Americans and their Guns

Thursday, 9 June 2011 00:20 by The Lunatic

I’m really tired of seeing these news stories, pretty much every single week lately, about some kid (usually under age ten) who gets their hands on a gun and accidentally shoots themselves, a parent, sibling, or their best friend.

It’s not so much that I’m against guns; but I’m certainly against the American attitude towards guns.

Everyone is so concerned about their “right” to own a gun. But with rights come responsibility. The question shouldn’t be “do I have the right to own a gun?” – the question we should ask is “am I willing to bear the responsibility of owning a gun?”

Pro-gun advocates often invoke references to Switzerland as a country where gun ownership is high and crime is low. I lived in Switzerland for a year and just recently moved back to the USA. In Switzerland, every adult male must serve in the armed forces for at least two years, and those that have received combat training are considered “reservists” – and as such, they are required by law to keep their military issued service arms at home in case of an attack by a foreign country.

The difference is the Swiss attitude towards the firearms. Gun ownership is for the protection of the country; it’s not for personal protection, not an item that is brought out and shown off to all your friends, not something that is brought along to the bank or grocery store, not something that you can buy and sell at a flea market or local shop, and certainly not something that is left lying around for kids to pick up and play with. It is not a “right” to own a gun in Switzerland, it is a responsibility, which they take very seriously.

The Second Amendment to the US constitution states:

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

I know the issue has been bashed to death by the courts, and everyone has very strong opinions on whether people have the right to bear arms; but I think the intention of the Second Amendment is what they have achieved in Switzerland – an armed militia to protect the country against foreign invaders. However, in the U.S. it has been twisted and turned into an attitude of “it’s my right to own a gun” instead of “it’s my responsibility to protect my country”; and now, every street thug and toothless hillbilly has a gun, so everyone else wants one to protect themselves because guns are so easy for the criminals to get. So we’re caught in a vicious cycle.

Notice the words “a well regulated Militia” in the Second Amendment. Even in 1791, it was recognized that oversight was required.

Even though regular citizens are allowed to own firearms in Switzerland, it is more regulated than in the USA. People are limited to owning three firearms. Inspectors can enter your house to make sure the guns are properly stored (what would most Americas say about THAT little twist?). The process for buying (or selling) a gun is much more difficult than in the United States, which means they do a much better job of keeping guns out of the hands of criminals. And most importantly, they raise their kids with a sense of ethics and encourage them not to be criminals. THAT’S why the crime rate in Switzerland is so much lower than in the US.

Interestingly, while the overall crime rate in Switzerland is relatively low, the number of gun related deaths, per capita, is pretty much in line with the level of gun ownership:

GunDeaths. - (click for a larger image) -

I really like the three gun limit. There’s nothing more scary than these whackos holed up in their bunker with an arsenal fit for a middle eastern guerrilla compound. Especially when you consider – if you agree with the assertion that owning a gun is for the protection of the country – that these people are usually the “anti-government” types who would prefer to use their arms against fellow Americans instead of foreign invaders.

The whole situation is beyond absurd, and our government doesn’t have the backbone to step up and fix it. Actually, that’s not right – ours truly is a government “by the people” so it’s we the people who haven’t been able to come to terms on this issue.

When it comes to gun control legislation, it’s like our entire nation is over-run by 14 year old kids with their pre-pubescent surges of testosterone saying, “Wow look at that thing. You can KILL someone with that! Let me hold it! Hey, that’s COOL! I’ll bet I can hit that guy crossing the street over there.” People treat it as a game instead of a serious issue.

Speaking of game, I have no problem with hunting – rabbit, duck, venison, elk, bear – it’s all good food, and frankly I’d rather see someone go out and hunt for their own sustenance than eat all the “processed” factory farmed meat that has taken over our diets.

And I don’t have anything against marksmanship as a competitive sport; riflery and archery competitions require a great deal of skill. You want to go to the range and shoot off a few rounds of target practice in a controlled and safe environment? Fine with me - it actually sounds like fun!

But put the two together and you get “sport hunting”. Where’s the sport in that? To me, a “sport” is where both sides have a relatively equal chance of winning, like a football game. Want to engage in a sporting event with you against a bear? Well, don’t sit up in a tree with a rifle; that’s cowardly and wholly unfair. You need to approach the beast with a bowie knife and go at it 'one on one'. Unless the number of “sportsmen” killed by bears each year is on par with the number of bears that are killed, I don’t consider hunting a sport. If you're not doing it for food, you're just slaughtering another animal for the fun of it.

