Hypocrisy, Drunk Driving, and Gun ControlDecember 16, 2012
Disclaimer: The point of this article is not to argue for or against gun control. The point is to illuminate inconsistencies in the way humans think, and to make you stop and think about your own thought processes.
In the United States in 2007 there were 12,632 homicides with a firearm. This does not include firearm related suicides (another 17,352). Accurate statistics of gun ownership is not available, but most estimates are around 200-250 million legally owned firearms in the U.S. Also in the U.S. during 2007 there were 247 million registered automobiles, and 13,041 fatalities from drunk driving. In 2006 there were 22,073 alcohol related deaths (I assume this includes deaths from DUI).
For our purposes today, the homicide rates from firearms and guns/DUI is identical. Of course they are not perfectly identical, and they flip flop on which has more depending on the year. But the numbers are close enough for this discussion, as absolute accuracy is not required.
Every life is precious. Every life has untold value left untapped. The loss of every life has a ripple effect on family, the community, and society. So why do we not treat fatalities from DUI the same value that we treat fatalities from mass shootings?
When people talk about gun control they talk about banning certain types of guns, banning certain features of guns, or banning all guns outright. We never hear about car bans. We never (lately) hear about banning all alcohol sales. We even give people with DUI convictions second chances, and return their drivers licence after some period. If we banned all private cars or alcohol, would we not save as many lives as if guns magically ceased to exist in the U.S.?
At this point those in favor of gun control will be saying something like, “but the only purpose of a gun is to kill, and cars have other purposes”. To which I say, “All life is precious”. Is your right to drive 3 minutes to the store more valuable than someones life? Is the inconvenience of public transportation more valuable than the life of a child?
I am not seriously proposing banning of cars and alcohol, but it does make one pause and reflect on what is important to us.
The truth is that we value our cars much more than those 13,041 people killed by DUI in 2007. We value our alcohol much more than those 22,073 people killed by alcohol. But we value some lives. We value those 12,632 people who were shot in 2007, because they are the easy ones to value. Because banning guns does not inconvenience our daily lives, but banning cars does. We have to drink that beer or wine at that party, so we are unconcerned with those that die from alcohol.
Aren’t we the hypocrite for wanting to ban guns, yet not banning alcohol or cars? Shouldn’t we be ashamed for only valuing the “low hanging fruit”?
So let’s go back to the “guns only purpose is to kill” statement. There are many purposes for a gun that do not involve killing of people. Of course there are the shooting sports (target shooting, shooting competitions, etc.). People use guns for hunting, which in some areas and for some animals is an important method of population control to maintain healthy wildlife. Guns are used for survival, especially in remote areas. And of course guns are used for protection from human and non-human threats. All of these are legal uses for a firearm.
The people who are pro gun control do not see the value in these legal uses for a gun. That’s not really a fault of theirs, because maybe they live in a relatively safe urban environment where they don’t need to worry about bears invading their home, or they don’t need to protect themselves from intruders. The shooting sports is of no interest to them (much like I don’t care for the Ballet).
So lets talk about something that strikes closer to home: rape. In the U.S. there are approximately 208,000 sexual assaults a year. That is one every two minutes. 84% of rapists used physical force only (no weapons). If you are a woman, your chances of being raped are near 4% by the time you turn 40.
Statistics on rape are hard to find. Research on rape prevention are even harder. But this paper has some interesting numbers. When a sexual assault occurs, women who used non-aggressive methods (crying, pleading, etc.) to deal with their attacker were raped 96% of the time. Women who used a forceful verbal resistance (screaming) were raped 44-50% of the time. Running away resulted in only 15% of the victims being raped. Hitting, punching, etc. resulted in 14% of the women raped. And women who used guns or knives were raped only 1% of the time. No statistics were available for the use of pepper spray.
Guns have their place in society. They have legal uses. In some cases there are no non-gun alternatives. The vast majority of gun owners law abiding citizens, just like the vast majority of car drivers or beer drinkers.
We are hypocrites for valuing some lives more than others, simply because we view them as “low hanging fruit”. We are essentially arm-chair-quarterbacks when we want to make policy decisions on things that really have little to no effect on our lives. We are cowards for yelling the slogans of political and social change without getting involved ourselves.
If you want to save lives, then learn the issues and go out and save lives. Don’t just put a “Coexist” bumper sticker on your car and call it good. Volunteer at a homeless shelter. Do some hard labor with Habitat For Humanity.
If you want to ban guns, fine. But get involved with a rape prevention program too. Do what you can to provide young people with alternatives to joining gangs. Help with suicide prevention programs and try to prevent some of the 35,000 suicides per year in the U.S..
When a mass shooting happens, it is easy and even fashionable to join the rally for change. But what does that change really mean? Is it just lip service, or is it real and meaningful change? Sadly, most of the time it is just lip service.
Get involved. Become a boot on the ground for saving lives. Learn the facts about whatever topics or social issues that are important to you, and learn the facts that put those issues in perspective. Make sure that the change you want will have the desired effect. And above all, understand that all life is valuable– not just the low hanging fruit.