In a letter to the editor in new Hampshire’s fosters.com, Anthony McManus compares motor vehicle deaths and those associated with guns. “The difference is greater than just numbers. Millions of people, on a daily basis, drive thousands of miles in cars, trucks, buses, vans, motorcycles. Except in a very small number of cases deaths are caused by “accidents”— drivers falling asleep, poor road conditions, driver inattention, weather conditions, vehicle malfunction and, unfortunately, drivers who are impaired by alcohol or drugs. When a death occurs it is almost always unintended. Gun deaths, on the other hand . . .
are almost always a deliberate act — homicide against targeted (and usually known) individuals, or suicide.
That is mostly correct. The vast majority of firearms-related fatalities, about two-thirds, are suicides. Legislating whether a magazine holds 15 or 30 rounds will make absolutely no difference to their frequency. Whether a gun is a single shot or semi-automatic will also make no difference.
Suicides who use guns are not trying to seek help. They are trying to die. Numerous substitution methods are available, as the Japanese, Belgians, Hungarians, and Koreans – who have virtually no guns and suicide rates about twice that of the United States- demonstrate this fact, all too sadly.
I do not believe that Americans will be any less capable of finding substitute methods than the populations in those other countries. Everyone has a simple means to find easy, painless, alternate methods of suicide on the Internet.
With that bit of honesty committed, Anthony McManus then puts forward this whopper of a false talking point. Like many good lies, it has a smidgen of truth in it, and a number of false assumptions.
Although the number of fatalities are sizeable and regrettable, motor vehicles are not designed to kill people. Guns are. There may be a legitimate use for rifles and shotguns in hunting but there is no other purpose for handguns, automatic and semi-automatic weapons, and assault rifles except to threaten and/or shoot other human beings.
First, the bit of truth. Handguns, automatic and semi-automatic weapons, and “assault rifles” are very useful for threatening and/or shooting human beings. It is a major use. The false assumption: threatening and shooting human beings is always evil. Threatening and shooting human beings is often required and necessary.
A father who uses an AK 47 clone to threaten and shoot home invaders is using the rifle in an appropriate and useful fashion. The store owner who uses a handgun to prevent armed robbery, uses the handgun in an appropriate and useful way. The Doctor who uses a handgun to stop a mass killing by shooting the assailant, is using the handgun in a way approved of in moral and legal codes.
That said, the assumption that these are the only design uses for handguns, semi-automatic and automatic firearms is simply false.
Firearms are designed to send projectiles down range at substantial velocities, propelled by the action of burning gunpowder. It is why they are called “firearms” instead of squirt guns. But a great many handguns, semi-automatic, and automatic firearms are designed and used for purposes other than threatening or shooting people, such as hunting, pest control, recreation and collecting.
The antis’ ultimate argument and perennial bogey man: “assault rifles.” Setting aside the mischaracterization of military-style semi-automatic long guns as “assault rifles,” modern sporting rifles (one trigger press per shot) fit into the previous non-lethal, non-intimidation categories.
Millions of semi-automatic rifles are made and sold every year. In 2013, 285 homicides were committed with rifles of any sort. The number of those that were semi-automatic is some fraction of the 285. To put that in context, there are about 120 million rifles in the United States. Semi-automatic rifles (as opposed to bolt-action rifles) have been the favorite action type for at least two decades. I would not be surprised to learn that semi-automatic rifles are between one and two-thirds of the American stock of rifles.
Bottom line: one person is murdered by a person using a rifle for about every 400,000 rifles, in a given year. The antis may argue that one life lost is too many, but they singularly fail to mention the [uncounted but significant] number of Americans who save their life or the lives of other innocent Americans by using a semi-automatic rifle for defense.
While we’re at it, the U.S. is home to millions of semi-automatic shotguns. Some 308 people were murdered with shotguns of any sort in 2013. That’s about half as many as are murdered with personal weapons (hands and feet): 687.
Most threatening and killing done with firearms is done with handguns. But even in the case of handguns, many are designed for target shooting and hunting, and far more of them are used for those purposes than for threatening and shooting people. Many of them are used for defensive purposes against animals. Some 5,782 people were murdered with handguns in 2013. There are about 120 million handguns in the United States.
The idea that “there is no other purpose for handguns, automatic and semi-automatic weapons, and assault rifles except to threaten and/or shoot other human beings.” is simply false. Disarmists who make this claim do so to deprive Americans of their natural, civil and Constitutionally protected right to keep and bear arms. Any arms.
©2015 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice and link are included. Link to Gun Watch