Civil society vs. military weapons

Civil society vs. military weapons

In the past 30 years there have been more than 60 mass murders in our nation by murderers using assault weapons and semiautomatic handguns, more than three quarters obtained “legally.” Once again, another. Once again it appears it will go unaddressed. Once again specious Second Amendment arguments will be at the heart of why we fail to react in a civilized way. Once again some American citizens will say: since we can’t solve everything, why even try to solve anything.

These days it’s not wholly unreasonable to believe a guy down the street believes “if they think they can take my assault weapon off me, they have another thought coming. I have every right to it and to as many rounds in as many magazines as I want.”

Have we lost our minds? As is true for every American citizen I’ve ever spoken with, I certainly support the Constitution, including the Second Amendment. But there is no reason, outside our military, anyone needs access to armor piercing bullets, assault weapons and ammunition magazines for weapons used to attack an armed enemy platoon. The Second Amendment doesn’t alter that fact, not in a civilized society.

Only the uninformed or confused and thoughtless extremist argues the First Amendment provides the absolute right to holler fire in a crowded theater. Those who adjudicate our laws don’t! Only confused or thoughtless extremists argue the Second Amendment provides the absolute right to any and all levels of weaponry, including what should be restricted to military use — with exceptions granted after extensive background checks by responsible authorities. Those who police our communities don’t.

Clear thinking, responsible American citizens must come to understand that we can solve some things even though we cannot solve everything. Consequently, clear thinking, responsible American citizens must begin advocating against the easy access to what are uniquely military weapons.

John Wendle, Youngstown

‘Do something’ about guns — What?

As a medical oncologist, I am used to hearing people plead for me to “do something.” In the face of intractable progressive cancer, it is the normal cry of the heart in anguish. Of course, the patients and their families don’t want me to do just anything. They want me to do something useful, something beneficial, ideally something with no side-effects. Sadly, such cries are most often heard when, except for palliative care of terminal symptoms, there is in fact nothing useful that can be done. All the available interventions are useless, and some are both useless and harmful.

Now, after yet another senseless outburst of gun violence, we again hear demands that we should “do something” about guns. This, too, is the normal outcry of hearts in anguish. Indeed, if legislation could somehow magically make all the guns in America disappear, it would be worth considering whether the benefit of their disappearance would outweigh the downside of it. But if legislation could not even achieve a substantial reduction in gun violence, such risk-benefit analysis is not even necessary.

So, we must ask: Would any legislation in fact — not just in muzzy theory — actually substantially reduce gun violence? Would any legislation even reduce the number of guns in circulation? There are currently an estimated 300 million privately owned firearms in the United States. That is about one per person. A law completely forbidding the manufacture, import, and sale of firearms — assuming such a law were obeyed — would reduce the number of guns in circulation only by attrition. Since with simple maintenance most guns remain working for decades, if not centuries, the number available would not measurably decline. Even if we consider the fever-swamp scenario of a police state outlawing and confiscating guns, such action would lead to greater, not reduced, illicit gun trafficking and violence.

But cannot guns at least be kept out of the hands of criminals and the deranged? The short sad answer is no. Criminals, by definition, disobey the law, and therefore no law prevents their acquiring guns. Most of the deranged individuals responsible for notorious gun crimes are simply not distinguishable, before their crimes, from their fellow citizens who will never commit such a crime.

Before endorsing a gun policy change, we should know more about the policy than its slogan label. We should not favor simply “doing something.” We should favor doing something useful. Most current gun control proposals would prove as useful as forbidding patients with advanced lung cancer from smoking. Such proposals are no more than a sop which promotes noble gestures above real-world results.

Eric Chevlen MD, Liberty