Sunday, January 20, 2013

On guns: Do conservative ever make sense

I don’t normally like to visibly involve myself in the whole debate on gun control. Generally, I think there are others better equipped and more interested in the topic. I’m more than willing to lend them my support while they lead the charge.

Unfortunately, that isn’t always the case everywhere I go. My job is a perfect example of this: I can count on one hand the number of non-conservatives where I work, and they tend to be of the blue dog variety. So, when the topic of gun control comes up, as it inevitably does, I’m the only person who might speak up in favor of gun control measures. I generally don’t because let’s be honest, being surrounded by a horde of rabid gun-loving conservatives doesn’t exactly feel like a safe environment for rational debate on the subject.

Alas, I made the mistake of attempting to carry on a conversation with one of my more sober co-workers. It went about as well as I should have expected.  About a minute into the conversation, I realized that none of my points were registering for the simple fact that I don’t speak conservative.  Words I took to mean something akin to their generally accepted definition were applied in an almost arbitrary fashion.

During the conversation, brief as it became, I did have some interesting “facts” lobbed at me. It was, in my estimation, the gun advocates application of the Gish Gallop. So here, in part, are my responses to a few of these assertions.

1)      “Firearm-free zones are responsible for mass murders”- How do I even begin to dispel the wrong with this statement? Firstly, I should note that my conservative associate is only concerned with a venue’s classification as a ‘firearm-free zone’ rather than the presence of say, trained law enforcement individuals with weapons. He was strongly averse to any suggestion that the police, etc. are the appropriate people to deal with an armed threat.

Firearm-free zones are decidedly not responsible for mass murders, not even the shooting spree variety. I would hope than anyone could see the paradoxical nature of the statement. Rather, it is the violation of said policy, particularly if the violator’s intent is to kill multiple people, that is responsible for any correlation between firearm free zones and multiple shootings.

Let me state this plainly: Firearm-free zones are not only beneficial, they are necessary. There are simply some places where private citizens should not be allowed to carry a weapon: airports, government offices, any place whose primary function involves the consumption of alcohol, etc. I strongly believe that educational institutions should be on that list. The risks associated with accidental discharge, careless storage, etc. far outweigh the potential benefit in the event of a hypothetical shooter. (There is statistical evidence suggesting a correlation between keeping guns out of high schools and reduced rate of gun deaths).

If we want to raise concerns over the safety of firearm-free zones, our first reaction should not be insisting on their abolition.  We should be looking at measures to ensure the enforcement of those policies and/or options to reduce the chances of violation (which is exactly what gun control aim to accomplish).

2)      “Chicago has a higher homicide rate than all the southern states combined, but the South has more lenient gun regulation”-  Attempting to draw a comparison between the 3rd largest urban area in the country and a wide swath of rural territory is flawed at best and dishonest at worst. It blatantly ignores all the other contributing factors affecting the homicide rate. Instead of this comparison, let’s look at the per capita homicide rate for some of those states.

      Louisiana tops the list at 11.2 homicides per 100,000 people.

Mississippi: 8.0
South Carolina: 6.8
Alabama: 6.3
Georgia: 5.6
Florida: 5.2
Texas: 4.4

Illinois weighs in at 5.6. Florida and Texas, the two states to come in lower, have gun regulation similar (but not identical) to Illinois.

Of course, that is the homicide rate, which covers all homicides (including non-gun related homicide) but excludes gun deaths not classified as homicide.  What happens when we look at all deaths from firearms? Which states top out that list? Louisiana, Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama, Arizona, Alaska, and Nevada.  Noticing a pattern?

3)      “Drunk driving kills twice as many people as guns do”- No, it doesn’t. The number of people killed in all traffic fatalities is only 12 per 100,000. For guns, that number is 10 per 100,000. Twelve is not twice as many as ten. Point refuted.

But hey, since I’m in an uncharitable mood, let’s look at the numbers a bit closer.  According to estimates, there are approximately 472.5 million cars in America.  The number of guns is estimated at 260 million. That means that for every car in America, there are 0.55 guns. If you look at the ratio of gun deaths/ vehicular fatalities, you end up with 0.83. So, while there are nearly twice as many cars as guns, you’re only 17 % more likely to die in a car accident.

Gun violence is a problem. It requires a comprehensive solution that must include restrictions on the availability of firearms.  If you can’t see that by now, you’re just refusing to look.

No comments:

Post a Comment