Letter to the editor: Calls for more gun control are based on misguided claims, not facts

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On March 13, one of my professors claimed that allowing individuals to carry concealed firearms infringes on the ability of professors to speak freely and proceeded to ask a student sitting next to me if they were carrying a firearm.

On March 14, as students all over the country were leaving classrooms to memorialize those lost in Parkland, Florida, members of the Kansas State Young Democrats called me gross and claimed that I supported killing kids because I wore an NRA T-shirt. Apparently, there are those who think that anyone who lawfully carries a gun for self-defense or who disagrees about the effectiveness of proposed gun control measures is a sociopath.

These are obviously wackadoo ideas, but I think that they exist because the people who believe them legitimately do not know much about firearms or firearm laws.

In general, and specifically at the March for Our Lives event, I heard and saw a lot of interesting claims come from those who favor more gun control, and many of them fail to make much sense. Here are my responses to some of those claims.

“The Second Amendment is about militias.”

This is simply not true. It is a complete misread of the historical context under which the militia consisted of every armed, able-bodied man, organized by themselves and not by the government.

It is also a misread of the text itself. The right belongs to the people, not to the militia. In 2008, the Supreme Court of the United States held that, “The Second Amendment protects an individual right to possess a firearm unconnected with service in a militia, and to use that arm for traditionally lawful purposes, such as self-defense.”

It is the natural protected right of every lawful citizen to keep and bear arms, and to use them for self-defense.

“The Second Amendment is about muskets.”

The men who wrote our constitution were some of the greatest minds of their time. They were not dumb. They knew that the advancement of firearms would not end at the musket.

In fact, during the time of the founders, firearms had already advanced past muskets to multi-shot and repeating firearms. Limiting the right to keep and bear arms to muskets makes about as much sense as limiting the right of free speech to quills and ink.

“Places with stricter gun control see less violence, while those with looser gun control see more violence.”

The data simply does not support this claim.

The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence has ranked states by those with the strictest gun control laws to those with the loosest. Using The National Crime Survey and FBI statistics, one can rank states by violent crime rate.

Of the top 10 states with the loosest gun laws, six fall within the top 25 states by violent crime rate. Three fall within the lowest 10 states by violent crime rate. Of the top 10 states with the strictest gun laws, six fall within the top 25 states by violent crime rate. Two fall within the lowest 10 states by violent crime rate.

In addition, Washington D.C., which has some of the strictest gun laws in the country, has a violent crime rate higher than any state.

This data does not necessarily signal a positive correlation between looser gun laws and lower violent crime rates, but it definitely refutes the idea of positive correlation between stricter gun control and lower violent crime rates.

I hesitate to compare our country to others, which often have drastically different histories, cultures and issues, but even when looking elsewhere in the world, stricter gun control does not necessarily equate to less violence.

Countries like the United Kingdom, Australia and Japan enjoy the perks of being island nations where smuggling guns in can be more difficult. Unfortunately, we have a mostly open border to the south where illegal guns can flow across even if strict gun control measures are passed here.

Ironically enough, Mexico has very strict gun laws, but obviously there is no shortage of guns and violent crime in the country.

Sweden has strict gun laws, but sexual crimes and bomb explosions have been on the rise recently.

France has strict gun laws, but they failed to stop the Charlie Hebdo mass shooting in January 2015, or the November 2015 attacks in Paris which resulted in more deaths than any mass shooting in America. They also did nothing to stop the truck attack in Nice, which again resulted in more deaths than any mass shooting in America.

Strict gun laws in Germany did nothing to prevent the 2016 Berlin truck attack.

The UK has strict gun laws, but they have seen an increase in violent crime and sexual offenses. Their gun laws failed to prevent the 2017 Westminster attack, the 2017 Manchester Arena bombing or the June 2017 London attack.

Clearly, stricter gun laws do not result in an absence of violence or even necessarily less violence. There are evil people in the world, and regardless of what gun laws are passed, they will continue to do evil things. When they do these evil things, it is inevitably good people with guns who stop them.

“More guns equal more violence because gun owners are dangerous.”

