On Friday, 10 July, the FBI acknowledged that the Charleston shooter was allowed to purchase his handgun due to a failure in the background check system to process correctly his conviction for drug possession. The response in comment sections and on social media from gun control advocates is a call for “stronger” background check laws, naturally.
The rest of us are left wondering why doing the same thing over and over would ever achieve different results. And that’s exactly the point I wish to consider in this article.
America is often compared to countries like Britain and Japan where gun death rates are very low. Control advocates here and elsewhere love doing this, especially when we are asked to contemplate the percentage differences. Japan’s gun homicide rate, for example, is 0.01 per hundred thousand, while ours is 3.2, and the calculation is left for you, dear readers, to do as homework.
The problems here are several. Whenever two numbers are tiny, any difference between the two will be huge in terms of percentage. Another factor that gets passed over so often is the effects of cultures on violence—both in terms of rates and types. Japan, for example, never had the same firearms traditions that western nations experienced, and the Japanese people have different attitudes regarding law enforcement and social conformity.
But the fact remains that with guns all but banned and with little demand for guns, legal or otherwise, gun deaths are rare in Japan. Not death before one’s time, since their suicides per annum match the number of people who die in America each year by gunfire, but at least hardly anyone dies by being shot in Japan.
So can we achieve that here in America? The only way to accomplish that goal would be to adopt the same solution: a total ban. Our homegrown advocates of gun control work hard to avoid admitting this. We’re told time after time (trying the same thing over and over) that no one is coming for our guns. Advocates from other countries aren’t so worried about telling the truth, as an article in The Economist, “The gun control that works: no guns,” demonstrates.
Readers of this publication undoubtedly agree with me that a total ban is not a desirable goal. Even if we lay aside the cases of defensive gun uses, our culture, in the western tradition, values individual rights, and we especially take pleasure in non-conformity. But is it even possible to ban guns in practical terms?
Australia and France have experience with this question. Despite strict controls, guns still get in and still get used in crimes. Terrorist shootings in Sydney and Paris show what happens when the law-abiding are the only unarmed people in an attack.
We can ban private ownership of plutonium, more or less, since producing that element requires advanced skill and equipment. We probably can ban most people from getting the smallpox virus, though Russian controls on their remaining stocks are a cause for concern. But as I’ve discussed before, guns cross borders and guns can be made in the privacy of one’s home or office.
If our goal is to reduce deaths from gunfire, that purpose is laudable and one that we do much to achieve, but we won’t accomplish it by removing all guns from this country. It can’t be done. We can’t even do here what has been done in Britain, at least not for many decades. The question then is whether we will choose solutions that do actual good—and continue what we have been doing, since our rates of violent crimes of all types have been on the decline for decades.
The views and opinions expressed in this post are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the position of Guns.com.