COMMENTARY: Gun Control or People Control?

The first casualty on both sides of the gun control debate is honesty

If the pro-gun lobby had its way there would be a lot more firearms with dangerous capabilities, like real assault rifles, in America. Since I oppose assault rifles even for “regular” police department use – they are war weapons – logically I have to oppose them for almost all private citizens.

The police need precision firearms and extensive training more than they need firepower. Recent events nationwide show they need more training, war weapons are not practical or effective for self-defense when used by untrained civilians or even most of law enforcement.  

However, if the anti-gun lobby had its way there would no practical firearms in private hands at all. Whatever they did allow would be totally useless for personal defense and anything else would be locked up at the local police station.

Both sides go to great lengths to hide their true agendas and both use the same tactics – give them an inch and they will take a mile. I wish there was another viable choice because I distrust them both. Forced to choose, I have to side with Second Amendment – “…the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."

Even if you do not believe that the Constitution protects the right to bear arms – and it most certainly does – Americans have already voted with their pocketbooks. There are about the same number of legal firearms in the U.S. as there are adults and the additional number of illegal firearms is certainly substantial, although no one knows the actual number.

Since 1998, alone, the FBI has processed requests for more than 220 million firearm purchases and there were plenty of perfectly serviceable older firearms already out there. According to the FBI, 185,345 Americans had their backgrounds checked for purchasing guns on the Friday following last Thanksgiving, Nov. 27, 2015 – more than any single day on record and that was before the mass terrorist shooting at San Bernardino, a tragedy sure to spike gun sales.

The crux of the problem is that Americans want their firearms, they just don’t want the screwy folks next door, the wild youngsters down the block, those with felony records, or potential terrorists to have them. Good luck with that.

In spite of all the laws, determined criminals, terrorists, and the mentally ill can always get their hands on weapons if they really try; two recent headline murders were committed with guns stolen from law enforcement.

Simple laws such as California’s lifetime prohibition on using, owning or possessing a firearm if you are convicted of a felony are effective in sending violators back to jail because guns are an essential part of the criminal lifestyle.

Complex laws that, typically, go on for hundreds of words, are ineffective and primarily designed to make something out of nothing. They almost always end up being unintentionally violated by honest citizens who are ignorant of their illogical requirements.  We have far too many of those.

Some of the things that California has done makes sense – but other things are purely harassment of legitimate gun owners – and it is that last part that fuels the fear of law-abiding citizens. I could go down the list one by one, but you, the reader, will only agree or disagree with me based on you fundamental philosophy about guns.

Two-thirds or more of the firearms deaths in the U.S. are suicides (firearms account for half the nation’s suicides). A gun may be the instrument, but it does not make the decision to intentionally end ones’ life; the suicide rate in the U.S. is not that much different from many countries where firearms are banned or severely restricted.

I believe that those who really want to commit suicide will find a way. Yes, firearms make suicide easier, but friends and family never want “blame” the person who commits suicide, so they blame the firearm. There are more than three times the total number of suicides in the U.S. annually then there are homicides; that is not a gun issue, it’s a mental health issue.

How good are we at predicting, and thus preventing, specific acts of violence or self-destruction? Except for those who are institutionalized or have criminal records, it’s almost impossible to reliably predict who will commit a violent crime or suicide.

So what to do? Unless we can show that someone is clearly a danger to themselves or others we are loath to force them into treatment for mental or psychological problems. The results are sometimes tragic. Are you willing to force a loved one into treatment because they are slightly depressed or acting strangely? If so, you’re in the clear minority.

Lots of Americans own guns, only the tiniest fraction are used in crimes. As always, the terrorists, criminals, and the mentally ill are not deterred by firearms laws either here, in France, or anywhere else. If you’re out to kill a lot of people as a goal be it at an abortion clinic, a music venue, a school, or at a staff holiday party, you’re not worried about being charged with violating the firearms laws.  In fact, you are not worried about being charged with murder.

The safety issue is a massive red herring; more than 100 times as many Americans die from falls, automotive accidents, and accidental poisoning combined than in firearms accidents, but you don’t have to lock up your medications in 100-pound safe or take a breathalyzer test before you start your car.

Laws are passed to control, act as a deterrent and/or punish. The more complex firearms laws are about as effective as our drug laws, they simply don’t work before the fact; after the fact everyone feels better, that’s all.

Marty Richman

Born and raised in Brooklyn, NY, Marty (Martin G.) spent his teen years in northern New Jersey. He served more than 22 years on active military duty, mostly in Europe, and is a retired U.S. Army Chief Warrant Officer 4, Nuclear Weapons Technical Officer. Marty then worked 25 years in various engineering and management positions in the electronics and energetic materials industries supporting the communications, computer, aerospace, defense and automotive sectors. He is a graduate, summa cum laude, from The College of Hard Knocks, among his numerous awards and accomplishments. He was a regular weekly Op/Ed columnist and feature writer for The Hollister Free Lance for seven years and a member of its editorial board for five years. Marty is a frequent commentator and contributor to BenitoLink on a wide variety of local, state, national and international subjects.   Marty was elected to represent the City of Hollister District 4 on the City Council in November, 2018. Marty and his wife, Joyce, have been residents of Hollister since 1996.