| A popular bumper sticker used to say that “if guns causes crime, matches causes arson.” It may sound like a bad argument but there’s a lot of truth to it. How can an inanimate object cause so much harm all by it self? It doesn’t. There’s a much needed ingredient for all that and that’s the people factor.
During the 80’s Ronald Reagan used to whip his base in a frenzy, impressing upon the conservatives with his wit. He loved to say that “the government is not the solution, the government is the problem”. That made people proud of themselves as not being the problem. If Reagan’s statement was to be true however, then he and his administration was the problem as well. People are like the government they elect and the governments reflect the people who elected them. They’re equally the problem but not the solution. The attitudes toward the Second Amendment and other socio-political issues are a good example of infringements on our Constitutional freedoms. Let’s take a look at people and firearms.
There’s nothing funny about facing an armed criminal, or living in a dangerous neighbourhood. Travis Purser detailed that back in December 2, 2002 in Los Angeles Business Journal with respect of South LA. People and businesses at the time the article was written were dealing with the matter any way they could. Daily life in this predominantly poor neighbourhood looked more like a war zone as the article reveals. Police blocking streets, imposed curfews, metal grates in the windows and doors, gangs and security guards, surveillance cameras and the yellow crime tape were and most likely are still a common way of life.
What causes people to commit crimes using a wide variety of implements? Here is a simple argument used by teenagers in Australia; boredom. The story “Bored and isolated teenagers run wild” published on June 5, 2007 in Sydney Morning Herald details drug use, vandalism, defiance toward the law and criminal behaviours. The article focuses on the lack of funding in government-run programs to deter them from the present course. No questions are asked about the whereabouts of the parents of those troubled teenagers, and why can’t they find something meaningful to do. As you’ll see next, availability of things to do is not necessarily a deterrent to crime either.
In the high society of Hollywood David Pierson and Andrew Blankstein reveals in “The party’s over” published on June 5, 2007 in Sydney Morning Herald, teenage starlets are acting just as badly.
Maybe teenagers in Australia don’t have anything meaningful to do with their lives but that’s hardly the case in Hollywood with the likes of Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan. The story here is about spoiled, rich, famous brats who think they should get away with breaking the law in a Paris Hilton style. Alcohol and drug abuse as bad behaviour on the part of the starlets is coming crashing down lately. For some hard core Hollywood celebrities like Specter, getting arrested and having a criminal record involving firearms is also common. Judges in CA decided to get tough on them lately.
Finally, here’s an example from the peaceful, affluent Switzerland where firearms are as common as cheese. In a family drama as described on May 9th of 2006 by Imogen Foulkes in this BBC story. This piece titled “Domestic killings shock Swiss” tells us about Gerold Stadler who shot and killed his wife, Corinne Rey-Bellet who was a renown athlete. This happened after they agree to a separation. He also wounded a few family members before he killed himself. The story offers a complex picture of the psychological reasons behind it but it goes back to guns as an issue although gun crime in Switzerland is rare. The story’s bias however, will weaken even the staunchest gun supporter. So what was wrong with this already successful family?
Poor people can try to blame gun violence and violence in general on poverty. If that’s the case, affluent, rich, successful people should have no excuse for it. They have everything other people can only dream of. Just about any statistic about the Depression era in the US shows a crime rate lower than any other period of time, therefore poverty or affluence can’t be a good reason or excuse for crime.
It is the ‘how’ an individual cope with a ‘no’ for an answer which determines the course of action. Our society does emphasis the ‘me’ and ‘I’ attitude in all people. Self esteem, entitlement, pride, prestige, jealousy, envy, the winning attitude and other such attitudes leads to selfish-egotistic inclinations. Those are impressed on people of all cultural and ethnic backgrounds and have been proven to be bad in dealing with adversity. The attitudes described above are saturating our society at every level and they’re contributing to violent crime regardless of the weapon of choice. When pride and its derivatives replaces modesty, humility, meekness and patience the results are always disastrous. We’re no longer educating people that one does not win every battle in life and as such the people are no longer properly equipped to deal with stress, adversity or self-sacrifice.
Throughout history, weapons and wars were needed for hunting and defence. Since late 18th century that attitude came to change. We try to eliminate wars with mixed results. The hunting in the woods was replaced by the animal farms, agriculture and the grocery stores. Why do you need a gun if you don’t hunt, one may ask. We have police for law and order.
“Sure, we do have police, I would say, if you can call for help when you’re in trouble, and be alive by the time they arrive.”
