For obvious reasons, there's been a lot of debate recently about the US and gun ownership. (We recommend the Ask thread, but for technical reasons, can't link to it. You know where it is.) Some h2g2ers are confused about the whys and wherefores. Hypatia lives in Missouri, and we treasure her wisdom on the subject. Here's her take on the matter, from the vantage point of Little DooDah.
Hypatia's Thoughts on Gun Ownership
So, I'm sitting here with my trusty "Statistical Abstract of the United States: 2012" perusing the section on Law Enforcement, Courts, and Prisons. A combination of statistics, observation and watching true crime programs on the tube have led me to draw some conclusions about the notion that gun ownership somehow makes us safer.
First, you need to understand that I live in a community that very likely has more guns than people. I don't ask everyone I meet whether or not they possess firearms, but given the general culture of this region, I think it is a fair assumption. There are times when the uber-conservative politics and fundamentalism of this area is genuinely oppressive. But I digress.
I do not own a firearm of any sort. If I ever move to the country I might buy a rifle or shotgun to use on varmints if necessary. I have no more objection to hunters owning weapons for that purpose than to fishermen owning fly rods. But handguns are more problematic and the open sale of automatic and semi-automatic assault rifles is ridiculous. The only reason they exist is to kill people.
As to safety, I figure if I don't have a gun in the house, then no one can find it and shoot me with it.
Concerning the argument that if we enact any sort of gun control then only the professional criminals will own guns, making us as a society more vulnerable:
- I don't need a gun to protect myself from some stranger who breaks in to burglarize my home. The vast majority of burglars are non-violent, unarmed and break in when no one is home. They do like to steal guns, so if I have one and am robbed, they'll take the gun. And if they try to break in while I am home, the dogs will bark their heads off, giving me time to find my baseball bat.
- I don't need a gun to protect myself from some crazed killer. Again, I'm more likely to be killed by a family member or acquaintance than a stranger. Unless your loved one is a career criminal, you probably won't be killed by one. And if someone close to you wants you dead, they'll find a way, with or without a gun.
- Teen gang members kill other gang members, drug dealers kill other drug dealers, and organized crime family members kill other crime family members. None of the above are interested in a small town librarian.
- I don't remember any school shootings being committed by a career criminal. Or mall shootings, or restaurant shootings, or workplace shootings. They are committed by people with grudges of some sort with access to automatic weapons. If those people had to stop and reload a traditional rifle or shotgun, there would be time to disarm them and minimize the damage.
- The majority of suicides are committed with guns. Having little or no access to proper medical care and counseling and plenty of access to cheap firearms is not a good combination for someone suffering from depression. I'm not suicidal, but if I were, having a gun would be more dangerous for me than not having one.
- And the most ridiculous argument of all is that foreign powers are deterred from invading the US because the populace is so well armed. Funny, but I think all those billions of dollars spent annually on a wonderfully trained military, ICBMs, stealth fighters, aircraft carriers, etc., etc., etc., sort of makes it unnecessary for me to keep a shotgun well-oiled in case the Chinese storm Little DooDah. Hell, if they get this far, I figure I'll just get out my wok and make them a stir-fry.
Finally, I would like to say that I don't think that the lives of children and other innocents is a fair trade for an individual's right to own assault weapons. And whereas guns don't kill people, bullets certainly do. In 2009 13,756 people were murdered in the US. 9,203 of those were murdered with firearms. Murdered. This doesn't include "justifiable homicides", accidental firearms deaths, suicides or injuries.