A rant about gun ownership

So a debate about gun ownership broke out because of a web comic, due to the fact that people are willing to get up in arms about anything. That being said, there was a comparison made about how it is more difficult to get a driver’s license in the US than it is to own a fire arm. This gem happened:

‘For the record your drivers license is a privilege so the state can mandate testing, etc. Firearms ownership is a RIGHT and not a PRIVILEGE so the government shouldn’t even be able to legally perform a background check currently. Most of the laws they have regulating firearms are already infringing on our rights.’

I don’t even know where to start. But I mean, for people like this, if the next amendment said “Right to own nuclear weapons,” this person would be on the market for a nuke in a day, never thinking about what they’d use it for.

The whole situation seems silly. “A diagnosed psychopath should be able to own a gun, no questions asked, because some politicians said so in 1791. I don’t even know why we are questioning it.”

And that is about as deep as the rabbit hole goes, as nearly as I can find, with some of these people. Now, don’t get me wrong, a psychopath shouldn’t be disqualified from owning a gun based on that alone–but like every other citizen, they should have to work for it.

It gets even more ridiculous when people mention that the Norway mass shooting caused more deaths in a single day than any US mass shooting. Yeah, it did, no one would deny that–the thing is, the firearm death rate per 100,000 citizens in Norway is 1.78, whereas it is 10.64 in the US. These are per capita rates, so you can’t even use Norway’s small population to justify it. And to clarify and restate, this is “death by firearm”, not just “overall homicide”.

“Yeah, but Mr Liberal Guy, you are not considering the fact that people would still murder or commit suicide with other weapons if guns were more difficult to come by!” No, I think you are failing to recognize the reality in this one, Straw Man Conservative (I am nothing if not self aware).

The issue here is that the person above, while serving as a straw man, is making a black and white dichotomy. “One step towards reducing murder would not stop murder, therefore we should do nothing. Duh.”

So let’s do a small bit of math. The current US deaths per capita by firearms is 10.64. Let’s say gun regulation reduces that number by only 15%, to 9.04 per 100,000 citizens. Some back of napkin math shows that this will save around 8000 citizens.

But you’re right, why would we do that? They were probably all criminals anyway.

Or are they? The bulk portion of the US death rate by firearm is suicide, clocking in at 6.7 out of 10.64 of the firearm deaths per capita. One thing guns are very good at is killing at short range. How many of these suicides would have occurred if the person could not have done so quickly and easily, with a minimum of pain?

I know where your head just went, and I will tell you now that I realize that some of those people would undoubtedly still commit suicide without access to a gun, but this is not black and white. I think reducing that number by any margin would be considered as success.

Maybe, though, maybe I was the crazy one all along.

You know, in retrospect, I can’t recall the last time I heard suicides brought up during a debate on gun ownership. I mean, I know I have heard it brought up, but it isn’t the primary point, is it? Which is odd, considering over 60% of gun death in the United States of America is attributable to suicide… But that falls in with the much older phenomenon of ignoring mental health issues. You’re right, criminals would still likely find ways around gun regulation, but if suicidally depressed people had less access to guns, how many lives could we save? Using the same napkin technique above, if we reduced the number of suicides due to firearm by half, the number of suicides prevented would account for saving the lives of some 10,000 individuals, saving their families from reading their suicide notes, saving their friends from the confusion and torment of the eternal “what-if”. If 10,000 suicides were prevented, 1,000,000 lives could be saved from that grief, that hell (I am using Dunbar’s Number to ballpark that number. Some suicides would affect more, some less.).

But going with the theme of me being the crazy one and not you, I’d probably fail to pass muster for gun ownership while you would pass. The world is a funny place.