The nation is faced with two deeply emotional and highly inflammatory problems: the spread of guns and rampant distrust of authority — mass shootings on one hand and an apparent war between police and people of color on the other. These problems are intertwined.
I’ve railed against guns in the past. I vote pro gun control. I am also a gun owner. My father taught me to shoot when I was a kid. I have friends who “pack heat.”
When New Yorker magazine carried an article titled “Making a Killing: The business and politics of selling guns,” I read it carefully and underlined the following: “More American civilians have died by gunfire in the past decade than all the Americans who were killed in action in the Second World War.” The shooting in Orlando in June was “the 130th mass shooting so far this year.”
Clearly these facts support my position. There are too many guns in America. Then I read the following from a CBS News poll: “The percentage of American households owning a gun is at a near 40-year low.” According to Gallup and the General Social Survey from the University of Chicago, gun ownership has been falling for the last 40 years.
How does one balance these statements? Here’s one answer from the New Yorker: “The average gun owner owns approximately eight firearms, double the number in the 1990s” and “roughly 1 in 5 gun owners owns 10 guns or more.”
After years of falling gun ownership, the number of gun sales is going up. Why? It isn’t crime, which has been falling as well.
We live in a climate of fear. Blame the media, but if they didn’t report the killings, they would be accused of a cover-up. There is more crime in poor black communities than in middle-class white areas. The police who patrol black communities are human, and they, too, are afraid.
None of this forgives harassment, but it does put it in perspective. In every case, the problem comes back to the individual. What is he or she afraid of, and why?
“The only thing that can stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun,” many claim. Wrong! FBI studies of 160 active shooters found only one case where a gun carrier stopped the “bad guy.” Unarmed civilians stopped the 159 other shooters.
“A gun in the home makes the home safer.” Wrong! Statistics indicate the gun is more often turned on the owner or family members. The greatest number of deaths in the home are from suicides.
Rifles are used for hunting. A shotgun is a powerful deterrent to intruders, but a handgun is made to kill. So I am still convinced there are too many guns in the country and I will vote to make them harder to buy.
But it still comes back to the individual holding the weapon, any kind of weapon, pocket pistols to A bombs. A gun in the hands off a fearful, unstable person is a danger to everyone, the gun owner included.
Joan O. King