Americans, Gun Laws, and the Arizona Shootings

Below is a post I made to a private Facebook discussion that occurred in response to my Tweet above. I truly know very little about gun laws in the USA, or even much about them in Canada, but every time a violent person kills others with a handgun, the question of where did he get that handgun from comes up. It’s always a valid question, but it seems no matter how many people get killed by handguns in the USA, nothing changes.

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OK, so I spent 10 minutes trying to re-find an article that I read yesterday and couldn’t…but in this article, it stated that the gunman went into Sportsman’s Warehouse that day and purchased a Glock and ammo, and I believe a 30 round magazine. Assuming that’s accurate, right there I have a few problems: being able to purchase a handgun immediately = disaster.

Handguns are either for killing someone else (or a lot of other people), or defending yourself from being killed. The decision to purchase a gun to commit violence shouldn’t be a fast, rash one. Giving someone permission to carry something on their person that can be easily concealed (regardless of what the law says about concealed weapons) should be a measured, controlled process, with only the most vetted of people being allowed to purchase one.

It should be a process that takes days or weeks, not minutes. It seems like the system failed on a bunch of fronts here based on what Vinny wrote – that if various people in law enforcement had done their jobs, he’d never have been able to purchase a gun because he would have failed his background check. Putting that aside though, the basic premise that you can go into a store and leave a few minutes later with a handgun and ammo is insane to me. Humans are emotional, rash creatures who make stupid decisions and making it quick and easy for someone to buy a gun is a massive mistake.

Why shouldn’t handguns simply be banned? Or why aren’t biometric measures required for handguns? The technology to prevent unauthorized firing of a handgun have been there for years, but the gun makers aren’t using them because it would drive down their profits. Can you imagine all the accidental firearm deaths of children if handguns were only able to be fired by the owner of the gun? It would also prevent things like that 17 year old kid last week who took his dad’s gun (who is a cop) and killed the principal and assistant principal.

I get that crazy, violent people will be crazy and violent no matter what. But why should it be so EASY for them to get their hands on something so finely tuned for dealing death? If he had purchased a shotgun or rifle from a hunting store, at the very least it’s a weapon that you can usually see someone coming at you with, and they typically have limited magazine sizes. I read that the 30-round extended magazine on the Glocks were outlawed in Arizona a few years ago, but then that law was overturned. Because, yeah, 10 bullets in a handgun is just NOT enough, you NEED to have 30 bullets in there. Am I the only one that thinks that’s completely bonkers?

And, not surprisingly, I heard today that handgun sales in Arizona are up 60%…and one retailer reported that his sales of Glocks doubled. So in a sadly typical response to gun violence, more guns are being put on the street, which can only lead to more violence.

I think very highly of the USA in many ways, but when it comes to your passion as a country for guns, I just don’t get it.

  • If it wasn’t guns it would be something else (homemade bombs, knives etc). Guns aren’t the problem. People are.

  • You’re right, people are the real problem. A crazy killer will hurt people no matter what – but why should we make it so easy for them? Why should it be so simple for someone to purchase a weapon whose only purpose is to kill others?

  • I think it all goes back to the problem of people being the problem. It’s like DRM protections they don’t stop the pirates they stop the honest people. Same here except a life is at stake in this case.

    No matter how many laws are made against this type of thing the people who want to do the killing will still do it. Plus they will still get the same weapons as before.

    Knowing you are a Christian lets look at this from a biblical point of view to. People are by nature greedy & sinful beings. The fact is we are born into an imperfect world and we make mistakes, and we do wrong things.

    Now don’t go through this comment and say Josh doesn’t care about humans and he’s saying leave it be. I agree it is broken, but as of now I don’t see a better solutions either. So until I see one I say leave it the way it is because this allows for an equal playing field where everyone can own a gun.

    As for not being able to pick up a gun at one moment I am pretty sure some states you can’t do that and you must come back the next day or so. I know that the Local Wal-Mart at least does not sell guns after a certain time of the day.

    So to Summarize my whole post, I’d say that YES there is a problem. However, until I see a real solution that will work I don’t see doing anything about it as a solution either. The fact is people are people, and we are naturally stupid at times.

  • I wish there was a slick way to merge the conversation from Facebook and put it into here…but here’s my response to someone else’s comment on Facebook when they said that in Arizona when they had open carry laws – meaning you’d see people with guns on their hips – gun crimes were down.

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    I can’t explain it – but I refuse to buy into the concept that the world would be a safer place if everyone in it were carrying the means to instantly kill someone else. I can’t remember where it was, but I was around someone (a stranger) who had a holstered gun out in the open and it made me profoundly nervous that he could, for any reason he wanted to, draw his weapon and kill me on the spot. There’s something very wrong with that scenario.

    At least when I see a police officer with a gun, I know there’s some training there and he won’t draw his gun unless he has to. Some random stranger? I have no such assurances.

    Saying that the world is a safer place if everyone carried guns is the same mentality that put us in a world with tens of thousands of nuclear warheads. Does mutually assured death by handgun really make the world a safer place? Sooner or later the world has to grow up and stop believing that more violence is the solution to stopping violence.

