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Carol Dexter

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October 3, 2013
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Thanks, but I’ll keep my freedom to protect myself

Lynn Wenzel wrote an emotional op-ed in favor of more gun control. Her fears are by no means unfounded. There are lots of sick people in the world. However, gun control laws, indeed no laws, should be based on emotion. They should be based on facts.

But let’s take the microscope off guns for a minute. Instead of comparing gun violence in this country to gun violence in countries with stricter gun laws, what if we compare violent crimes in the U.S. to, let’s say … England and Wales (since we always hear how safe Great Britain is due to its very strict gun laws).

By checking the Uniform Crime Reports (FBI.gov) and the Home Office Statistical Bulletin (www.gov.uk), and by using the FBI’s definition of violent crime, we can have a true comparison of crime and not a comparison of the effectiveness of laws. The FBI defines violent crime as being composed of four offenses: murder and non-negligent manslaughter, forcible rape, robbery and aggravated assault; violent crimes involve force or threat of force.

In 2011 (the latest figures available), the rate of violent crime in the U.S. was 386/100,000 people. In contrast, violent crime in England and Wales was 1590/100,000 people. Hmm, maybe guns aren’t the problem after all. Maybe people are the problem. Try looking at it like this: Think of society as an organism. That organism has an infection (violent crime). This infection shows itself as a puss-filled sore (gun violence). You can wipe away the puss (restrict guns), but the infection remains and will continue to fester (other violence) until it’s treated.

We must look at the root of the problem — not at the way in which the problem manifests itself. You can take away guns but you won’t reduce violent crime. There are plenty of other ways to commit mass murder. But addressing the reasons why people commit violent crime might very well reduce violent crime overall. And isn’t that what’s really important?

Having said that, I, too, am against the “criminal use of weapons.” But not those “unchecked by reasonable regulations,” as Ms. Wenzel suggests. The term “reasonable” is highly subjective, and what Ms. Wenzel and I would see as reasonable is no doubt quite different. As for unreasonable restrictions, the assault weapons ban deems many firearms to be assault weapons for no other reason than cosmetic. Simply put — they look scary. Having a telescoping stock or pistol grip should not determine whether or not a gun is an “assault rifle.” Those features make them more comfortable to use — not more deadly. The fact that some people find them “scary” should not come into play. I find many clowns to be quite disconcerting. But I would never suggest they be regulated simply because I (and many people) have an illogical fear of them.

I also agree that there should be some form of background checks performed by the states) for firearms purchases. Maybe it would be a good idea to require renewable background checks to make sure the gun owner hasn’t been convicted of any crimes (barring such things as parking violations) or hasn’t been found to be mentally unstable (and therefore a danger to themselves or others).

A recent Gallup survey blamed the mental health system “a great deal” for mass shootings and also “found that fewer people (40%) now blame easy access to guns for mass shootings than two years ago (46 percent), making the mental health system the perceived top cause of mass shootings.” So what if we look at fixing the cracks in the mental health system instead of restricting guns? As I mentioned before, you don’t need a gun to commit mass murder. And you can’t take away everyone’s guns because someone might, someday, have a breakdown.

Ms. Wenzel does not want to live in fear that precious lives can be taken in a nanosecond of insanity. Fear or no, the reality is, with or without guns, insanity can and will happen. You can live in fear or you can be aware and take precautions. But your precautions should not infringe on my right to have guns, which, by the way, are my precautions.

Ms. Wenzel wants the freedom to trust that her fellow human beings have her best interest at heart; that’s a lovely thought. But there are plenty of people who don’t, and I want the freedom to defend myself from them. So, by all means, keep your “freedom to trust” and I’ll keep my freedom to protect myself.

Carol Dexter lives in Washington, Calif.

But addressing the reasons why people commit violent crime might very well reduce violent crime overall. And isn’t that what’s really important?


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The Union Updated Oct 3, 2013 12:10AM Published Oct 3, 2013 12:10AM Copyright 2013 The Union. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.