I own guns.
I enjoy shooting.
I shoot competitively from time to time.
I used to hunt, but I gave that up years ago. Anymore, I just find joy in punching holes in paper.
This, in the eyes of many, makes me a paranoid malefactor. Lots of people – mostly people from urban areas or the right and left coasts – believe guns have only two purposes – death and destruction.
But people around here tend to know better and people in places like Wyoming, the Dakotas, Utah, Arizona, Texas, et. al. know way better.
To me, the troubling thing about the gun debate has always been how misinformed people are about guns. And that’s not even really their fault.
For decades there has been this propagation of anti-gun rhetoric foisted upon us by an all-too compliant media, which, by any measure, is not fond of guns.
The idea is to make guns seem as sinister as possible.
Even in innocent, innocuous ways the media does this without even realizing it. We have all read stories about guns “going off.”
He was cleaning his gun when it “went off.” Or, he was climbing down from his tree stand when his gun “went off.”
This kind of reporting ascribes a certain level of life to a completely inanimate object. I can tell you with certainty that if that was really the case with guns, I wouldn’t own one. I would be scared to death of them.
But if you took a survey I bet you would find a surprisingly high percentage of people who believe a gun can “go off” all on its own.
The simple truth is, guns only “go off” if there is a live round in the firing chamber and somebody pulls the trigger. Any modern firearm is incapable of “going off” in any other way. Think of the liability gunmakers would face if guns could just “go off” on their own.
Guns are dangerous, to be sure. But they aren’t that dangerous.
Also troubling is the way gun violence in America is reported these days.
It would seem to me the first step to solving any problem would be to accurately portray the problem. I just don’t see that happening. From what I see, media bend over backward to make gun violence seem as big a problem as possible.
And when there is any “good news” regarding guns, you never hear about it.
For example, a recent survey showed that most Americans – 56 percent – thought that gun violence and violent crime were on the rise in the U.S.
But the truth is violent crime in general and gun crime in specific is significantly down, even as the number of guns owned by Americans has been rising exponentially.
According to the U.S. Justice Department, in 1994, Americans owned roughly 192 million guns.
The best guess today is that the number of guns has risen to somewhere in the neighborhood of 320 million.
During that same period, gun murders per capita have been cut in half.
The gun murder rate in 193 was 7.0 per 100,000, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
By 2000 the gun murder rate per 100,000 was 3.8. And despite a slight uptick in the mid-2000s, by 2013, the rate was even lower, at 3.5.
This is inarguable.
Americans own 67 percent more guns yet are killing each other half as often.
More guns, more crime, more death simply isn’t true. Yet we are made to believe it is.
Even the simplest statistics are bandied about in misleading, deceptive ways. Throughout this most recent gun debate I kept hearing about 30,000 “gun deaths” last year. It’s true, there were 30,000 gun deaths, but roughly 21,000 of those were suicides.
Now, 8,000 or 9,000 is still a lot of gun deaths, but 30,000 makes it sound way worse. Are we to surmise that had there been no guns, those 21,000 suicides would have been averted?
I understand that even one gun death is too many. Zero is the goal.
The question is, how do we get to that goal?
President Obama has some ideas and this week signed 23 executive orders designed to address the problem of gun violence in America.
Here’s a rundown, according to Forbes.com:
1. Issue a presidential memorandum to require federal agencies to make relevant data available to the federal background check system.
2. Address unnecessary legal barriers, particularly relating to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, that may prevent states from making information available to the background check system.
3. Improve incentives for states to share information with the background check system.
4. Direct the attorney general to review categories of individuals prohibited from having a gun to make sure dangerous people are not slipping through the cracks.
5. Propose rulemaking to give law enforcement the ability to run a full background check on an individual before returning a seized gun.
6. Publish a letter from ATF to federally licensed gun dealers providing guidance on how to run background checks for private sellers.
7. Launch a national safe and responsible gun ownership campaign.
8. Review safety standards for gun locks and gun safes (Consumer Product Safety Commission).
9. Issue a presidential memorandum to require federal law enforcement to trace guns recovered in criminal investigations.
10. Release a DOJ report analyzing information on lost and stolen guns and make it widely available to law enforcement.
11. Nominate an ATF director.
12. Provide law enforcement, first responders and school officials with proper training for active shooter situations.
13. Maximize enforcement efforts to prevent gun violence and prosecute gun crime.
14. Issue a presidential memorandum directing the Centers for Disease Control to research the causes and prevention of gun violence.
15. Direct the attorney general to issue a report on the availability and most effective use of new gun safety technologies and challenge the private sector to develop innovative technologies.
16. Clarify that the Affordable Care Act does not prohibit doctors asking their patients about guns in their homes.
17. Release a letter to health care providers clarifying that no federal law prohibits them from reporting threats of violence to law enforcement authorities.
18. Provide incentives for schools to hire school resource officers.
19. Develop model emergency response plans for schools, houses of worship and institutions of higher education.
20. Release a letter to state health officials clarifying the scope of mental health services that Medicaid plans must cover.
21. Finalize regulations clarifying essential health benefits and parity requirements within ACA exchanges.
22. Commit to finalizing mental health parity regulations.
23. Launch a national dialogue led by Secretaries Sebelius and Duncan on mental health.
I really don’t have a problem with any of that stuff. Very little of it would have any impact on lawful gun owners.
I actually like No. 13.
Crack down. Aggressively prosecute all gun crimes. Bust people who possess guns illegally.
In addition, pass a federal law providing for a mandatory sentence (10-years, maybe?) for anyone who commits a crime with a gun. .
Target criminals, not law-abiding gun owners.
Think about drunk driving.
It used to be a bigger problem 30 years ago than it is today.
But then we cracked down. Tougher laws. Increased enforcement. Checkpoints. Designated drivers. Free cab rides.
Drunk driving is still a problem, but the number of deaths has been cut in half since 1980. I’m confident the same thing could happen with gun crimes.
But not by virtue of any of President Obama’s executive orders. And not by banning this or that gun or this or that magazine.
The best way to combat gun violence is with tough sentences for gun crimes and strict enforcement of gun laws.