Gun Rights: What Does Body Count Have to Do With It?


By Jared D. Van Vranken

Since the Newtown massacre, proponents of civilian disarmament compare the United States to the United Kingdom. They point out that the UK’s total firearm death rate (which includes suicides) is less than half than ours. Therefore, the argument goes, we should severely limit the availability of firearms. As the President said, if we could save just one more life, then a new Assault Weapons Ban is well worth it. . . .

The pro-gun side asserts that the UK has seen their overall violent crime rates soar; up 250 percent since 1992, according to the Home Office. This despite their limited gun rights and availability. As America has a lower violent crime rate, it shouldn’t change its gun laws. Doing so would increase the number of violent assaults and rape and cost lives.

I submit that when discussing what the appropriate breadth of civil rights should be, body count has no bearing on the matter. In fact, determining what civil rights we should have based solely upon the expected amount of casualties that may result from those rights is exactly the method necessary to justify violating all of our civil rights.

For example, let’s say State X passes a law mandating that everyone who is a resident of that state must also be an organ donor. Instead of having to check a small box to choose to be a donor at the DMV, the state makes that choice for you. This law would no doubt enlarge the pool of organ donors, and certainly save many lives (surely at least just one, to satisfy the President’s test), but it would be fundamentally wrong to do so.

Similarly, what if instead of enjoying the strong 4th amendment rights we have, instead we submitted to randomized searches of our homes and persons? Let’s imagine that on any given day there is a 1/10,000 chance that authorities will search your home or person.

Further, imagine that this is a “white glove affair,” where a person’s home and body are respected, and generally speaking everyone views it as their civic duty in order to make the community “safer.”

Certainly such searches would reveal plenty of criminal activity, have a deterrent affect on certain crimes and save some lives. But, regardless of the benefits, most of us wouldn’t agree to such searches because we respect each other’s right to privacy.

Even when the topic of discussion isn’t fundamental rights, but rather just the regulation of activities and possessions, people don’t like to give up freedom in the name of “safety.” For example, I’m sure we could save many lives if we banned all residential swimming pools over three feet deep. Many children die annually from accidental drownings in the family pool.

Besides, why does anyone really need a pool over three feet deep? You can certainly cool off and do laps in three feet of water, and if you want to jump in, or play volleyball, go to your local YMCA, where they have lifeguards.

Most people don’t like that line of reasoning, despite the number of lives it would undoubtedly save annually. People generally would rather have the freedom to own whatever kind of pool that they want and take personal responsibility for safeguarding their children, rather than having the state limit their freedom of choice.

Most of us would view calls for taxation of pools over three feet deep and hefty liability insurance requirements as not being “reasonable,” but as an indirect means of doing what the state shouldn’t be doing directly.

In the same way, cars really don’t need more than 200 horsepower. In fact, “high horsepower” vehicles have no place on our neighborhood streets. They belong on the race track, in the hands of experienced drivers in a controlled setting. Certainly not in the hands of the average person. “High horsepower” vehicles only encourage the average driver to be reckless behind the wheel resulting in more traffic fatalities.

Furthermore, we should mandate a national speed limit of 65 mph and electronically limit a car’s ability to go over 65 mph. Of course some may have a legitimate need for a “high horsepower” vehicle, such as building contractors who need powerful trucks.

If that’s the case, then they will need to file papers with the local department of transportation and a judge can rule as to whether they have adequately demonstrated a need. They will then be required to go through a training course, get certified to demonstrate they can operate these vehicles and get re-certified every few years.

Obviously, these aren’t serious suggestions. There is no such thing as a “high horsepower” car, yet when we select some arbitrary number (why not 150 horsepower, or 100?), anything above that can be labeled “high.” All of my fictitious measures would certainly save hundreds, if not thousands of lives annually (certainly at least one), yet I doubt that most people would consider them “reasonable” or wish to enact anything so restrictive.

Many of the people calling for stricter gun laws, including bans on semi-automatic rifles and magazines that hold more than 10 rounds, have little-to-no experience with firearms. If they did, they probably would view their ideas not as being “common sense” and “reasonable,” but more like my proposed swimming pool and car regulations.

