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:
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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.