Before I begin proper, I give my condolences to the victims and families of the victims of the Virginia Tech massacre. If you haven’t heard about it yet, please read through the link.
I have said briefly before that I am in favour of gun control laws. But after reading Ann Coulter’s lastest posting and her reasoning in favor of citizens carrying concealed guns , I am prompted to reconsider.
This news report also makes one reconsider the purported relation between gun control and murder crime rates. As does this newspaper piece about various cases where armed citizens stopped gun spree-killers.
See also Gun Wielding Maniac Attack: Conservative vs Liberal Result, where a single gun-wielding volunteer security guard stopped what would have been a 1000-rounds-of-ammo massacre in a church.
Rather than argue the points for and against gun control in its different forms (such as strict gun ownership, restriciting guns to inside the owner’s home, banning the sale of guns or etc), I shall explore the effects of gun control through scenarios.
And if any of the below scenarios seem outlandish or unrealistic outside the USA… Well, just imagine it’s happening in Johor Bahru .
Let us begin…
SCENARIO 1: Citizens allowed to own guns and carry them concealed in public
Just imagine, everyone walking around might be holding a gun! That aunty at the market, that mother pushing a pram… Sounds scary, doesn’t it? Imagine what might happen when a road accident leads to flaring tempers!
But violent criminals would also be deterred from targeting citizens, as they would run the risk of the citizen retaliating with lethal force. That is one argument for concealed carry laws – criminals are less likely to attack citizens if those citizens might be carrying effective defense.
GUN CONTROL = BAD
SCENARIO 2: Totally gun-free zones
Some are saying that if gun control laws were stricter, then the recent Virginia Tech massacre wouldn’t have happened. But Ann Coulter and others argue that the banning of guns from campus is precisely what allowed the shooter to carry out so many killings.
After all, the first ones to disobey the gun-free rule would be the criminals. If the VT shooter were hell-bent on carrying out his rampage, he would have found a firearm somehow.
Even if tough gun control laws were in place, he would find some way to pruchase one illegally and smuggle one in.
And he would know that no one else on campus would be carrying a weapon capable of stopping him. But if someone had been armed and ready to respond, things might have ended much sooner. If there had been many who were armed and ready to respond, the shooter might even have been deterred.
Such a result is not unheard of; the Appalachian School of Law shooting is one example of armed students managing to subdue a shooter before he caused many deaths.
See also this Time article for one Texan woman’s account of how not having her gun on hand cost the lives of her parents. And you just HAVE to read this news report to appreciate the role guns have to play in home defense!
The gist of the argument: Gun-free zones are like shooting ranges for mass-murderers, who will be the only armed person in the area.
GUN CONTROL = BAD
SCENARIO 3: A gun-carrying burglar breaks into a gun-owner’s house
Let’s say the sale of guns is rampant, and basically everybody owns one. A burglar armed with a gun plans to break into a citizen’s home. This citizens also owns a gun. The match-up seems pretty fair, doesn’t it?
But in reality, the burglar has distinct advantages over a potentially stronger victim (I should know from my own experience)
The burglar is prepared for a confrontation, having chosen the date and the time, while the citizen cannot be staying awake every night on the alert for break-ins. The burglar will strike in the dead of night, when the citizen is fast asleep.
When the confrontation happens, the citizen will be groggy and confused, while the burglar will be alert and psyched up for the crime. The burglar will have his weapon already in hand, while the citizen’s weapon may be in a drawer or otherwise not immediately accessible.
And if it came down to a shoot out, the burglar will likely be prepared to open fire, with perhaps some target practise beforehand.
With all the advantages of initiative, the burglar comes out on top in this very-likely scenario. The citizen loses the confrontation, his valuables, his gun, and maybe even his life.
If nobody had any guns, burglaries would still happen. If only responsible citizens has guns, they might have an advantage – if the burglar didn’t get a knife to their throat while they sleep. But this scenario shows that if everyone carried guns, the midnight attacker would have a definite advantage.
GUN CONTROL = GOOD
SCENARIO 4: Where have all the guns gone?
In most countries, such as Malaysia, very few people have a license to own a gun. Tight controls and very harsh penalties for being caught carrying a gun also mean that criminals to get ahold of guns less frequently.
This translates to a very low incidence of gun-related violence and death in Malaysia. Where there are no guns, there will be no gun crimes.
However, even when guns are generally banned and only security forces can legally wield them, we’ve seen plenty of high-profile robberies where gangs with automatic weapons gun down guards and shoppers at goldsmiths. And there was that case of an armed soldier running amok with his rifle some time back.
Still, for the most part, a dire lack of guns reduces the risk to ordinary citizens. An angry mob could take down a parang-wielding psycho, but not a gunman (without potentially several deaths).
GUN CONTROL = GOOD
SCENARIO 5: Guns, guns everywhere!
Another scenario where guns are easily bought and many people have one. Apart from that, everything else is the same as Scenario 4.
Robbery at knife-point becomes robbery at gun-point. Police pursuing criminals becomes a shoot-out. If even basic security guards do not carry firearms, they’ll be basically useless – human meat shields to briefly draw away the criminal’s bullets.
This is basically what some major cities in America are like. Guns wouldn’t be a problem if only respectable, responsible and stable citizens could obtain and carry them. But the reality is that any kid on the street with a bone to pick can blow the guts out of a rival gang member.
When guns are free-flowing, life gets much more dangerous.
GUN CONTROL = GOOD
MY VERDICT: Keep guns out if possible, restrict ownership if not
My conclusion is that society is generally much less lethal (though not necessarily safe from crime and injury) where there are very, very few guns in circulation. Strict laws on importing, selling and owning guns should be maintained in order to prevent ANYONE from getting their hands on firearms.
But where guns are already prevalent, or a way of life, then sale and ownership of guns must be tightly monitored and severely restricted.
ONLY certifiably responsible, accountable, tax-paying citizens should be even allowed to apply for a license.
Those seeking to own and purchase guns must prove they are stable and of sound mind, such as by submitting to a background review and psychological test. This is in contrast to current US gun laws, where it has to be proven that the customer are not of sound mind in order to refuse a sale.
All missing guns must be reported within 24 hours, or the owner will be held responsible if any crimes are committed with it. No lending out of guns must be permitted.
And special scrutiny must be placed on all gun-sellers. If any guns were found sold to uncertified persons, that gun supplier must share in the consequences.
Taken together, these measures would have prevented the VT shooter from obtaining a gun in the first place – either by purchasing a gun, or ‘borrowing’ (stealing) it from a legal owner who would be legally obliged to quickly report the theft. Basically, only very lawful, very responsible citizens will be armed, and unstable potential criminals will not.
And we would not have ended up with this:
It is argued that laws requiring citizens to give up their weapons will only result in the law-abiding being disarmed. The criminals and anti-socials will resist complying with such laws, leaving the ordinary citizens at a disadvantage.
While I can suggest a massive sweep of the cities to round up as many guns as possible, this proposal is both unfeasible due to the scale, and ineffective due to the many ways one can hide a weapon. But at least it’s a start to reducing the numbe of guns in circulation, bit by bit.
It would be best, then, if this stage is never reached. Guns must not become widespread enough that undue effort must be taken to restore the status quo.