I’m not a gun guy.
I’m not a member of the NRA. I’m not a hunter. I own zero rifles. If someone were to get me a subscription to Guns & Ammo or other such magazine as a birthday present, I would, after politely thanking them, immediately cancel that subscription. I’m just not fascinated in any way by guns. But, as a cop for 30 years, I was around guns all the time. I still am.
Lately I’ve heard and seen—people I know, who are definitely not gun people—voice their opinions about what they characterize as rampant gun violence in this country. Violence, they say, that is so widespread and common that the country as a whole is unsafe as they attend to the day-to-day aspects of life.
Their proposal to stop the loss of life?
The only suggestion I hear is more comprehensive gun control.
These opinions, I’ve noticed, seem to be based on feelings rather than facts. Sometimes it’s because they truly believe what they hear in their echo chambers. Sometimes it’s because they want this supposed epidemic to have a singular cause so a one-step solution will stop it.
I disagree with both assertions.
Let me say this before preceding: I hate gun violence as much as anyone. I’ve seen my share of it’s aftermath, and it’s ugly and heart-wrenching. I’ve been victim of it myself. But I think activists are wrong in thinking more gun control will stem that tide. If we really want to diminish gun violence, we have to look elsewhere.
First, let’s address the idea that the United States is an incredibly dangerous place to live because of the widespread occurrences of gun violence.
It’s simply not true, at least in a national sense.
The United States is by almost any measure, safer than it’s ever been and much less violent than 25 years ago. Most don’t realize that violent crime grew over 300% between 1960 – 1990. We could argue about why, but suffice it to say, since 1993, violence has dropped more than 70%.
What’s interesting about that drop is that there are a hell of a lot more guns, not to mention people, now than there were in 1993. So, if more guns equate to more violence, how do you explain that apparent contradiction?
As for this country being so terrifyingly violent, consider this: According to the UNODC (United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime), we rank number 90 in the world considering the homicide rate based on population numbers. Greenland is 91.
Within the United States, let’s look at 2014 stats, which were the last comprehensive stats I could find.
There are 3,142 counties (or equivalent jurisdictions) in the United States. 63 of those counties, just 2%, accounted for 51% of all murders annually. 157 of those government entities, a mere 5%, accounted for 68% of gun murders!
You know how many, or what percentage of the country has basically no murders at all? 54%!
I know the argument: “Yeah but those counties have smaller populations.” On the whole, that’s true, and brings me to my next point.
Population is defined as, “The inhabitants of a particular town, area, or country.” Inhabitant is another word for person, a human being.
A person has to pick up the gun, point it, and pull the trigger at another person for the gun to cause death. It is a deliberative act—perhaps the most deliberative of acts.
If anyone is really serious—and few are—especially pundits, activists, and politicians, they would naturally ask this question: Why do the people who live in certain areas make the decision to shoot and kill other people?
I travel the country—the entire country, each and every state, constantly, as I speak to first responders. I learn about the different cultures and perspectives about guns in the process.
In states that I’ll call “gun culture country,” I’ve talked to countless officers who went to high schools that sponsored shooting clubs. High schools! The students, as well as the teachers, literally brought guns into the schools, put them in their lockers, and housed them there until they needed them for their club gathering. And guess what? Mass shootings—any shootings, for that matter—were unheard of. And according to an officer in Wyoming I recently spoke with: “I didn’t know a person who didn’t own a gun. I still don’t.”
To a person, man and woman, who live in these states where guns are part of the vernacular and day-to-day culture, they insist those guns were never a problem. Specifically, the owners never caused any issues or engaged in any type of mass shootings.
The number of guns in close proximity to human beings nationally have no correlation, and certainly no causation, to why some people shoot some other people.
In fact, many of the most violent parts of this country have the strictest gun laws! The mayor of the murder capital of the United States, Chicago (based on total numbers, rather than per capita), has said: “The lax gun laws in neighboring states such as Wisconsin and Indiana is what accounts for the gun violence in Chicago.”
The problem with that argument is that Wisconsin and Indiana don’t in any way have gun violence problems like Chicago has. Neither do the counties in Illinois that surround Cook County.
So, again: Why do people in certain areas of the country purposely acquire a gun, load the gun, pick up the gun, point the gun at another person, and pull the trigger on the gun with the intent to kill?
That’s the question, which I’ll address at the end.
For my friends who want the gun violence to stop and believe it is up to the government to stop it here is my opinion about what the government can actually do to save lives.
ENFORCE THE GUN LAWS ALREADY ON THE BOOKS!
Ask any cop in the country. It’s amazing how prosecutors routinely downgrade charges on people who use guns to commit crimes. There are laws all over the place that say if a gun is used in the commission of a crime that enhances the charge. Many have mandatory prison terms, but they don’t kick in if the charges aren’t filed.
This is happening in the most violent counties in the country. Invariably, people who do use guns during crimes, get away with it. And they know they will.
It’s complicated, this whole gun violence issue. I’m not making light of it. I have been a victim of it: One of my officers took a bullet literally meant for me. But refusing to accept reality isn’t going to save lives and that should be the ultimate goal. Skewing stats, scaring people, lying about what is happening only divides the populace on this issue. The Second Amendment exists and exists for a reason, and it has nothing to do with hunting.
The issue still comes down to this one simple, yet very sad question: “Why does someone pick up a gun and kill another person and why in only certain geographical places in this country?”
Maybe we should not be afraid to talk about that.
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