I used to read Doonesbury regularly. Garry Trudeau had a unique way of looking at many of the world’s problems. One strip still sticks out in my mind: Duke, a character inspired by Hunter S. Thompson, was presenting his case for abolishing gun control before a Congressional hearing with the hypothetical question, “What if you came home and your wife started shooting at you? Wouldn’t you want to be in the position to return fire?”
While Duke’s logic is inherently faulty, it seems to be embraced by a larger number of U.S. citizens then ever before. Let’s look at the figures.
According to a recent article in Time magazine (Dec. 15, 2012), there have been at least 62 mass shootings in America since 1982. (The FBI uses several criteria to determine if a gun crime is a mass shooting, but the main criterion is at least four dead, not including the shooter.) That equates to two a year, except it doesn’t — not really. Twenty-five of those shootings have happened since 2006. More than six shootings a year on average. In fact, in 2012, there were seven mass shootings across the country with a total of 151 victims.
That number bears repeating: 151 victims in seven shootings, and just under 100 of the victims died. A disproportionate number of the dead were under 10 years old.
If there was ever a year where gun control should have been at the forefront of the thoughts of a majority of Americans, 2012 was it. Yet a Pew Research Poll in 2012 indicates only 47 percent of Americans favor gun control — admittedly a slight majority over the 46 percent who oppose such restrictions. Additionally, the FBI has reported a record number of background checks for gun purchases this year — 1.68 million.
An interesting fact: According to the Time magazine article, most weapons used in the mass shootings were legally acquired.
By now, you’re probably thinking I’m calling for a major overhaul of gun laws, perhaps an all-out ban on gun ownership. You’re wrong.
Yes, gun crime is out of control. However, placing a ban on something in the U.S. doesn’t work too often. (Remember Prohibition?) There’s just too many guns out there, and the only people who would be affected by a ban are the law-abiding citizens who would actually turn in their weapons. However, there are some definite areas current gun laws need improvement.
Competency with firearms should be a direct factor in gun ownership. When putting a pistol in your hand makes you a bigger danger to yourself than taking it away from you, you don’t need one.
The NRA doesn’t like the idea of a ban on assault rifles, but let’s make one thing abundantly clear: Assault rifles are not built for hunting. Assault rifles are not built for target shooting. The manufacturers of assault rifles would likely tell you the purpose of these weapons is right in the name — assault. An assault rifle is meant to kill — quickly, but not necessarily cleanly.
Some people should not even be considered to be gun owners. If you’ve got a history of violence, wanton property damage or DWI charges, I think it’s in my best interests to make sure you’re unarmed.
The genie is out of the bottle; guns have been freely (compared to the rest of the world) available for most of our nation’s history, and making the owners of those weapons give them up is problematic at best. We can’t ban guns, but can we at least approach the problem with a little common sense?
And if not, could you at least wait until I’m in a position where I can return fire?
Staff writer Ken Schroeder can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.