There are millions more guns in the United States today than there were in 1990, and yet the violent crime rate has consistently gone down since then. According to both the Crime Prevention Research Center and the Connecticut Law Review, concealed carry permit holders are actually incredibly less likely than the general public to commit crimes.

“No one needs a gun on campus.”

The University of Nevada at Reno believed this. They had a gun-free campus.

Because of this, Amanda Collins, who had a defensive handgun license, was left unarmed in a parking garage at the university one night. Collins was raped in that garage which served as parking for the campus police station, and there was an emergency call box several feet from where the crime happened, but the station was closed for the night and she was unable to reach the call box.

The university’s anti-gun regulations served to leave Collins defenseless, while it did nothing to stop her attacker who was not a student, was armed in violation of the rules and did not possess a concealed carry weapons permit. Her attacker did not care about the law, and the knowledge that he was in a gun-free zone did not stop him.

Collins professes that had she been allowed to carry her firearm, she could have protected herself and stopped the attacker who went on to rape two other women, murdering one of them. Women like Collins need guns on campus because they serve as an equalizer in confrontations with those who would do them harm.

“Allowing guns on campus will make the campus less safe.”

Colorado State University has allowed individuals to carry concealed firearms on campus since 2003. In all that time, there have never been any gun-related crimes committed on campus by licensed carriers. On the other hand, campuses that refuse to allow the lawful carrying of concealed firearms leave their students and staff at risk, such as in the case of Collins above.

“If people carry guns on campuses, others will be made uncomfortable, limiting their ability to speak freely.”

The right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed. Rights are not guaranteed because they are popular, but because they are necessary.

The Supreme Court of the United States did not hold the right of same-sex couples to be married because every person feels comfortable with same-sex couples being married, but rather because it is their constitutional right. Likewise, the Supreme Court did not hold the right of individuals to possess and use firearms for self-defense because every person feels comfortable with individuals possessing and using firearms for self-defense, but rather because it is their constitutional right.

Furthermore, the fear that armed individuals on campus will be unstable and dangerous is unfounded and irrational. Beyond the obvious fact that those who carry concealed are actually safer and more law abiding than the general public, it is simply ludicrous to believe that one would be less safe speaking their minds around those who might be carrying guns, given that large portions of the population on campus have already been carrying knives for years.

The worry that misspoken words may result in shootings is misplaced, considering that if these individuals were that unstable, knife attacks would have been occurring at incredible rates across campus already. However, they are not occurring, and almost one year after campus carry was enacted here, shootings in response to disagreements over speech have yet to occur.

“Guns do more harm than good.”

Tragically, people with guns intentionally took around 9,000 lives each year from 2012 to 2016, but good people with guns do save lives.

According to the Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology, as many as 400,000 Americans defensively used guns in situations where they believed the use of a gun “almost certainly” saved a life.

Even if 90 percent of those reported situations were false, the number of lives that people with guns save would still outnumber the number of lives that people with guns intentionally take by a factor of 4.4 times.

In addition to saving lives, people who use guns defensively can also prevent assault, rape and theft. Reports show that American citizens defensively use guns between 2 million and 2.5 million times each year. That equates to an average of 5,479 to 6,849 defensive uses of guns every day.

Compare this to the Everytown for Gun Safety claim that 96 Americans are killed with guns each day. Their figure includes suicides and accidents, and still it pales in comparison to the use of firearms as defensive tools. Cars kill around the same number of people as guns each year, but we continue to use them because they offer us convenience.

People with guns are saving hundreds of thousands of lives and stopping millions of crimes each year, but some want to take them away. This is ridiculous. Clearly, guns are a valuable and necessary tool for self-defense, and their use for positive means far outweighs their negative use.

“It is easy to get a gun.”

To purchase a gun from a federally licensed firearms dealer, one must pass a national instant criminal background check which involves answering a series of questions, providing one’s social security number and having this information sent to the FBI.

One is automatically disqualified from purchasing a firearm if they fall under any of the following categories: has been convicted in any court of a crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year; is under indictment for a crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year; is a fugitive from justice; is an unlawful user of or addicted to any controlled substance; has been adjudicated as a mental defective or committed to a mental institution; is illegally or unlawfully in the United States; has been discharged from the Armed Forces under dishonorable conditions; having been a citizen of the United States, has renounced U.S. citizenship; is subject to a court order that restrains the person from harassing, stalking or threatening an intimate partner or child of such intimate partner; or has been convicted in any court of a “misdemeanor crime of domestic violence.”

