Saturday, March 7, 2009

Shoot 'em Up!

This is a tiny video, but hilarious


Let me start by saying that I’m not against ALL guns. I recognize that some people handle guns safely, don’t use them to harm other people etc. etc. However, in the USA, the problem doesn’t really concern these people. Let me give you some statistics**:

     - 80 million people own guns in the US
     - In 2005 30,694 gun deaths occurred in the US
     - Of this statistic, over 3,000 kids and teens died. That’s over 8 per day, and compares with about 20 (per year) in the UK
     - US kids are more at risk from firearms than any other industrialized country
     - In 2005, 477,040 victims of violent crimes had been faced with a firearm
     - The percentage of homicide victims killed with a gun increases up to age 17, and then declines
     - A gun in the home (usually intended for self defence) is 4 times more likely to be involved in an unintentional shooting, 7 times more likely to be used to commit a criminal assault or homicide and 11 times more likely to be used in a suicide

And so it goes on. There’s no doubt that there is an “inalienable” right to own guns, in the minds of most Americans. This is based on the 2nd Amendment to the Constitution, which states, somewhat confusingly, “A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed”. Since it’s almost hopeless to argue whether this referred to individuals or the people en masse, all I can say is that the writers of this Amendment could not have envisioned convicted felons and would-be terrorists getting hold of such firearms for harmful purposes. Nor could they have predicted that so many innocent children could be killed by stray gunfire, and gang-related drive-by shootings, as happens all too frequently here on the south side of Chicago.

There needs to be some heavy restrictions, many of which are already in place but not enforced. Although gun control is different in every state, there are some ridiculous loopholes. In Illinois, where it’s actually fairly well controlled, a waiting period (between buying and taking delivery of a firearm) does not apply to non-residents of Illinois who attend legitimate gun shows. Great. Pissed off with your neighbour in Indiana? Just pop over the border while you’re still in a rage with him. In other states, the gun show loophole is even bigger, where unlicensed, private sellers are not currently required to conduct background checks on their customers, nor ask for a Firearms ID. Big problem, leading to guns getting into the hands of criminals and would be terrorists (which has happened).

I could write a book on this. Suffice to say that Americans need to get their collective head out of the sand and acknowledge the correlation between gun ownership and gun deaths.

** All stats come from reliable sources such as the Centre for National Health Statistics, the Department of Justice etc. Trust me.


Let me start with some statistics of my own (I mean ones I looked up, not made up):

     - There are 255,748,000 of them registered in the US
     - In 2005, 43,510 people were killed by them
     - Of those, 14,754 were innocent bystanders

Am I talking about guns? No, the family automobile. The difference is, no one is suggesting that we restrict them or take them away.

My point is, people are killed by lots of things (incidentally, the death toll from blogging stands at two and rising) and guns, being inherently dangerous, get their fair share. But is this any reason to curtail them? I don't believe so, and even if I did, it wouldn't make much difference.

America is a gun nation. Our country was founded, not with words, but guns. Our freedom has been secured, not with words, but with guns. Owning a gun is seen as a basic, American right and anyone trying to change that attitude is looked upon with suspicion (and reminded that the first thing a tyrant does is attempt to disarm his victims).

I owned guns when I lived in the States. My family still owns guns. We were taught to respect them and use them properly as, I would argue, are most people. Certainly there are accidents, certainly there are killings, but removing the guns would not significantly halt this.

In Britain, where guns are outlawed, there are an average of 5 fatal stabbings a week. During the year, it is estimated that 130,00 people are threatened with knives. And that doesn't include the unfortunates who are killed with metal pipes, kicked to death or, my personal favorite, set on fire. You can't even argue that guns promote impulse killings because two recent murders in our town involved an argument, the aggrieved going back to his home to fetch a weapon (in one case a nunchuck, in the other a kitchen knife) and then seeking out the other person and killing him. If a gun had been available, they would have undoubtedly used it, but the results would be the same.

