Faust: Second Amendment sacrifices
January 2, 2013
I have refrained from commenting on the back and forth on gun control and gun-related violent crime that has been going on in this paper since the Newton school shootings until I could not only do so with a cool head, but I also had time to do a little research and analysis.
The two arguments I have heard recently; that banning semi-automatic firearms, or increasing gun ownership, especially for teachers, would have any reduction on gun deaths, are just ridiculous.
Let’s look at the first argument, that somehow increasing the number of guns would reduce gun violence. I thought it seemed insane on the surface, but there is a way to test the idea rationally. If we compare gun ownership and violent crime rates between states, we can look for a correlation. I did so, and in fact the correlation is very clear that states with higher gun ownership rates also have higher violent crime rates, so that argument just isn’t true.
Now let’s look at the other argument that banning certain types of guns would have a reduction in crime. It is certainly true that similar bans in England and Australia have resulted in huge reductions in gun related deaths, but neither of those countries had 300 million privately owned guns in them, nor did their citizens have constitutional protections for gun ownership. Whether this method would work or not is hard to say, but the practical and political obstacles would make it pretty ineffective.
If we take the NRA’s position that we cannot have a national discourse on the matter, then we are basically agreeing that the 45,000 annual U.S. gun deaths are an acceptable cost to preserve the Second Amendment. However, we can have a rational discussion that does not result in two extreme arguments above.
I have heard the argument repeated that banning guns to prevent violence is a lot like banning cars to prevent traffic accidents. However, this country has countless laws involving automobile safety that cover everything from car safety features to driving under the influence, and restrictions on whom may operate a car. The result is that traffic fatality rates have steadily decreased over the last 70 years. Those regulations have meant that 2011 had the lowest auto fatality rate since 1922, without impeding American’s right to own a car.
It is possible to regulate constitutional rights without eliminating them. For example, the constitution guarantees the right to free speech, but one can’t yell “Fire!” in a crowded theater. The modern definition of arms would not only include firearms available when the amendment was drafted in 1789, but also tanks, fighter jets, biological and chemical weapons and suitcase nukes. Obviously we have all decided that the Second Amendment is not absolute and should involve some degree of interpretation.
When we are willing to have a rational discussion on the topic, I am sure we can find a solution without resorting to fallacious arguments that only lead to futile stalemate.
Timothy Faust, Breckenridge