Monday, February 18, 2008

How Many More Times?

With the recent shooting at Northern Illinois (and the four other school shootings across the country in the last two weeks), I find myself asking, once again, why are handguns and automatic and semi-automatic weapons legal for civilians? Steven Kazmierczak, the gunman, legally purchased the handguns a week or so before the killings, and for the life of me, I can't figure out how many more times this has to happen before lawmakers actually do something about it.

As Lynyrd Skynyrd said over 30 years ago, "Handguns are made for killin'. Ain't no good for nothin' else." Despite the triple negative, I think the message is clear. And frankly, I don't think I've ever heard anyone make the opposite argument. People don't buy Glocks to shoot deer (and if there are people that do, they have serious enough problems that they should not be allowed to buy a Glock). And it's not like there's a question when you buy a gun that asks whether you're depressed or pissed off at an ex or off your meds or talking to dogs that you think are possessed by a 2000-year-old demon.

Many cities (including Chicago) have bans on handguns and/or automatic weapons. I don't see why that can't be extended to the rest of the country. I think we're at the point as a society where we can rationally say that maybe it's time to try to prevent more of these mass shootings from happening, and I have never heard a cogent counterargument to the argument that banning handguns and automatic/semi-automatic weapons would lead to fewer gun-related deaths.

Aside from maybe Charles Whitman, you don't hear about mass shootings at the hands of a rifle or a shotgun, and I wouldn't propose a ban on those types of guns. They're bigger, more difficult to hide in a backpack, more difficult to transport, more difficult to reload, are generally not rapid firing, and are used more for hunting animals than for hunting humans. Thus, I'm not concerned with them all that much. In anticipation of any "home defense" arguments in favor of handguns, I'm pretty sure a shotgun will also fit under your mattress.

Also, in anticipation of the argument that "criminals will still find a way to get handguns and automatic/semi-automatic weapons even if they are banned," there will never be a perfect solution to that problem. But, in addition to banning the sale, importation, or ownership of said weapons, you can make sentences more harsh when a crime is committed with one of those weapons, you can make trafficking penalties more harsh, and you can ban the sale/importation/ownership of bullets for those weapons (assuming they are different than they would be for legal rifles), among other things.

Also, in anticipation of the often-used argument that "the world would be a safer place and mass shootings would be prevented if everyone carried guns," that is one of the dumbest anti-gun-control arguments that I consistently hear. Yes, full-scale gun fights are the solution. That will help. The more bullets flying through the air, the less likely someone will get hit with them. If only we had MORE drugs to combat overdoses. And if we could only convince more disease-free people to have unprotected casual sex, we could prevent the spread of both AIDS and unwanted pregnancies. And if we would just give teenagers more access to alcohol, I think we could really cut down on teen drunk driving. And if everyone smoked, no one would get cancer. And kids should bring guns and knives and throwing stars and chloroform to school, just in case. And we should all move to Tombstone, Arizona in 1881. Because guns save lives.

I know what you're thinking. "But GMYH, what about antiques? I simply cannot live without my Mauser C96 Broomhandle that my great-great uncle Winston used to ward off those filthy Dutchmen during the Second Boer War." There is already a special license for the ownership of firearms that are more than 50 years old, and I have no problem with that.

Of course the biggest hurdle is that pesky Second Amendment, which every gun nut tends to throw in everyone's face as proof of their supposed constitutional right to own whatever types of arms they want. The Second Amendment was written at a time where the "arms" were muskets. I have no problem with allowing people to carry muskets. As several of us discussed this weekend at Nick's in B-town, we would almost welcome the resurgence of muskets. For one, all a shooter would get off would be one shot before having to reload his gun. By that time, everyone except the unlucky one victim will have had a chance to run out of the room or give the gunman the old bum's rush. Going a step further, it was suggested that every room in every building simply equip itself with a bucket of water. That way, whenever a musket-wielding mad man were to enter a room, a simple dousing with water would render his gunpowder unusable and would certainly help others identify the assailant as he would be the only man running away who is both soaking wet and carrying a musket.

I would seriously like to hear from anti-gun-control people to get their thoughts on the following:
  1. Present me with a legitimate argument as to why handguns, automatic weapons, and semi-automatic weapons should be legal. In your response, I do not want to hear the following tired arguments:
    (a) The Second Amendment allows the right to bear arms. True, but it was also written over 200 years ago, and it doesn't say "the right to bear all arms" or "the right to bear pistols, Uzis, and TEC-9s." As I've stated above, I have no problem with rifles and shotguns. And muskets.
    (b) Criminals will find a way to get handguns and automatic and semi-automatic weapons anyway.
    (c) It's a slippery slope. It's not. That's a weak argument in most contexts, including this one.
  2. How many more of these types of mass shootings will it take to change your mind?

