Goulding-Miles Benson’s article appears to operate on the mantra of “less guns, equals less murder, and more guns equals more murder.” However, to believe this indiscriminately would mean to be ignorant of relevant statistics, academic literature and conventional logic. Thanks to the collection of statistics and quantifiable data, there has been extensive research and advancement in academic literature relating to gun-crime, especially within the United States. This gives us what those within an academic setting call demonstrable, measurable data, upon which we can prove or disprove hypotheses and develop logical, informed opinions.
While some of your audience may enjoy reading journalism based on ad hominem arguments and inflammatory appeals to emotion as opposed to empirical data and academic research, this is one reader who is unimpressed and fed up hearing uninformed, polarizing opinions being passed off as journalism.
President Obama’s alma mater, Harvard University for example, conducted a massive study on gun ownership within America and across Europe. They found that there is no correlation between gun ownership and murder rates within the countries they examined. Russia, with incredibly stringent gun laws, has a murder rate four times higher than the murder rate within the United States, while countries like Finland and Switzerland have gun ownership rates per capita ranked globally at third and fourth place respectively, with some of the lowest violent crime and murder rates in the world.
The authors of the Harvard Study concluded that there is a much stronger correlation between socio-economic/cultural factors and murder rates than there is between gun ownership rates and murder rates. They point out further that, unlike our European counterparts, the vast majority of gun owners in the United States own weapons for self-defense. Accordingly, they also note that the relative drop in violent crime within the United States’ safest communities is in many ways directly attributable to more legal, responsible gun ownership, alongside healthy socio-economic and cultural dynamics.
Conversely, places like Chicago (gun crime capital of the U.S.), and New York City (a close second place) are seeing more violent crime and homicide than any other time in their histories, despite the fact that they have some of the strongest gun control regulations in the United States. In other words: fewer guns don’t equal less crime. A hypothesis to the contrary is ignorant of the reality of our situation and is not addressing the core issues that so desperately need to be addressed.
New York and Chicago are not isolated examples. Benson’s article seemed to entirely overlook the fact that an estimated 2.5 million crimes are stopped every year by the legal possession of a firearm. (Note: 92 percent of the time, the mere brandishing of the weapon was enough to stop the crime, and the owner did not have to discharge the weapon.)
It was also not taken into account that responsible, legally armed citizens have stopped dozens and dozens of potential mass-shootings cold. Armed citizens have stopped would-be murderers that have attempted mass-shootings in Santa Clara, Calif., Colorado Springs, Colo., Aniston, Ala. and literally dozens of other cities and locations, ranging from churches to gun shops.
Another example is Kennesaw, Ga. (a suburb just outside Atlanta): in 1982, they passed a law mandating households to possess at least one firearm. Residential burglary rates dropped 89 percent in one year. (Note: this was not a temporary effect; burglary rates were still 72 percent lower on average than before the legislation was passed 10 years later).
But does legal possession of a firearm truly have an impact on the behavior of criminals? The Department of Justice says: yes. A study conducted by the Department of Justice, interviewed thousands of incarcerated persons and found that 57 percent of those interviewed “are more worried about meeting an armed victim than they are about running into the police.”
The fact of the matter is that the only thing that can stop an evil person with a gun is a responsible person with a gun. This is not people attempting to compensate for “less than ideal sexual characteristics” as Benson so insightfully wrote. This is about a culture and national identity of protecting the fundamental right of freedom from coercion, whether it be at the hands of another person, or at the hands of a government entity. To dismiss the average gun owner as an ignorant wannabe hero is exactly the type of straw-man argument that continues to polarize and hinder the progress of our political system.
These are not outdated principles. These are not antiquated concepts. The concepts of freedom from coercion and self-preservation are at the very core of what it means to live in a free society and are just as relevant today as they were when our nation was founded.
These tragedies can best be avoided through a strong sense of community within our schools and homes and within our neighborhoods and churches. Communities must prioritize scoping out and offering help to those with deep psychological issues. It is also equally important that the current laws that are in place to keep guns out of the hands of the mentally ill are effectively and sternly implemented.
I believe that every human life is valuable, and it is a tragedy every time a cold, evil or simply psychotic individual cuts a human life short. But I also understand that trying to remove lawful people from owning guns is counterproductive. I understand that of more than 250 million guns owned within the United States (more than 100 million of which are rifles), only a handful are used in tragedies such as these.
Instead of hiding behind inflammatory rhetoric and ad hominem argument, let’s start a serious dialogue about mental health and the role that all of us as individuals can play in trying to fix our society. Instead of illogical (and impractical) suggestions like making legal gun owners criminals, let’s start discussing how we can more effectively implement the laws we already have in place that aim to prevent guns falling into the wrong hands.
Let’s start discussing how we can build social capital within our communities and better reach out and give help to those who are psychologically disturbed. Let’s discuss how to actually improve our social and cultural dynamics within our communities. By keeping the discussion of gun crime limited to appeals to emotion and jokes about sexual competency, you are doing us all a disservice.
Connor Goulding-Miles is a Staff Writer for the Voice and can be reached for comment at CGoulding-Miles15@wooster.edu