by Tim Wilson and Tony Shaffer
Perhaps the most dangerous people in our society today are those who demand “commonsense” action “to prevent further tragedies.” The problem with these well-intentioned, utterly misguided folks is that they do not base their so-called commonsense demands on data or in any reality other than their own perception of how things should be.
This is why the Founding Fathers intentionally designed our political process in such a way that legislating on matters of true substance is hard — hard enough to frustrate those who want power more than to do good. The way today’s Congress so easily and often vote themselves pay raises and benefits, yet fail on the economy, immigration, education, security, welfare and many other matters correctly led President Ronald Reagan to declare that the nine most terrifying words in the English language are “I’m from the government and I’m here to help”.
When it comes to gun control, there are some basic facts that the “commonsense” crowd seems completely blind to:
The toothpaste is already out of the tube — with probably over 400 million guns already in private ownership, there is no legislation that will stop criminal access to guns. Despite the huge numbers of guns in the hands of private citizens, most of the country is peaceful, and shootings outside of areas with strong gun controls are relatively rare.
Defensive gun use almost certainly prevents more crime, particularly physical assault and murder, than any other factor in our society. Defensive gun use by civilians happens probably more than 6,000 times each day in the U.S. Data shows that guns are used 50 times more often to save a life than for murder.
Wonderful as the vast majority of our law enforcement is, they respond to crimes. They are reactive rather than proactive. Carrying a gun is the most effective self-defense available and provides protection not just to the individual, but also to family, friends and the immediately surrounding society as a whole.
Not a single legislative gun control measure has or will prevent criminals from committing murder or using a gun. Laws do not prevent crimes. In every mass murder, the criminal has been stopped by a “good guy with a gun,” (police are good guys with guns). Recent data from the FBI shows that civilians almost certainly prevent more violent crime than cops (in 2020 justifiable homicides by civilians exceeded those by Law Enforcement — by 343 to 298, almost 15%).
Rifles of all types are used in less than 3% of all gun murders. The Federal “Assault Weapon” Ban of 1994 — 2004 had no statistically significant effect on murders. Reinstating such a ban will not achieve a different result.
The weapons innovation and development, which occurs due to the civilian market, vastly improves weapon capabilities, benefitting our military by providing the most capable small arms systems of any military worldwide at the least cost (we learned while serving to always remember that our weapons were provided by the lowest bidder). The M-16, M-4 and numerous other military small arms were developed from improvements driven by civilian use of the AR-15 platform so despised by the gun control lobby.
Perhaps most importantly, the safety and ease of use of modern firearms have improved thanks to the aforementioned civilian drive to improve guns. These are all major national benefits of civilian gun ownership.
In the real world, a gun provides a force equalizer unlike any other, one which can be wielded for good as well as evil, and in the hands of the good, regardless of how strong, aged or able-bodied, provides the means to incapacitate almost any threat.
There is no need for everyone to be armed, but there is firm data showing that the benefits of an armed society greatly outweigh the drawbacks. Our Founding Fathers, following on from the example of the medieval English, ensured that the right to bear arms was codified in our Constitution. They did so with deliberation and debate for what they saw as good reason. Now, if only the gun control lobby would redirect its passion and effort into reducing crime, it might actually achieve something worthwhile and beneficial to all society.