Liston Matthews writes [via Ammoland.com]
How many times have you heard a gun-banner say, “We need to have a conversation about _________ (fill in the blank: gun control, gun safety, universal background checks, etc.).” Recently, I read a letter to the editor of my local paper that included a similar statement; “Through civilized dialogue, we can create viable solutions to make our community safer and a better place to live today and in the future.” So, I decided to take up the challenge and initiate a civilized dialogue. Here is the result:
[NB: My statements and questions are in bold, and the other party’s follow. For clarity in reading, the original text is identical to the original, but rearranged in question and answer format. For ease of reading, hyperlinks to referenced websites are associated with the appropriate verbiage in the document.]
I read your letter to the editor last week, and was surprised, considering your profession of English teacher, at your usage of the term ‘gun violence’. Usage of that term allocates a quality to an inanimate object that is simply not there. Had you used the term ‘criminal violence’ or ‘gang violence’, your language would have been more accurate. I wonder, do you categorize a stabbing as knife violence? Does using explosives get labeled as ‘bomb violence’?
You mention in your letter that you would like to have ‘civilized dialogue’. In a good faith effort at civilized dialogue, here are some questions for you-
M – Jun 7, 2016
Thank you for writing. I have done a little research to answer your questions. I hope you’ll look at the links I cite.
1. Do you believe that you have the natural right to defend yourself against criminal attack? If so, why? If not, why not?
Certainly. Everyone has the right to defend his or her own life. Interestingly, most “defensive” uses of guns, according to the Harvard School of Public Health, are actually attempts to intimidate others. While I believe that of course everyone has the right to defend his or her life, I do not think that everyone has the right to use a gun to intimidate or threaten someone else.
2. Do you believe news reporters should have a reporter’s license? Why or why not?
What is the relevance of the question? Reporters cannot kill with their words. People can kill with their guns. A more relevant comparison (if that is what you are intending) would be a driver’s license. I will ask you: Do you believe that car drivers should have driver’s licenses? Why or why not?
The relevance of this question is coupled to the fact that reporters have historically been exempt from licensing requirements, in contrast with doctors, lawyers, and many other professions. Reporters claim exemption from licensing requirements because of the First Amendment, which recognizes the freedom of the press.
The handgun carry licensing/permitting process in many states, including Tennessee, has its historical roots in slave codes, which required that slaves have a permission slip (license) from their master before they could carry a firearm. It is an impediment to the lawful citizen, and ignored by the criminal. It amounts to a poll tax on a constitutional right. There are many good citizens of low income who might be able to purchase and carry an inexpensive handgun for personal protection, but Tennessee’s permitting process is cost-prohibitive for them.
3. You state that more than 90 Americans are killed each day by ‘gun violence’. Do you have source documents for that assertion?
The figure from NBC News is 87 per day. You can find it here: I used the 90 per day figure because the organizations in which I volunteer, Everytown for Gun Safety/Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America/Mayors against Illegal Guns, use that figure. I did not research it for the letter. However, 87 per day seems pretty close to me.
4. Of those killed each day with a gun, can you break it down as to how many of those were murder or other criminal act?
I cannot. I’m not sure that information exists, given that there has been little research on gun violence since the mid-1990s, when Congress withdrew funding for gun research at the urging of the NRA. It’s really unclear.
The recent 2012 FBI report indicates about 40 murders/day. According to the FBI Uniform Crime Report, “In 2012, an estimated 14,827 persons were murdered in the United States. This was a 1.1 percent increase from the 2011 estimate, but a 9.9 percent decrease from the 2008 figure, and a 10.3 percent drop from the number in 2003.”
5. Of those, how many were suicides?
61% of gun deaths are suicides, according to various sources. “Among men, among women, and in every age group (including children), states with higher rates of household gun ownership had higher rates of firearm suicide and overall suicides.”
The CDC reports for 2013 that there were a total of 41,149 suicides, of which 21,175 were listed as firearm suicides. So, about 58 of 113 suicides (51%) per day were committed with a firearm.
While suicides are certainly tragic, if you were able to totally eliminate firearms from the civilian populace, the other 49% would still be there, and I suppose some of those who would have used a firearm will resort to some other method as they do in other countries where firearms are not readily available.
6. How many were by police officers in the line of duty?
Wow, I would be very wary of any statistics on that. It’s a hot topic and I would imagine that death by cop is something that would be suppressed by police departments where possible. The statistical website 538 basically says no one knows how many people are killed by police each year.
About 348 per year, almost one per day, which really doesn’t significantly affect your numbers.
7. How many were lawful defensive uses by an intended victim?
Here is some information from the Harvard School of Public Health.
This report indicates a minimum of 108,000 annual defensive uses, or 295 per day.
So now I would like to ask you some questions, please. As a concerned mother, I am most interested in public safety– things like preventing the accidental deaths of children when they shoot each other or are shot, or preventing impulsive suicides by gun, which are far, far more lethal than suicide attempts by gun [sic] or rope or drugs.
1. Do you think that a man who has been violent toward his wife and children, and who has been served with a restraining order, should lawfully be allowed to carry a gun? Why or why not?
