June 23, 2014

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It was only when I recently fell into an argument with an American friend (another runner of the bulls of Pamplona, by no coincidence) that the real reason behind his, and so many others”€™, desire for access to whatever firearms they want became clear: the fear of tyranny and more particularly, the fear of tyranny by their own government.

Now, to Europeans, that sounds absurd: you don”€™t have to follow Max Weber in all his arguments to agree that the state has, and should have”€”in large part”€”a monopoly on the legitimate use of violence, and therefore on the tools of violence.

The statistics on gun homicide in the U.S. are simply absurd when read by every other civilized country in the world”€”including Switzerland, where by law you must have a gun, but you also have to train for the national militia first.

A given U.S. citizen”€”meaning adjusted for population”€”is one hundred times more likely to be shot to death than a given UK citizen. Therefore there is no way round the fact that the policy of firearms for self-defense is a categoric, and unarguable, failure”€”it kills far more than it saves, end of argument.

CORRECTION: I made the mistake of using incomparable data sets to come up with the hundredfold likelihood of homicide by firearm in the U.S. as compared to the UK. The UK government figures show 41 such deaths in 2010 in a population of 62.3 million. The U.S. government figures show 11,078 such deaths in 2010 in a population of 308.7 million. Which is a multiple of a mere 54, adjusted for population, rather than 100 as stated. 

And as for those who are in favor of the National Rifle Assocation-promoted argument that most of those statistics represent gangs of nonwhite origin killing their own: aside from being repugnantly racist and showing nil respect for the rule of law, they”€™re also tactically deluded. They assume that as long as someone has a pristine Sig they”€™ve no training with in their bedside drawer, they”€™ll stand a chance when battle-hardened, tooled-up gangbangers come through the front door. They won”€™t.

This is no naïve argument I”€™m mounting here. There are simply too many firearms in circulation in the U.S. to rationally suggest any attempt at a ban, and I”€™m not pro a ban as a gun owner myself. (Although I hold to the dictum that you need nothing more than a revolver for the home, and a double-barrel or two for the field”€”rifled for animals that walk, smoothbore for those that fly. In the latter case it’s unsporting to have anything else; in the former, if you need more than six shots, I”€™m afraid you”€™ve already lost.)

However, why object to rudimentary training and testing? Don”€™t you want to know how to use the damned thing and know your children do too? And to know that the crazy guy down the street will probably be turned down when he applies for his permit, and will have to go to the black market to get one, where, if there is any justice in the world, he”€™ll probably get shot by someone even more crazy or evil than he is?

What is more, if the right”€”which seems to be synonymous with opposition to gun control”€”is so afraid of tyranny, then why does it keep voting funds to make the U.S. military the most dangerous on Earth (something I think is a good thing, by the way)? And does anyone really think they stand a chance against the FBI in a siege, no matter how many AR-15s they”€™ve got under the bed?

To return to my original argument about windows in trains, the final decision was, in my eyes, the right one: Certain windows in every carriage are breakable, but not all of them. Deaths through being thrown out of the carriage are minimized, but those who can escape, and can help others to as well, are not limited in their action. Is the metaphor for responsible gun ownership in the United States of America not obvious?


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