Saturday, January 19, 2013

A good day to stay inside

So I just learned that today (Jan 19) is National Gun Appreciation Day here in the USA.  Well that is nice – after all there is a lot to appreciate on that subject here in the US.  Now I know a lot of folk out rallying today for what they believe (I would suggest incorrectly) is an inalienable right are good law abiding people, the simple fact of the matter is, a lot of them will legally have a CCW (that’s Concealed Carry Weapon – I had to look it up to be certain) on their person.  

Now given the arguments by a lot of the extreme and even not so extreme gun lobby that if only someone in the theater here in Colorado had been armed, that tragedy would have been averted, the chances for a good old shoot out at the OK corral are much increased today.  On the theater tragedy I’ve expressed my opinion on how well that might have worked before – but for those who may not have heard my take – imagine now the bad guy and at least one (maybe more) people blazing away at each other in a dark, crowded, panic filled room.  Yes - crossfire – that likely could have been an even bigger tragedy.   Yes Virginia, there is a Santa Claus, but sadly Dirty Harry and all the other good guys in the movies and on television are not real – chances are high they will NOT hit the bad guy with a single well aimed shot.

Now I have carried such a weapon once outside of a firing range – I was out hunting bear with a friend - using bow and arrow, so yes, there are some non-murder related purposes other than target shooting, but fundamentally, you (as a private citizen) own a CCW, i.e. a handgun for one reason and one reason only, to shoot and most likely kill another person.  Frankly, if you own it for any other reason, you really shouldn’t be carrying it in the first place.  A hand gun is not a threat for self-protection if you are not actually prepared to use it – more than likely, it will end up getting used on you if that is the case.  I will probably get misunderstood for this, and I am NOT suggesting this at all but simply making a point: if everybody who has rushed out to buy a handgun since Newtown was made to shoot a puppy to see what a handgun actually does and is 100% convinced they will do that to another person before completing the purchase, one wonders how many sales would go through…

Now I didn’t set out to write a long piece today so let’s stick with that.  The article I was reading led me to an interesting page which is shown on the image should you want to go there.  I can’t tell you for sure whether the Annenberg Public Policy Center is right or left leaning – or as some rare think tanks are, centrist, but I do like that they actually document the sources for what they claim are the facts so you can drill deeper should you choose.

The point I wanted to make was this:
Many I’ve had reasoned discussions with (and many more who simply spout off things they see other people post and have no idea) believe that the widespread elimination of gun ownership in Australia (and a few other countries) has been an abject failure.

I can’t speak as well to the other countries but I do know a little about Australia.  And I was a gun owner in that country, although not living there at the time the “gun ban” was instituted.  The facts are clear despite NRA and the like memes say that crime in general, crime with guns, murder rates overall and murder with guns involved have decreased steadily since the gun ban became effective in 1998.  If you want to check that out, I refer you to base data at the Australian Bureau of Statistics - I hope we can agree, a non-interested party and probably bout as unbiased as you could hope to get.

(Past and Future Releases tab has all the data you could possibly want if you are so inclined)

A report sponsored by gun rights folk in Australia argues that these trends would have happened anyway.  I have not made a study to determine if that is true or not, but what I did learn is that following the tragedy of Port Arthur (1996) and the gun ban that becoming effective in 1998, there have been almost no mass shootings, whereas they had been quite prevalent in the ten or so years before Port Arthur. (

So what would suggest we do know from this is that while it is not reasonable to pretend all the guns are gone in Australia, clearly significantly reducing gun ownership and placing very strict requirements on gun ownership (yes you can still own a gun in Australia) has made it a lot safer.  I’ve even had folk sure (because they have been told it is so) that non gun crime has increased in Australia.  In part, I assumed this was possibly correct as you were hearing a lot about the rise in home invasions and such as of course there was no longer any fear of an armed home owner.  Turns out that is not the case either.

In short, not having guns readily available makes it a lot harder to have these tragic mass murders.  It also seems to have a positive impact on crime in general.  But that is not a discussion many in this country are willing to even start having.  The answer according to the extreme gun lobby (and many people who probably are not really that extreme seem to be voting with their feet if gun and ammunition sales which are through the roof are any indicator) is MORE guns. 

What absolute nonsense.  Closing then by going back to the information above, because having reviewed the Aussie data a few weeks ago, these numbers really stood out.  The 2010 US gun murder rate is 3.6 (per 100,000 people).  The comparable figure for Australia in 0.2.  Yes, there probably is something to the lame excuse “why get rid of guns, people will just use something else”, as for sure the total Australian murder rate is 1.0 compared to the US total rate of 4.8 (or 20% of Australian murders involve guns compared to 75% in the US).  But let’s get real – yes you can kill one person with a knife, maybe even 2 or three, but twelve, or worse yet, over twenty at Newtown?

Now I know better than most that you can’t simply translate what was done in Australia or other places to the USA.  But what is so frustrating is the head in the sand attitude that says it won’t change anything, so why bother.  Which is tantamount to saying, we are OK if another shooting in a school or other public place resulted in the deaths of multiple children and teachers.  As an organization that wants my wife, a teacher, to carry a gun proudly says on its web site, NO COMPROMISE.