From the Left: You don't need handguns

By Miles Brady
On November 16, 2012

I'm reasonable. You can keep your shotguns and rifles, but not automatic rifles of course. Anyone who believes they need a Kalashnikov lives on a completely different planet from me. But isn't it great that we live in a country where you can have one? We have so much more to learn from Somalia. Rifles and shotguns have traditional uses. People have hunted for as long as humans have existed. I've dabbled in it myself and can say without shame that I've reverse-drowned many a fish. I'm not interested in stopping hunters, nor in getting sidetracked by complicated animal rights issues, as much as I love distractions.

What I am interested in is telling you that you don't need handguns. The Constitution is a little vague.  It doesn't say what types of arms you get to bear, which allowed us to enforce the now expired assault weapons ban. But more importantly, if the Constitution told you to jump off a bridge, would you do it?  I didn't think so. We could bend the rule without breaking it. We could pick a type of weapon to ban.  

Handguns don't serve a recreational purpose. Anyone could understand that target practice might be fun. But you can do that with shotguns and rifles, and that's all that handguns are good for, that and shooting people. People are injured or killed by a firearm over 100,000 times per year in the United States, according to Center for Disease Control and Prevention data, and every time it happens that is a big "F U" from the second amendment.

But if people are going around shooting each other, don't we need guns to defend ourselves? Not really; people are killed by their own guns more than by those of others. Over 18,000 people were accidentally shot in 2009, and in 2007 over 600 died of accidental shootings, according to CDC data. However, what is really striking is how rarely guns are used successfully in self defense as opposed to murder. 

There were an average of 213 fatal justified shootings per year between 2005 and 2010, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation. In a pure, but probably fairly accurate, extrapolation of the data on my part, you can assume that 15 percent of self-defense shootings are fatal and thus there were only around 1,400 injurious self-defense shootings. For transparency, I get 15 percent from CDC statistics which show that of around 86,000 non-suicidal shootings, there are over 12,000 gunshot fatalities. Excluding suicide, there are around 54 gun murders for every one self-defense fatality, according to CDC and FBI data. About one in 225,000 (approximate - USA population divided by 1,400) Americans will fire a gun in self-defense each year, though about 1 in 2 has one (47 percent according to a Gallup poll from 2011). Many gun owners are convinced that there is a strong possibility that they'll need their gun for self defense, but that would be like winning the lottery. 

Gun-lovers love to think they are responsible. No matter how responsible they are, or think they are, there is a strong possibility that kids will find their guns. My grandfather (to be honest, I question his responsibility) left his gun in the trunk of his car. My cousins and I touched it as kids, and may have picked it up. I don't know if it was loaded. Around five kids are injured or killed by handguns each day in the United States, according to the The Survivors Club. The children of parents you'd probably consider responsible, in one recent case of a police officer, find guns and hurt or kill themselves.

This column has become dark and depressing. It is depressing because we live in the world's most gun obsessed wealthy country. Our culture is too accepting of devices that have no use other than killing people. Having a rifle or shotgun for hunting is understandable, but handguns don't serve this purpose.  Just because they are occasionally used in self defense doesn't make up for all the lives lost. 

The Constitution was designed to do what's best for us (at least us white men). What was best for us over 220 years ago is not what's best for us now (not just white men). We need to continue to adapt, for the betterment of the people. Another amendment clarifying the second amendment would be good but, as the (unfortunately) expired assault weapons ban shows, we don't even need to change the constitution to improve things. We could ban handguns outright. We could also prevent purchases from gun owners, instead of dealers, as this allows convicts and the mentally ill to bypass background checks.  But unless you are in law enforcement or the military, you don't need handguns.  


Miles Brady is a junior English major. He is a running enthusiast, a sports fan and very liberal on most issues. He also likes to think that he is very rational. 

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