Do some people slip through? Unfortunately, yes. So before expanding background checks, perhaps we need to strengthen the system we already have. When fish are slipping through your net, you do not get a bigger net. You fix the holes in the net you already have.

We must demand that agencies and states do a better job of reporting their prohibited persons to the NICS system and that harsher penalties are dished out for those who do not comply and prohibited persons who attempt to purchase firearms.

“Gun-free zones are good.”

Gun-free zones serve as targets for violence and mass shootings. Criminals, by definition, do not follow the law, and given that officers of the law are unable to be at all places at all times to protect people (and sometimes fail to protect people even when they are on the scene, as was the case in Parkland, Florida), individuals must have the right and ability to protect themselves.

It was the existence of a gun-free zone that left Collins defenseless against her armed rapist who did not care that he was in a gun-free zone. Gun-free zones simply do not work.

According to the Crime Prevention Research Center, almost all mass shooters plan out their attacks to target areas where civilians are not allowed to defend themselves. The 13 deadliest mass shootings since 1991 all occurred in gun-free zones.

It does not matter how safe one might feel in a gun-free zone. What matters is the reality that in areas where citizens are allowed to defend themselves, those citizens are less likely to come under attack.

Not only is this visible on a state level here in the United States, but this is also visible on an international scale. According to the Crime Prevention Research Center, nations with stricter gun laws and unarmed populations actually see higher frequencies of mass shootings.

“Armed teachers would be terrible.”

Clearly, stickers on doors that say “no guns” are not doing a good enough job keeping our kids safe, and if schools cannot afford to pay for metal detectors and multiple armed security guards, why are we preventing trained teachers who have military or law enforcement experience or who hold carry permits from carrying concealed firearms if they wish to do so?

We have seen teachers lay their lives on the line to protect their students. I do not want to see teachers continue to lay down their lives. I want armed teachers to be a deterrent against would-be attackers, and if any do show up, I want the teachers to put them down, not the other way around.

This concept has already been enacted in some schools around the country. These firearms are out of sight and do not interfere with the other operations of the school, and the teachers carrying them are trained. There is no reason to oppose this.

“AR-15s are deadlier than other weapons and no one needs one.”

AR-15s (the AR stands for “ArmaLite Rifle,” not “assault rifle”) are simply one of many variants of semi-automatic (that means one shot per one trigger pull, as opposed to fully automatic firearms which are heavily regulated by the federal government) sporting rifles.

They fire a small cartridge fit for hunting varmints, not some super bullet more dangerous than other common rifles. They also happen to be one of the most popular rifle patterns in the country because besides their use in hunting, they serve as great tools for self-defense.

Their ease of use, low recoil and round capacity make them great home defense tools for those who might otherwise have difficulty handling pistols and shotguns, which can be tougher to manage for women and smaller frame shooters.

Despite their great use as tools of self-defense, AR-15s are not often used in crime. According to the FBI, one is about 20 times more likely to be murdered with a handgun than any kind of rifle, including AR-15s. You’re also more likely to be murdered with a blunt object than any kind of rifle and more likely to be murdered with hands and feet than all rifles and shotguns combined.

Out of the 13 deadliest mass shootings since 1991, only seven involved rifles of any kind while all but one involved pistols and pistol-caliber carbines. In addition, remember that an AR-15 in the hands of a private citizen can stop mass shootings, as was the case when NRA firearms instructor Stephen Willeford used his AR-15 to stop the Southerland Springs shooter.

“We should ban semi-automatic weapons.”

Virtually all handguns are semi-automatic in nature (even double action revolvers are one shot per trigger pull). Many hunting rifles are semi-automatic. The best guns for self-defense are generally semi-automatic.

Banning all semi-automatic weapons would be impossible, but even if such a task were possible, the end result would be a nearly completely disarmed populace open to attacks from criminals and enemies both foreign and domestic, and criminals would still have access to all the weapons they could want.

