Nothing points out the bankruptcy of our nation’s gun-control debate better than the mythologies that surrounds it.
Prior “common sense” proposals are perpetually abandoned. The so-called “news” media adopts each new absurd gun-control scheme dutifully, promotes it uncritically, then drops it like a hot potato when it is proven worthless and runs to the next latest greatest bit of hoplophobic (morbid gun fear) ridiculousness.
In effect the nation endures a serial mythology, with new myths invented constantly, so we lose sight of each established myth as new ones spring into the public eye.
This obscures the former paranoid fabrications, frustrating our efforts “to get to the heart of the problem,” which then never get adequately described. You’ll recognize them instantly, from the constant hammering of the not-too-distant past—try some of these on for sighs (sic)—
America has a gun problem (gun-violence problem?) because:
There are too many guns;
There are too many of the wrong kind of guns;
There is too much ammunition;
It’s too easy to get guns;
The guns are in the wrong hands;
There is too much crime;
The guns have pistol grips, flash hiders, folding stocks, features too numerous to list;
We have too many criminals, a permanent criminal underclass, non-existent families, no father figures, single-parent households, out-of-wedlock births, substandard government housing ghettos, gang environments, racial disparities, illegal aliens, black-on-black murders, five cities that account for most of it, poverty, inequality, inner cities;
It’s TV, movies, MTV, rap music, hip hop (there’s a difference?) the pop culture, the gangsta culture, a lack of culture, debauched culture;
Violent video games are the problem;
It’s the immoral unwinnable drug war;
The problem is the NRA, that’s it right there;
The gun companies control the politicians;
American men have small gonads and use guns as substitutes;
It’s the objectification of women;
Breakdown of the moral fabric is the cause;
It started when we banned God from the public square;
There is not enough education about guns;
We need more gun laws;
We need better gun laws;
We need the gun laws enforced;
We need universal background checks;
We need universal gun registration;
We need the Feinstein gun law;
We need the Manchin-Toomey gun law;
We need to disarm the criminals already;
The criminal justice system is just a revolving door;
They should just take all the guns away;
No one thinks about who is they;
Or what they would do with all these dangerous guns;
They is OK if it’s the current guy but certainly not if it’s Bush;
We have to keep guns out of the hands of the wrong people;
Why does anyone need a (fill in the bad gun of the day);
We need more people carrying guns to stop the criminals;
It’s the poverty;
It’s the income inequality;
It’s the super rich;
This list has no end but I’m going to stop now.
If you examine this too-familiar list you’ll notice most blame goes to something other than the perpetrators themselves. If you believe in personal responsibility for your lot in life you know that’s wrong. (My guru taught me, with great insight: “If you want to know what you want, just look at what you have.”) In court, at least, the perp is responsible for the “gun violence,” what rational people call crime. But I digress.
The Serial Myths That Cloud the Solution
To fix America’s purportedly severe gun problem, an ongoing series of solutions have been proposed by the so-called “gun-control” advocates. These are people who, by and large, do not own guns, or use guns, and have little if any experience with guns. As a direct consequence of that, each of their proposed solutions have turned out to be mythological—that is, not grounded in reality.
This doesn’t stop the feckless media from trumpeting the inane plans loudly. The schemes are soon found to be preposterous, quickly abandoned, and new myths are invented, which are hoped against hope to address the purported problem. The cycle repeats.
“Purported problem,” because under careful scrutiny, an inconvenient truth arises. The so-called “gun problem” is not a monolithic dilemma, it has distinguishable elements.
Fully 6,000 of the tragic deaths annually are young black men killing each other in ghettos, typically in drug-related battles, making these war deaths, in the federally funded war on some drugs. Government declared war, combatants killed. Solution: declare a truce, save 6,000 lives.
Checking the stats, fully another half of so-called gun deaths are elder suicides, pointing out the disturbing fact that many Americans, approaching the end of their lives, find themselves in constant pain, alone, penniless or nearly so. Without resources, they turn to the option of ending it all, with reliable means. More than a gun problem, this is a medical issue, and a social-welfare issue, one which society sweeps under the rug. It is useful as an unexamined statistic, to build political capital for infringing on the right to keep and bear arms, but it is hardly an honest gun problem. These people need help. Society is unwilling to provide it. No solution available at present.
When we subtract crime numbers from the crime-ridden cities, we find America has brighter prospects than Scandinavia, usually held up as a paragon of virtue. But that’s a distraction to this paper’s theme. The myths perpetually created to justify denying or infringing upon the civil right to arms needs cataloging, to bring it into the full white light of day. Here’s a start. I’m omitting the juiciest. More coming soon. Hey—write to me with yours, make my job easier (ask your friends too).
The Armed Pilot Myth: Armed airline pilots will freak out, leave the cockpit, and shoot unruly passengers, or the guns will just go off presenting an unacceptable hazard to air travel, since planes will explode when shot. Proven false. After the 9-11 attacks, when radical muslims murdered unarmed pilots, Congress argued literally for years and finally implemented the Federal Flight Deck Officer program, arming pilots nationally, with no ill effect. (In early years, planes carrying U.S. Mail required pilots to be armed.)
The National Parks Carry Myth: Discreet carry in national parks by the public will result in poached animals, murdered visitors, accidental shootings and terrified tourists. Proven false. In 2014 when Congress removed the ban on personal arms in National Parks and Monuments, amidst a great hue and cry, replacing it with the carry laws of each of the states in which the parks resided, no untoward incidents have been reported. Decent people now carry there the same as in the rest of their states.
The Off-Duty Officer Myth: Off duty or retired LEOs, if given national freedom to carry, particularly outside their jurisdiction, will mistakenly shoot innocent civilians and cost cities billions in liability. Proven false. When the LEOSA act passed in 2004, after multiple failed attempts, every honorable former and current peace officer gained the ability to carry discreetly nationwide (a precursor for the public’s similar right,which hasn’t yet materialized). Further law was needed to let officers carry safe hollow ammunition, to which some jurisdictions ignorantly raised objections.
The Saturday-Night-Special Myth: The big problem was cheap guns used in spontaneous shootings, and crime would drop if these were eliminated. Proven false. This term traces back to the 1930s, when police would refer to cheap guns in the bad part of town as “N-Town Saturday Night Specials.” Polite society dropped the N-word in later years. When it became obvious that the neighborhood and not the gun type was the problem, the term fell into disuse, but its proponents never fessed up to the nonsense, they just dropped it.
The Melting-Point Test Myth: Guns must be able to withstand enormous temperatures in order to be safe enough to make and sell. Proven false. A poorly concocted idea that circulated briefly, guns are no more subjected to abnormal temperatures than any other products, and withstand them as well as most household items. The attempt to outlaw certain firearms by this contrivance was demonstrably bogus and has largely been dropped.
Alan Korwin is the author of 14 books, 10 of them on gun law. His book After You Shoot examines ways to lower your risks after a self-defense shooting. He has been invited twice to observe oral argument in gun cases at the U.S. Supreme Court. Reach him at GunLaws.com, where he is the publisher of Bloomfield Press.