On gun violence

21 Apr

In the aftermath of the horrible events at Virginia Tech and the Johnson Space Center, the predictable gun debate has started. We have people calling for more gun control, and the likes of Ann Coulter and Ted Nugent arguing that gun-free zones are dangerous. It is this argument that got me thinking.

Coulter and Nugent argue that had more people at Virginia Tech been armed, someone could have taken out the shooter, and saved lives. This is possible. But I don’t think you can take this argument to the conclusion that gun-free zones are dangerous places because a potential killer will know he or she is unlikely to face an oncoming bullet in such a place.

To test this argument, let’s look at a few non-gun-free zones. New York, LA, Chicago, any metropolitan area. How many people have been killed in those areas in the first four months of 2007 as compared to Virginia Tech this past week? I’ll bet the gunfire has caused more problems in the non-gun-free zones than in the gun-free zones.

The problem in this country, of course, goes beyond mere guns. We have a culture that worships death and firepower–from gangsta rap (or at least some flavors of it) to the Terminator movies to young people who feel you need to have a gun (and use it) to get respect.

I will agree with the pro-gun arguments that had someone else on campus had a gun, the Virginia Tech killings might have been reduced. But that’s the exception to the rule. Guns kill one or two people at a time, typically. Those stories, happening every day, don’t even make the radar screen of the news media. Another gun in the area is not likely to prevent that sort of violence. In all likelihood, it would just add to the shooting, and maybe rack up another victim.

I don’t know what the solution is. I believe the Constitution (and Indiana’s Constitution in particular) protect an individual’s right to own firearms. And I’m not convinced that amending the constitutions in this country is the answer. But it seems to me that it’s way too easy for people to get guns in this country. And perhaps that’s the problem we really need to tackle, but it will take more police, more prosecutors, more jails to do so–and are we willing to pay for it? That’s the ultimate question.

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