Thursday, April 19, 2007

What Can Be Drawn From The Virginia Tech Shooting

It was a horrific tragedy that happened on the beautiful campus of Virginia Tech just a few short days ago, where 32 innocent lives were violently taken away, with the disturbed gunman taking his own.

As with many devastating events such as this, there is always talk about this country’s gun laws and gun culture. A day after the April 16 shooting, many politicians, gun opponents and Europeans voiced their concerns about the killings, laying blame on the availability of guns in America.

They will have knee-jerk reactions to this and damning the right to bear arms while at the same time, Europe will pat themselves on the back for their strict gun laws. However, one really needs to sit back and look at the other side of the issue and realize that strict gun control laws may not be the cure-all for violent crime in this country or any other.

A few years ago, in 2004, right before the Federal Assault Weapons Ban was about to expire during the last presidential elections, a very quiet U.S. Department of Justice report was released that showed that the ban did not do anything to stop crime. Called “An Updated Assessment of the Federal Assault Weapons Ban: Impacts on Gun Markets and Gun Violence, 1994-2004,” it was the third such report by the department; the other two were under the Clinton Administration.

“Because the ban has not yet reduced the use of large capacity magazines in crime, we cannot clearly credit the ban with any of the nation’s recent drop in gun violence,” the report stated.

This report did not get much coverage in the media, even though the ban was a hot topic among the gun community, either for opponents or supporters. (Although, a certain editor for a great news blog happened upon the report by accident while writing about the ban when working for a weekly newspaper.)

A popular myth about gun control is that less guns means less crime or that most gun owners do not actually defend themselves against criminals. Well, researchers such as Gary Kleck, Ph.D., and others show that citizens who legally own guns live in low-crime areas and they actually protect themselves.

It’s interesting how it does not get reported how honest citizens with guns actually help stop crimes, such as the Pearl, Mississippi school shooting, where an assistant principal used his own gun to subdue a teen gunman. Or how two armed Appalachian School of Law students subdued a killer with a gun. But alleged media bias is a different topic for a different day.

Getting back on topic, our nation’s capital, Washington, D.C., has strict gun control laws but the crime rate is extremely high. While according to a mother of a Virginia Tech student, many students on campus are hunters and belong to gun clubs but do not bring their weapons to school.

In fact, many down South own guns yet they do not have the violent crime rate that cities like Washington, D.C. or New York have, where gun laws are strict. It’s safe to say that the South have more of an understanding and respect for guns than the North.

Many gun opponents look at Europe as a utopia because of their hard stance on bearing arms. However, the reality is criminals can still get their hands on guns from the black market or use other weapons, such as knifes. In 2003, England saw a 12-percent jump of violent crime between April and June of that year. And gun crimes also increased as well. In fact, a British burglar was interviewed about England’s gun laws and he said it made him feel safer to break into other people’s homes since they can't defend themselves. But this is something that Europe and gun opponents like to keep a silencer on, if you pardon the pun.

What is interesting is that many liberals who say that the Patriot Act takes away too many civil liberties are more than happy to take away the Second Amendment from honest citizens who either want to protect themselves and their families or they want to enjoy hunting or target shooting. You simply cannot have it both ways.

The sad reality is that bad people do bad things. Cho Seung-Hui is a good example of this. But let’s look at a man who walked into a Japanese language school with a knife and a baseball bat and beat a student. And speaking about Japan and gun laws, Nagasaki Mayor Iccho Itoh died of gun wounds from a known criminal and this is a country known for its gun control laws.

There are two sides to every issue but extreme solutions and knee-jerk reactions (and non-objective reporting) will do more harm than good. Let this tragedy be a reminder to all of us that no one is truly safe no matter where we happen to live or the safe guards that are meant to protect us. And it is foolish to restrict our Constitutional Right to bear arms and protect ourselves and our loved ones the way we see fit.