Gun Violence in America

Welcome to my first of a three-part series on gun violence and what I think we can actually do about it.  I believe that it is possible to curb gun violence without resorting to “taking away your guns”, and without a Constitutional amendment.  Let’s get started.

America has a problem with gun violence.

gunIn 2015 there were 331 mass shootings in America, that resulted in over 360 deaths and 1,300 injuries. There were over 11,000 murders with guns in 2015, and more than 54,000 people were treated for gun assault in emergency rooms.

The numbers are very clear. There is a direct correlation between gun deaths in a population, and the number of guns owned by that population. Guns are used far more often to threaten and intimidate than they are used in self-defense. More often, gun owners escalate arguments by using their guns in an aggressive manner. Homes that own a gun have a higher risk of suicide and accidental death.

No mass shootings in America have ever been stopped by an armed civilian.

More than a third of American households own a gun – about 43.5 million. There are as many as 310 million guns in the United States. And while a majority of Americans favor stricter background checks, a majority of Americans also support the lawful ownership of guns generally. And this support has been trending upward over the last few years.

With such broad support for gun ownership, it is unlikely that Congress or the President will be able to remove guns from the general population. It also seems likely that gun related deaths, and mass shootings, will continue to be “normal” if nothing else changes.

American support for background checks suggests that Americans are willing to do something to change this status quo.

Personally I like guns, and I own a few. I was given my first gun as a birthday present by my father, on my very first birthday.

Dad was a huge influence on me and my sister in regards to guns. He kept our guns well locked up, out of our reach. He has a lot of them, and never put them on display, preferring to only take them out when he was going hunting.

Dad’s training in gun safety came from his training as a combat vet in Korea, and from a lifetime of using guns. My sister and I have both jumped down the throats of those people who supposedly went through “gun safety” programs for being idiots about their guns. Really, neither of us have any patience for that sort of nonsense. And we’re both pretty fair shots. I’ve got “Expert” ribbons in the M16 and M9 pistol from the military.

I’m also someone who believes strongly in the Constitution, and I take my oath of enlistment seriously. Americans have the right to “bear arms”, and will continue to have that right unless there is a Constitutional Amendment.

The Bill of Rights, the first ten amendments to the Constitution, originally applied only to the Federal government. In other words, these rights could be overridden by state law. Only those laws enumerated in the Constitution belonged to the Federal government. This changed upon the ratification of the 14th Amendment, where the “Due Process clause” applies the Bill of Rights against the states.

On ratification of the 14th Amendment, the Federal government was given the power to enforce the Bill of Rights, and States’ Rights were much weakened. This is what nullified the Dred Scott decision. It gave us all equal protection under the law, and prevented States from creating laws to remove the rights of American Citizens.

The 14th Amendment has also been used to expand the rights of citizens, giving interracial couples the right to marry (Loving v. Virginia) making it impossible for states to arrest citizens for homosexual acts (Lawrence v. Texas) and giving homosexuals the right to marry (Obergefell v. Hodges).

A Constitutional amendment that outlawed gun ownership could easily go very wrong. An amendment to overturn the Second Amendment could possibly be used to weaken the 14th Amendment, which might in turn allow States to once again create their own laws about homosexuality and race. We would again be a nation of patchwork freedoms.

Last, I want to point out that we have passed the point where 3D printers can easily print a gun.  This was first accomplished in plastics.  3D printed guns are now available in metal using the direct metal laser sintering (DMLS) process.  As 3D printing prices fall, the availability of highly reliable printed guns will increase.  And there isn’t much the government can do to prevent this.

From a purely practical position, outlawing gun ownership in America would be impossible without major changes in attitude. There is broad support for gun ownership, and there are inherent dangers in amending our Constitution to revise or remove the Second Amendment.  Finally, our increasing technological ability would make gun restrictions difficult, if not impossible.

It seems hopeless. Maybe there is something that can help.

But first, in my next post I’ll examine why Americans own guns.