Those of us who have experience with firearms liken the AR-15 with a 30 round magazine, pistol grip, flash suppressor, and barrel shroud see them as being akin to a nice Corvette, not a Formula One race car. The former can be driven safely by anyone with basic driving experience, while the latter requires racing know-how and an appropriate racetrack.

Arguing that a rifle with a pistol grip should be banned, but the very same rifle with a traditional stock is permissible is like arguing that cars with gear selectors in the center console should be banned, but those mounted on the steering column are just fine. Most everyone would agree that such legislation is silly, but that’s because we all have experience with cars. Unlike firearms.

Arms-bearing rights are fundamental. Curtailing rights some see as trivial, in the name of safety, can be a cure worse than the disease. We are a rights-based society. We respect individual rights over those of the community, even when doing so may mean a more injuries and deaths.

Whether we’re discussing fundamental rights (like choosing what happens to our remains) or more trivial rights (like being able to own the swimming pool or car you want), focusing solely on the number of potential casualties is dangerous and inadequate. It causes us to frantically sacrifice liberty at the altar of safety and to give up on searching for less restrictive means of accomplishing the same goal.

36 Responses to Gun Rights: What Does Body Count Have to Do With It?

  1. avatarMatt in FL says:

    “Many of the people calling for stricter gun laws, including bans on semi-automatic rifles and magazines that hold more than 10 rounds, have little-to-no experience with firearms.”

    This is why it’s important to educate the people you come in contact with. Don’t browbeat, don’t threaten, don’t just chant “Shall not be infringed!” Educate. Knowledge is power, and all that.

    A couple to start with:
    The Truth About Assault Weapons
    The stale claim that 40 percent of gun sales lack background checks

    • avatarAharon says:

      Almost everyone I meet and discuss guns with in Oregon owns more guns and knows more about guns than me.

      • avatarTR says:

        I apologize for the OT post, but Aharon, I’ve been diligently absorbing everything you write about OR for the past couple of months, since I found out I’ll be moving to Portland for grad school this fall. It sounds like it’s pretty pro-2A, but getting lucid info off the Sheriff’s website on how to get an OR CCW permit is pretty impossible. Any suggestions on where said info might be found?

        • avatartama paine says:

          I recently secured my OR permit. I went through Multnomah County precisely because they are so snotty about it, rather than another of the counties that I was told were less so. A good place to dig in any case is

          Blue Steel Democrats
          http://bluesteeldemocrats.blogspot.com/

          Democratic party of Oregon gun owners caucus
          http://www.dpo.org/communities/gun-owners

          Other OR links at Blue Steel’s site. IMO there are more barriers to CC than should be legal, but it is very possible…and easier than many other places. Don’t let the negative talk dissuade you. Note that I’m not a Democrat, nor a Republican, nor anything else. I found BSD and DPO’s information helpful.

        • avatarTR says:

          tama paine, thanks for the info. For some reason there was no reply option to your post. I’ll follow up on those links, much appreciated!

  2. avatarRandy Drescher says:

    When we have a group of people that have been brainwashed into believing that their life is much less valuable than the criminals we are going to have the continuous dog & pony show, Randy

  3. avatarGov. William J. Le Petomane says:

    The problem you’re going to run into with logic like this is that you’re talking about rights to a leftest. They believe in the rights of the state not the rights of the individual. Most of them know very well that civilian disarmament will not make us safer, but that’s not the goal. The goal is to make subjects out of citizens.

  4. Many of the antis such as Feinstein (who was taped as saying she would ban all guns if she had the votes) don’t actually think that banning certain types of firearms will make a difference. Her end goal is all guns. But by selecting certain firearms, defining features of some of the most popular ones to define a wide range, and appealing to emotion they feel they can eliminate a large number of guns. It won’t stop there.

    She has admitted her goal is the elimination of all guns, once she bans one type she will move onto the next type. The first step is the hardest, and she has chosen a class of firearm (“assault weapons”), and made up her own definition for it. She cleverly chose the first target based on firearms that she can marginalized gun owners in support.

    They try to divide us by convincing pure hunters to be on her side of the AWB. To think that she will stop there when she has admitted otherwise is naive.

