Wednesday, July 18 , 2018, 12:04 pm | Fair 71º

 
 
 
 

Randy Alcorn: After Orlando Massacre, Don’t Gun Down Reason

With the mass murder in Orlando, Fla., debate over gun control has reached a fever pitch. Anger, fear, frustration and moralization — the four horsemen of irrationality — are stampeding across the nation.

At the opposing ends of this debate, and teetering at the precipice of zealotry, are the gun huggers and the gun grabbers.

The huggers fervently believe that private citizens have the right to possess any weapon they want. The grabbers vehemently believe that private citizens should not have that right.

The scrimmage line of this debate is the Constitution’s Second Amendment, which each side interprets differently to support its position. The U.S. Supreme Court’s interpretation, however, is closer to the huggers’ than to the grabbers’.

Each side lays down a daily barrage of distorted data, selective statistics and short logic in an effort to sway public opinion. One example of the rhetorical shenanigans is the frequent comparison of the United States to Australia and Switzerland.

The grabbers love to cite Australia’s 1996 ban and buyback of guns as evidence that strict gun-control laws work to reduce gun violence.

Asserting that those laws are what reduced gun fatalities because deaths declined after 1996 is a classic logic error. It assumes cause and effect merely because the laws preceded the declines.

FactCheck.org found that there is no consensus as to whether Australia’s gun laws either decreased or had little effect on gun violence. Indeed, those laws have not prevented criminal gangs in Sydney and Melbourne from acquiring and using guns, including machine guns.

The gun huggers, meanwhile, love to cite Switzerland as evidence that a virtually universally armed civilian population, including with automatic weapons, not only does not increase gun violence, but also virtually eliminates it.

Studying the details of Switzerland’s gun policy, however, reveals that the Swiss approach to gun ownership is essentially the “well-regulated militia.”

At around age 20 all Swiss men are required to serve in the military, where they are thoroughly trained in the use of firearms, which they keep at the conclusion of active duty. They are required to continue military training several weeks each year until age 50.

Swiss women wishing to have guns also receive training. Ammunition and gun purchases are regulated by the government.

The grabbers like to condemn U.S. gun laws as lethally lax compared to gun laws in other developed nations. When confronted with the gun violence in those other nations, they discount it as anomalous and statistically insignificant.

For an honest, unbiased comparison among countries, the sample has to be far greater than a dozen or so cherry-picked countries. The definition of “developed nation” cannot be arbitrarily narrowed as it is by those manipulating the data to arrive at the desired conclusion that the United States is inordinately dangerous.

A comparison including Germany and tiny Norway, but excluding Argentina, Chile and Turkey will yield much different results.

It is murder by firearms, especially mass murder, that elicits the greatest alarm. More than 60 percent of the annual gun deaths in America are suicide, not murder.

That leaves about 13,000 murders by guns annually. Against a national population of 320 million people, about a third of whom own guns, that is an infinitesimal fraction — but here the grabbers’ definition of anomalous and statistical insignificance curiously changes.

The huggers note that the worst mass murders in America did not involve guns, and that most murders are committed without guns. They rarely discuss the greater utility and ease with which people can be killed with guns, particularly rapid-fire guns.

They prefer repeating the mantra that if more good guys were carrying guns, bad guys would be stopped. Although there are numerous instances where this has happened, the armed off-duty cop outside the Orlando massacre site quickly retreated when confronted with the assailant’s greater firepower.

So, to be an effective deterrent, would the good guys need to pack semi-automatics and multiple magazines? Many folks can’t keep track of their cell phones, how are they going to do carrying guns and ammo clips with them everywhere?

I believe most Americans are neither gun huggers nor gun grabbers. They understand that a free society has inherent dangers, and that there can be no land of the free without it being the home of the brave. Not even a suffocating police state can eliminate all risks, but it can eliminate a free society.

As civil liberties continue to be chiseled away by dubious promises of security, police power and abuse of that power steadily swell. If the public could be stripped of its semi-automatic weapons, would the nation’s increasingly militarized police forces give up their military armaments?

The Second Amendment was instituted to enable a free people to remain free by allowing them the weapons to resist tyrants both foreign and domestic. Gun grabbers will dismiss the Second Amendment as a needless anachronism, and ridicule tyranny concerns as wacky paranoia. They are either poor students of history or foolishly trusting.

Whether or not it will necessitate a constitutional amendment to settle what the nation wants to do about gun rights, reasonable people will support gun-control measures that fall somewhere between prohibition and unrestricted access to firearms.

To find that sweet spot requires honest, objective analysis and rational discussion free of intransigent certainties and emotional hyperbole.

— Randy Alcorn is a Santa Barbara political observer. Contact him at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address), or click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.

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