Chapter 4 Preface
On Mother’s Day 2000, over one hundred thousand mothers assembled in Washington, D.C., calling for stricter gun control. The marchers demanded that legislators enact laws to prevent school shootings and other gun tragedies that were claiming the lives of the nation’s children. They pointed out that “since the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy in 1968, over one million Americans have been killed by firearms.” The rally garnered much media attention and helped generate public support for the organizers’ goals.
The Million Mom March is just one of many campaigns working to strengthen America’s gun laws. Numerous organizations oppose gun control, however, the most notable being the National Rifle Association (NRA), which, with over 3 million members, is the nation’s largest organization of gun owners. Although columnist E.J. Dionne Jr. considered the Million Mom March a “countervailing force” to the National Rifle Association, the Moms acknowledged how difficult it is to counter the influence of the NRA. In fact, many working for the campaign accused the Republican Party of being in the gun lobby’s “back pocket.”
For its part, the NRA quickly published rebuttals to the Million Moms’ claims. To begin with, the organization refuted the Moms’ claim to be a grass-roots campaign. The NRA pointed out that the groups’ founder, Donna Dees- Thomases, was a former CBS publicist, and that many of its...
(The entire section is 410 words.)
Gun Control Will Reduce Lethal Crime
Americans have invested a great deal of wealth and effort in this century to keep death at bay, and they have had a lot of success. Cholera, smallpox, typhoid have been eliminated in this country. Other diseases that once killed millions now are cured easily or prevented. The average American’s life span has been extended by nearly 30 years.
Health and medical care have become our leading industry. We spend more on these services than we spend for food, housing, automobiles, clothes or education.
The Violence Epidemic
But neither money nor science has brought us any closer to solving or even moderating one epidemic in American life: violence. For at least a century and probably longer we have been the most murderous “developed” society on earth. Since 1980 nearly 400,000 Americans have died at the hands of fellow citizens—more than the number of Americans who died on the battlefields of World War I and World War II combined. It would take eight Vietnams to fill as many graves.
Our propensity to violence cannot be explained by the cliche that America is a uniquely “lawless” society. Franklin Zimring and Gordon Hawkins of the University of California write: “The reported rates [per 100,000 people] of both violent and nonviolent crime in the United States . . . are quite close to those found in countries like Australia, Canada and New Zealand.” The rate of criminal assault is higher in those countries than...
(The entire section is 915 words.)
Gun Control Will Not Reduce Violent Crime
The most recent crusades for gun control seem to have fizzled, and that’s just as well, not only for the sake of the freedom and safety of most Americans, but also for the public reputations of those who push the banning of firearms. There is an ever-increasing amount of evidence that gun control is a failure, not only in the United States but in other countries, too.
The ancient and honorable nation of Japan has the distinction of enjoying perhaps the most rigorous gun-control laws in the world outside of Communist states. With no tradition of individual liberty and a powerful tradition of placing the integrity of the group—family and nation—over the individual, Japanese lawmakers have never felt the slightest hesitation in outlawing most gun ownership and punishing severely those who break the laws.
In Japan, even possessing a handgun and a bullet puts you in prison for 15 years. Other laws have been tightened and toughened since 1991, and even armored car guards don’t carry firearms. Only police officers and soldiers can carry guns at all, and the cops have to leave their guns in a safe when they leave work.
According to gun-control dogmas, that should pretty much keep gun violence down. But it doesn’t, in Japan anymore than in this country. The Washington Post recently carried a report on the increasing incidence of gun violence in the Land of the Rising Gun.
The number of crimes...
(The entire section is 794 words.)
Gun Control Will Reduce School Violence
Let’s leave the “why” of the 1999 Columbine [school] massacre [in Littleton, Colorado] to the experts—the child psychologists, the family counselors, the ministers and rabbis—and wish them luck. A platoon of psychiatrists could study [the young gunmen] Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold for decades without finding a key to those hearts of darkness.
Let’s turn instead to the “how” of it—something that anyone with common sense can easily discern. How? With guns, that’s how. Understanding that obvious truth should keep us from feeling helpless, as if this madness is beyond our ability to change. It isn’t.
There are factors in this strange episode that probably are beyond us. Adolescents will continue to be cruel to each other, no matter how much counseling or sensitivity-training they receive. Some parents will continue to delude themselves into believing their children are little angels when, instead, they are young sociopaths. And those young sociopaths will continue to dream up ways to wreak havoc in the lives of others. Such is the way of things.
Angry Young Men
But those angry young men cannot do it so well without guns. Without guns, Harris and Klebold would have had to settle for fewer than 13 victims. Their pipe bombs were not as deadly as they had hoped. A propane bomb they assembled to detonate in the school cafeteria did not go off. But their guns—exquisite tools for killing—got the job...
(The entire section is 632 words.)
Gun Control Will Not Reduce School Violence
On the morning of April 20, 1999, two students drove onto the Columbine High School campus in Littleton, Colorado, equipped with explosive devices, knives and guns, including two sawed-off shotguns, a rifle, and a semiautomatic handgun. In just 16 minutes, the gunmen fired more than 100 rounds, killing 13 and wounding 21 more before shooting themselves. The Littleton tragedy, the deadliest incident of school violence in U.S. history, aroused panic in the hearts of parents across the United States, and placed new pressure on legislators to pass stricter gun-control laws.
Political Reactions to School Shootings
A noteworthy reaction by lawmakers was that of California Assemblyman Dick Floyd, a Democrat who had until then remained silent on the issue of gun legislation. Prior to a vote placing new restrictions on handgun sales, he stated, “I am no longer going to be a nonparticipant. I am willing not only to vote for everything, I’ll co-author every gun bill that comes along.”
