Thursday, August 08, 2002

Guns and Crime - A friend sent me a link to Glenn Reynolds latest column, which happens to deal with the relationship between guns and crime. Glenn, being Glenn, takes the position that more guns lead to less crime, and Billie, being Billie, sent me the link because he probably thinks I'll take issue with this. Normally, I would. The classic on this topic is John Lott's More Guns, Less Crime, which was full of bad statistics, gross misinterpretations, and that sort of thing. But Glenn's source on this is Bentley College historian Joyce Malcolm's new book, Guns and Violence: The English Experience, which I don't know much about. Also, it's a fairly new book (May, 2002), so I haven't been able to find any refutations by people smarter than me, which is what I often have to depend on when it comes to books that make policy arguments based on subject I don't know much about. And, let's face it, not many books out there make policy arguments based on poetry, shamanism, or Old English literature.

Glenn's a smart guy. But I'm a smart guy too, and I know I tend to be less critical of sources that I agree with than sources I disagree with. I read a statistic that says that a gun in the home is much, much more likely to be used on a family member than on an intruder, and I think, "Yeah, that sounds right" and I don't bother trying to find out what's wrong with it. But somebody comes along and tells me that having more guns out there will actually decrease the amount of gun violence, and this little bell starts to ring in my head telling me to look harder.

Like every other redneck out there, I grew up around guns. I'm not a great shot, but I know enough about guns to avoid shooting myself in the foot. I'm not scared of guns, nor am I stupid about them. But I don't own a gun, and, for a variety of reason, have no interest in owning one. I think the NRA is intellectually dishonest, and their representatives and afficionados pretty well manage to piss me off every time they open their mouths. I think the gun control lobby are elitists with no understanding of the way half of this country lives. I am equally annoyed by hunters who call themselves "sportsmen" and bambi-lovers who go on and on about the evils of hunting while eating a chicken burrito. As far as I am concerned, the fact that I don't hunt but do eat meat makes me, if nothing else, a coward who pays someone else to do his killing for him.

But I also think that the First Amendment is much more important than the Second when it comes to the defense about tyranny, and it really pisses me off that there are thousands of cases that tell us exactly what the limits of free speech are, while the last time we really had a definitive 2nd Amendment test case was in the '30s sometime. It pisses me off that a handgun has a effective life of a hundred years with only moderate care, but there are factories cranking them out and shipping them to be sold in places with low regulation from which they quickly find their way into the hands of criminals. It pisses me off that a couple of deranged teenages were able to buy TEC-9s, a gun designed to kill people efficiently while not taking fingerprints, at a fucking gun show, and the next day our fearless leaders were laying the blame on movies and video games. Most of all, it pisses me off that what passes for dialogue on this issue consists of the two extremes calling each other names and torpedoing any attempt at compromise, and that the entire issue has become so saturated with politics that it's no longer safe to assume anyone, on either side, is telling the truth.

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