“I don’t want to talk about numbers because they mean so little,” Atlanta Police Chief George Turner told ajc.com. “When I go to a [public] meeting, folks don’t want to hear about that.” So what DO they want to hear about? No disrespect intended. Men like Turner know that numbers are the key to good policing: allocating resources according to an ongoing statistical analysis of patterns of criminal activity. And yet America’s top cops also understand that rational arguments are politically unpalatable. Instead, they have to fight an endless, emotion-based PR battle. They’re forced to ford what I call “the refrigerator gap.” Think of it this way . . .
There are two types of information. One: “outside information”: international, national, state and local news. Once upon a time, this type of information took days or even months to disseminate. It now moves at light speed. But it’s still intellectual: the subject of rational analysis and discussion. Some people pay attention to it. Most don’t. Some act upon its ebb and flow. Most don’t.
Two: “refrigerator news”: what’s going bad in your refrigerator. This type of information impacts your ability to secure and protect the resources you need to survive. Due to its proximity, ‘frig news also moves quickly. Due to its overriding importance, refrigerator news is the subject of extremely passionate, usually irrational debate. Everyone pays attention to it.
No matter which side of the gun control debate you stand, if your engaging in the debate, you’re combining outside information with refrigerator news. People who care enough to give a rat’s ass about gun control—a relative minority of U.S. citizens—have strong opinions about what gun laws are best for society and what’s best for them and theirs.
There’s an obvious dichotomy between pro and anti-gun control positions. The pros don’t want guns in their proverbial refrigerator, nor yours (truth be told). They consider the availability of guns “out there” as a direct threat to their personal safety. The antis couldn’t imagine life without a firearm in the ‘frig (or on their person). They’re OK with people who choose not to own or carry guns—as long as it doesn’t impinge on their right to keep a fresh stock of firearms and ammo.
This is a crucial difference, one that’s often cited as the main distinction between liberal and conservative philosophies: government intervention vs. non-intervention. But again, both sides of the gun control “debate” share a common perspective. They both attempt to make their case on both the intellectual and emotional level.
The resulting argument would be funny (intellectually) if there wasn’t bloodshed (emotional). See how that works? If not, consider this morning’s editorial from mcclatchydc.com: More senseless gun violence in Texas.
In Arlington last month, a crowd gathered to watch as a conflict between two women evolved into a fight. One of the women, according to the police report, urged her boyfriend to shoot the other.
The friend pulled his gun and fired several shots, killing a 19-year-old woman and wounding a male bystander.
When this newspaper reported the story, it noted, “This is the third time this month in Tarrant County that a public argument among several people has escalated into a shooting death.”
Earlier, a dispute between two Fort Worth neighbors over where one of them had parked his car resulted in an old-fashioned shootout. Both men had guns and shot at each other. A 29-year-old was killed.
On Nov. 10, another news story reported that a 20-year-old Fort Worth man “was fatally wounded as an argument among several people about drugs and gangs escalated into fistfights and then into a gunfight outside a duplex in the 3100 block of Avenue L, police reported.”
That is three cases — in just one month; in one county.
I could cite numerous other senseless killings around this state in the past few weeks and point to the common denominator in each of these incidents: the availability of guns.
Had there been no weapon easily accessible, the chances are the three dead people mentioned would be alive today.
Sure, there still would have been the arguments, perhaps even the fistfights, but likely not the killings.
And please, spare me the cliche, “Guns don’t kill people, people do.”
Which is another way of saying don’t confuse me with variables other than the availability of guns. Which is another way of saying don’t confuse me with the facts. Or, if you prefer, the truth.
But let’s not get caught up in the usual arguments. Suffice it to say, pro gun control folks will nod their heads at this story, imagining how this “outside news” could have tragic consequences on the refrigerator level. And remain convinced that Bob Ray Sanders has it right. More guns equals more crime. Less guns equals less personal danger.
The anti-gun control folks will also shake their head, only side to side. They’ll imagine how this “outside news” could could have tragic consequences on the refrigerator level. And remain convinced that Bob Ray Sanders has it exactly backwards. More guns equals less crime. Less guns equals a greater personal danger.
As you know, I come down on the anti-gun control side of the argument. That’s because I value intellectual arguments more highly than emotional ones. While I feel the pain of people caught up in gun violence, I believe society can not eliminate human stupidity, cruelty and greed. No law or set of laws can eliminate gun crime. Which, it must be said, is a relatively small danger to our society.
Attempts to further reduce gun crime by controlling lawful gun ownership will not succeed. John Lott’s book More Guns, Less Crime has established this fact scientifically and conclusively. It would be great if gun control laws would git ‘er done, but they don’t. And won’t. This is the truth of the matter.
Which leaves gun control advocates manipulating stats into tortuous often ludicrous shapes. Unfortunately (for them), their gun reduction crusade is even less compelling on the refrigerator level. No matter what happens “out there,” most Americans want the ability to defend their refrigerator from marauders. With a gun. In fact, the more they’re aware of gun crimes, the more likely they are to “cling” to their guns (and religion) to protect their ‘frig.
Bottom line: we can argue about the social and personal risks and benefits of gun control until we’re blue in the face. The debate was settled a long time ago, both pro and con, at the refrigerator level. There are two main reasons why gun rights are ascendent: judicial respect for the U.S. Constitution and the Internet, which gives firearms advocates more power to remind people that their refigerator is in peril.
So what do people want to hear when they learn that gun crime is closer than they thought? That someone’s going to do something about it. In these times of diminishing faith in, and respect for, the government, more and more Americans are realizing that that someone is them.