Originally Published: February 1, 2002 5:15 p.m.
Let me simplify the gun control issue.
We've all heard the statistic that only one-tenth of one percent of the firearms in this country ever figure in a crime.
Picture a pie chart with 99- plus percent in white and the rest in black. The black would be the tiniest small wedge. This is the problem area. Here we have the drug dealers, gang members, drive-by shooters, bank robbers and other undesirable scum that plague our society.
The white part represents 70 million American gun owners who wouldn't dream of committing a crime with their firearm because they are honest citizens, and it could possibly contribute to the gun control hysteria. It also might land them in jail. They are housewives, doctors, hunters, gun collectors, factory workers, policemen, and basically our neighbors.
The problem is this. Almost all gun laws adversely affect the large section of the pie and do nothing to the people in the small section. It's all wrong and backward. It should be the other way around. We keep trying to throw the baby out with the bath water. The baby in this case is our right to own firearms.
Is it too much to ask to ask of our lawmakers to make sure their newest legislation passes the pie chart test? Make sure it doesn't affect the people who are not misusing guns? Lets be clear here, our lawmakers know perfectly well that criminals by definition don't obey laws. So why enact a law to try to regulate them? They don't; they are trying to regulate the people who don't need it, possibly to some political end.
You say you don't like guns and wish they were all outlawed, and gone? We tried that before. We called it prohibition. It didn't work; people still wanted booze after it was illegal. It created an underworld mob industry of white lightning, poisoning and machine-gunning gangsters. The cops and FBI were helpless.
Our current illegal drug trade is worse. We have the same gangsters and machine guns and no way to control the flow. Most junior high school kids say they can buy drugs on the street anytime they want. Can you imagine the colossal failure of banning firearms? Can you imagine how unsafe we'd all be if the criminals knew that no law-abiding citizens held a firearm? OK, so we all know from history that banning guns won't work.
What do we do to combat violence? First we have to understand there is no gun violence, only violent people. We can take violent people off the streets. You cannot legislate morality. It is already against the law to rob banks and to shoot a gun in the city and to commit murder. We have thousands of laws restricting gun usage. But what did we say above? That's right, criminals don't obey laws. Studies show that more than 70 percent of the people arrested for murder have previous arrests for violent crimes. Now we're getting into the small end of our pie chart.
Several states have laws such as "three strikes and you're out." After the third felony, you get life in prison. Others have had success with the NRA's Project Exile, a coordinated vigorous federal, state and local effort to prosecute people who use guns in crime. Both have their detractors and champions but one thing is very clear in their favor. Neither one affects the large end of the pie chart and they do focus on the bad guys.
The reason we don't hear more about these laws is political. The Democrats are the anti-gun party, and these laws are not to their liking. The mainstream media back the Democratds whether you like it or not. I'm not making this up. Check the voting record of Congress and it's almost a dead split down the aisle. Almost all Democrats vote for any gun bill and very few Republicans vote for them. The Democrats bring these bills to the floor every year again and again as "reasonable and sensible" gun laws and get a lot of good media coverage. The GOP votes them down and has to take the flack from the same media. These bad laws will not pass the pie chart tests. They all affect the wrong people. The Democrats would rather enact bad gun laws, than no gun laws.
Perhaps you're not aware of what's going on in California right now because of bad gun laws. They are on the verge of losing constitutional freedoms and the government confiscating private property. But it affects only the honest people, of course, because – right – criminals don't obey laws. We have now grown a cottage industry in Arizona of storing firearms in our state for the honest citizens of California. Thank about that, it could be us some day. Perhaps in another column, we'll look at the Second Amendment and the NRA.
Until then, remember four things:
• Any gun law should have to pass the pie chart test and should target the criminal, not the honest citizen.
• Gun bans cannot and will not ever work. You will not disarm the criminals.
• Getting the violent people off the street will make our society safer.
• And with very few exceptions, if you own any firearms and there are 70 million of you out there, you should be voting and not for anyone backing bad gun legislation.
It's impossible to over-emphasize the importance of this. It's as much about all your individual freedoms as it is about your firearms. It's time to see this issue clearly.
(Don Fleming is a Prescott resident and businessman.)