The Public Relations officer of my hometown Police Department (the only one authorised to address reporters or speak of anything police business with outsiders) did not returned my call. I interviewed the owner of a local gun store about gun crimes. He feared liberal bias and backlash, so he asked for anonymity.
“We care about violent crime because it makes us look bad. That’s twice as bad if the gun owner ignores that he or she’s having little children or teenagers who could access that firearm. People don’t often hear the cases where use of firearms saved lives,” said the owner. “Brazil and Mexico are just a few of the modern examples of a disaster. Police officers and military fear for their lives. Their stations are attacked by gangs who are even better armed. The media and the politicians are hammering at gun control as a solution to violent crime despite evidence to the opposite. The truth is that an armed citizenry combined with harsh penalties against crime is the answer. Good fences makes for good neighbours and the criminals knows that. All clerks here carry openly. That’s the real deterrent. We never got robbed during business hours, never.”
“How’s the business going?”
“Thanks to the meddling of media, politicians and so called
concerned citizens it’s more cost prohibitive for us and the customers alike to do business because of regulatory impositions.”
“Does it do any good?”
“Not really. People with criminal records don’t buy their wares from us. We check for permits and criminal records with the FBI database and that keeps them away. Law abiding peoples get permits, buy their guns legit over the counter. Criminals don’t. We police ourselves by complying with the laws. We’re offering classes in everything firearms related. We try to inoculate our customers with a sense of responsibility and respect towards firearms knowing what they can do. We teach them that the first line of defence is not a gun but being polite and courteous toward your fellow American. We emphasis good common sense. If the gut feeling is telling you that the person you’re with is suspicious or that the place you’re at is not safe, it’s likely true and you should part ways as soon as possible. We tell that guns are the last resort in life-and-death situations only. Drawing a gun frivolously will aggravate a conflict. We remind them that improper discharge of a firearm will result in jail time, fines and very likely civil suits from the innocent victim. Just because you carry doesn’t mean you’re safe. We make it clear that safety relies with the person carrying and not with the number of guns or the calibre they’re carrying.”
“How’s South Dakota compared to let’s say New York in terms of obstructions?”
“Even in South Dakota the gun control lobbyist are successful in preventing or discouraging permit owners from carrying, although South Dakota has less crime than Washington DC. It’s becoming illegal to carry in many places. Non-violent felonies are constructed to forbid gun ownership. A verbal argument with your spouse could be used to that end. Cops and judges are increasingly punishing legitimate use of firearms as felonies using legal backdoor tricks. We decriminalise crime by making self-defence look bad. In many communities only registered guns and ammunition are lawful. What’s next? This is only making it easier for criminals to commit crimes and impossible for the victims to protect themselves to whatever extent they otherwise could.
“What makes firearms such easy targets compared to other weapons?”
“It’s the feeling of hopelessness the victims gets because a hooligan can fire many rounds from a safe distance and bullets are powerful. People wrongfully asserts that a criminal with a knife in close proximity would be a better bet for a fighting chance. That’s not exactly true.”
Fellow office colleagues at work who don’t want to be named either, share similar feelings and apprehensions. Politically motivated conversations in the work place are highly discouraged and classified almost in the same category with sexual harassment. During disguised social interactions I carried, the opinion that gun control is not the answer was prevalent even with those who are still in the wind about more guns translating in less crime. They fear that more people carrying firearms could actually mean an increase in crime, even if it is for a short time.
“Look,” said one of them, when a criminal wants to commit a crime, there’s next to nothing you can do about it. It is an unfortunate fact of life. Even for a gun owner is no small task to carry his firearm all the time and everywhere.”
“Our schools, the media, the government and the corporate office are teaching us that conflict resolution should be done only through appropriate channels and that you shouldn’t fight back the criminal. In many instances is true. It’s just not worth risking your life over a ten dollar bill. But neither is making crime an acceptable part of life,” reasoned another. “I don’t want to be picked over and over again just because I’m afraid to defend myself. I am getting along with all people, I don’t cause trouble, but when I’m under attack I need to be able to preserve my life or property.”
Curtis is a janitor who moved from Detroit. “Ghettos in inner cities are bad. I got out of there. Nobody is safe. Kids with no respect will shoot you for a dime. I’m not for guns personally, but I don’t necessarily disapprove of them either. I just don’t have a good answer to crime.”
