This is a short exchange I had with a friend in Australia regarding guns and violence. It is a “live” conversation, so I’m expecting to see additional exchanges in it. However, my response is really a nice little commentary on the American position on guns – something which to a large degree crosses party lines. It’s a conversation worth sharing.
Just to set context, Otto’s comment is based on some statistics I had posted on Chicago’s high homicide rate. My wife had seen numbers that grossly inflated the already ridiculously high rates. Otto made the following comment and my response to him is after the jump…
Otto: Guns are banned in Australia, and there are very few shootings here. Maybe because bad people don’t have to try very hard in Chicago to get guns, seems like it’s only a short drive to get one. And maybe there are lots left over from the Al Capone era. Chicago is world famous for gun violence.
The prohibition era type of firearms have no impact on Chicago’s problems. Nor do any time of rifle, in general. Most of the violence that involves guns there is via handguns.
Capone and the mob certainly played a major part in establishing the rule of violence and gangs in Chicago, though the real culprit was prohibition, which enabled the rise of the Mafia. It’s never really lost its control of Chicago, much to the chagrin of the rest of us Illinoisans. Banning alcohol created a criminal element in the US that is going to be hard – if not impossible – to eradicate.
I’ve come to have a real problem with the phrase “gun violence.” It’s a conflation of terms that really isn’t born out by the actual data. There is a very real violence problem and it is a problem that goes far beyond guns. In general, take away the gun and the violence remains. The best anecdotal example would be Great Britain where even knives that you or I wouldn’t bat an eye at are now illegal unless you can justify a need for it. But like I said… anecdotal.
More hard data – in fact the most comprehensive data I know of – is the study from Harvard a couple years ago, Would Banning Firearms Reduce Murder and Suicide. The short answer is no, it won’t. And this was the conclusion of researchers that support gun control. From experience, we’ve seen reductions in crime in Detroit since the Chief of Police began encouraging citizens to arm and there has been an increase in defensive gun use. Even Chicago has seen a reduction in violent crime since Illinois passed its concealed carry law (thanks to the courts overturn of the ban). In most cases, gun control treats the symptom and not the problem.
I know a lot of my (many) European friends think of America’s attitude on guns is something cultural. I would have to disagree in one sense. It is MUCH deeper than merely a part of our culture. It is an embedded part of our most fundamental psyche – a part of what we are. It connects directly to our view on individual and state sovereignty over the federal government. It is a part of the history of this country in a way that most of the world and even many Americans do not understand. Remember, we are a country where the Castle Doctrine is a valid principle of law.
This “American Psyche” would be an interesting discussion too, but I’ve gone way long here. Regarding guns, though, suffice it to say, that one of the few things that will get the majority together – whether Dem or Rep – is to try and restrict our right to bear arms. It is considered on par with freedom of speech, religion, trial by jury, etc. here in the US.
(And I LOVE the kind of comments you make! The questions are just and should be both asked and answered.)