Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Gun Control Nonsense

I had time to read the paper this morning and the headlines were full of a possible ordinance for the City of Seattle, making guns illegal in the city in all buildings not just government ones. Now I think having sound gun control policies in place is a good thing. However, this proposed one is just another band aid on the whole gun problem in this country. While I support gun control, I am also keenly aware that the right to bear arms is written in our constitution and while city, state, and federal governments throw band aids at the gun "problem" the real issues, that are more difficult to solve, continually get ignored.

This proposed ordinance came about because of an incident at the Folklife Festival in Seattle where a gunman shot some people. This gunman was 22 years old, had a history of drug abuse and mental illness and had a concealed weapons permit. He was in an outdoor area so even with this proposed ordinance, the gun that he carried that day would be legal (the ordinance would only apply inside buildings). Was it the fact that this young gentleman had a gun in hand the reason that he shot people? Perhaps, others with a history of mental illness in our fair city have used other weapons at hand when they are out to harm others. The sabre wielding maniac in the University District comes to mind. I don't know what the laws are against owning sabres, but I have a feeling that it wouldn't have stopped this guy.

The city government now wants to band aid this problem with a puppet ordinance, one that wouldn't have even stopped the crime that it is meant to address if it had been in place at the time. I read headlines about gun control, I don't read headlines about what the government is planning to do to help with mental illness and the subsequent homelessness and substance abuse problems that often occur in these situations. Those are real problems. If they were addressed successfully, we may see lower statistics in gun crime.

I am humored when people in this country look to Europe as an example that we should follow in terms of lower gun crime statistics. Thankfully, the article today did not mention lower gun crime rates in Europe. This could be because the rates are going up, especially in France. The gun crime rates are going up in France because of immigration and more diverse peoples living together in poverty (does this sound familiar)? These are four reasons why I think gun crimes have been lower in Europe since statistics started being tracked several decades ago.

1) Traditionally European countries have been more homogeneous. Unequal groups of people living together in poverty have lived together in poverty for a long time and have learned how to get along with one another. As noted above, this is changing. If different groups of people did not get on well when living in their own country, it is unlikely that they will get along when living in close quarters in a new country.

2) Europe has better health care all the way around. If you want to get help for your mentally ill or drug addicted loved one, you can do so without getting a second mortgage on your home.

3) In Europe people are not as bound by political correctness as we are here. We avoid saying the obvious "your loved one is mentally ill, needs help, and is scaring me and my family" for fear of offending someone. That isn't so much the case overseas.

4) I think that there is underreporting in terms of gun crime in Europe. I know there is for automobile accidents. I saw this first hand, two cars slammed into each other in a village that I was visiting in Italy. The drivers got out, shook their fists at one another, and yelled. Then each returned to their beat up cars and drove off. I suspect that a similar protocol is observed in lesser gun crimes, when homicide or serious injury are not involved. Rather than observing the American way of "how much can I get by going to court over this," people may tend to work things out between themselves.

I think that Bill Murray, a screenwriter, quoted in the Seattle paper today said it best in regards to this goofy proposed ordinance, "The ordinance will marginally increase safety for residents but make the city much safer for criminals."

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