America Is At Civil War And Returning To The Wild, Wild West Isn’t The Solution

I hope both my friend and foes will forgive me, but I can’t let the recent shootings here in Denver pass without comment, so I’m going to be unusually serious for a moment.

In case you haven’t heard yet — I can’t imagine that’s possible — a crazy gunman who styled himself after The Joker in Batman used an Ak-47 assault rifle to kill 12 people and injure 58 others at a midnight showing of the new Dark Knight movie. It’s one of the worst shootings in U.S. history, and a scant, unlucky 13 years since the Columbine shooting spree here left 13 people dead.

I know many people disagree with me, but I believe America has a serious gun problem. A problem so serious, that I’m going to argue we’re at civil war.

I also know that many champions of the 2nd Amendment feel the solution to our gun violence is to liberalize our gun laws, allowing us all to carry weapons for self-defense in case we’re attacked by a nut or the Nazis, or both.

But I don’t want to return our nation to its revolutionary roots, or even to the legal free-for-all represented by the Wild, Wild West. I don’t want to live in Dodge City and risk re-enacting the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral every time I go to the movies.

Here’s why I believe we have a problem, and what I believe we need to do about it:

The U.S. has the highest rate of private gun ownership in the world, according to GunPolicy.org. It’s estimated we now own roughly 270-300 million guns, nearly one for every man, woman and child.

We bought more than 14 million guns in 2009, more guns than are carried by the active armies of the top 21 countries in the world combined, according to FBI stats quoted in Ammoland Gun News. The magazine estimated we also bought billions of rounds of ammo to load those guns. Americans buy about 56 percent of the guns made worldwide every year, and own roughly half of the world’s private arsenal of 650 million guns and more weapons than the 225 million guns held by law enforcement and military forces, according to a 2007 report by the Geneva-based Graduate Institute of International Studies.

America has the highest rate of gun-related injuries in the world among developed nations, according the 2002 academic study “Gun Violence: The Real Cost.” There were 52,447 deliberate and 23,237 accidental non-fatal gunshot injuries in the United States during 2000, according to the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control.

America also has the highest rate of gun-related deaths among its peers in the industrialized world, according to an academic review by the National Academy of Science. Our rate of gun-related deaths is eight times higher than it is in countries that are economically and politically similar.

About 9,000 people were murdered with guns here last year, according to the FBI. Our overall firearm-related death rate is the world’s 12th highest, just behind Mexico’s — home of the infamously brutal drug wars — and countries like South Africa, Columbia and El Salvador, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

But stats aren’t the issue here.

I’m just sick and tired of living in a country where people can’t go to school or a movie or work without worrying whether they’re going to get mowed down or blown up by some gun-crazed nut, frequently a religious or political fundamentalist/conservative of one sort or another. It’s frightening and depressing, and on an emotional level I feel like we’re out of control, especially if more and more ordinary citizens are going to start packing heat when they’re at the mall.

America has a serious gun problem. Our love of guns is irrational, and our fear of government oppression or a Japanese, Russian or Nazi invasion is even more irrational given the size and power of our military force, which is unparalleled.

Look at the issue from a global perspective: Some 7,500 people have died in battles so far this year in Syria, leading the United Nations to declare that it’s engaged in a civil war. But we murdered 10,000 of our own, and shot tens of thousands more.

As far as I’m concerned, we’re also at civil war.

And as far as I’m concerned, it isn’t reasonable for everybody to carry a sidearm to keep the violence in check. Cowboys and settlers tried that more than 100 years ago and abandoned the idea because it led to lawlessness and frontier justice, which wasn’t justice at all, just wanton, destabilizing violence. And nobody will ever convince me that any civilian needs to own an AK-47 assault rifle, a 100-round magazine clip, and 6,000 rounds of ammo. That’s insane, as recent events surely demonstrate.

So I don’t know about anybody else, but I don’t want to live like the Hatfields and McCoys.

Those heady days of America’s youth are gone, thankfully, and it’s time for us take the next step in our maturation as a nation. The only reasonable solution to our problem is to repeal or radically re-write the 2nd Amendment, make guns and ammo much harder to get, and implement the strictest-possible gun controls. They work in Europe, and they’ll work here.

That’s what I believe. And if you don’t like it, you’ll have to pry my smoking, hot pen from my dead, cold fingers to stop me from saying it. Or writing it, whatever. Stop being so picky.

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15 thoughts on “America Is At Civil War And Returning To The Wild, Wild West Isn’t The Solution

  1. But what do we about it now? I’m just afraid if we make ammunition even more expensive, it’ll just make the illegal purchases even worse.

    I think handgun ownership should be illegal/require actual week long background checks. Or something. It took me over a week to get approved to just volunteer at the VA hospital.

    Go hunting all you want. Hell, I’ve enjoyed shooting some rifles in my day. And living in the boonies occasionally warrants needing to get rid of a wildlife intruder. But semi-automatics are completely unnecessary for that. So make all clips illegal while we are at it.

    Or maybe I just don’t know anything at all.

    Except I’m sad for the entire community and our nation. That I’m sure.

  2. A call for prohibition seems like an awfully fascist solution from an avowed liberal. The problem with making anything illegal is that laws only apply to law-abiding people. Marijuana and other drugs are easy to obtain in spite of the tight restrictions the government has in place and the movement to relax the restrictions has gained so much momentum that many states now offer some form of legal marijuana under the thinly veiled disguise of medical use. I see a great parallel between those who want less restriction on drugs and those who want less restriction on guns. They are both very libertarian constructs. And yes I know that a person who smokes pot doesn’t kill another person, but drug-related deaths are a reality to both the user and the community – locally and at large. The difference is that our right to possess drugs isn’t in the Constitution. I agree that if you want to put European-style gun control in place in the US it will be necessary to repeal the 2nd Amendment – which we can’t actually do; we have to add an amendment that declares it null. Good luck with that. There is no public pressure to do that even after the recent shooting.

