My first reaction to this op-ed by John Traphagan (a professor of religious studies and anthropology at The University of Texas at Austin) was to reflexively say again that “guns don’t kill people, people kill people” – but that is much too simplistic.
Professor Traphagen states:
“There are many law-abiding American gun owners who do not go out and kill people and who keep their guns stored safely. But as a whole, Americans do not seem to be able to handle gun ownership in a way that permits maintenance of a civil society.”
First, it must be recognized that there are 312 million people in America. On the high end, it is estimated that there are also 310 million guns in America, almost one for every man, woman and child. According to the latest available FBI statistics (2011 and 2013), there were 9,199 murders (2013), 146,366 robberies (2011) and 159,239 aggravated assaults (2011) committed involving some type of firearm. That amounts to 314,804 incidents. Divide that by the total number of firearms and that is a grand total of 0.1%.
Forgive me, but a rate of 0.1% doesn’t seem to support the good professor’s stance that we can’t be trusted to maintain a civil society. Based on the FBI’s own statistics, the fact is as gun ownership has risen, violent crime has fallen, so these facts contradict Traphagen’s assertion that the American populace can’t handle the responsibility of owning a gun.
Traphagen also mentions the left’s ubiquitous boogie man, the NRA: “it’s time that gun rights organizations such as the National Rifle Association recognize this and begin working with those who want realistic gun control laws, in part as a way of building trust with those who do not own guns.”
You can tell the good professor is a bit of a piker because he wasn’t able to work the Koch brothers in there anywhere.
The fallacy about the NRA is that they provide more firearms information and proficiency/safety training than any other firearms related organization in existence. They don’t promote gun violence, they promote exactly the opposite and if the professor believes what he says about gun owner irresponsibility, he really should see any group teaching responsibility as a benefit, not a detriment.
He does ask a very good question:
“Americans should ask themselves whether they want to live in a society that is secure because everyone is ready to shoot one another or one that is secure because people have peace of mind and experience freedom from violence and the freedom to pursue their lives in safety and happiness rather than fear.”
Let’s unpack that a bit. It seems he is saying that more guns mean more fear and violence – that the mere presence of weapons in society, even those in the hands of responsible gun owners, is the catalyst preventing “maintenance of a civil society” – but we just provided statistics indicating just the opposite and indicated the NRA works to promote responsibility, so what else could it be?
I don’t doubt that the professor has good intentions but if the mere presence of guns is a problem, how about the mere presence of criminals? The case can be made that there is a strong correlation between anti-gun sentiment and a “soft on crime” set of beliefs, so we must at least consider the possibility that there is a correlation between the incidence of violent crime and the numbers of criminals in the general population. Another telling statistic is that another purported evil the left rails against, increase rates of incarceration, also correlate well with the aforementioned falling trend in violent crime as reported by the FBI. Gun ownership up, more criminals off the street and falling rates of violent crime. All legitimate data points that contradict the good professor’s point.
I understand that high profile events like the Waco incident, as well as any mass shooting, is a very emotional event – but so was 9/11, thankfully both events are rare. It is no more legitimate to blame and disenfranchise individual gun owners (who have committed no crime) by stripping them of a constitutionally guaranteed right due to the statistically insignificant few who have committed crimes than it is to blame every Muslim in the world for 19 terrorists who hijacked the planes on that tragic day.
However, it is legitimate to single out criminals and Islamic terrorists for punishment.
We can stop all crime – but at what cost? If total elimination of crime is the goal, we may pass laws that every person should be locked in a 3’ be 3’ closet and be able to communicate only by Twitter – but thankfully, we are a responsible nation, one able to permit “maintenance of a civil society” without people like Professor Traphagen sending us to our respective closets.