Look, at one point I was literally a card-carrying member of the NRA (even though I have never owned a gun, other than a totally badass blowgun), but as I've grown older and as I've seen the likes of Dylan Klebold, Eric Harris, Seung-Hui Cho, and now Steven Kazmierczak take innocent people's lives and ruin the lives of those close to the victims, I have come to realize that keeping handguns and automatic/semi-automatic weapons legal will only result more innocent lives lost. Every time one of these mass shootings occurs (especially at a school), I can't help but wonder how anyone can honestly believe that limiting access to the weapons used to carry out these shootings is a bad idea. It's time.


The Weez said...
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The Weez said...

Funny. I spent this weekend thinking about that same topic.

GMYH said...

Your link didn't work. Put it in HTML: '[insert text to have link]"'

GMYH said...

Dammit, my attempt at showing how to put a link in actually put a link to nothing in. You start off with a . Then you put the text of the link (i.e., 'Greg's picture with a gun'), and then you put a . Man, I hope this works.

GMYH said...

It didn't work. Look it up on the web. It's easy.

darwin in motion said...

why dont we just throw more funding at mapping the human genome so we can eugenic the shit out of these psychos before they get the shot to take some shots.

Beth said...
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Beth said...

If you want to talk slippery slopes, a lot of those people who want handguns to remain legal also support the Patriot Act. Want to start taking away our 'rights?' Well they've already started doing that with our right to privacy.

But that's an issue we librarians get extra riled up about, sorry.

Anyway GMYH, I agree. Unfortunately there are a lot of idiots out there (look no further than the current president making it to a second term).

Matthew D Dunn said...

I'm pro-gun (so to speak) for many reasons, but mainly because I like guns and I don't want mine taken away from me. Now this is a complex issue, so I won't go into it here, but the simple fact of the matter is don't fucking tread on me. That sounds stupid, but it really is the truth.

Anyway, while I agree that shooting a lot of people would be more difficult with a shotgun or rifle, it would not be that difficult. I can fire six rounds from my 12 gauge pump action shotgun in about six seconds. Similarly for a nice bolt or lever action rifle.

And you have your facts wrong about killings with rifles, the list found here describes at least two other killings (besides Whitman) that were perpetrated with a rifle, one with a .22 caliber rifle. And I wouldn't be surprised if many more campus killings used rifles as well as that list doesn't mention the weapon in most cases. Moreover, many "mass" killings outside of the college campus are probably also perpetrated with rifles, the Washington DC sniper case comes to mind directly.

My point is that if you're going to be anti-gun, you have to bite the bullet and go all the way. If you want to call that a slippery slope then so be it, but I think it is the rational conclusion.

GMYH said...

Matthew D. Dunn,
Thanks for your comment.

I group the "don't tread on me" argument in with the Second Amendment argument, since it seemingly stems from the fact that the Second Amendment seems to give the gun owners the amunition (no pun intended) to say "don't tread on me." And the Second Amendment is why I can't "bite the bullet" and call for the banning of ALL guns. I do think there are legitimate reasons for owning some types of guns.

My point about rifles and shotguns has as much to do with the inability to hide and transport those weapons as easily as handguns as it does to do with the rapid fire abilities of handguns. A kid in elementary school, junior high, or high school who's pissed off is more likely to grab daddy's gun and take it to school if the gun fits in a backpack. Take a look at this link. The overwhelming majority of shootings in the US in elementary through high schools are with HANDGUNS. On a side note, the number of instances has rapidly increased over the past 8-10 years.

You make a good point about the DC sniper and the two other college shootings with rifles, but those are still the minority. Again, I'm not saying it's never going to happen with a rifle or shotgun. I do, however, honestly believe that it is less likely to happen (or certainly resulting in fewer victims), for several reasons (harder to conceal, harder to carry, harder to fire as rapidly, harder to reload).

My bottom line is that I don't see any reward in allowing people to own handguns or automatic/semi-automatic weapons, but I have seen the enormous risk. On a fundamental cost/benefit level, the cost far outweighs any perceived benefit.

kazda said...

I mostly agree with you, but will point out that from the tone of your post I imagine you're not really an originalism type Antonin Scalia proponent. Therefore, I think your argument about muskets and the age of the 2nd amendment undermines your otherwise perceived liberal anti-gun views. Anyway, we should all be celebrating the 3rd amendment, as I have never had to quarter a soldier.