    I think the root problem is that gun laws are at the state level; so it’s really easy for someone to buy a gun in Arizona and bring it to New York. If you look at a place like the UK, where guns are tightly controlled, you have gun deaths in much smaller numbers:

    http://www.gun-control-network.org/GF07.htm

    210 gun deaths – ALL guns – in 2006 (assuming those are accurate stats). The population in the UK in 2006 was 61 million people.

    In the USA, in 2004, gun deaths were around 8000 for handguns alone. If you normalize for population (USA population in 2004 is around 293 million), you’d get about 1008 gun deaths in the UK compared to the 8000 in the USA just for handguns.

    So what is it about the USA, the laws, and its people that makes handgun death 8x more common? Are the people in the USA really that much more violent? Or is easy access to handguns a big part of the problem? I think it is.

    I’m not a pacifist by any means, but guns should be reserved for war, not day to day living. Maybe I have a simplistic view because I live in a safe neighbourhood of a safe city in a safe country…but my opinions are shaped by my surroundings, just like everyone else.

  • Anonymous

    Also, setting aside the arguments whether guns are good/bad, the fact is that the right to bear arms is a Constitutional right, and Americans should defend our Constitutional rights. To me it’s simply a matter of freedom and defense of the Constitution.

    Sure there are certain people that should be denied those rights (criminals), but where do you draw the line? It can become a slippery slope.

    Also, there isn’t as much of an increase in sales as some news agencies have been reporting: http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2011/01/13/106731/after-arizona-shooting-background.html

  • Josh,
    Look at my post above about the 8x higher handgun deaths in the USA compared to the UK. It would seem that a country-wide band on handguns, or some form of really tight control, can be quite effective in preventing gun deaths.

  • I know this is going to sound like heresy, but to me, the constitution is a piece of paper written a long time ago by people who lived in a different time with different issues.

    Treating it as if it were a holy document without room to grow or change – a living document if you will – would seem to be a mistake. The US constitution for instance talks about slaves and slave owners, etc. – and I doubt anyone would declare slavery as being a constitutional right. I’m sure there are equally shameful parts of the Canadian constitution as well that don’t transfer well to our modern times.

    Certainly there are core values in any constitution that are timeless (democracy, freedom, etc.), but is gun ownership one of those? I’m not entirely convinced of that…though I’m not saying people shouldn’t be allowed to own guns. Just maybe not handguns. If you’re defending your home, a shotgun should do the job just as nicely!

  • Anonymous

    I see the point about the higher number of gun violence per capita in America, I can’t explain that. But my question is why hasn’t the 1997 Firearms Act (in Great Britain) had any type of effect on the year-to-year number of gun injuries/deaths in GB?

  • Anonymous

    HERESY!!!

    😉

    I see what you mean, but how would you defend yourself against an oppressive government without firepower? Hopefully it would never come down to this in this day in age, but that’s why we have this right in the Constitution.

    You’re right though, a shotgun (especially a pump action one) is the ideal firearm for defending the home. 🙂

  • I don’t even know what that is. Maybe the numbers we’re seeing – basically around 200 deaths per year from gun violence – is a sort of minimum threshold that a population of 60 million people will have, regardless of how strict the gun laws are? Just a thought.

  • To we really live in that age any more though? Where a modern, democratic society would turn into an oppressive one that only violence could overthrow? I suppose people who listen to Glen Beck might believe that, but I personally don’t. Though if it came down to that, would it really be so hard to get a handgun? Criminals do that now, even in the UK I’m sure. Now I’m talking in circles I think. 😉

    I suppose ultimately I feel like in our Western society at least, guns have no place in day to day life. I for one don’t want them around me or my family. In other parts of the world, that wouldn’t be the case I’m sure, but I don’t live there…

  • Yes, more handgun deaths but how about other assaults? How about bombings? With the internet anyone can look up how to make a bomb and put it together with relatively easily obtained items. Besides if we want to go down the list of killers how about cars? Relatively easily obtained and kills even more people every year. My only point is that the freedom to do any of these things can be abused, it boils down to taking freedoms away from law abiding citizens because of irresponsible or evil people.

  • I hear what you’re saying, but I’ll gladly put up with someone trying to kill me with a car rather than a handgun. 🙂 And a car has other purposes – a handgun’s sole purpose is to kill.

  • I’m not sure if I agree that a hand guns sole purpose is to kill, you can also use it for fun out at a shooting range. That’s like saying the sole purpose of a knife is to kill, should we take those away from people to?

    Here is an analogy for You to look at it another way. Guns are like Bitorrent clients, people try to outlaw them because of the fact people can use them to kill or in this case pirate software. Both are illegal and the MPAA would want you to think that both are just as bad as each other. However, some people use their guns for total legal things Just like some people use Bitorrent clients for total legal things.

    They don’t outlaw those pieces of software because it is up to the user how they are used. Yes I know the difference is human life, but still where do you draw the line?

  • I’ve shot handguns and rifles at a shooting before, so I understand your point, but there’s a big difference between going down to a range to fire at a few paper targets and owning/carrying a handgun. If someone wants to own a gun that they leave at the range, fine. But I don’t think most people do that, do they?