It is unfortunate that a minority of gun owners get all the press when the vast majority are responsible people who promote gun safety. Almost everyone I knew in the States had guns of some type but, as far as I know, not one of them ever tried to shoot anybody. Even those with the sorts of weapons that might be used to successfully invade a small country weren't raving gun maniacs, they simply liked to go down to the local gun range and spend a relaxing hour or two on a Saturday afternoon popping away at targets.

So I think guns are regulated enough, and that gun owners are getting a bad rap, and Americans as a whole are unfairly portrayed as pistol waving lunatics.

And another thing, if you believe…wha- Ow! Umph!

Sorry, I just fell off of my soapbox.

On a lighter note, I did get a real kick out of a Little Britain in America skit that showed a man running a gun safety class and, as he handled each of the weapons, the front of his trousers began pitching a noticeable tent. It was highly amusing and, I figure, just about spot on.

Got something you want us to address? E-mail your suggestion to us or just pop it into the comment box


  1. This is a no-brainer for me. HATE THEM, always have and always will. I trained on an M-16 when I was in the military and it was one of the worst days of my life. I was completely horrified but the military is the only place for them in my opinion. And if anyone believes that they are necessary for hunting, I'll gladly show you photos of my cousin with the black bear and mountain lion he hunted using a bow and arrow. I'll end it here before I get myself in trouble.

  2. The right to own guns in American is not based on hunting, it's based on self-protection. The implication of self-protection FROM the govt. being strongly implied.

    I'm told that the 2nd Ammendment was included in the Bill of Rights at the urging of Scottish descendents of those who had fled Scotland after the '45. They had seen first-hand what could befall a defenseless population.

    The Militia at the time of writing of the Constitution included every adult male, so Milita and citizenry were one and the same, as the courts have continuously ruled since that time.

    We own several guns (one a German Mauzer brought back from WWII by Husband's father), treat them with great care, recognize the danger inherent in any weapon and act accordingly.

    Self-control is the watch-word, not Gun-control.

  3. And for those who have no self-control, like the church attendee who shot the pastor in down-state Illinois yesterday, we need more access-to-gun control.

  4. Self-control is not a virtue that is stressed in this anything goes time we're living through.

    It should be.

    I object to having my access to self-protection limited because some might misuse guns.

    And there are many other ways to murder others, as Mike's post above shows.

    I've actually read of proposals in the UK to ban knives.

    Banning ice-picks will be next, and then hammers and crowbars and whatever else can be used as a weapon.

    The answer is not banning inanimate objects. The human being is the one who puts the object to harmful use.

    The responsibility lies there.

    And self-control is something that should be expected and demanded of all of us.

  5. The first writer in this post would have us believe the the 2nd amendment is hard to understand. When this happens, we let the Supreme Court interpret it for us. They have done this on several occasions. What they say it means, in case you are confused, is that "Americans have the right to bear arms." There is no confusion on the part of the high courts, only willful obfuscation on the part of anti-gun lobbyists. And, for the record, you have NO IDEA in the world what the founding fathers meant or what they may or may not have foreseen. And that isn't important anyway, because the Supreme Court tells us what they meant; their only job is to interpret the Constitution.

  6. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  7. Max - You say obfuscate, I say debate. It is obviously hard to understand, otherwise it wouldn't keep coming up again and again.

  8. Jill says, "Self Control." I'm with that. And with the idea that we should enforce the laws we already have; the gun control laws AND the laws that put people away if the kill or maim or rob or threaten. I worked for the NYS Division of Criminal Justice for 22 years and I cannot tell you how many rap sheets I saw of people who murdered someone with a handgun, spent as little as 18 months in prison, and then got out to shoot someone else. These are the people who give gun owners a bad name and fuel the anti-gun lobby. These people don't need more gun control; they need some anger management classes.


  9. "Howwever, to my knowledge, the gun is the only object made solely for the use of killing."

    The sword and the bow and arrow were both made solely for the use of killing.

    An argument could be made, sort of, that the bow and arrow were made for hunting, but even that is killing.

    The sword was made for killing people, period.

    Most of the out of control gun crime is done with guns which are not legally obtained. One of the by-products of repressive societies is the creation of an underground economy, or black-market.

