Sunday, April 22, 2012

First of many on personal liberties. Gun Control

The more I read on the subject of personal privacy and governmental intrusions makes me wonder where the line has to be drawn. Living in the UK the most notable example would have to be the Super injunctions. These super injunctions basically boil down to what the media can and can't report of peoples individual lives. Mind you this is something most of the rest of us will never have to worry about since well doubt any scandalous behaviour on my part would sell more than a couple news papers. But the fight has begun over what is private and what is public. How much of ones life should be opened to the public at large?

Then we can move on to the other various issues that come out of this namely internet restrictions, gun control, marriage, birth control, and a myriad of things that we often think is only our business. So what rule should be applied? The simple answer would be when it violates our inalienable rights of life, liberty, or the pursuit of happiness. But how do we separate these out and say when these various issues come under the purview of legislation. I think one of the main factors is when your individual actions will violate someone else's life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness. Though I feel a caveat is necessary and that is directly effects you not effects you because you are a nosey neighbor or can't mind your own business. I think I shall deal with each issue individually. So first up would be Gun Control.

I have spent a long time thinking on these issues especially since I grew up in the great gun toting state of Texas, and in a very rural area so I have always been around guns. Both my mother and brother are NRA members and I was and still am an excellent marksman. And maybe I have an odd perspective since I am now residing in the UK where they have many gun restrictions. This is contrary to what most Americans may think, it does not mean that people in the UK do not own firearms. Handguns are pretty much non existent but many people hunt and have rifles and shotguns. The main difference is that to own a gun one must pass several tests and prove that well they are of sound mind and can hit the broadside of a barn. Yes it is limiting and you can't just go down to the gun store and purchase a firearm, but it seems at least to me that they have found a decent balance between personal liberties and the needs of society. i.e. not being a danger to other citizens.

While you can never completely remove the possibility of gun crime the question is how do you lessen the effects? To see the difference in how the gun laws can make a difference I thought it was best to look at murder rates as a whole. Especially since the most recent figure I could find for murders with firearms was 2002, there were 14 murders with a firearms in the UK and 9,369 in the US. In 2009 there were 15,241 murders in the United States and in 2009 the UK had only 724. Since there is a bit of a difference in populations between America and the UK it can be broken down into the rate based on 100,000 per population. For the US it was 5, so 5 murders for every 100,000 people, and the UK it was 1.2. To me these numbers are not absolute but it does raise the question what are they doing differently here? If we just take the 2002 figures it seems to suggest that because of the more restrictions and the harder it is to purchase and own a firearm that there are less murders. Now the problem is how do we address the very real concept of the right to bear arms which is important enough to have been made into the second Amendment of our constitution and protecting the citizens of the US.

I do not think any purpose is served by removing guns and that for some portions of the population who live in fear of their elected government to attempt to do so would be pointless. However I do think there is a compromise that could benefit both sides. I think we should treat guns like cars and increase licensing and testing to own and use the fire arm. This would mean showing you know how to properly handle the firearm and know how to safely use it. It is no different than the conceal to carry requirements in the state of Texas. It can easily be subsumed into the hunting licenses and would only be limited by your ability, not because of someone else or the government. Though I do think there should be certain firearms that for the very sake of the type of firearm they are should be limited if not allowed. These I would say are military firearms. I have a firm belief that the right to bear arms is an important and integral part of being an American I just have yet to hear one reasonable argument as to why anyone needs an uzi, ak-47, or god forbid a bazooka. I think the important part of the right to bear arms is to be able to hunt and defend your property. But there is a point of over kill and I think the desire to own firearms of this type has more to do with having watched one too many Rambo movies than a real need. Maybe someone can give me an example of when one of these types of guns was integral for hunting or home defence in the last 50 years on American soil and I might change my mind. But until then I see no reasonable excuse to have them.

I think the important part of the gun control argument has gotten drowned out by the screaming of both sides which is responsibility. By owning a firearm you have a responsibility to your fellow citizens to not kill them without good or justifiable cause. Because you don't like the way they look, their politics, or their lifestyle is not a good or justifiable cause. I think that for most normal Americans the big issue is the one of responsibility and that has to be, and needs to be, addressed by those of us who own and use firearms. The main dictate of common sense is just because you can doesn't mean you should. I think at this point that those of us who are leery of gun controls make the first step to hopefully compromise on the situation. That would be pushing for classes before the purchase of a particular fire arm, or even during the waiting period that already exists. Maybe a  requirement to take classes on the use and care of the firearm and maybe marksmanship classes, this goes back to my feeling you should be able to hit the board side of a barn. That maybe the various members of the household come and learn as well. I have always thought gun safety comes from education and familiarity with the firearm. I would think these types of requirements would go a long way to helping curb the deaths caused by guns in the US.

I also think it would make those who are wanting to, "take our guns away" realise that we are not oblivious to the issues and are willing to take steps to help deal with their concerns. I am not saying give in but that maybe it would help prove that we do understand some of their concerns and aren't willing to give in, but that maybe we can find a middle ground. Though suppose that is unacceptable these days since understanding and compromise are dirty words lately. I would love to hear arguments for and against since it is only through discussion we learn. I don't expect tot change anyone's opinion, but maybe get them to think about an issue from another perspective. 

Sources for murder figures:

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