Pushes for gun control have fallen short. At their core, the arguments seem to forget that words matter. People don’t want others to control or take from them. Delving deeper, many attempts to advocate for gun control also seem to forget how to treat the opposition as fellow human beings.
Take, for example, the fact that less than 1% of victims in all nonfatal violent crimes reported using a firearm to defend themselves in 2007-20111. The knee-jerk reaction of many gun control advocates is to use this information to dispute the well-known rhetoric from the opposition: “How will Americans defend their families?”. But this completely ignores the reason behind the question being asked in the first place. People don’t care about the likelihood of these scenarios occurring. They care about being able to do something about it if they do. They care about feeling safe. The desire to protect one’s family boils down to wanting some control in any such perilous situation. All those statistics say is that it’s safe enough to leave it up to chance.
A much better approach would be to advocate alternatives. Let’s also use some numbers to back them up! According to the US Department of Justice, less than 4,780 individuals reported using a firearm to defend themselves in 20111. In 2013, about 3,800 people died from unintentional shootings2. There’s also a strong correlation showing an increased likelihood of suicides occurring in households that have unlocked guns3. This shows that the chances of using a gun to defend one’s family is comparable to the chances of that same gun being involved in the death of a family member, accidental or otherwise. That’s a pretty strong incentive to use something other than a gun to protect your family. Here’s a brief list of alternatives:
Projectile stun guns. I’m listing this here for the sake of completion, but this is actually a bad idea. Not only are they not as effective as guns, but they’re also not always non-lethal, and they’re illegal in many states. It’s better to use a taser.
Pepper sprays. This is still dangerous (especially if a family member has asthma), but it’s something you can have on your person at all times, which means that should you ever need to use it, you’ll likely have it on hand.
Tactical flashlights. These can be used to temporarily blind an assailant, allowing you to fight back or escape.
If none of these suit your needs, use rubber bullets. These can also still be lethal at close range, but it’s better to keep a gun loaded with these than real bullets.
The aforementioned dangers of guns are pretty strong reasons to keep them locked in a safe. Bottom line: it’s safer for your family (especially your kids). I was initially planning on using this to segue into how this would also help prevent criminals from obtaining the weapons, but it turns out the most popular method for a criminal to get a weapon is to get someone else to buy it for them4. A person lying on the paperwork required to purchase a gun (in which one must affirm the weapon is being purchased for oneself) and instead purchasing the gun for someone else is called “straw purchasing”. It is illegal, but hard to prosecute for, a fact gun traffickers take advantage of5.
In fact, being caught with less than 500 mg of cocaine in NY will land you in prison for up to a year, but buying 31 guns for your boyfriend, who you know is filing off the serial numbers and selling them, only gets you a fine and probation4. That’s right: under the current laws in the US, having a single dose of cocaine on your person is a worse offense than knowingly participating in the trafficking of 31 weapons6.
A law that would have created much harsher sentencing for straw purchasing, and would have made firearms trafficking a federal crime, was drafted in 2013. It was killed when the NRA and National Association of Gun Rights pressed against it hard, with the NAGR even launching a million dollar campaign attacking those who supported the bill5.
It’s pretty clear that as long as straw purchasing has hardly any more consequences than a speeding ticket, existing laws meant to protect us from armed criminals, such as background checks, will have no effect. Heck, store clerks sell guns to straw purchasers knowingly4.
Stop calling for more gun control. It’s not what we need right now. Focus on addressing the issues that make people want guns, and the issues putting them in the wrong hands. People need to be aware of the dangers of having an unlocked weapon in the house. People need to be aware of how effective other self-defense tools can be. Gun stores need to provide training to their employees on how to spot (and not sell to) straw purchasers. And we all definitely need to pass legislation to impose harsher penalties to straw purchasers and gun traffickers. Even if you’re in Philadelphia. Good job to you guys for getting such a law passed in your state, but it’s not hard to bring guns in from across the border7.