Monday, September 26, 2016

Those good-guy-with-a-gun fantasies have a real world price

Tyehimba Jess recites at the Literary Death Match in Champaign Saturday.

     You can’t drive down to Champaign without loving America just a little bit more. All that open space. The miles of brown September corn. The decaying red barns. The communications towers against big blue skies. The fact that the crazy 55 mph speed limit finally went back up to 70, a sign that our nation still retains the ability to repair our errors, at least the minor ones.
     There are, of course, ominous signs as well—literal signs, like the “TRUMP-PENCE” billboard in one farmer’s field. Or another announcing “,” an Illinois pro-guns-everywhere group formed, apparently, because the NRA just isn’t busy enough. The website’s top story is headlined “ARE NO GUNS MALLS SAFE?” and begins “Are America’s malls with ‘NO GUNS’ polices safe for you and your kids and grandkids to visit? That’s a great question given a pair of Muslim terror attacks a week apart at malls that shared policies and/or signage that prohibits law-abiding good guys from carrying guns on their premises . . .”
     I somehow screw up the courage to go to Northbrook Court without an AR-15 (which, I suppose I must point out, Maxon Shooter Supply notwithstanding, I could easily and legally buy if I choose to, which I don’t). But I understand others find this prospect terrifying.
     Give credit for moxie. Guns actually kill people, and when you look at the stats—hard to do, with Congress obstructing research into gun violence—you see that states with looser gun laws suffer more random gun violence. Because terror attacks—even two a week—though scary, are exceedingly rare compared with the daily slaughter that having handguns everywhere encourages.

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  1. neil, i know its not to your point but, the speed limit was lowered to 55 during the nixon administration due to the oil embargo. cars get better milage at lower speeds was the reasoning. saving the burning of millions of extra gallons of fuel. turned out less people got killed in auto crashes too. quite a few less. with all the concern you voice for the ravages of climate change, maybe you'd realize that reducing carbon emissions likely will be inconvenient. and your very reasonable concern with gun violence shouldn't be your only crusade against unnecessary death and injury. if people actually drove the 70 mph limit instead of 85 it would save some lives. by the way the 55 law was repealed in 1995 . seems like only yesterday

    1. The limit went up to 70 in 2013. And as much as I prefer driving 75/80 to 60/65 when I'm going somewhere far, I do think that the higher limit leads to more fatalities. Plus there's an uncertainty even among the most careful drivers as to how fast to drive when virtually every car is going at least 10 to 15 miles over the limit. If only the fools died in car crashes, I'd be tempted to say let them drive as fast as they want, but just as with guns, all too often the innocent bystanders perish not the cowboys whooping it up.


    2. Right, but it didn't go up to 70 until three years ago.

  2. While terrorism is relatively rare, people using firarms to save lives is not. You are tying to make it seem that way by limiting it to terrorism. The other fact that you and all fo the anti gun crowd always leave out is the mass slaughter of citizens in countries where gun registration and confiscation has occured.

    The few thousand gun homicides in the US pale comparison with the number of citizens gunned down in the Soviet Union, China and other socialist countries.

  3. Having grown up in a rural town where almost every household had a gun for hunting, I've known an improbably large number of people who were killed or injured in gun accidents, my father included. It’s what happens when everyone is armed and is the most fallible of creatures, a human.

    If you give a hundred people a butter knife, by the end of the day several of them will have made a trip to the emergency room. People screw up. It is our lot in life. Give millions of people handguns, including the ideologically unhinged, the mentally ill, and the criminally inclined, and you'll get what we have - a world where people are butchered daily and people like Mr. Lewis soft pedal a few thousand gun killings as just a part of life in a democracy. If our motto is "America - We butcher a few less citizens than totalitarian states" we might want to consider a new set of ideals.

    The NRA, a gun manufacturers lobbying group, has so subverted the idea of the 2nd amendment that people no longer use guns as tools, but instead see them as objects of worship. I recall an admonition against false idols somewhere.

    Studies have shown that you are 4.5 times more likely to be shot by a gun if you own one that if you don't own one. The odds that you will protect yourself from a bad guy are minimal. The odds that you or someone else will screw up and tragedy will ensue are much more likely.

    Guns save lives my a-s.

    Great column.

    1. That's a common misconception, due to a simple error in data interpretation, rather like saying owning a car puts you at risk of drunk driving because some people drive drunk. Millions of Americans have made themselves safer with guns.

    2. The romantic notion of widespread use of guns in self defense has been pretty well debunked, although much of the "evidence," being anecdotal or merely speculative, is hard to verify. It is reasonable that the number of justifiable homicides with a gun should provide a clue, and the annual numbers, according to the FBI are in the low hundreds.


    3. millions if not billions of people own butter knives. dumb anti gun rhetoric.

  4. Checking published international homicide rates, I didn't find any for the Soviet Union, possibly because it no longer exists, but China's, at .8 per 100,000 is in line with most European countries and Japan. The U.s rate is four times that. In all cases, the availability of guns is key.

    Often our views are shaped by incidents, mine by the case of a friend in south London returning from work stopped by a knife-yielding young man who wanted his wallet. He wasn't having it, swung his heavy brief case at the knife hand and yelled bloody murder. Doors and windows opened along the street, and his assailant fled. If it happened in Chicago it would be a gun instead of a knife and my friend would be a statistic. The U.K. is not un-violent, but guns are not handy, to the angry domestic partner, the street criminal, or the cop on the beat. If asked, I would tell my British friends to do everything they can to keep it that way.

    Tom Evans

  5. A popular reason for law abiding citizens to own a gun, and be properly trained in its use, is it provides a sense of security and control in a multitude of situations. Even if the NRA or gun lobby didn't exist people would feel the same way. There are armed people who confront people on the street, or smash into homes and don't bother to determine if the home is occupied. These kinds of criminals are oblivious to the existence of the NRA, gun lobby, gun worshipers, and the myriad of gun laws. They want your property no matter the cost. Here is a video of an incident that occurred a few days ago. The ending does not resemble gun worship.


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