To the Editor:
In light of recent discussion of “gun violence,” here are some facts to frame the issue (most are FBI uniform crime statistics). Suicides account for about two-thirds of all U.S. firearm deaths. The U.S. homicide rate has fallen by more than half since its height between the mid-1970s and early 1990s, despite the addition of a few million firearms every year to U.S. stock. That stock of firearms in the U.S. is estimated to be roughly 300+ million, or about one per person. A little less than half of U.S. households have at least one firearm.
Of 15,129 homicide victims in 2017, about 35 percent were family members, girlfriends or boyfriends. Another 45 percent of homicides are committed with handguns, about 10 percent with sharp instruments, five percent with hands or feet, less than three percent with rifles, less than two percent with shotguns, and the remaining 35 percent either unknown or by other means.
Mass public shootings attract great media attention but have accounted for an average of only 22 deaths per year since the University of Texas bell tower incident in 1966. Military veterans perpetrate a disproportionately large number of mass shootings – roughly 35 percent of incidents versus 13 percent of the population. Internationally, the U.S. ranks 11th in death rate from mass shootings and 12th in frequency of mass shooting incidents – behind Norway, Finland, Switzerland, Belgium, France and other countries.
Current laws allow civilians to own fully automatic firearms manufactured before 1986 following a background check, licensing and payment of a $200 transfer tax. Some 600,000 machine guns are registered and in circulation in the United States. Machine guns are almost never used to commit a homicide.
Semi-automatic rifles are ubiquitous. Some, like the common AR-15 (short for Armalite Rifle, the original manufacturer), have been labeled “assault rifles,” even though they are not functionally different from other semi-automatics and are not, in fact, military weapons. Many millions of semi-automatic rifles are in circulation in the United States. They are used for hunting, competition, defense, etc. and account for only a small fraction of the three percent of homicides committed with any form of rifle.
The militia, referred to in the Second Amendment to our Constitution, is defined as “10 U.S. Code 246 – Militia: Composition and classes (a) The militia of the United States consists of all able-boded males at least 17 years of age and, except as provided in section 313 of title 32, under 45 years of age who are, or who have made a declaration the intention to become, citizens of the United States and of female citizens of the United States who are members of the National Guard.
The Second Amendment was not added to the Constitution to protect hunting, target shooting or even personal defense. The Second Amendment is to protect against a tyrannical government. A disarmed populace is much easier to exploit and control. Most tyrannical regimes either institute or take advantage of civilian disarmament. Lenin, Hitler, Mao, Castro, Maduro and others provide historical examples. In contrast, a legitimate government encourages a well-armed populace to defend the country, help in times or civil disorder and discourage crime. A government that is afraid of an armed population is dangerous and up to no good.
Our country’s history is rooted in popular armed rebellion. Minutemen from surrounding communities brought their military-grade-of-the-day firearms to Concord, Massachusetts, where they thwarted an attempt by the British army to seize guns and powder stored at Major Buttrick’s house. As the revolution progressed, the colonists eventually defeated the most powerful army on earth.
If you don’t think tyranny is possible in this country, think again. The U.S. has drifted toward concentration of power in the bureaucracy and executive for a century now. The legislature has become nearly ineffective, even ceding the power to declare war. Police are becoming increasingly militarized. SWAT teams now execute relatively mundane warrants. “Peace officers” are becoming battle-ready “law enforcement officers.”
If you don’t think that an armed population could resist a rogue government today, think again. Consider Afghanistan. Historically, the Afghans have successfully resisted at least a dozen imperial powers, including Alexander, Genghis Khan, the British, the Russians and now the U.S./NATO.
Any effort to register weapons would facilitate later confiscation and ease the path to dictatorship. We might hope that many current members of the police and military would honor their oath to defend the Constitution and refuse to participate in firearms confiscation, but tyrannical regimes have never wanted for hired thugs to do their bidding. Ultimately, the backstop insurance against tyranny – foreign or domestic – is widespread, unregulated ownership of military-grade arms and ammunition by those willing to come to the defense of the nation.