Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Is it Time to Ban Handguns?

Last night, watching the coverage of the shooting at Virginia Tech, my husband and I talked gun control. Virginia has some of the most lax gun laws in the U.S. Handguns were used in the shooting at the University. Indeed, it seems that handguns are the weapon of choice in killing other people. I caught an article in the Philadelphia Inquirer this weekend that said that shootings in Philadelphia are at new highs. Last year, over 400 people were killed in the city, and this year shootings are up 16% so far from last year. Most of those deaths are caused by people using handguns.

This is a tough topic for me, because I have some sympathy with the idea that the citizens should be able to rise up against the government when it becomes unjust and tyrannical. It's hard to do that without weapons. Although, as my Canadian husband, who finds Americans' love of guns bizarre, points out, no "well regulated militia" of average citizens can compete against the regular military. Those who might rise up against an unjust government would likely be put down by that military of that unjust government. But, still, I like the idea.

And, I grew up with guns, mostly rifles, which we used to shoot cans or prairie dogs (before they were an endangered species, ehem). My dad had an assortment of rifles and shotguns, which were part of life on the ranch. I handled those and was comfortable with them. And, I don't have a problem with regulated and managed hunting. Given that humans have killed off most of the predators, there's a certain amount of wildlife management necessary by hunting these days.

Handguns are another story, though. Their small size, easy handling, point and click interface (to use video game terms), make those guns seem fairly scary to me. They definetely seemed scary when I was a kid. My dad had a semi-automatic handgun that I found particularly scary. The recoil on that gun, and the ease of pulling and pulling and pulling the trigger to have it fire over and over again, gave it a feeling of lethality that I didn't feel with my .22.

Now, those who declare all guns (and the purchase and ownership of them) sacred in the Second Amendment and outside the purview of regulation I think have constructed an interpretation of that Amendment that far exceeds what the founders intended.

But, it seems to me the only way to get laws passed to better regulate guns is to amend the Constitution--to clarify the right. I don't think Americans should have the right to bear handguns that they can use to shoot other people. Vigilantism, retribution, hate, jealousy, drunken rage, you name it, are not good reasons to brandish guns and fire them at other people.

This is controversial, I know, but we need to have another deep conversation in this country about the manufacture, distribution, and acquisition of guns. Otherwise, the violence will continue. I don't see that as good for our society.


Chris said...

Well if I may weigh in, I also (as you know)grew up with guns. Like you mostly shot guns. I don't have a problem with shooting a gun for target practice. Maybe since I work closely with children, I have a problem with people owning guns for "protection". I don't know the statistics here, but a person is more apt to be hurt with their own handgun than they are able to use it to protect themselves. And the kids who find and "play" with them are hurt or some other child is hurt by accident. It's not worth it to me.

Donald said...

Hi Jennie -

I write for two reasons:
1. My surname + yours ( I am the Michigan family genealogist/ historian. No known direct relationship with you. )

2. Comment on the gun control:
It seems that a law banning AUTOMATIC, or SEMI-AUTOMATIC weapons, or perhaps assault-type weapons might be a consideration..?

Jenny Stromer-Galley said...

Hi Donald,

Are you a Stromer or a Galley?

(My surname is Stromer; Galley is my husband)


R.Engberg said...

Hi Jen,

It's been interesting to see the New Zealand coverage on this. Check out the (New Zealand Herald). As you can imagine, the press have spent a lot of time talking about American gun culture and gun control. Down here gun control is pretty strict, but they've still had a massacre or two over the years. (Although as far as I know, none of these school rampages). There's still a fair amount random lethal violence, although less than Minnesota (the two are about the same size and population). Down here violent crimes tend to be with knives, sporting equipment, and other sorts of tools.

The trouble in the states at this point is putting the toothpaste back in the tube. You have so many guns, and so many gun owners that you can never get them all back. Though I suppose they'll have to try.

You might find these crime stats interesting. I can find you the specifics on NZ firearm licensing procedures if you're interested.

10 Year Stats Viewer

Executive summary: Homicides last year: 9 Firearm, 14 Stabbing, 12 Manual, 10 other.

Avril said...

Your sensible Canadian friend thinks your sensible Canadian husband is right - what could any well-regulated militia do against the might of the U.S. army? Mostly it seems to me that guns breed guns breed more guns, along with reasons to shoot them, usually at other people. I dunno, I just don't get it...

Tazunemono said...

There are more guns in the hands of law-abiding citizens in this country than in the entire nation of Iraq. Seems like the insurgents of Iraq are doing just fine resisting US initiatives to disarm them. We now have over 160,000 troops in Iraq.

If an armed rebellion ever started in this country, the US military would be at a significant disadvantage. IED's can disable tanks, supply trains, etc. This is why it is important to not ban "assault" weapons and high-capacity magazines. If the police and army can have them, why can't I own these objects? Please don't interpret this to mean that I advocate private citizens owning Nuclear Weapons!

Being scared of an inanimate object is certainly foolish. Please take the time to find a gun owner (possibly a local sheriff or deputy) and ask them to take you for a trip to a range.

Self defense is a natural god-given right. Please check out http://a-human-right.com and see what I mean.