This is a response to an opinion expressed by columnist Erik Steele in the Dec. 30 Bangor Daily News. He laments the availability of guns in our society, and resistance to gun control, and guesses that 39,000 people will die (needlessly?) next year. I took this as a direct stimulus to find the facts myself, and I challenge any of you to do the same.
First, these 39,000 dead are mostly suicides and criminals killed by police and citizens defending themselves. Actual murder victims are few and getting fewer. When killing a person (whether yourself, a former loved one, or the SOB who cut you off on the highway) is easy to do, it is impossible to control killing entirely. What is the common thread in all murders? Easy — the murderer. The murder rate in New York City is back to pre-gun control levels and why? Better gun control? No, of course not, it’s much more than that.
Second, are guns more available now than, say in 1909, when a medium-quality revolver and 100 cartridges cost the same as five Spaulding baseballs (all from the Sears Catalog, by mail)? Criminals will always have access to whatever they can steal and sell to each other, even in prison, which is much more heavily policed than any tolerable society. Besides, we are all born with several murder weapons at our disposal, and weapons literally grow on trees. It just isn’t cool to kill someone with a stick like it was in the caveman days, when there was no television to show the drama of gun violence.
Third, I challenge the good doctor, or any mortal, to carry all the U.S. gun-control laws if they could be assembled all in one place and printed on paper. People of all intelligences have been trying for decades to find a good gun control law system, but what difference does it make if a murderer is committing five or six offenses at once? That sixth law only adds to the judicial window-dressing. If laws really stopped crime, would we have crime problems? Let’s say Santa came back this January and took away all the guns in the world — do you know how easy it is for a machinist to make a gun in a crude metal shop? Ask the Afghan rebels.
Last, I must concede that some of the 39,000 gun deaths are accidents, but the accidental gun death rate was highest in 1904, not 1997. Just ask any insurance statistician: “Who is more likely to kill someone by accident, a gun collector or a doctor?” For every person shot, accidentally or otherwise, tere are many more people who suffer fatally from medical accidents. It’s just the nature of the human condition.
I think Steele is worried about guns because he sees a few gun violence victims, just like firemen are worried about fire safety ignorance and bankers are worried about Asian stock markets. Investigate the actual numbers behind my words, and think for yourself a little, and start worrying about the condition of your car’s brakes instead of the boy in Detroit who was killed in a drive-by.
Don Albert-Ames lives in Cherryfield.