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Friday, December 4, 2015

Gun-Free Zones -- Safe, Unsafe, Unsure?

The choruses resound:

“Gun-free zones prevent law-abiding citizens from protecting themselves!"
"Gun-free zones make people less safe by inviting criminals into target-rich, no-risk environments!"
"Shootings are more likely to occur in gun-free zones!"
"Gun-free zones are places where people go to die!"

You can choose your source for statistics to support (a) the need to repeal gun-free zones for reasons of self-defense, or (b) the need to maintain gun-free zones for the maintenance of public safety. You can debate good points on either side until work yourself into a lather of righteous acclamation.

But, you cannot deny more guns and access to more guns (no matter the zone) are NOT answers to stopping the horrible reality of increased gun violence.

Got Guns? You Bet.

Although there is no perfect estimate for the number of firearms in the United States, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives estimates there are about 300 millions guns in the United States (2013).

“The number of privately owned guns in the U.S. is at an all-time high, upwards of 300 million, and now rises by about 10 million per year,” said the NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action in a firearms safety fact sheet released January 17, 2013.

A November 2012 report titled “Gun Control Legislation” from the Congressional Research Service also supports that number, though ranks it a bit higher. As of 2009, the report states, “the estimated total number of firearms available to civilians in the United States had increased to approximately 310 million: 114 million handguns, 110 million rifles, and 86 million shotguns.”

(Michael Long. "How Many Guns In The United States?" March 07, 2013.)

Where does the U.S. rank in the world according to the number of firearms? With less than 5 percent of the world’s population, the United States is home to 35-50 percent of the world’s civilian-owned guns,” according to the Small Arms Survey.

Back in 2012, Bloomberg predicted by 2015, "firearm fatalities will probably exceed traffic fatalities for the first time." In the article then, Garen Wintemute, director of the Violence Prevention Research Program at the University of California, Davis, said, "We’ve made policy decisions that have had the impact of making the widest array of firearms available to the widest array of people under the widest array of conditions.” While fewer households have guns, people who own guns are buying more of them, he said.

(Chris Christoff and Ilan Kolet. "American Gun Deaths to Exceed Traffic Fatalities by 2015. Bloomberg Business. December 19, 2012.)     

And, now, according to a Center for American Progress report, this year (2015) gun deaths are expected to surpass car deaths. The report cites CDC data that shows guns will kill more Americans under 25 than cars in 2015. Already more than a quarter of the teenagers -- 15 years old and up -- who die of injuries in the United States are killed in gun-related incidents, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.

What does this say about America's ongoing obsession with guns and its relationship with gun violence?

Adrienne LaFrance, senior associate editor at The Atlantic, relates how difficult finding definitive statistics on guns and gun violence can be. She says ...

"Gun deaths can include suicides, homicides, accidental firearms discharges, and even legal killings—but the overall data picture is incomplete. Since 2008, some county-level deaths have been left out to avoid inadvertent privacy breaches. And the number of police shootings—including arrest-related deaths, which are recorded but not made public, according to The Washington Post -- are notoriously evasive.

"The record of firearm deaths in the United States is murkier still because of how much is at stake politically. Firearm safety remains one of the most divisive issues in the country, with advocates on both sides cherry-picking data to support arguments about the extent to which gun regulation is necessary.

"It's not even clear how many guns are out there in the first place, as the Pew Research Center pointed out in a 2013 study: 'Respondent error or misstatement in surveys about gun ownership is a widely acknowledged concern of researchers. People may be reluctant to disclose ownership, especially if they are concerned that there may be future restrictions on gun possession or if they acquired their firearms illegally.'"

(Adrienne LaFrance. "America's Top Killing Machine." The Atlantic. January 12, 2015.)

So, legal and illegal firearms are currently present in great numbers. They are, as I write, being toted into public zones -- both gun friendly spaces and gun-free areas. You never know who has a concealed weapon they wish to use for defense or for criminal intent, and you can never be sure who will openly defy laws and humanity and choose to use automatic long guns, handguns, and other firearms to reek havoc on innocent victims.

Until we take the equation of "terror" out of occupying workspaces, schools, shopping areas, and, indeed, out of being in all public places, we will have millions and millions of guns in the hands of those who believe those firearms will save their lives. I am not speaking about guns used for hunting, target practice, or castle protection. I am talking about guns whose sole purpose is to stop terror in public.

The firearm has become an instrument believed by many to be a surefire means of deterring and stopping terror. It cannot be denied that is true in many cases. And, believers want to express their rights freely and legally carry their weapons anywhere.

But ...

This survivalist mode affects the daily lives of peaceful Americans in many ways that may also be detrimental to society. True, no one can predict all outbreaks of gun violence, yet condoning free carrying in zones like schools, churches, or hospitals, where we KNOW a gun on everyone weakens our faith and trust to the point that we fear others in our most sacred institutions is terrorism achieved.

Be it the terrorist, the mentally ill individual, the psychopath, or the gang member -- it is frightening to think about the continued escalation of gun violence, but also it is equally alarming to see those who would readily accept the mentality of "blow them all away and sort them out later" as the best means to preserving life. In a false survival mode, there are plenty who might fire at the mere perception of anyone who looks threatening.

In America we are taught to love bastions of sanctuary, to respect nonviolent behavior, to use force only as a last resort. The solution to gun violence ultimately depends upon one gun-free zone, not  thousands of politically or governmentally designated areas where guns are not permitted, but instead an entire country that refuses to carry to kill other human beings. That one zone spans sea to sea.

You say this Libtard is just promoting a crazy dream. To which I say no positive reality can begin with a terrified finger on the trigger of a firearm. How could anyone not dream for an end to terror and a safe existence in public places where guns are not used in violence? Right now this seems like an impossible, insane goal. Nonetheless, all goals begin with a dream and a vision.

I know more innocent people are going to die in gun-free zones. I also know this will occur despite the 11.1 million (2014) well-intentioned citizens carrying firearms in the country. America has a gun violence problem that must be addressed -- not by one segment of the population, but by all segments of the population. President Obama said while many Americans see the prevalence of mass shootings and feel that there's nothing an individual can do, "we all have a part to play" when it comes to reducing gun violence. I agree.

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