    • We had a federal ban on the sale of assault weapons from 1994 until 2004 when Bush let it expire. It wasn’t in violation of the 2nd amendment and there was no giant public outcry. At the very least the sale of 100-round magazines of ammunition over the freakin’ Internet should be banned. At the very least…

  3. Our politicians are so cowed by the NRA that even though most people in this country are in favor of gun control nothing ever gets done. And, of course, the NRA is just a front for the people who make and sell guns.

    But I have another question: Why do crazy young men go in for killing people?

  4. Fewer guns and more gun laws do not equal fewer murders or even fewer gun murders. The U.S. ranks number one in the world in gun ownership and number of guns; about 88 guns per 100 people or 35-50 percent of the world’s civilian owned guns. The U.S. ranks 51st in the number of murders and 28th in the number of gun murders. Around 9,000 gun murders are committed in the U.S. annually (about 3 per 100,000 people). If each of these is committed with a different gun then less than one half of one percent of the roughly 270 million guns in the U.S. are used to commit murders. Brazil has 90 percent fewer guns than the U.S. (8 guns per 100 people) yet has 6 times the gun murder rate (18 per 100,000 people). South Africa has a murder rate of 38 per 100,000 with 17 of these being gun murders. Russia, not exacly known for widespread gun ownership has a murder rate of 16 per 100,000 and Jamaica has a gun murder rate of 39 per 100,000. Regarding civil war; the population of Syria is about 23 million, so 7500 civil war deaths is a much greater percentage of the total population than 9,000 murders is of the U.S. with a population of over 300 million. A civil war is a war between opposing groups of citizens of the same country. Occasional and unconnected psychotic killers acting out their evil fantasies do not make a civil war anymore than murders committed during robberies etc do. Calling for simplistic and unrealistic solutions is easy; specific reality is not so easy. What new gun laws do you want? Are they Constitutional? How will they be enacted and enforced? 48% of U.S. households own guns; will government agents begin sweeping all household to catalog guns and gun owners? Should the 99% of gun owners who don’t commit crimes with their guns be punished for the crimes of the 1% ( or less)? What type of bureacracy will be necessary to keep records and administer new gun laws? What will implementation of new gun laws cost the taxpayers? And, most importantly, how effective will new gun laws be? Statistically only a very few guns are used for crime (less than one half of one percent in murders); so how much can this number realistically be reduced by more gun laws? Without firearms murderers have other weapons to choose from and murders by other means than firearms will increase. Have more and more drug laws given us victory in the “war on drugs”? There is no civil war in the U.S. and saying that there is one is a simplistic, uninformed, alarmist claim. However one way to probably guarantee a civil war in the U.S. is to attempt to deny U.S. citizens the right to keep and bear arms. Has our Republic really fallen so low and have our citizens become so base and irresponsible that they can’t be trusted by our government to maintain the right to keep and bear arms? If so then the American experiment in democracy and individual freedom has apparently failed.

  5. My tranquil little island of Alameda sits right next to one of the “Murder Capitals” of the US., Oakland, California. People are shot and killed in Oakland just about daily. In Alameda, we have had maybe 10 gun incidents in the 20 years I’ve lived here. I don’t know how the gang bangers get guns, but it’s for sure they are not licensed and registered firearms. While California has some of the strictest gun regulations in the country, it hasn’t kept violence off of our streets either. A lone gunman walked into an adult school in Oakland and shot students and teachers not long ago. He had been rejected from the program and he was unhappy about it.

    Arming citizens is not the answer. Gun laws in certain places including Colorado, Arizona and Alaska are practically non-existent. In Oklahoma, my 90 year old aunt has a “conceal carry” permit, but someone broke into her home and stole her gun. That criminal act may have saved her life, but it may cost someone else theirs.

    I don’t believe that responsible gun ownership should be outlawed. But I do think the regulations surrounding gun ownership should be greatly increased. People should have to have thorough background checks, including medical and financial histories, take gun safety classes, and show proof that they have a sturdy gun safe.

    I don’t know how we can prevent men from blowing up buildings though. Nor do I understand the anger and hatred that some people feel that drives them to acts of mass murder.

  6. Loved that last paragraph. And I agree with you totally. But then I’m a left-leaning Canadian liberal, aren’t I. Here in Canada we’ve had problems too, particularly in Toronto with several incidents lately. In fact, a woman killed in the Aurora massacre narrowly missed being shot at the Eaton’s Centre incident in downtown Toronto.

    In Canada, our right of centre government just killed our national gun registry. What the hell is happening to our countries?

  7. Once again, I find yours is the most informative and enlightening of commentary about what the hell is happening.

    Still pondering this mess, but hung on this thought:
    You say ” Our love of guns is irrational…”
    Well, no love is rational; is it?

  8. You have my full sympathy in this matter. I know what it’s like to have such horrors occur in your backyard. While Toronto has remained relatively free of such extremes, we’ve been having a sudden surge of mindless shootings in the past few weeks, and it feels like something secure and friendly has suddenly become strange and frightening.

    I have a response, which I was going to post here, but instead I’ve posted it on my own site in order not to hijack your comment thread. You can read it here.

  9. Extremely informative. I wanted to thank you for this excellent post. I surely enjoyed each little bit of it and I have you bookmarked to check out more new stuff you post in the future.

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