I've worked with better, but not many.

Anonymous said...

Let me ask you one simple question that I think might change your view on gun control....You are taking a walk with your wife and kids today when one of the whack jobs you mentioned starts shooting at your family. Do you A.) Watch your family die because you can't properly defend yourself against gunfire or B.)pull your mini-Glock out of your waistband,cap his ass and save your family? Can you honestly tell me if you were in that situation you wouldnt wish you had a gun to protect your family? Maybe the bad guys out there would think twice about doing violence if they knew the good guys were packing heat... We can not take away a persons right to defend themselves against the rapists,murderers and terrorists out there.

GMYH said...

Holy shit, Anonymous, you completely changed my mind. I had never thought about self-defense or defense of family as a perfectly legitimate reason to allow everyone to carry handguns. So now, not only am I anti gun-control, but I am also completely against laws that prohibit people to carry concealed weapons.

What planet are you living on? Your hypothetical scenario is completely insane because (1) it's illegal in most states to carry a concealed weapon, so I wouldn't be carrying a mini-Glock and would be shot to death anyway, (2) I don't have any kids, (3) I live in Chicago, not Kabul, so I'm not concerned with bullets raining down upon me as I walking down the street, (4) if a guy opens fire on me and my family, I will already be dead before I have a chance to pull out my mini-Glock, (5) even if I could legally carry a gun, I wouldn't, especially if I had kids, and (6) it's never going to fucking happen. Ever. I would be more concerned that, by keeping a gun in the house, my kids would somehow manage to get their hands on the gun and do something stupid. Then again, maybe I would just give them guns too, so we're all ready for the coming armageddon.

You can defend yourself from a murderer or a rapist with a shotgun or a manmade prison shank or ninja stars. Handguns aren't necessary. Also, if there are fewer handguns, I'm guessing there would be fewer murderers. And I don't understand how a handgun is going to protect me against a terrorist, unless you are proposing that everyone should carry guns on planes, which, given your overall argument, doesn't seem like a stretch for you.

In sum, I find your arguments to be fundamentally and logically flawed and premised on fear-based fantasy that is in no way connected to life as it is lived in the United States in 2008. Thank you for your comment. I'll look you up next time I pass through Dodge City.

Anonymous said...

I realize my scenario is VERY unlikely but never say never. It only takes one time to make you wish you had protection. Better to have it and never need it than need it once and not have it. Go on a ride along with a cop in Chicago for a few days and I guarantee you won't say it is that much of a stretch. I think all states should have concealed long as they have background checks, training and qualification courses before issuing the guns.
As far as the "kid safety" issue goes, I completely disagree. Its the stupid parents that do not properly lock their weapons that end up hurting their children. If someone was to break into your house(and yes people do break into neighbor was a victim of home invasion and attempted rape just last year...and I live in a nice subdivision in the burbs) what would you do? Get out your musket and hope your one shot does the job?
I know you think I'm paranoid but guess what...better safe than sorry.
One last claim that you are not concerned about bullets in Chicago?? I knows its depressing but watch the Chicago news tonight....500plus murders a year in the city alone.

Anonymous said...

I must start off my post by stating that I am not American so my ideas are not clouded by some 'I have a right to bear arms' arguement.

Why people hide behind an archaic law that was initiated in a time and place that no longer exists amazes me. This law should have been repealed the moment people stopped traveling on horseback.

WHY should anybody have a right to bear arms?

If there were NO hand guns there would be no flimsy excuses re self defense. It can be done. If you can get past the self interest groups with their political clout and psycho babble.

A number of years ago in Tasmania, Australia a local wacko packed up his backpack with an array of guns and drove to a popular tourist spot and proceeded to take out about 34 innocent tourists.

This apparently was awarded the current world record for a lunatic with a gun ( fully licensed of course ).

There was such a public anti-gun outrage, (something seemingly missing in the U.S.) that all guns were subsequently banned throughout the country.

Everyone had a set period of time to hand in their weapons, no questions asked, and the government paid a reasonable price for any weapons handed in.

Exceptions were made for farmers, police, approved security organisations etc, but by and large if you were a civilian and caught with a gun, you were in deep shit.

If the will of the people is strong enough anything can happen.

Allowing children, who by and large are not emotionally equipped to gain access to weapons which kill is a recipe for disaster.

Most countries in the world have strict gun control laws.

It can be no surprise that a country with the least control has the greatest number of deaths.