Guns Kill People, Too

The mindless mantra of the pro-gun activists that “guns don’t kill people, people kill people” ignores the data from other countries that suggest that tighter gun control would make guns less readily available and therefore reduce somewhat the ability of many to pull a gun when anger and frustration raise their heads. But then, as the activists are quick to point out, if a person is determined to kill someone he can always find a weapon. This is true, but trite. A baseball bat in the hands of a madman like the one who walked into Sandy Hook School could readily be turned into a murder weapon. Probably so, but it would have been difficult, if not impossible, to kill 26 people with a baseball bat whereas it took only a few minutes for Adam Lanza to fire off enough bullets to kill those kids, their teachers, and himself.

An excellent letter from a gun owner who hunts and defends the right to bear arms puts the issue in perspective. As a father of young children he now advocates some sort of gun regulation. His letter was written in response to the terrible events in Newtown and he asks that we try somehow to approach the matter calmly and reasonably. Heaven knows calm and reason have not been present at the table in this discussion so far. But it is refreshing to read comments made by a man who argues for the right to bear arms while at the same time he realizes the time has come for tighter gun control. He says in part:

I have never felt that my sporting arms were threatened by those who were calling for tighter regulations on gun sales and ownership – particularly when directed at cheap handguns and guns whose value as sporting arms was marginal or specious.  The fear of a slippery slope leading from common sense gun regulation to the loss of hunting firearms is a fear that the NRA uses to sell its political agenda.  It is false.  A gun is a tool like a hammer but unlike other tools, guns are designed and optimized to deliver projectiles for the purpose of killing efficiently.  In the context of hunting, this efficiency is needed to ensure that an animal dies as quickly and humanely as possible.  However, this is also the reason why the “guns don’t kill people, people do…” line of reasoning rings hollow.  One can kill another person with a hammer or with a car but that is not what hammers and cars are designed to do.  Guns are a special case and we should start by acknowledging that.

I must say I am not optimistic about the possibility that this Congress will pass any meaningful gun control legislation — given the immense power the NRA wields in Washington and their tendency to jerk their collective knee every time some maniac shoots someone and reasonable people start talking about trying to take measures to stop the madness. In fact, as we attempt to figure out why these terrible shootings happen we might also try to figure out why this country is so in love with guns and why even the suggestion that we stop the sale of hand guns and automatic weapons (which are hardly the weapons of choice for hunters) is so upsetting to so many people.  But perhaps the world-wide reaction to the atrocity in Newtown will finally result in sane heads taking command. One can always hope because this madness has to stop.

However, tighter gun control is clearly not the entire answer. We need to probe more deeply into causes, as I suggested in a recent blog. But it is a step in the right direction, and it is one we should have taken long before Adam Lanza stepped into that school-house in Newtown and started shooting young children.