The issue, moreover, cut across party lines. In Colorado, Congressman Tom Tancredo, a Republican with libertarian leanings—recently elected with the aid of a sizable donation from the National Rifle Association—felt the pressure from his constituents. A resident of Littleton who lived just six blocks from Columbine High School, Tancredo told reporters that he could not simply go home and tell neighbors and friends that he had failed to act on the gun...
(The entire section is 2557 words.)
Gun Manufacturers Should Be Held Responsible for Gun Violence
On Oct. 30, 1998, New Orleans became the first city to sue gun makers. Mayor Marc Morial, with the assistance of the Legal Action Project of the Center to Prevent Handgun Violence, has filed a lawsuit against the industry for designing and marketing handguns that lack basic safety features which would prevent shootings by children, teenagers and other unauthorized users. New Orleans seeks to hold the industry accountable for the cost of police, emergency and health-care services that the city pays for due to gun injuries and deaths that would be prevented if gun manufacturers were more responsible in the design of their products.
Since Oct. 30, four other cities—Chicago; Miami-Dade County, Fla.; Bridgeport, Conn.; and Atlanta—have filed lawsuits, and more are sure to follow. While some of these lawsuits follow New Orleans’, citing the industry’s inexcusable failure to make its products safer, others—particularly Chicago’s—focus on the industry’s negligent distribution and marketing practices that contribute to a massive illegal gun market.
Although the gun industry claims these lawsuits have no legal merit, it seeks to prevent the courts from deciding the matter. Its longtime front group, the National Rifle Association, or NRA, is pushing for special legislative protection to ensure that judges and juries never hear these cases. A bill which creates immunity from liability exclusively for the gun industry has been enacted in...
(The entire section is 1612 words.)
Gun Manufacturers Should Not Be Held Responsible for Gun Violence
Following their successes in forcing tobacco companies to cough up billions of dollars to the states, trial lawyers have convinced several big-city mayors to sue gun manufacturers to recover the costs of gun violence in their cities.
Subsequently the mayors of New Orleans, Chicago, Atlanta, Miami-Dade County, Cleveland, St. Louis, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Cincinnati, and Bridgeport, Conn., started the trend by filing lawsuits against gun manufacturers to allegedly recover costs related to firearm violence in their cities. And even more municipalities seem likely to file suit in the near future. They say they’re looking for reimbursement for the public health and safety costs associated with treating and preventing injuries caused by firearms used in crimes.
Two types of suits are moving through the courts based upon two different (but equally dubious) sets of arguments. One group of lawsuits purports that guns are a public nuisance and gun manufacturers knowingly flood cities with more guns than they could expect to sell to law-abiding citizens, thus arming criminals (Chicago was first to assert this). The second group of suits charges that guns, as they are currently manufactured, are unreasonably dangerous because gun makers have allegedly failed to implement safety devices that would prevent unauthorized users from firing guns (New Orleans initiated this claim).
If these city officials succeed, these lawsuits will establish...
(The entire section is 2137 words.)
Gun Safety Standards Should Be Mandatory
Two of the four weapons used in the 1999 Columbine High massacre [in Littleton, Colorado, which resulted in fifteen dead], the Hi-Point 9mm carbine and the Intratec TEC-DC9 semiauto, are popular on the gun circuit because they look zoomy. The Intratec is designed to look like something used by commandos, the Hi-Point to look like a weapon issued to space marines for combat in orbit. The popularity of these guns reminds us that weapons manufacturers constantly redesign their products for appearance, features, and targetmarket appeal. Don’t want futuristic, for instance? Then check out Smith & Wesson’s “Ladysmith” gun series, designed with that feminine touch. Design features added to guns for marketing purposes are often as cosmetic as the features of car or clothing marketing—the TEC-DC9 may give users a commando feel, but no genuine commando would ever wield this inaccurate and jam-prone hunk of junk. Of course, that does not prevent them from being deadly to the helpless.
But, though gun manufacturers invest considerable sums in designing for appearance and firepower, what they don’t design for is safety. As a gun owner, I think it’s time they did.
Safety and Guns
“Safety” and “gun” are not mutually exclusive terms. Something that does intentional harm should also be engineered not to do unintended harm. Yet, while the design of firearms has been extensively elaborated in recent decades for such harmful...
(The entire section is 2115 words.)
Gun Safety Standards Should Not Be Mandatory
There are several ways to start this piece. I could start it with a 5-year-old child wandering into the master bedroom while his/her mom is talking on the phone and dad is away at work, for instance. There’s a loaded .357 magnum in the bedside stand—you see how this is going to develop. Then there’s the other possible scenario—you’re fast asleep when you hear the window shatter—you quickly grab that same .357 and use it to instantly stop a felon who is bent on your personal destruction. If the gun had been locked up—maybe there wouldn’t have been time.
Owning a firearm is not a decision to be taken lightly. In the right hands, of course, we all realize that a firearm is nothing more or less than a tool—one capable of being routinely used for entertainment, winning medals, hunting or defending the home. On the other hand, when a firearm falls into the wrong hands it can become a weapon, instantly turning a mindless individual into a creep who uses the arm to terrorize our society.
The third possible situation comes into play when a child, children, or even an impaired adult gets mixed up with a firearm. We’ve all seen or heard the stories, although amazingly rare in such a large society as ours.
Freedom Has a Price
When I begin thinking of the philosophical basis for firearms ownership, the first thought that pops into my head are the words of Harlon Carter [the late National Rifle Association...
(The entire section is 1753 words.)