Before Switzerland, I lived in Ecuador for two years. In Ecuador, firearms are highly regulated as well, and it is very difficult (although not impossible) to get one. I felt much safer in this “third world” Latin American country than I do in America. Indeed, in the entire country of Ecuador (population 13 million) there are less gun related injuries and deaths every year than in the Washington DC area (population 4.7 Million).

Everyone loves to throw out statistics to support their side of the argument – but there is absolutely no question about the fact that a higher percentage of gun ownership equals more crime. More guns equals more gun deaths. People are far more likely to be injured or killed by their own firearm than use it against an assailant.

All these cutesy sayings that gun advocates like to spout off are just nonsense:

If guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns.” Yes, that’s correct. We need to take a hard stance against outlaws who have guns. What’s your point?

I need a gun to protect my home and my family.” You are four to six times more likely to have an accident in the home involving your gun than you are likely to be able to use it in self defense during a break in. I’m not saying it can’t protect you at all, but the odds are more against you when you own a gun.

You can kill someone with a knife as easily as with a gun, so you should outlaw knives as well.” The number of criminal assaults with guns and knives is about equal, but assaults with guns are five times more likely to end in death. Also, someone can’t kill you from a half block away with a knife; they have to be right upon you, which at least gives you a chance to defend yourself.

Guns don’t kill people. People kill people.” Have you ever tried to kill someone with your bare hands? It’s pretty difficult. I’ve seen no less than six news articles in the last month where children under 10 have gotten a hold of a gun, which discharged and killed someone. Are you saying these people would still be dead if the kid didn’t have a gun?

I’m a responsible citizen and I follow all appropriate safety precautions, so I should be able to own any weapon I desire.” And if you follow that logic, why not let people have their own thermo-nuclear device? Wouldn’t that be swell.

You’re not going to take away my freedom!” Curtailing gun ownership isn’t about taking away freedoms; it’s about giving freedom back to the people – the freedom to live without fear – and making sure that the people who DO have a gun take more responsibility for them.

We need to draw the line somewhere. Gun related injuries and deaths are way out of line in the US compared to all other developed countries – and it’s all because of our acceptance of violence as a way of life, and our pandering to special interest groups which allow more guns, which perpetuates more violence.

Are you willing to bear the appropriate responsibility for owning a gun? Would you object to an inspection and signoff of your secure storage area? If your gun is not properly secured, are you going to take full responsibility if it is stolen and used for a murder, or if your kid gives it to a friend to play with? Will you transport it to your favorite hunting area or shooting range in a secured manner, not proudly hung on a gun rack in the back of your redneck pickup truck? If you are not going to be responsible with your gun, then as far as I’m concerned, you have no right to own one.

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Comments

June 9. 2011 02:39

Totally with you on this.  The Half Baked Lunatic is making major sense!  Shared on Facebook.  Relevant in Maine right now because while our republican gov and posse is trying to allow concealed handguns in the statehouse, a Maine state representative recently went gonzo and threatened a citizen with his concealed handgun.  He'd been acting bizarrely and alarming colleagues at the Maine State House.  So yeah, let's let anyone who wants to fill out the paperwork pack heat.  The state is gonna vouch for them and keep us all safe. I'm not buying it!!!

Deborah Fahy

June 9. 2011 13:42

Excellent, excellent, excellent.  Everyone in America needs to see this.

Bob Weaver

September 7. 2011 21:35

Very well-written.  Thank you for the insight on Switzerland, as well as reminding me about the "well-regulated" portion of the 2nd amendment.  I'd like to see the Tea Party show favor of that portion of the amendment.

Cecil

October 10. 2011 17:47

Very well written contradictory piece.  Very good selection of "facts".  You will find the vast majority of gun owners are reponsible.  With the number of guns in this country your doom and gloom is ziltch.

msg

December 21. 2011 18:11

I thought the 2nd amendment was for the well regulated mitllitia for the security of a free state with the intentions to protect the state against the federal government. Why would the governmet need a millitia if they have all of the armed forces. I am also a gun person and do not agree with this article and think the facts are bias, but repsect your opinion. Criminals will do what they want with whatever they want and they don't follow  gun laws or regulations. If criminals have guns I want a gun and a  fighting chance and if I shoot myself with my own gun, shame on me.

john

December 24. 2011 18:02

Why do you not address the real problem here, which is the lack of responsability that has been removed by the "correct thinking pepole" in our government and schools for the last 50+  years. We are now taught that nothing is our responsibility any more, "somebody in government will take care of it" It's the road to ruin in the USA and won't change anytime soon unless a lot of dumbed down people suddenly gry some common sense, which in not at all common anymore.

Ervin Crenwelge

December 24. 2011 18:37

Ervin – thanks for the note, I do appreciate it!