  5. avatarFrank Williams says:

    Many more people die from alcohol-related accidents and disease than do from “assault weapons” each year. If you total the amount of money spent on medical care for diseases and injuries that are directly related to alcohol use it would run into the hundreds of millions of dollars that could be used for better purposes like educating our children. We need to have a national dialogue on the problem of alcohol abuse.

    Obviously the only way to fix this problem is to outlaw the sale or transfer of alcoholic beverages. People won’t be able to drink alcohol if it’s not sold in stores, and then all of the alcohol-related problems will go away.

    Uh… hold on… what did you say? It’s been tried and failed? Oh. Then never mind. But it’ll still work with guns, right?

    • avatarJMS says:

      Yes, it will work with guns just like Prohibition worked for alcohol and the “war on drugs” has completely eradicated our country of illegal drugs.

      I would also like to mention that your first sentence is not strong enough. The fact is, many more people die from alcohol-related accidents (~11,600 from drunk driving accidents alone) and disease than do from all firearms-related deaths each year. That’s all types of guns, and accidental or purposeful death. Statistics available on the CDC website.

      AND… love the write-up by Jared. Awesome stuff.

      It should be completely obvious that, with a total ban and confiscation of firearms, the firearms-caused death rate will go down. Obviously if there were no such thing as guns, there would be no deaths caused by them. Those who would concentrate only on “firearms deaths” are displaying a clear hatred and bias against firearms, rather than a problem with death itself — they are saying that death by firearm is worse than death by other means. If we concentrate, instead, on murder rate by any method, we can see that the murder rate in the UK has stayed constant. Before the ban and confiscation on firearms, it was the same as it is today. Whether the U.S. has a higher murder rate or not cannot be attributed to any one factor, as it is a totally different country. What we do know is that the murder rate in the U.S. has gone down since the early 90′s, continued going down during the 94-04 AWB, and has continued going down (even faster) since the AWB was lifted. This is during a decade of record, year-over-year increases in gun ownership and the highest level of gun ownership in the U.S. ever. Also worth mentioning is that the violent crime rate in the U.K. is much higher than in the U.S., (3.5x to 5x higher) and has increased since the gun ban started. Our violent crime rate has been going down. So, while it’s true that the U.S. has a higher murder rate, it CANNOT be shown that confiscating guns will help. The only thing shown is that it reduces the amount of murders committed by gun, but not the total amount of murders committed.

  6. avatarNickbnumbers says:

    For what it’s worth, each letter I write to my representatives includes the phrase:

    “If just one child is saved by the defensive use of a high capacity magazine, it is worth it.”

    Instead of “high capacity magazine,” some say “personal defense weapon,” “modern sporting rifle,” etc.

  7. avatarإبليس says:

    The elites will just elect a newer, more compliant people. I think Marco Rubio is spearheading that effort.

  8. avatarShawn says:

    A brilliant article! I like the idea of getting away from trivial facts and figures and instead focusing on simple logic. If the rest of the pro gun pundits were to use the same line of thinking they might find an opposing public more open to their ideas.

  9. avatarSwobard says:

    First thing I did after reading this was go back and recheck the author’s name… so I could say “Thank you, Dan!”

    This was a clearly communicated and well thought out defense of our Second Amendment rights. I plan to share it widely, especially with my “non-gunny” friends.

  10. avatarJosh says:

    It should be “altar”, not “alter”.

    Otherwise, this is one of the best pieces I’ve ever seen on TTAG. Thank you very much for this. I may share this with some of my fence-riding friends.

  11. avatarCA Mercer says:

    One of the toughest questions I get from my not pro 2-A friends is, “Why do you fight so hard on new limitations, etc.? No one wants to take ALL your guns.” Instead of arguing that they are just being used by the hard-core gun grabbers, I use the analogy of what has happened to the pro-choice movement. Since Roe V. Wade 40 years ago, hard-core pro-life forces realize that getting that decision overturned is probably a pipedream at the Federal level. So instead they have constantly chipped away at the issue, getting some states to place more and more severe limits on abortions (much of the whole “late term” issue has its roots here), limiting or killing funding for clinics, and basically making it as difficult as possible for someone to get an abortion. In Mississippi there is only 1 clinic left open, and it is hanging on by its fingernails. I’m sure pro-choice supports never dreamed this would be the reality 40 years ago.
    This is the same model used by the gun grabbers. They may not get the AWB, or even the mag cap ban, but any new regulation, law or check they can throw at us chips away at our rights, and makes it easier the next time to take it to another level. You can also see how they also are moving to more stringent proposals at the state level, which will only be overturned after years of litigation.
    This is why we must not give in to the so-called “reasonable” restrictions…everytime we have done this in the past we end up getting the shaft.

