For those of you who would like a definite answer to the question of the relationship between guns, gun laws, and violence, I have it for you. Unfortunately, neither of the many sides of this issue will be pleased with the answer.
That said, here it is, and this should come as no surprise: The definitive answer is that no one knows. Although both of the main sides, pro-gun and anti-gun, are quick to make statements supporting their sides, along with convincing statistics, the facts don’t support either side.
Why is that? As in most areas involving human behavior, we don’t have a lot of data that “proves” any particular assertion that might be made. What we do have is a lot of contradictory or questionable data. Why is there a paucity of truly useful information regarding the relationship of guns and gun ownership to violence?
One possible explanation is that the gun industry, including makers such as Smith and Wesson, Colt, Ruger, FMK (a company that prides itself on engraving the Bill of Rights on each of its handguns), Calico, and Kahr, are somewhat profitable. In total, according to IBIS World (an Australian research company) these companies and many others like them annually generate around $11.7 billion in sales with profits just under $1 billion.
As might be expected, as happens in any profitable industry threatened by regulations or controls, the manufacturers, dealers, and consumers will fight back. As is apparently the case, the National Rifle Association and gun manufacturers are working hard to make sure that there are no more restrictions placed on guns and their sales as well as trying to limit research.
When a layperson looks at some of the websites of the manufacturers and dealers, it can seem a bit intimidating (how about scary as hell?).
The Calico Company, in its own words:
“Calico firearms incorporate the Helical Feed System with the option of using a 50 or 100 round drum magazine. Even fully loaded with the 100-round capacity, in the 9mm versions, they are lighter than the UZI or MP-5. The Helical feed magazine can be loaded and stored indefinitely without spring fatigue, and with the Calico speed loader, the 50-round magazine can be loaded from an open box of ammo in less than 15 seconds and 30 seconds for 100 rounds.”
Won’t that provide some amazing entertainment in the hands of a mentally unstable person?
Because I am not a gun expert I cannot evaluate Calico’s claims. So maybe it is just a bunch of BS? But this manufacturer, as well as many others, definitely appeal to the “manly” parts of many men’s psyche, mine included.
This gun control issue is one that probably won’t die out for a while, especially if we have some more Newtown copycats. It seems that as long as a certain percentage of people keep yelling, “They are going to take our guns away,” or keep making comments such as those of the NRA on the Biden task force – The NRA was “disappointed with how much it had to do with an agenda to attack the Second Amendment.” – there will be a group of people who will believe that their rights are in danger.
From my perspective, it is pretty obvious that there is little danger of the government taking away ordinary weapons used for self-protection, hunting, or target practice. There are more than 200 million privately held guns in the United States. Finding and confiscating them is obviously a task that would be truly challenging.
The other realization that I feel is missing from the gun debate is that no single set of numbers will summarize the issue and make it clear who is “right.” As long as both sides keep slinging questionable numbers at each other, it will be difficult to determine what really needs to happen to bring down gun violence. Having more accurate data certainly won’t hurt in moving this debate along.
Travel abroad has helped shape my viewpoint regarding the United State’s relationship to guns and gun ownership. While in Iceland I asked for various people’s opinions. One from a 24-year-old summarizes what several others had to say. This Swiss social worker, on vacation in Iceland, told me regarding comments she had heard, “I was shocked, because what the guy (NRA VP Wayne LaPierre) said made no sense to me – the more people have guns, the more dangerous it is for me.”
It seems apparent to me and countless others, that the ready availability and excessive quantities of guns does lead to unnecessary death. We need to work on this.
Kevin Wychopen is a semi-retired school counselor and weekly columnist for the Enterprise. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.