I don't know about you, but it just makes me sad to see folks with big hearts and sterling intentions, wanting to DO SOMETHING about school killings, but not really having a clue about effective, socially beneficial things to do. Folks should be able to establish context, then consider the societal benefits of gun ownership, compared to costs, and then consider the specific problem of school massacres and likely solutions. I’ll share my own first-hand experience with you. I made my first firearm purchase when my wife and I purchased a townhouse in Washington, DC. I was 30 years old. After talking to my new neighbors, I realized that nearly 100 percent of townhouses like mine on my street had been burglarized within the prior two years. Therefore, before I moved my family, I bought a small 5-shot, snub nosed revolver – what gun control advocates used to derisively call a “Saturday Night Special.” Since that time, I have needed a gun three times. My home has been targeted by home invaders twice. On one occasion, intruders kicked down the front door by surprise. They were met by 2 very enthusiastic German Shepherd dogs. They fled. No gun was required. We had a carpenter repair the door and went on with life. On another occasion, however, no dogs were present and I met a pair of home invaders with my Saturday Night Special. I asked them politely to leave. When they surmised that I had a gun, they were ever so glad to leave politely. No shots were fired. No police report was filed because I did not want to get into trouble: I wasn’t even supposed to have a gun in Washington, DC. On third occasion, my wife woke me at night in our bedroom and said she heard noise downstairs. I got my Saturday Night Special, and went down to investigate. Sure enough, someone was breaking into our sliding glass door. They didn’t notice me. I thought hard about just sitting there in the dark, waiting, and teaching them a good lesson when they breached the door, like that homeowner in Prince Georges County did a couple of weeks ago. It was tempting. I was, however, in DC, but I decided against violence, so I made myself known to the burglars, and let them know I had a gun. They fled. No shots were fired. No police report was filed. On yet another occasion, my wife and I were out in Virginia visiting my parents, who lived on a dead end road. We stayed visiting until 11PM. When we said goodbye to my parents and went out to our car, I scarcely noticed the pickup truck staked out 30 yards behind us in a dark section of road where there were no houses. We packed out infant daughter into her car-seat and climbed into our little Honda hatchback with DC tags. We were faced downhill towards the dead end of the road. My plan was to drive to the dead end and turn around there so that we could leave. I scarcely noticed that when my headlights came on, so also did the headlights of the dark truck 30 yards behind. When we moved out, the truck moved out, too. As we approached the dead end, the truck came up close to tailgate us with high beams blazing. Although it was pitch dark, I could see in the reflection of the high beams that there were two men in the truck. I was surprised that when I came to the dead end, the truck maneuvered so that I could not complete my turn-around. We were trapped. By WILD coincidence, I had in the car an old hand-me-down .22 rifle that my parents had given me when I was 13. I wanted to have its rear sight upgraded to be adjustable, and I had been planning to bring it to the Davis Gun Shop in Arlington for the repair. I had put it in the back of the hatchback for that purpose. Without hesitation, I reclined my drivers seat, skooched back far enough so I could reach over the rear passenger seat, and retrieved the rifle from the rear compartment. It was non-functional because I had left the bolt at home, but I held it up in the rear hatchback window, in the glare of the high beams, for the guys in the pickup truck to see. The pickup truck backed up, turned around, and fled the scene. My family was safe; no shots were fired; and no police report was filed. That makes 3 occasions when I have prevented violence to my family by having a gun, not to mention an additional time that the force of large dogs saved the day. I eventually got a big NRA sticker and put it on the front window of my townhouse. I never had another problem. Additionally, I have used guns for socialization: going with friends target shooting, or trap shooting, or making my annual trip with a group of friends to Farmville, Virginia for deer hunting. I’ve put a fair amount of venison on the table with my K-Mart special 30-30, which is a humorous story for another day. Guns have DEFINITELY had a positive influence on my family’s life.