    • avatarThomasR says:

      Civil rights are for the individual; the progressive/socialist don’t belive in the individual, only the “collective good”. Generally, people who support gun restriction/confiscation, support abortion, so these people support the murder of unborn children but are against the tool that could protect living children from a mad man with a gun,

      Why do they support abortion “rights” but not gun rights?

      Because they despise and hate themselves which mean they hate everyone else that’s human as well and it’s reflected in thier actions ; support the murder of the most helpless among us, not a problem, protect a baby seal or destroy the lively hood of a whole region and industry to protect the spotted owl, somthing worth fighting for!

      Progressive/socialists are the culture of death,

      • avatarConway Redding says:

        I’m glad you used the word “generally,” ThomasR, because I’m sure I’m not the only person who believes in a woman’s right to control her own body and its contents, who is also a staunch supporter of the Second Amendment, and an owner of firearms that are certainly not intended for hunting, but for the defense of me and mine should such defense become necessary.

    • avatarJared says:

      Completely agree. Abortion rights and gun rights are kindred spirits in that regard. I cannot think of any other constitutional right where one side endorses it fully, and the other wants it completely eliminated.

  12. avatarMauser says:

    Funny thing about your organ donation example…The ‘Free State’ of Maryland is proposing just that this legislative session.

    http://legiscan.com/MD/text/SB40/id/671968/Maryland-2013-SB40-Introduced.pdf

    • avatarJared says:

      Almost. My example was that the state removes the choice entirely, they mandate that anyone must be a donor. Here, Maryland is creating a presumption, but in my opinion it is still wrong to do that, and can only be justified because the state is considering the good of the many over the individual.

  13. avatarKCK says:

    The one difference that put people on one side of the argument that they themselves may not realize is that bell curve type statistics try to reveal odds, chances and comparative risks.

    The random nature of car and pool accidents are just that, accidents. Gun deaths (suicides and murders) on the other hand are volitional. This creates a conflict in the intuitional reasoning of many people.

    If all the gun deaths were accidental we truly have a safety issue to deal with. That we all see murder as “on purpose”, this presents us pro gunners with the task of disconnecting the actors from the mechanics.

    The pool kills on its own but with no agency. Leaving negligence out of it, there is no guilty party to go after. Gun murders are heinous and the gun is in the hand of an actor. This intuitional reasoning tells us that we can’t predict the behavior of the actor but we can the gun.

    “We have to do something”, and the only thing we have access to is the gun, because the actors/criminals are too elusive.

    The problem with this is that regular gangsters are not elusive, the have dozens of arrests on their record. Adam Lanza is an accident of a misfiring brain not unlike pool gate accidently left open. When 20 children are murdered many peoples intuition will direct them correctly that this behavior of Adam Lanza is a bizarre accident of psychology and the only thing we can get a grip on is the gun.

    WE have to accept that there will be brains that operate like this and WE will not succeed in stopping this 100% of the time. But yet THEY can’t accept it so THEY pass laws.

  14. avatarO.E says:

    Firearm crime will come back to haunt the UK, it firstly will manifest as destructive acts directed at the CCTV network that has been employed to much beneficial effect by the state police, that is providing evidence of guilt and getting court convictions rather than as it was supposed leading to higher rates of interception and deterrence.

  15. avatarO.E says:

    Regarding UK Gun Crime statistics, it should be noted that criminal misuse of non-firearm yet rifled projectile weapons such as air-weapons-pistol-rifle/crossbow/bow & arrow will be addressed in the court case as a gun related crime. However severe this may sound considering how limited the destructive power an air-weapon or strung weapon is compared to explosive fuel propelled ballistic weapons the idea is to show zero tolerance to the criminal use of ranged weapons.

  16. avatarJared says:

    Thanks TTAG for posting my article! I hope that it can persuade some people who are on the fence about gun rights.