Here’s an earlier article I wrote, I thought you might enjoy it:
www.halfbakedlunatic.com/.../...nal-amendment.aspx

The Lunatic

January 10. 2012 20:55

Very impressive.  I read MSN articles during my lunch hours everyday, and stumbled across an article you were commenting on.  I appreciated your voice of reason!  Thank you for writing this, and taking the time to post a link to it in your comments.  I come from a staunch Republican family that spouts 2nd Amendments rights and such, and I always took it for granted that our freedoms can be so self-destructive.  Your article has helped reveal the simple truth that responsibility should always be a prerequisite for being given power such as guns.  

I'm 26 - a young gun (pun intended) but very cognizant of political back-and-forths.  With all these issues separating people more and more, and the prevailing idea that America has taken a wrong turn (or several) somewhere along the line, my wife and I are saving our money to move to another country, hopefully forever.  But again, thank you for your words!

Daedron

January 13. 2012 18:07

Certainly some of the points are valid. However, remeber this-countries that revoked the privilege for individuals to own firearms had immediate alarming increases in the crime rates. Also remember this - the Japanese did not invade the US during WWII because they knew the individuals here were well armed and would be impossible to fight off. Sure there's nut cases that abuse the privilege and kill people, but there are nut cases who drink and drive and kill people, probably way more than shoot people. In the case of a disgruntled worker, if he wanted to kill someone bad enough, he could do it without a gun

Sharky

January 13. 2012 18:44

You have some valid points about our CULTURE today of disrespect of one another, and the immaturity of the individuals that occupy this beautiful country of ours. However, Having grown up in Texas hunting for food (since age 5), and been taught gun safety my entire life, I can speak as an expert on what it takes from an individual so that they do not do something that leads to the injury of anyone else, or themselves. RESPECT. You have to respect the gun and what it can take away from you. You have to respect one another and realize it's not a toy to 'power trip' with. You have to assume that at any given moment something may happen that leads the gun to go off, no matter how absurd it may seem. That also means accepting the responsibility brought on every single time the trigger is pulled, no matter WHAT the reason. VERY FEW people live by this creed now days. The people are the problem, not the guns. If the people of America were responsible and respectful of one another (despite their fleetingly selfish emotions) then this would not even be a topic of conversation. IF we could learn to control our own personal actions, and learn to not blame others for our own mistakes, then this topic would not even be discussed. Doesn't matter if we all have guns, or don't, Americans have some issues to work out that will find a direction to be funneled. THOSE people that cannot control themselves DO need to be controlled and regulated in their ownership of guns. Those that have themselves under control, AND have respect for a gun, DON'T need to be regulated because of the rest of the nation's actions. Honestly, I would LOVE to have an automatic weapon to help fight the hog problem. I've seen one shot at under 10 feet with a .44 mag in the head, while attacking a friend of mine...ran off and was never found. That hog could have fed my family for 6 months. The other one we got that day did...Most of you just can't imagine a life where you could realistically use one every year. Doesn't mean there isn't one that does not include holding up banks...The argument that the 10% of responsible gun owners need to follow the laws set in place to control the 90% of irresponsible PEOPLE is just wrong. The 90% of irresponsible people are the ones you hear about all the time, while the 10% is a group you will never even know own guns. That 10% is defending the nation from foreign and domestic terrorists and criminals every single day. Guns are a TOOL for them to help them through their life, not to scare others with their penis extensions... The 90% is the problem...This is the case with everything in life, is it not?

Guns don't kill people...irresponsible Americans do...

Dave

January 28. 2012 03:39

I'm a left-wing voting gun owner with some observations:

1) Owning more than 3 guns does not make the owner more dangerous. After all,you can only use two at a time. I am one of the 'holed-up whackos' multi-gun owners you refer to. Neither you nor anyone else is in the least danger from me.
2) Most all legally hunted large game animals - deer, bear, elk, bison, moose - get eaten.  I am not aware of any state where wanton waste is not illegal. Coyotes, possum, racoons, prairie dogs and such typically are wasted, and are shot as alleged nuisances.  I am neutral on that.  Hunting simply to kill seems a bit sick, and I agree w/ that part of your argument.
3)You state that "...there is absolutely no question about the fact that a higher percentage of gun ownership equals more crime", after having totally disproved/disavowed that notion in your preceding pps re Switzerland. Pick a position.

I note with irony that fear of govt jackboots was at least a partial factor in my first firearm purchase - the govt of Shrub and Cheney.

There it is.

SteveInMN

January 17. 2013 04:38

Indeed.  It's amazing how many people use the Switzerland example without realizing it doesn't help their cause.

Obama Gun Facts

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