I don’t think my experience is unique. My old college classmate, Joe, had a similar experience. He was with his family on an isolated rural dirt road with only one way to exit. He noticed a truck a small distance away manoeuver and park so as to completely block the road. They were trapped, and the intention of the guys blocking the road was questionable. Joe’s family didn’t notice. Joe reacted by calmly stopping his car, getting a .22 rifle out of the trunk, and conducting an innocent target-practice lesson for the children. When the first shots sounded, the guys watching from the truck blocking the road got into their truck and left the scene. Again, there was no violence and the family was safe. Another old friend of mine, Jim, and I recently took our concealed carry classes together. Subsequently, Jim was traveling with his wife in Ohio. In the middle of the night, someone kicked their hotel room door in. Jim was happy to be carrying his .45 semiautomatic pistol. Again, no shots were fired, and the family was safe. My friend Loring and I took rifle shooting instruction together from NRA certified instructors at Boy Scout Camp Wilson. Loring later got a job as a hotel desk clerk in Washington, DC. On the night when the bad guy entered the lobby, the hotel security guard promptly confronted him. DC of course is a gun free zone, so the security guard was unarmed. He was promptly shot. The bad guy found Loring hiding in a dark closet (which is what we drill children in school to do). He had Loring kneel, right there in the closet, and put a bullet right between his eyes. I was devastated. To this day, I keep newspaper clippings about Loring’s death tucked here under my laptop computer.
In summary, guns have been a VERY positive factor in preventing violence to my family, as well a providing entertainment, socialization, and meat on the table. Most of the incidents that I directly know about resulted with no police reports or other statistics generated. Anecdotal reading suggests that my experience is not unique, and that across America, the presence of guns helps to prevent violence and deter crime. The Bureau of Justice Statistics’ National Crime Victims Survey indicates that 550 rapes and 1,100 murders are prevented per DAY just by showing a gun. This dovetails with my own experience of just showing a gun. The National Institute of Justice estimates that there are two MILLION defensive gun uses per year by law abiding citizens. The societal benefits to responsible gun ownership are certainly massive.
Now, to consider the societal costs.. Richard Peters recently surveyed the societal costs of gun ownership as follows:
“There are 30,000 gun related deaths per year by firearms, and this number is not disputed. The U.S. population is 324,059,091 as of June 22, 2016. Do the Math: 0.0009% of the population dies from gun related actions each year. Statistically speaking, this is insignificant. What is never told, however, is a breakdown of those 30,000 deaths. To put them in perspective when compared to other causes of death:
• 65% of those deaths are by suicide, which would never be prevented by gun laws
• 17% are through criminal activity, gang and drug related or mentally ill persons—better known as gun violence.
• 3% are accidental gun discharge deaths.
So, technically, “gun violence” is not 30,000 annually, but drops to 5,100. Still too many.
Now, let’s look at how those death spanned across the nation:
• 480 homicides (9.4%) were in Chicago.
• 344 homicides (6.7%) were in Baltimore.
• 333 homicides (6.5%) were in Detroit.
• 119 homicides (2.3%) were in Washington D.C. (indecently, a 54% increase over the prior year).
So basically, 25% of all gun crime happens in just four cities. All four of these cities have strict gun laws, so it is not the lack of law that is the root cause. This basically leaves 3,825 for the entire rest of the nation, or about 75 deaths per state. That is an average because some State have much higher rates than others. For example, California had 1,169 and Alabama had 1. Now, who has the strictest gun laws by far? California, of course. But, understand, it’s not guns causing this. It is a crime rate spawned by the number of criminal persons residing in those cities and states. So, if all cities and states are not created equal, then there must be something other than the tool causing the gun deaths.
All deaths are horrific. And 5,100 deaths per year is sad—and, especially so when it is in the commission of a crime. But, that is the nature of crime. Robbery, death, rape, assault are all done by criminals. It is ludicrous to think that criminals will obey laws. That is why they are criminals.
But, what about other deaths each year?
• More than 40,000 die from drug overdose.
• 36,000 people die from the flu.
• 34,000 people die in traffic related fatalities
• 250,000 die each year from preventable medical errors (Number 3 cause of death per Johns Hopkins Univ).
• 652,639 die from abortions (12.1 per 1000 live births)
• 710,000 people die per year from heart disease.
Just a 10% reduction in cardiac deaths would save twice the number of lives annually of all gun related deaths. A 10% reduction in medical errors would be 66% of the total number of gun deaths or 4 times the number of criminal homicides. Usually, a 10% reduction in any statistics is an easily achievable figure.” [End of Richard Peters quote]
So the costs of gun ownership are outweighed by the benefits, by far. That is BEFORE you even argue about the proposition that an armed populace is a counterweight to governmental overreach, and the right to keep and bear arms is fundamental to the God-given right to defend one’s life, liberty, and property. That’s a pretty important argument.