  17. avatareugene says:

    I tend to liken my AR15 to a really big, heavier glock with more rounds to shoot, harder to carry, but better accuracy.

    Then I describe the AWB to them and start eliminating the features that declare my AR an assault weapon and thus makes getting one of them illegal. I take away a foregrip, I take away a pistol grip, I take away my Magpul MOE. I then show them how fast I can swap a mag, while still being an amateur in the mechanics.

    People sort of get a better picture at that point in time about its functionality and why an AWB doesn’t do anything. At worst, they “agree to disagree”

  18. avatarGs650g says:

    The death toll from governments killing their citizens stands at 150 million.
    So they can shove that save one life crap.

  19. avatarSoccerchainsaw says:

    I do not hesitate to point out that body count is important because it is truly the efforts of gun banners that have helped create an environment in which the criminals and criminally insane can more easily carry out their cruel deeds.

    • avatarfrank gifford says:

      That is totally ignorant. what you want is an anarchy. You want everyone to be able to take the law into their own hands, which is very scary. Leave the criminals to the police. Everyday gun owners are not billy the kid and most are not marksmen. I don’t know about you but I wouldn’t trust any average person to wield a deadly weapon without doing harm. Why can’t we go back to slicing each other up with swords? At least you may survive that.. I would love to watch all of you gun supporters slice each other up with swords.:)

  20. avatarJustAJ says:

    The inherent problem is and always has been blaming the tool. The UK “got rid of” guns. Hooray for them. Now, they want to ban knives, becuase “Knife crime” is becoming a problem. If you do not address the root of the problem (people/violence) then you cannot hope to ever solve the problem.

  21. avatarpat says:

    Evil libtards. Lets sniff Zyklon-B, in the name of the children.

  22. avatarLS says:

    I appreciate the timely, well-written article. I have 2 comments: 1) “the bad guys” will always be able to get their hands on illegal, unregistered weapons through gun-smuggling, whether it’s into the country or across state lines. And is any one naive enough to believe that there aren’t already stockpiles of weapons in this country? We all know just how successful the government has been in curtailing drug-smuggling. They don’t have enough manpower to throw at enforcement as it is. Banning the average citizen from owning a gun(s) is misguided and, as others have observed, chipping away at our fundamental rights. It’s a very slippery slope. Are the gun culls (turning in your weapon to the local authorities anonymously for cash) really aimed at the average citizen who has obtained their gun(s) through legal means? We could ask the Camden, NJ authorities…
    2) If you want to ban something, ban sugar. I know it’s a preposterous idea, but the reality is that overconsumption of sugar is contributing enormously to the obesity/diabetes epidemic sweeping our nation. It is drug-like in its effects on the brain and therefore the body. More than half of adults in this country are overweight, and obesity is the number one risk factor for diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, osteoarthritis, cancer and unnecessarily-early death. Obesity is killing Americans in a slow, non-violent way. Who can save us from ourselves? Father Government? Banning sugar to fight the obesity epidemic would save tons of healthcare dollars. But whoa! Supplying sugar in all it’s various hidden forms to the masses is big business. I would venture to guess bigger than the gun-related industries. To ban sugar, and the “sugar-pushers”, would render entire industries obsolete, i.e., growers, refiners, manufacturers of products, suppliers, and vendors, plus let’s not forget the billion-dollar diet industry, and even the healthcare industry that sustains itself by treating these health conditions. Of course banning or severely limiting the sugar-related industries would likely cause the economy to plummet further, leading to increased criminal activity by desperate individuals, and then you really will need to keep a gun on hand. Like a earlier poster pointed out, alcohol prohibition was ultimately ineffective and unenforceable, and thus sugar prohibition is pointless. So is gun prohibition because then only the “bad guys” will have guns. But if the government wants to try to control something, I would rather see sugar banned, than guns. Ever try to defend your home and loved ones with a Twinkie?

  23. avatarfrank gifford says:

    So if you are so gung ho on rights. Then why do most gun owners, who are predominantly conservative, refuse to recognize the right for two consenting adults to get married? you are full of It. !! really the fact of the matte is, you don’t feel like you have to worry about your fellow man, as long as your precious right to use a lethal weapon isn’t infringed. ABSURD !!

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