Safety — A Personal Responsibility

France.

San Bernadino.

Sandy Hook.

Actually, assault deaths in the USA are way down since a peak in the late 1970's

If one were to pay attention to the news on a daily basis, the world might seem to be a very dangerous place. “Mass shootings” appear to be on the rise. Acts of terrorism are sweeping through the western world. Theft, murder, and other crimes run rampant. We are in danger, and we must find safety. In fact, is safety not one of the primary motivations societies have had for creating governments? Why is our government not keeping us safe?

Because they can’t.

Sure, a military is a great deterrent against other governments who may wish to conquer and take our land and treasure. A police force can provide what we can call a high-risk environment for perpetrating crimes. But when individual actors decide to initiate an attack within the peaceful confines of our protected nation, the only persons or organizations that can counter such actions are those who are already present at the scene at the moment of the attack.

The topic of “gun rights” or “gun control” is one that is heavily politicized, with hardline activists on both sides of the debate throwing false facts and hyperbolic numbers at each other. Words are carefully crafted in stump speeches, televised debates, and advertising that are specifically tailored to demonize the other side and provoke deep, emotional reaction. We end up yelling at each other and claiming that the other side wants to kill babies rather than taking an objective look at the facts and making an attempt to solve the issue.

Cartoons like this one do not help anyone …
… and neither do cartoons like this one.

Let’s drop any allegiance we might have to the NRA and eliminate any fantasies we might have about a gun-free world … and look plainly at cold, hard, indisputable facts.

Fact 1:

When an individual decides to perpetrate a crime, it is generally assumed that they will get away with said crime — for the moment. The reason is simple. From the point the police are notified of a crime to the point of their arriving on scene, unless there is already an officer at the location ( and likely already responding as they are observing the crime in progress ), there is always a delay of at least a few minutes. A bank robber is going to get cash out of the drawer and may even hop into a getaway car before the police respond and capture them. A burglar will walk away with your jewelry and electronics long before you’re even aware of the crime and are able to call the police. A shooter will be able to empty magazine after magazine of ammo before any officer arrives to stop them.

Image taken from FBI study on active shooter events between 2000 and 2012. Note that 51 of the 104 incidents were fully resolved before the police even arrived.
Taken from the same FBI study of active shooter events between 2000 and 2012, police response times to the incidents. Fifty one data points are represented ( times were not available for others ), only four have a response time of less than 1 minute … and those likely indicate an officer already at the scene at the time of report.

Let me state that last bit one more time, but in a different manner: if you are faced with an active shooter, the police cannot save you. Not unless you know of a firearm that takes up to fifteen minutes to pull the trigger. For the uninformed, it does not take even 1 full second to pull a trigger. Unless you or another individual at the scene is able to act in some way to stop the shooter, it is guaranteed that people will be harmed.

Fact 2:

A completely sane and seemingly logical reaction to the above fact might be to argue that we should ensure that no one has access to a gun, or really to any weapon ( a weapon being an instrument built primarily for the purpose of harming or killing another living being, we’re avoiding politicized arguments like the whole “take away baseball bats” thing ). That’s a good argument and should be thoroughly explored.

  • Only 4% of guns used in crimes are obtained legally, 96% are illegally acquired. That means there is not a proposed gun law in existence that would stop more than 4% of gun crimes.
  • However, guns stolen from law-abiding citizens are a primary source of illegal gun ownership, creating an argument that if they weren’t available to be stolen in the first place, criminals would not have illegal guns.
  • Unfortunately, it’s not likely that our military or police forces will be giving up their firearms, which means that guns will continue to be produced and continue to be placed in locations where they might be stolen — even if they’re legally available only to police and military forces.
  • Even if the police and military locked their guns up in perfectly secure locations and no single individual at any gun manufacturing plant was subject to bribery or criminal activity of their own, it is currently possible to 3D print a fully operational gun in its entirety from home, using materials that would not cause any suspicion whatsoever.
  • If 96% of firearms used in crimes are illegally obtained, then, for 96% of crimes involving a firearm, the only party being hurt by increased gun control legislation is the victim who, being law-abiding, has abdicated their capacity for self-defense ( whether they would actually act in self-defense or not is irrelevant, their opportunity to do so has been reduced and the criminal enjoys less risk of reprisal ).

Fact 3:

If we cannot eliminate the existence of guns, maybe we can ensure that every person in society is adequately protected by either trained police officers or trained military personnel? For the sake of envisioning a better world, let’s even ignore that doing so would be an absolute logistical impossibility.

Police, FBI agents, soldiers, airmen, marines, and sailors are all human beings. They are generally upstanding, law-abiding human beings, but they are human beings just like the rest of us. What makes a police officer inherently more trustworthy than your friend Joe who has no arrest record and owns a supermarket down the street? An individual should never place more trust in the behavior of another based solely on their occupation. The truth is that all of us are people, and all of us generally want a better, safer, and more prosperous world. If you cannot trust your neighbor to have a gun, you should not be able to trust a police officer with a gun.

Police officers are generally good people. So are your neighbors. I share the above statistics not to demonize the police, but to show that even officers are human and some of them are bad.

Fact 4:

While it is difficult to determine exactly how many violent crimes may have been stopped by armed law-abiding citizens because such crimes often stop before they become violent, there are copious credible incidents where armed persons acting as civilians stopped violent crimes in process.

Further, it is a well-understood fact that criminals look for the weakest targets possible and that gun ownership, or even suspected gun ownership, often deters criminals and causes them to choose a different target.

Above is the result of a survey done by Professors James D. Wright and Peter Rossi and paid for by the US Department of Justice. The professors interviewed 1,874 imprisoned felons in 10 states.

Conclusion:

In light of the four facts listed above, the only sensible thing that any individual — politician, law enforcement official, or otherwise — interested in the actual safety of the populace can argue for is the voluntary arming and training of any law-abiding citizen who wishes it. In fact, I would go so far as to say the government should sponsor fire-arms training and situation analysis courses free of charge throughout the country for any who wish to participate in them. Because the only way to save ourselves from those who would do us harm is to have the ability to act in self-defense.

The United States of America was based on the principle that the people knew better how to govern themselves than the King of England and his representatives knew how to govern them. It was based on empowering the common citizen. It was based on allowing us to take situations into our own hands and trusting us to act on them appropriately. So why don’t we do that? Why don’t we dramatically increase the safety of every man, woman, and child by actively encouraging the vast multitude of good, law-abiding citizens to become responsible gun owners and concealed-carry participants? That way, the next time a bad actor considers acting badly, they will also have to consider the risks of immediate armed retaliation.