Only a few days before James Holmes gunned down 12 people at a midnight screening of Batman, Nathan Van Wilkins went on a shooting spree outside an Alabama bar, injuring 17.
Only five months before these shootings, George Zimmerman shot dead Trayvon Martin, an unarmed teenager for little reason in Florida.
Amidst these shooting, John Velleco, director of federal affairs for Gun Owners of America, is unsurprisingly confident little in the way of gun-control will be legislated. Velleco told the press he was tired of gun-control advocates exploiting tragedy to attack gun rights. “Restricting the rights of law-abiding citizens is not going to stop a crazed madman,” he said.
And yet, the statistics are clear. There are 4 homicides per 100,000 people in the United States per year, compared with 0.44 per 100,000 in France, 0.76 per 100,000 in Canada, and 0.17 per 100,000 in New Zealand. This is unsurprising. The United States has by far the highest rate of gun ownership. For every 100 residents, there are 88.8 guns, and it’s not only popular, but also protected by the constitution; a right to keep and bear arms.
And now, proponents of gun ownership rights rally under some empty notion of freedom. Freedom for what purpose? One poll found American gun owners thought protection against crime was the biggest reason for owning a firearm. Surely this is the domain for law enforcement, and surely a proliferation of guns increases the likelihood of violent crimes.
Even if someone were to think this is a valid reason, surely restricting gun ownership in some way would be an appropriate caution. In 2010 there were approximately 300 million firearms owned by Americans. 200 million of these firearms were either rifles or shotguns. Not only can people carry rifles and shotguns, but in at least 40 states, they can do so concealed, and in public places.
Surely there is some variety of permits required to purchase these weapons? In most states, a permit is not required. No specific permit is required in several states to be able to carry a concealed weapon. As for federal regulations? The Government Accountability Office had a 100% success rate buying firearms with a fake driver’s license.
So Americans have freedom. The freedom to carry around heavy weapons, concealed on their person, wherever they like, with very little in the way of licensing. Instead of having to prove a need and a degree of fitness for a firearm, it seems to be the other way around.
That relaxed concept of personal responsibility may seem enticing to your everyday high-school libertarian, but a country of 315 million people is no place for an ideological sandbox. By the time someone proves they don’t have the necessary personal responsibility to own a firearm, it might just be too late.