    Criminals don't waltz into gun shops or shows and legally purchase guns. They trade them, usually for drugs, on the underground market after first stealing them.

    I agree with MikeH, there are zillions, well maybe millions, of laws on the books already to deal with illegal and lethal gun use. They should be enforced.

    One of the reasons the 2nd Amendment faces continual challenges is because gun control organizations keep trying to find a circuit court judge who will rule just a little bit in their favour so that the traditional understanding of the right to bear arms is chipped away a bit at a time.

    The militia referred to was all adult males, who were required, by law, to keep arms for the protection of themselves, their families and the community.

  10. (I removed my Expat Mum comment because it dragged most of the rest of the blog into it for some reason.)
    Anyway -
    ..and when we have drug cartels (see last night's CNN report on Mexico) running amok with bows and arrows, or pastors killed by swords, I will probably call for more controls on who can get access to them too.
    I agree that most crime is done by illegally obtained guns - that's my problem. I have no problem with legally obtained guns used in the right way, if that's what people want to do. However, there are a handful of gun dealers who apaprently account for over 50% of illegal firearm activity, ie. they are selling without doing background checks and asking for Firearm IDs. And the Gunshow Loophole, as I mentioned, allows people buying from private dealers at gun shows to buy without questions or ID. Crazy. The man who shot the pastor at the weekend has a history of mental illness and should never have gained access to a firearm. There are too many guns on the streets that are unaccounted for and enforcing the laws to prevent this would go a long way to, well, prevent this.
    As I said in my opening piece - "There needs to be some heavy restrictions, many of which are already in place but not enforced."

  11. The thing about the 2nd amendment is that it takes mental gymnastics to interpret it as a universal right to bear any and all kind of arms any one person could want. I absolutely agree that the "militia" would refer to all adult males. I think that the founders completely intended for every adult male to have an up to date weapon, so yes that would mean fully automatic weapons in most homes in the US. But the thing is that we don't have a citizen militia. Even though there are about 90 firearms for every 100 people in the US, most Americans don't actually own any guns. A few people own many guns. So if we were to raise a citizen militia it would be a really crappy one. We could use guns the way the founders intended but it would require some restructuring of our society.

    I don't have that much interest in taking all the guns away from everyone, but I would like some major changes in US gun laws. I don't think that there should ever, in any state, be anything allowing concealed carry. In my ideal world handguns of all kind would be banned (I believe this is about as likely as me waking up tomorrow with purple skin and hair, but whatever).

  12. Getting back to my original point, why are handguns singled out? More people are killed by cars, so why don't isn't there a move to ban them, or at least take them away from the irresponsible few who give driving a bad name? That guns are dangerous and used in crimes is a fact, but it really annoys me when law-abiding people are penalized because of the actions of a very small minority.

  13. My last response was to the assertion that guns were the only objects created just to kill. Clearly other weapons have been created for the same purpose.

    I would also submit that the fishing pole was created to do the same. Poor fish!

    Just because some fools and felons misuse guns doesn't make the gun itself "bad." The person who uses the gun inappropriately is the bad one.

    Anything can be misused. Hypodermic needles were developed to administer medicine in a safe and hygienic way. Just because drug addicts use them inappropriately, many times causing their own death, doesn't make the hypodermic bad.

    My answer to MikeH's question is:
    Guns are singled out because an armed citizen is an empowered citizen. Some people don't like that concept.

  14. I think we are all veering toward a violent agreement as I said in the beginning I don't have a problem with decent, gun-respecting Americans, just the ones who obtain them illegally etc. I do question the "armed citizen is an empowered citizen" statement as all the statistics (see earlier) show that an armed citizen is an endangered citizen, very often shot by his/her own weapon.

  15. My hubby is doing his concealed carry class this week & we own 3 guns.
    I am 100% okay with them in the house as long as they are locked away from the kids and actually the kids don't even know they exist.
    My hubby (and me) are responsible with them. I truly believe we are safer because of them and that petty crime and vicious attacks like you see in England (knifing, mugging, beating up etc.) is not common here because there's a chance your victim will shoot you. Same goes with breaking into someone's house.

