Barbra Streisand, when she used to sing for a living instead of making crappy movies, had a hit record whose lyrics went something as follows: “Love and marriage go together like a horse and carriage; you can’t have one without the other.” Well, it seems to me that what also goes together like a horse and carriage, are guns and bibles. (Leave aside, for the moment, that one will rarely, if ever, come into contact with a horse and carriage in this day and age.) I have always puzzled over the fact that a huge portion of the religiously fundamental populace also has an overwhelming affinity to arm themselves to the teeth, usually with racks of handguns and rifles. I guess it all stems from that passage in the New Testament which describes how Jesus carried an AK-47 with him when he went to deliver the sermon on the mount. Just in case some unruly ruffians in the crowd had got out of hand. But I suspect that the religiously pious among us, arm themselves for much the same reason that they pray to God. They fear if they didn’t pray, and show due homage, God would crush them like a bug. And in the case of guns, they also let the full spectrum of delusion and paranoia take firm hold. After all, if they weren’t armed, criminals are just waiting out there in the streets to break into their houses and rob them blind, and then shoot them for good measure. Or worse, the big, bad Government can hardly wait to disarm them, and then ship them off to concentration camps for being troublemakers. Thus, when so much discourse is spilling forth these days on gun control and second amendment rights, I thought it would be useful to look at the facts, and reality as it actually exists.
The rate of homicides by guns in this country, according to the latest statistics, is 3.6 people per one hundred-thousand population. (And maybe, if that six-tenths of a person fully grew up, he or she could have also avoided homicide.) Do the math. That’s an incredibly low percentage, especially in a country where guns flow like the River Ganges. In countries that have strict gun control laws, like Britain or Australia, the rate of homicide is less than one person per one-hundred thousand population. Also keep in mind that certain types of human behavior increase or decrease the risk of being gunned down. If you decide that criminal enterprise will be your field of endeavor, of course, you will likely increase the risk of untimely death. So will borrowing money from the Mafia and not being able to pay it back, or frequently interacting with drug cartels. On the other hand, if you’re like most middle-class or affluent Americans, and live in mostly safe neighborhoods, your risk of homicide probably drops to less than one in a hundred-thousand. In fact, the rate of suicide by gun, is almost double the rate of homicides. Obviously, the easy availability of guns makes it so much easier to succeed if one is harboring suicidal thoughts.
Of course, none of these statistics are of any comfort to grieving loved ones, when random lunatics go on a shooting spree and murder scores of people. As they did in Columbine, and Arizona (the Gabby Giffords shooting), and Colorado, and most recently in Connecticut. And, of course, it’s these incidents that have resulted in calls for greater gun control, and correspondingly, for vociferous opposition from the National Rifle Association and other like-minded gun advocates to any form of gun restriction. They cite the second amendment as giving everyone the right to bear arms. But no rights are absolute. The first amendment gives us the right of free speech. But as Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendall Holmes noted decades ago, this doesn’t include the right to cry “fire” in a crowded movie theater, when, in fact, there is no fire. Also try verbally plotting to kill your annoying next door neighbor and see how fast that will land you in the clink when the plot is discovered. The right to bear arms doesn’t mean I can acquire and roll down the street in a Sherman tank, or put surface-to-air missiles on my front lawn. Ted Nugent, a so-called rock singer who was washed up by the late 1980s, likes to publish pieces saying that the Government “will have to pry my gun from my cold, dead fingers” if it tries to dis-arm him. He likes to show how macho he is by blowing the heads off defenseless animals when he’s out hunting. Kind of reminds me of the images in the 2008 campaign, of Sarah Palin shooting defenseless animals from a helicopter in Alaska. So between the fierce opposition from millions of hunters and gun rights advocates, and organizations like the NRA, don’t hold your breath waiting for meaningful gun control laws to be enacted anytime soon. The GOP, realizing that “thars gold in them thar hills” in the form of millions of supporters and voters opposing any type of gun control, has always taken an anti-control stance. Since Republicans control the House, I can’t see needed-legislation being enacted.
My own point of view is that no one should posses firearms except the military and the police. Anyone else having a gun should be subject to a mandatory 10 year prison sentence. Being a realist, however, I know that’s never going to happen in my life-time. Some countries like Australia have come close to that, and have seen dramatic plunges in the rates of both homicides and suicides. But it’s way too rational for it to become a reality in the U.S. As I’ve written before- violence is as American as cherry pie. (Not my wording, but a concept I agree with.) We have a long history of having a gun mentality which has grown into a gun fetish. It has coarsened our society, and who we are as a people. And as long as anyone, even a lunatic, can walk into Wal-Mart and buy all the guns and ammo he needs to carry out a murderous rampage, we can probably expect more tragedies like the one we all just experienced in Connecticut.