? Have WE forgotten
    The Book of Genisis? Have WE forgotten what happened in the Garden ?
    Have WE Gotten so educated that we can not Believe that "Story",
    (Really Truth), of how Man degenerates, away from His Creator, and Kills ?
    Handguns NOT in Hands do NOT KILL !! How far away from The Creator is
    The person's Relationship to Their Creator, GOD ?
    WHY, do I have to be called a conservative (right-wing), Because, I BELIEVE
    that the Creator GOD, should Direct My Government Through His People, and
    that Mankind alone in his own Knowledge, and Education is NOT capable to do
    the Job correctly. When Mankind got put out of the Garden, Mankind was a
    Lost soul seeking, (and still is), the Way through the World,and is still
    seeking all the ways mankind can find, except (THE WAY),
    John 14:6
    6.Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to
    the Father except through me.
    God's ONLY Son paved that way !
    John 1:1-4
    1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word
    was God.
    2 He was with God in the beginning.
    3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has
    been made.
    4 In him was life, and that life was the light of men.
    John 3:3
    3 In reply Jesus declared, "I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of
    God unless he is born again."
    John 3:16
    16 "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever
    believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
    Rom 10:9-10
    9 That if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart
    that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
    10 For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your
    mouth that you confess and are saved.
    Job 17:9
    9 Nevertheless, the righteous will hold to their ways, and those with clean hands
    will grow stronger.
    Eccl 12:6-7
    6 Remember him-- before the silver cord is severed, or the golden bowl is broken;
    before the pitcher is shattered at the spring, or the wheel broken at the well,
    7 and the dust returns to the ground it came from, and the spirit returns to God who gave it.
    1 Pet 2:2
    2 Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up
    in your salvation,
    2 Pet 3:18
    18 But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
    To him be glory both now and forever! Amen.
    Eph 4:10-17
    10 He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens,
    in order to fill the whole universe.)
    11 It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be
    evangelists,and some to be pastors and teachers,
    12 to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may
    be built up
    13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God
    and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
    14 Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and
    blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of
    men in their deceitful the Head, that is, Christ.
    16 From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting
    ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.
    17 So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as
    the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking.
    WHY ? CAN'T WE ADHERE TO HIS WORD AND grow up in our salvation, from Him.

  16. Bioethicist Jacob Appel writes one of the most convincing arguments I've read in quite a while for more responsible gun ownership:

    "Want a Gun? Get a Prescription!" at

    While many have made comparison to the relative lack of government regulation over firearms compared to, say, the regulation of toy safety in the US, Appel argues for compulsory psychiatric evaluations and improved implementation of the mental instability proscriptions in existing gun control laws.

    This article is definitely worth reading.