  16. Me again - sorry but I forgot something.
    The reason my hubby is doing a concealed carry is because we go camping a lot in areas where there are bears and I want the added protection. Second, he goes bow hunting and don't want him in the woods unarmed, for same reason as above.
    Not all concealed-carry people are nutters, especially if you live and play where there are man-eaters!

  17. Jill Ramsey wrote: "I've actually read of proposals in the UK to ban knives."

    Carrying a knife in public is already banned in the UK, unless it is a folding non-lockable knife with a blade of three inches or smaller. It's a serious offence too, usually punishable by a prison sentence.

    When I was a scout on a camp, we would all go off into the local town and buy a knife. Mine was six inches and looked like something Rambo would own. I never used it for anything except whittling, but we wore them just the same. Nobody stabbed anyone, curiously. These days it's illegal for under 18s to even own a penknife.

    What Richmal Crompton would have made of that I can't imagine.

  18. I carry the smallest Swiss Army knife available. It's very handy. However, I always wonder--when I take it out to loosen a screw or use the scissors to cut something open--if someone isn't going to yell, "Look out! He's got a knife!" and I'll find myself an unwilling guest of Her Majesty.

  19. My husband has one of those--handiest creature imaginable!

    I was always borrowing it for the scissors so he gave me one, which I carry in my purse.

    Except when going through Security of course.

  20. Yes, I always have to remember to take the knife out of my pocket when I travel. You never know, I might try to bring down an Airbus 330 with it. One time I got dinged for my cigar cutter and I had to step out of line and go mail it to myself before they would let me on the plane.

  21. It's even worse when you have your plastic knitting needles taken away!

  22. "It's even worse when you have your plastic knitting needles taken away!"

    Truly unfair!

    Mike, we were going through BA security at Terminal 4 when the agent found my husband's knife in his silly pocket!

    Fortunately the Security agent was a human being ("Oh my!" he said when he saw the teeny, tiny knife) and let my husband get out of line and mail the knife to himself.

    Which he did, in a greeting card with "IDIOT!" written inside.

    And this after I'd gotten severe warnings from a certain quarter to be sure to leave my nail scissors out of my carry-on!

  23. At last - a discussion about guns! Which I don't like... This is something that I have been wondering about for ages:

    Why is it OK to show violence on TV and carry guns around, yet when a woman wants to breastfeed in public in the US, people go mad and say it shouldn't be allowed??

    I just can't get my head around this one...

  24. Ladyfi: I like guns, but that's beside the point, I think it's silly how Americans react to breast feeding in public, and you're right; if they can show people killing each other all the time on TV and the government thinks people are responsible enough to carry guns, then a mother is surely responsible enough to know if her baby is hungry.

  25. Toni,

    Perhaps you'd like to cite your statistics, because I'm afraid that some of them are a bit of a stretch. Perhaps you'd consider the "children and teens" statistic which would actually include victims of gang warfare, not little timmy getting dad's gun out and accidentally killing himself.

    Let's also not forget that one of your scenarios (going to a gun show out of state and bringing the gun back to Illinois) is actually a federal felony- transferring a firearm across state lines has to be done by a FFL (Federal Firearms License) holder (usually a gun shop) and then you're still subject to all state laws as well.

    The gun show loophole is closing fairly quickly on its own without government intervention. In Washington state, the organization that runs the shows (Washington Arms Collectors) requires a federal background check (NICS) just like you'd get at a gun store to be a member, and no sales of ANYTHING at the show are allowed to non members.

    The problem is that as gun owners, we have to keep track of more bizarre, restrictive laws than you can shake a stick at, and surprisingly, almost none of them work, or are simply punitive.

    If simply banning things worked, we could start with burglary, assault, rape, murder... oh, wait.

    The problem is that, surprisingly, criminals don't obey laws. Also, we can't approach the issue of firearms and defense from some idyllic fantasy land where weapons never existed. The problem is, they do exist, and even if we were to call for melting them all down, the only people who would be turning in guns to have them melted are the ones not committing crimes in the first place.



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