Criminals already get illegal firearms in places like Chicago and California where gun laws are incredibly strict. If strict gun control were passed across the United States, guns could simply flow across the border from Mexico into the hands of criminals who would then do harm to the disarmed law-abiding populace.

For these reasons, the task is both ill-advised and even impossible. There are over 300 million guns in the United States and over 90 million gun owners who might just adopt a “come and take it” attitude if legislation supporting confiscation were passed. Confiscation on the scale of all semi-automatic weapons would likely result in a bloodbath greater than anything said confiscation might hope to stop.

“We should have a national gun registry.”

No. For those worried that Trump is a fascist, ask yourselves this: What happens when an actual fascist takes over and decides to seize the firearms of his political opponents, who are conveniently listed in a national registry? The authoritarians of history have done it before.

If one of the goals of the Second Amendment is to ensure that tyranny never returns to this country, a national gun registry is the worst idea possible.

“My uterus has less rights than a gun.”

This is obviously preposterous. Do you need to pass a background check to have a uterus? You do in order to purchase a gun. In some states, you also need to get a license, pay fees and be registered.

Do you need a license to carry a uterus in public? You need one for a firearm in most states. Is your uterus banned from many buildings, schools, airplanes and elsewhere? Guns are.

Must your uterus be locked up in safes when not in use? In some states, guns are. Are uteruses of a certain size regulated so that if they are too small one must pay a $200 tax stamp, wait half a year for approval and let the government know of their whereabouts at all times? This holds true for gun barrels.

I could go on, but I think you get the point.

“Good guys with guns cannot stop bad guys with guns.”

Every single bad guy with a gun is stopped by a good guy with a gun, either because the good guy shoots the bad guy or because they scare them into suicide or surrender.

Sometimes the good guy has a badge. Often, the mass shootings that make the news are cases when there are no good guys with guns around. Shooters choose gun-free zones specifically because they know that there will be no good guys with guns to stop them.

“The NRA buys politicians and has blood on its hands.”

The NRA does not buy politicians. They support politicians who are already pro-Second Amendment.

NRA members do not commit mass shootings. As I already mentioned, in Southerland Springs, it was an NRA firearms instructor who used his privately owned AR-15 to stop a mass shooter.

It seems odd that those complaining about the blood on the NRA’s hands seem to be silent about or even support Planned Parenthood despite the fact that they kill hundreds of thousands of unborn children each year and spend millions of dollars on political spending.

If the NRA is responsible for atrocities committed by those with no connection to the NRA, how much more responsible is the left and the left-wing media for the actions of the leftist Bernie Sanders supporter who shot up a congressional Republican baseball game?

Most people would balk at the idea of blaming Bernie Sanders for the actions of one of his supporters. So why blame the NRA for the actions of people who have no connection to the organization?

The NRA does not want mass shootings to occur. They want them to stop. That is why they support improving the current background check system, enforcing laws that are already on the books, strengthening school security and allowing lawful individuals to carry firearms for self-defense.

“No one is coming for your guns.”

Tell that to former justice John Paul Stevens and the thousands who agree with him that the Second Amendment should be repealed. Even many who claim to support the Second Amendment immediately follow this claim with the word “but” and proceed to suggest infringements on firearm rights.

Banning AR-15s is coming for our guns. Banning semi-automatics is coming for our guns. Stop trying to infringe on the right of the people to keep and bear arms.

These are just several of the many misguided claims that come from those in favor of gun control. Unfortunately, there are more. And unfortunately, they too lack a basic understanding of firearms and firearms laws.

It is easy to say that we have to “do something” about guns. It is tempting to call for bans. But we cannot resort to claiming that those who disagree about the efficacy of gun control measures support the killing of children or that anyone who carries a gun is just as likely to use it against innocent people as they are to use it in self-defense.

This kind of dialogue is wholly unproductive to any move forward that would actually result in making America a safer place.

Benjamin Ristow is a sophomore in history and membership coordinator for the College Republicans at Kansas State. The views and opinions expressed in this letter are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Collegian. Please send comments to opinion@kstatecollegian.com.

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