On September 27, 2001 Friedrich Leibacher, 57, of Zurich, Switzerland gunned down and killed 14 officials of the canton of Zug with a 5.6mm assault rifle. None of the victims had a chance to defend themselves. Other similar tragedies have continued to occur in Europe, and the United Stataes, since then. In Israel about 10% of adults are licensed to carry concealed weapons and it is unusual to see a group of children not accompanied by an armed adult. Research shows that states which have passed “right-to-carry” laws have discovered that deaths and injuries from multiple-victim shootings of strangers has significantly decreased but that non-stranger homicides has increased.
In his short story “The Most Dangerous Game” Richard Connell spins the tale of a person being hunted for sport on a isolated island by its crazed owner. In the United States today it now seems fair to give our hunted a sporting chance for survival. There continue to be 11-12,000 gun related homicides committed in the U.S. each year. This total is higher than all of those killed with with guns in Canada, England, Japan and New Zealand combined.
A gun is a consumer product, much like a motor vehicle or farm implement. 50,000 deaths occur each year in the United States due to motor vehicles (average 50,779 yearly from 1979 to 1997). About 2,000 farmers loose their lives each year in the United States from runovers, rollovers, and entanglements caused by their mechanical equipment. From these statistics it is clear that motor vehicle safety should deserve center stage attention. Unfortunately, motor vehicle deaths are accepted by most people as a matter of statistics while the issues of guns,and gun control continue to occupy a great deal of our attention and media coverage.
Why is there so much death and violence unique to the United States? Perhaps it relates, to some extent, to the steady diet of violence and death being fed to us, on a daily basis, in our newspapers, magazines, television and other means of communication. Perhaps this is but only another example of the xylotyl phenomenon.
The Second Article to the Amendments of the Constitution of the United States of America provides: A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed. America’s founders clearly desired to provide United States with the means of protecting themselves against harm with arms when such was needed. The confusion about this statement has been the interpretation that this amendment guaranteed gun rights only to militias, and not individuals. In briefs filed with the Supreme Court on May 8, 2002 Attorney General John Ashcroft and the Justice Department supported the view that the Constitution of the United States meant to guarantee gun rights to the individual.
While the second amendment has been consistently a front page issue most American citizens have been unaware that another fundamental principle of American law is that the government, and its agents, are under no general duty to provide public services, such as police protection, to any citizen. The reality is that it is not uncommon for citizens to be in a situation where they legitimately require possessing the means of self-protection and law enforcement has consistently shown its lack of ability to protect the average citizen as well as provide them with guns for their personal protection from criminals.
Where are the firearms of America? Well, about 98% are in the hands of law enforcement, collectors, hunters, etc. On a percentage basis the criminal element have few weapons compared to other owners. This is one of the many reasons that gun prohibition is simply not workable. Handgun prohibition will not make the streets any safer. What about the more intelligent control of firearms?
Law enforcement in the United States is not geared to the protection of individual citizens and is clearly, in many environments, unable to effectively cope with endemic crime. Maybe a day will come when homo sapiens will evolve into a higher order of beast having a greater respect for the sanctity of life. Until that time comes, however, it is unrealistic to think that death, destruction or mayhem on our streets and in our homes will abate spontaneously. Given the rights granted to the citizens of the United States by the Constitution is it not prudent to allow fully qualified individuals the prospect of possessing effective self-protection with readily available consumer products?
One, of many, key issues in this regard is that of permitting “concealed carry.” This means the right, of a qualified individual, to carry concealed weapons. The right to drive a car requires licensure and other obligations. The right to concealed carry should include the same.
The process for determining candidates for concealed carry should:
Qualify as law-abiding citizens with clean criminal records.
Demonstrate continuing competence and proficiency in the use of firearms. Under the ideal circumstance such overview would be provided directly by the police force.
Demonstrate knowledge and understanding of the rules and regulations pertaining to firearms.
Require recertification at required intervals.
Understand the circumstances under which these permits can be revoked.
Have an appeal process for such revocation.
To achieve balance in allowing the possession of firearms is clearly not an easy task. A more enlightened approach should decrease some of the many burdens of the law enforcement establishment. It would also give criminals a reason to pause before committing an illegal act. The success (or failure) of such an approach could be readily monitored and revised (or discontinued) according tothe documentation of success or failure.