That is the law, and has been the law since 1996, under the Lautenberg Amendment. The chief problem with the Lautenberg law is that it is in effect an ex post facto law. There are many cases of people who pled guilty to misdemeanor domestic violence decades ago, and paid a small fine. They never dreamed that someday in the distant future they would be prohibited from firearms ownership.
More than that, anyone that can’t be trusted with a gun, can’t be trusted without a custodian.***
They should be in prison.
Note, too, that it goes the other way; women such as Carol Bowne in New Jersey, sometimes find themselves in need of a defensive firearm, but law/bureaucrats contribute to their untimely deaths.
2. Do you think that in parks, bars, and other public places where people congregate (legally or illegally) to drink and party, guns should be allowed? Why or why not?
Yes. In all these venues, criminals ignore whatever law might be in effect. In Tennessee, permitted citizen carry of firearms is legal in all the venues you mentioned, with a few exceptions. When these laws were being debated in the legislature, there were multiple editorials predicting ‘blood in the streets’ if passed. Yet, their predictions were wrong.
Beginning in 2008, Tennessee State Parks were no longer designated gun free zones. In 2010, National Parks conformed to State Park law, and lifted their ban. Tennessee allowed local governments to opt-out of the law in 2008, which the City of Knoxville and the Town of Farragut did. Knox County, however, conformed to State Park law at that time, with no change in crime. Local governments were required under 2015 legislation to conform to State Park law, creating uniformity statewide.
Saturday night, we had the largest massacre in the United Since September 11, 2001. That was in a so-called gun free zone. Only three mass shootings have occurred in the US since 1950 that were not in these zones. Tennessee law allows permitted citizens to go into restaurants that serve alcohol (bars are not legally defined in Tennessee), unless the business itself posts against firearms.
3. Do you think that guns should be allowed to be sold informally outside of gun shows, with no background check required? Why or why not?
Yes. First, historically background checks have proven ineffective. Felons and mental defectives have been prohibited by Federal law from so much as touching a firearm or a bullet since 1968. Yet felons who violate the 1968 law by attempting to purchase through a dealer are seldom prosecuted.
In 2014, your organizations backed I-594 in Washington State, which requires background checks on almost all transfers of firearms: ((25) “Transfer” means the intended delivery of a firearm to another person without consideration of payment or promise of payment including, but not limited to, gifts and loans.).
What that means that if my friend Alan who lives in Washington State wants to let my other friend Dave shoot his new gun at the range, they must first go to a dealer and have a background check done on Dave; then before Dave can give the gun back to Alan, they must go back to a dealer, and have a background check done on Alan.
Dave can’t load it for Alan. He can’t even hold it until they do the second background check. Is that what your really want? That was Mayor Bloomberg’s legislation.
Universal background checks mean universal registration, which too often has resulted in confiscation. This confiscation has already happened in California and New York).There is no upside to these checks and plenty of demonstrated downside.
4. Do you think that parents who leave a loaded gun lying around should be legally responsible if their child picks it up and kills another child (this happened, as you probably know, very recently in White Pine)?
These types of incidents most often happen among the part of our population that is already a high risk group.
With gun sales skyrocketing, and the total number of guns in the US rising tremendously, childhood firearms deaths are at an all-time low, in raw numbers as well as as a percentage of the population.
5. Do you think that college employees (who may include anyone from the maintenance man to an angry professor who has been turned down for tenure) should be allowed to have guns on campus?
I think that any peaceable citizen should be able to carry a defensive firearm almost anywhere. Exceptions require that the entity in charge of an area/building provide adequate, meaningful, armed security for all. Sterile zones at airports probably come closest to that.
To conclude, I keep seeing over and over that when the bad person strikes, they choose the time and place. Whether it be a run-of the-mill convenience store robbery, collateral damage from gangland shootings, or Islamic terrorism, you are on your own. The University of Tennessee Police will not protect you. The Knox County Sheriff’s Office won’t be there when I am having the worst day of my life.
I am sure the numbers will change now, but a recent report indicates there are an average of 14.3 deaths in a mass shooting when the police are the first ones on the scene with a gun. On the other hand, When an armed citizen is there, the carnage drops to 2.3.
M – Jun 13, 2016
All of your facts and statistics boil down to 1) you don’t think we have a particular problem 2) so you are unwilling to take any action to solve what you see as a non-problem.
I think 49 people dead and over 50 wounded in a matter of hours, shot efficiently by a weapon of war trained on a civilian population, is a problem. You don’t. There is nothing much more to say, really.
Does this mean the dialog is finished?
M – Jun 14, 2016
Well, I guess I don’t see where we can get with it if our opinions are fixed. My sense is that your opinion is fixed. My opinion, after long thought about it, is fixed. Am I not correct about this?
At this point, there was no dialogue to continue. She was correct when she stated, “our opinions are fixed.”
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About the Author:
Liston Matthews is a longtime firearms civil rights advocate in Knoxville, TN. He is involved with the Tennessee Firearms Association, and executive director of the Farragut Gun Club. Visit his website at www.KnoxGunGuy.com.