Are More Guns the Solution?

In the red wake of the horrible tragedy at Virginia Tech in which more than 30 students died at the hands of a single crazed shooter, weirdness rules. On a number of college campuses across the country last week, sick hoaxes emptied dorms and classrooms. The weirdest sequel of all, however, was a call by the Virginia Citizens Defense League to permit students over 21 to carry concealed weapons.
VCDL’s President Phillip Van Cleave was quoted by the media as contending, “Imagine what would happen if the gunman was lining people up and somebody had pulled a gun and shot him in the head — this would be over,” Never mind that the Virginia Tech killer reportedly entered classrooms randomly and just started spraying bullets. Would the result, if other students had been packing, more likely have been a sort of gunfight at the OK Corral?
More significant are these statistics for 2004, the most recent year for which comprehensive data is available on the web:
• Of 29,569 gun deaths in the U.S., 16,750 (56%) were suicides.
• Among 26 industrial countries, 86% of all gun deaths involving children occurred in the U.S.
• A gun kept in a home was 22 times more likely to be used in a domestic homicide, an accidental shooting, or a suicide than to be used in self-defense.
These stats from the Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence [] suggest that arming all adults, as the VCDL proposal implies, will result in more shootings, not fewer.
Compared to America’s 29,000+ gun deaths in 2004, the United Kingdom reported 163 gun deaths in 2003. Most West European countries, as well as Japan, recorded similarly low incidents of gun-related injury and death. Why? In my humble opinion, it’s mainly because people in those countries don’t have easy access to guns.
Similar to VCDL’s crackpot notion that students over 21 should be authorized to carry concealed firearms is the notion, floated every time a students dies of alcohol poisoning, that the solution is to lower the drinking age to 18. Here it’s the proponents who have the advantage where our European cousins are concerned.
Yes, most European nations have lower drinking ages than the U.S. To my way of thinking, several crucial differences argue against going down the European path of low (or non-existent) drinking ages. First, the U.S. lacks the centuries’ old Continental tradition of treating wine and beer as common items on the lunch and dinner table. Our kids simply aren’t reared to consider alcoholic beverages as commonplace components of every meal.
Second, most Continental kids, like most European adults, especially in urban areas, rely on public transportation. Drunk driving isn’t the threat across the pond that it is in America, where even 16-year-olds have easy access to wheels.
Last but not least, our Euro cousins aren’t armed the way we are. Even the most avid firearm proponent would agree, I think, that booze and bullets don’t mix.
We’d all love a simple solution to the mindless carnage that occurs annually due to firearms and alcohol abuse. Living uncomfortably close to a city which averages in excess of one homicide per day, I would welcome a quick, painless remedy as much as the next guy.
Unfortunately, making firearms and alcohol more easily accessible to young adults is no silver bullet.


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