In light of recent tragedies such as the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, I understand and applaud that legislators will be looking for ways to avoid such tragedy in the future.
In this endeavor, I ask that you do not
support further restrictions on the types of firearms that law abiding citizens may own, nor place additional restrictions on who may legally own firearms.
We do not have a problem with firearms violence
in this country, rather, we have a problem with violence
. Placing restrictions on things
will not avoid violence, or potentially, even the access of those things to those who would commit violence.
We should not forget that the Oklahoma City Bombing killed 19 children under the age of six. Violent people will find ways to hurt others be it with a firearm, bomb, plane, Sarin, machete or a tanker truck full of gasoline.
While I believe that we will always have some percentage of people that will wish to do others harm, I believe the best way to reduce violence in this country is to reduce the number of people who feel inclined to harm others.
I feel the most effective way to accomplish this is with a happier and healthier society. Some concrete steps toward this end might be:
1) Support economic health.
Lack of economic opportunities and financial uncertainty strongly
undermine the health of our society.
2) Access to mental health assistance for those who want it.
We need to be very mindful of the civil rights of those with mental illness,
however it should be easy for those who wish assistance to receive it.
The widening partisan divide in our country should concern us. In many ways it means almost everyone feels disaffected and contributes to the ill health of our society. Further restrictions on firearm ownership would only further alienate a significant portion of our population and aggravate, not help the problem.
Since steps towards a healthier society are long term goals and will not eliminate all instances of those wishing to harm others, I suggest we also take steps to protect against those who would seek to do harm.
3) Make provisions that armed police (or other properly trained staff) be available for schools who desire active protection measures.
Passive defense systems will only provide so much protection. For schools
who wish the active protection armed police can provide, we should ensure
they have that option.
4) Make provisions to allow schools to increase their physical protection against determined intruders.
While schools typically have many barrier related defensive systems,
many of them are not oriented toward the truly determined attacker
and we should ensure the funding and technical guidance for those
who wish it.
While I support the Second Amendment for the stated purpose, I would like to suggest the protection of firearm ownership in the United States goes even deeper.
We all have the right to "Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness" as pointed out in the Declaration of Independence. We can summarize this as the right to self-determination. I think most would agree the concept of self-determination is a primary tenant of our country, hopefully “self-evident”.
The provision for security and self-defense is inseparable from self-determination. We know the police have no duty to protect individuals. And rightly so. It is not possible for the police to be everywhere and it only takes seconds for harm to befall someone. We all are personally
responsibility for our safety.
In the context of self-defense, the firearm represents equality. There is no other method of defense that allows a grandmother to protect her grandchildren from thugs with anywhere the same probability for success than a firearm. Take the firearm out of the equation and the strong prevail over the weak.
Infringing on the individuals right for self-defense should be be as unthinkable as infringing on their right to free speech. Some have suggested that we have limits on speech such as not being able to yell “fire!” in a crowded theater, but miss that this is not a restriction on free speech, but rather on what people do with that speech, just as it is not legal for someone to assault someone with their motor vehicle. The key is in this country, people automatically have rights but they can lose those rights if they endanger others. We don't prohibit someone from speaking because what they might say.
Clearly the horror of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School is immense. I have deep sympathy for those affected. The unthinkable horror of this event and the media's relentless coverage of this and other acts of violence give the impression that these types of events are common and that we are in the middle of an epidemic of violence. In reality these events are statistically rare, and very low in relationship to other risks in our society. Even a quick Internet search suggests murder rates are at a 30-40 year low(1). Consider that concurrently, gun ownership is up(2), and indeed while lawful concealed carry rates are up(3).
A number of troubling suggestions have been made in the news recently. One of which is that certain types of firearms or magazine capacities have no purpose other than to “kill a lot of people very quickly”. The important purpose of these types of firearms like any other firearm is the defense of one's life and livelihood. In short, the defense of their pursuit of happiness.
Police carry AR-15 style rifles with 30 round magazines when in dangerous situations. Clearly they are not attempting to “kill a lot of people very quickly”. The same goes for any other individual wishing to defend themselves. It simply provides the ability to defend against more significant threats as well as provide a deterrent.
Witness the ability of the store-owners to defend their livelihood during the 1992 Los Angeles Riots(4). Contrast that with the difficulties of the police to subdue the bank robbers in the 1997 North Hollywood Shootout(5).
If you were a rural rancher your home was assaulted by number of armed assailants, a rifle like those used by police is likely the only thing that gives you any sort of chance of survival. In what way would it be moral for us to deny someone their right to defend themselves to the best of their ability?
Conversely, as sickening as it is to think about, it is likely a strong person could have murdered an adult and 20 plus children trapped in a school room with a machete. Indeed, some of the most sickening atrocities in recent history have occurred with a cheap piece of steel(6).
Another issue that has been receiving a lot of press lately is the so-called “gun show loophole”, or more accurately, the lack of government background check requirement for private sales. While changing this approach sounds unobtrusive at first glance, consider – should the government really be involved if you wish to give a firearm you own to your spouse or to your child? In my opinion the analogy is alcohol sales. It is your responsibility not to give alcohol you purchase to minors. In Washington state many individuals already employ a common sense approach avoid selling to ineligible buyers by checking they have a current concealed weapons permit.
We now have a fair amount of evidence prohibition is not effective in the United States. Our 1919 prohibition of alcohol didn't prevent people from obtaining alcohol. Our several decade old “war on drugs” shows no sign of reducing drug use and has the unfortunate side effect of creating a large and entrenched criminal enterprise.
Another prohibition, or “war on gun owners”, not only will likely have no positive impact on violence in this country, it will likely further damage the health of our society by disenfranchising more people. It might even spawn a new criminal enterprise smuggling or manufacturing firearms. Consider the modern firearm is over 100 year old technology and right now small machine shops across the United States are building some of the most advanced and precision firearms in the world.
People have a right to self-determination and self-defense. The firearm is a tool in this to protect these rights. Different types of firearms only serve to allow the individual to protect against different threats.
Please protect our rights.
(2) Self-Reported Gun Ownership in U.S. Is Highest Since 1993
(3) Washingtonians ?arming up? at stunning pace - Seattle gun rights | Examiner.com
(6) More than 500 people slaughtered in machete 'revenge' attacks on Christian villages in Nigeria | Mail Online