There is, however, the fairly-recent, heart wrenching problem of school mass killings, especially killings at schools. Some mass killings have been carried out with bombs (like the school bomb a couple of weeks ago) and motor vehicles, but let’s focus on the heart-wrenching school killings with guns. How do you fix that problem? Outlawing certain “mean looking” rifles will, sadly, not solve this problem. Despite all the media hype, the AR-15 is NOT a military grade rifle, and the difference between it and many standard hunting rifles is PURELY cosmetic. In point of fact, Nikolas de Jesus Cruz could have done equal damage with a standard pump-action shotgun loaded with standard 00 buckshot and a pocketful of extra shells. (Just feed shells from your pocket a few at a time as you go, and your gun is NEVER empty.) The Benton, Kentucky school shooting, in which 20 people were shot was, after all, carried out with an ordinary handgun. The unavoidable truth is that other effective weapons are available, so banning mean-looking rifles won’t solve the school massacre problem.
There are deeper social issues at work. When I was in high school, many of us young men had guns (at home mostly) but there were no problems with school shootings. There were even shooting clubs at some schools, but not at my particular high school. We need to understand what has changed to truly solve this problem. Consider that 100% of school massacre shooters come from households with reduced or absent father participation. When I was in high school, my best friend committed suicide (by hanging) when his father left. It’s a big deal, especially for boys. I believe that a lack of a stable mother-and-father family, especially when bringing up boys is involved. . One third of Americans know parents who refused to marry because they did not want to lose qualification for some government benefit(s), I definitely do! I can tell you, as a licensed tax expert, that there are MANY tax incentives for parents not marry, especially at lower income levels! When you consider that 100% of school mass shooters have come from fatherless households, you have to suspect that our wacky government regulations are a part of the problem. Another thing that needs looking into is the drastically increased use of behavior altering medications. As a licensed registered nurse, I can tell you that there are behavior altering drug for which “homicidal ideation” is a documented side effect of some behavioral altering medications. I have read that most school killers have taken behavioral altering drugs. This is certainly an under-discussed factor that needs more study ASAP.
The NRA? The NRA does great work in gun safety training. As I noted above, my Boy Scout rifle instructors were NRA-certified. It's been around for a long time, is an absolute expert on safety matters, has wholesome intentions, pretty decent members as far as I have seen, and is not the problem.
For, for do-able actual solutions, I say (1) ban the sale and possession of firearms for persons under the age of 25 and make parents or guardians responsible if they get a gun from home, and (2) have some sort of armed guardian presence in schools. I THINK THAT WOULD GO A LONG WAY TOWARDS SOLVING THE PROBLEM. I know that banning the sale of guns to a whole age category is a drastic gun control proposal, but I think it might help I hate seeing armed guards everywhere. I hated it when the Alexandria high schools hired “bouncers” in the early 1970's to control unruly students after racial integration, but the situation was dire and required it. They do arm some teachers in Israel, and it certainly seems to work for them. In America, it might have to be police officers because a lot of teachers would be uncomfortable with the guardian role. As a registered nurse, I understand perfectly. I have been asked by hospitals more than once, because I’m male, to eject unruly visitors. My response has always been that dealing with violent persons is not my job; that is for hospital security to handle. So I can understand a teacher not wanting to take on the role of actually protecting children. However, the situation is dire, and SOMEONE has to do it. Police are expensive, but police may be the way to go. Some teachers might be willing to be trained to carry concealed weapons. I have a concealed carry permit, myself, and it’s not that big a deal. I don't know about you, but I've been a parent and I've actually been a school teacher. I wouldn't mind carrying a concealed gun in school as long as I were compensated a little extra for it and the school would provide all necessary insurance coverage. A few armed teachers could save the day in a situation like the Florida massacre, and their presence would probably be a deterrent. Our experience right here in a Maryland school last week shows that a good guy with a gun is VERY effective for preventing school killings. If not teachers, then we need to assign police. Also, the psychiatric drug angle needs serious looking into. We have to do SOMETHING, and it really must be something that will likely SOLVE the problem of school killings,