Monday, July 4, 2016

Does carrying a gun increase or decrease your safety?

child with gun
Tori Holbrook

On July 29th, the same day that Arizona's infamous SB 1070 'illegal alien' law goes into effect, so does SB 1108, a law allowing anyone over 21 (except certain convicted criminals) to carry a concealed weapon, with no permit - and no gun safety training - required.

Good news for the NRA, I suppose. Gun proponents are always screaming about their constitutional rights being trampled on by gun regulations...a thorny argument to say the least, and one in which I have no desire to engage - particularly against people who like to carry guns.


The second amendment to the Constitution reads: "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." Recent supreme court rulings have clarified that the second amendment is not saying that a person needs be a member of a militia to have the 'keep and bear arms' right.
Okay. So you have the right. But is it necessary? Is it even a good idea? I have the constitutional right to freedom of speech, and I can say whatever I want to whomever I want, but that doesn't make it wise for me to call a 350 pound biker "Fatso."

Last year, the University of Pennsylvania's School of Medicine published the results of a study of gunshot assaults. During the multi-year study there were, on average, five people shot per day, and approximately one gunshot death per day, in Philadelphia. They chose at random 677 cases of Philadelphia residents who were shot during an assault. Then, as a control, they chose a similar number of cases of Philadelphia residents who were involved in shooting assaults but were not shot (nor were they the shooters.)

The upshot (no pun intended)? Gun possessors were four and a half times more likely to be shot than assault victims without guns. Perhaps you find that surprising, but let's think about why it would be so:
  •  A person with a gun tucked in his waistband may be more likely to take risks - like calling the biker "Fatso," or frequenting places it would be healthier to stay out of - risks that an unarmed person would avoid.

  •  A person carrying a gun when confronted by an armed assailant would be likely to reach for the gun rather than 'reaching for the sky,' in the immortal words of Gene Autry. Such body language would be like painting a bullseye on your chest.
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  • Presumably (hopefully) a law-abiding person would have some moral scruples about ending the life of a fellow human being. Assuming you are that law-abiding person, might not those scruples give you pause before you squeeze the trigger? How likely is it that your assailant has the same hesitation?

  •  I know there's an old adage that goes 'Don't bring a knife to a gunfight,' but if I'm honest rather than macho, I'm forced to admit that I'm not the toughest guy on the planet, and that there are (unarmed) bad guys in this world who would be perfectly capable of taking my gun away from me and then using it on me. Maybe you don't like to think that about yourself; but do you want to bet your life on it?

Before arming oneself, a person should also consider this: Your gun being legal and an assailant's being illegal makes no difference at all to how deadly the bullets of the respective guns are.

Of course it has to be frustrating to give up your hard-earned money, watch, jewelry, etc., to some slacker who has never done an honest day's work. Or perhaps you find the thought of being insulted or even roughed up by some punk humiliating. But what value do you place on your life or the life of a loved one?

For a 200-year-old document, the Constitution has held up amazingly well. But it is not perfect. (For example, the seventh amendment's reference to disputes greater than $20 probably doesn't mean the same thing today as it did 200 years ago.) Humans are imperfect; Any law written by imperfect humans is going to have imperfections and loopholes; and to my mind, the UPenn School of Medicine study proves that carrying a gun, even if a 200-year-old piece of paper says you can, is just not good for your health.

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