This past weekend, I took a trip down to Nashville, Tennessee with a good friend of mine. One of the highlights was getting to listen to Rick Steves (a big travel guy on PBS) about travelling and his thoughts on things.
I was unfortunately disappointed with portions of his discussion when it came to political topics. While I agreed with him on some things, on others I eventually felt as though he contradicted himself when I reflected on it (my friend had similar conclusions).
In the spirit of trying to find the truth in things as a Christian, I want to delve into the topics I disagreed with him on to figure out exactly what the right perspective on these issues is. The topics boil down to a handful that I can remember (though there may be more), and include: gun ownership vs crime rates, government entitlements vs happiness, national debt vs poverty, legislating morality, legalization of prostitution and hard drugs, and lowering speed limits.
For this first post, I want to focus on gun ownership and its effect on crime rates. Steves made a point that in the United States, we have “The highest violent crimes rate in the developed world” and that in Germany and other European countries where there are very strict gun control laws (owning guns is illegal in some places), there is much less violent crime. This article illustrates some of the points he made: http://www.guninformation.org/.
Now, I want to examine some of the key points of this FAQ-style article. The final point reads like this:
MYTH:Gun ownership is a protection against political tyranny.
TRUTH: Private ownership of guns was very common under Saddam Hussein’s regime (source).It certainly didn’t protect the Iraqi people against political tyranny. Gun ownership was legalized in Germany in 1928, five years before Hitler rose to power. Despite the claims of pro-gun activists, gun ownership did nothing to stop a tyrant like Hitler from seizing power. In 1938, Germany’s gun laws were relaxed except in the case of Jews.
Well, not exactly. The Wikipedia article on the topic of Germany’s gun control laws is a bit more thorough: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gun_politics_in_Germany#The_1938_German_Weapons_Act.
In particular, it is clear that in 1928, although gun control laws were relaxed, they were also enforced more strongly in 1938, after Hitler had seized power. His targeting of Jewish ownership of guns should indicate the perspective he had: those opposed to his regime would be more dangerous with firearms.
And that makes sense. If a culture wants to rise up against an oppressive regime, it must have weapons. But weapons don’t cause the nation to have this desire. It must be present already. The founders of the United States made that perfectly clear: http://cap-n-ball.com/fathers.htm.
As far as the earlier points on the article go and the points Steves had to make went, I think it is curious that the statistics aren’t quite as clear as they would need to be to make their cases: http://gunowners.org/op0746.htm. Looking at other nations (outside of Germany), it is clear that gun ownership and crime rates are not always parallel and sometimes inverted. Another quote from the article appears like this (it made me chuckle reading it, so I wanted to examine it):
MYTH:“Guns don’t kill, people kill people” is a good argument against gun control.
TRUTH: This pro-gun argument makes about as much sense as claiming that “glasses don’t see, eyes see” is a good argument against wearing glasses.
This doesn’t line up for me logically. People are responsible for killing (whether 1500 years ago before guns were invented but murder was still around, or today), and eyes are responsible for seeing (whether poor or well, despite or because of glasses). In both cases, it would seem logical to say that the human is the responsible agent (the one who kills or the one who sees), and the glasses or the guns are merely a tool. People can see without glasses and they can murder without weapons. Both simply give them more options to do both. However, neither need be used maliciously.
Overall, I think this is a very tricky issue. But the common sense and statistical information points to the majority of cases of violence being culturally induced, and gun control being linked with less freedoms as citizens.