Don B. Kates has done extensive research in the matter. He is a retired professor of constitutional and criminal law and a criminologist associated with the Pacific Research Institute in San Francisco, CA. He pointed that even the doyen of gun control studies, Gary Kleck, admitted to the National Academy of Sciences that “the net effect of gun availability and crime rates are not significantly different from zero.” Further more, Kleck said that the available data shows that where crimes were committed (gun or no guns used) felons knew each others and he gave examples such as drug dealers competing for territory or gang warfare. Alcohol or drug consumption was also associated with gun crime. In each instance he said, the people involved had prior criminal activity. Domestic abuse studies also shows that the Swiss example were not a normal family. The woman in such cases has been long time abused and killed when she tried to break away from the abuse.
Studies shows that Afro-Americans ownership of firearms in US is lower compared to whites. Urban Afro-Americans own even fewer guns compared to rural Afro-Americans. As a group they have the higher crime rate. White, young, unmarried people own fewer firearms than middle age, middle class, married whites. The crime rate is higher among the first group. Those numbers don’t add up according with Kates. Finally, everywhere in the world where gun ownership is up (with or without regulations) crime generally is down.
Pro gun advocates are against comparing US crime rates to other countries when compared to the gun control groups. The later ones are accused of manipulating of data to help their cause. The pro group argues that cultural predisposition's, reporting systems and numbers compared don’t reflect reality.
Western European nations are culturally far less prone to criminal violence than their Eastern counterparts. Both of them
are even less prone to crime than the Russians are. Crime rates in Europe - minus Russia has always been lower than the US even before restrictions. It was political assassinations (which goes unreported) that prompted the gun laws in Europe. No one can compare a big country like US to any individual small European ones. Size does matter. In Russia there’s no private gun ownership. They have total control on such tools even for the military and the police. Russia ironically is a very violent country compared to US and the rest of Europe. For lack of firearms crime in Russia is done with any type of sharp, pointy or blunt objects. After the ban went in effect in Europe, a similar phenomenon is now observed.
Europe also reports crime differently. One felon with 5 crimes counts as one. In US a similar case counts as five. Historically speaking, crime rates fluctuated everywhere. The moment firearms came in the hands of private people, US and Europe saw a sharp reduction in crime over the previous times. Studies shows that in Europe the trend is now reversed. One also needs to remember that although the world population grew exponentially, the crime rates stayed pretty much the same by comparison.
US and Switzerland have something in common and that’s high rates of private ownership of firearms. Only the sheer size of US puts the crime rate higher. Besides firearms, the geographical conditions (mountains in Switzerland and two massive oceans separating US) precluded enemies from attacking both countries. During the Cold War only the massive arsenal of weapons of mass destruction kept the Soviets at a safe distance from US. Kennesaw, Georgia learned something from all this. In 1982 the county passed an ordinance requiring on a mandatory basis for all heads of households to have at least one firearm on their premises, a fact ignored by the anti gun lobbies. Certain exceptions like mental illness or a criminal violent record do apply. Despite the population growth the county experienced from 1982 until 1996, there were only three homicides in town, one only committed with a firearm and the other two been done with knives. All other violent crimes went down from double digits to a mere 0.19 and the overall crime rate plummeted first by 74% until 1983 and another 45% since 1983 for non-violent felonies. Neal Seaman and Chuck Baldwin as shown in “Gun Ownership Mandatory In Kennesaw, Georgia, Crime Rate Plummets” published on February 13, 2000 credits the simple knowledge of the ordinance for moving criminals and petty thieves off to easier targets out of town and county. Even those who didn’t get the memo in time, quickly disengaged and run the moment the would-be-victim only brandished a firearm. What does this say to all of us?
Let’s take a look at this one example out of the many out there. A 17-year-old boy foiled an attempted car jacking by wrestling the gun away from the felon. When the hooligan moved to grab his 53-year-old mother the teen shot him twice. The felon faces armed robbery charges after his stay in the hospital Col John Fortunato, a Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office spokesman said in Metairie, La.
For those already bent on crime it’s true that a firearm will be a more expedient tool. Lack of it however will not prevent or eradicate criminal behaviour. They will be some hardcore criminals for whom nothing will ever serve as a deterrent. There will be crimes of opportunity which can’t be prevented. It’s safe to say that the overwhelming numbers of crimes could be deterred by an armed citizenry combined with heavy legal penalties. Any ban on firearms or any obstructions on the Second Amendment will only embolden the criminals just like in Connecticut where an entire family got wiped out by two bare handed hodlums. Could a firearm in this case made a difference for the poor family? If readily available it might’ve.
In the end it’s safe to say that as in Kennesaw, Georgia, the people and not the weapons alone commits crime. The Metairie, La. case shows that people can be the problem or the solution. All depends on their personal inclination toward violent crime or lack of it.