Those who demand a disarmed population claim that it’s the easy availability of guns that causes people to do bad things with them. The core assumption is that guns have no useful, socially redeemable function. The people who wish to eliminate civilian gun ownership constantly say that guns are only made and used for one thing – to kill people. It’s implied is that almost no one actually wants to kill people, and they wouldn’t, if we could only eliminate the firearms.
If only barriers were put in place to make it a little harder for people to get guns, more of us would give them up, and the number of killings would go down. It’s a naive and simplistic view of reality.
It is easy to see how people who have no experience with firearms or with violence could believe these naive notions. They’ve never used a gun to defend themselves or others; their narrow view of the world is so constrained and blinkered that they believe everyone is just like them. We hear the echo of this in a popular song:
“People are the same all over the world.”
But the song flies in the face of reality and experience. Everyone is not the same, certainly not all over the world. In fact, people differ widely even across most cities in the United States. Young or old, male or female, strong or weak, urban or rural, good or bad; many people have pivotal experiences in their lives that make the demand for guns strong, determined, and inflexible.
People who have experienced violence up close and personal have a strong desire for the means to protect themselves. People who have had military or police training understand that, depending on the situation and circumstances, personal safety grows out of the barrel of a gun. People who live in rural areas have many cultural experiences that reinforce the utility of firearms and their use.
Whatever their background or experience, though, these people do have something in common; they are far outside the cultural experience of President Obama and those who want a disarmed populace.
But despite their best efforts, most people in the United States equate firearms with personal safety. Making firearms more difficult to acquire with more regulations won’t deter those who equate gun ownership with personal safety. It will, however, make them suspicious of the motives of people who wish to disarm them.
A recent study shows how difficult it is to illegally obtain firearms in one of America’s most violent cities. Phillip Cook examined the availability of “crime guns” in Chicago:
In our 2007 article Underground Gun Markets, we found evidence that guns are surprisingly difficult to obtain in the underground gun market in Chicago. (20) This evidence includes substantial price markups for guns on the street relative to the purchase price in legal transactions, substantial legal or physical risk and delays for criminals in their attempts to get a gun, and the existence of a system of retail brokers who charge a fee to facilitate exchanges between gun buyers and sellers. (21) Yet despite the difficulty for most people in getting guns on the streets, roughly four in five homicides in Chicago are committed with guns. (22)
Which only goes to show that President Obama is exactly wrong when he says:
“We flood communities with so many guns that it is easier for a teenager to buy a Glock than to get his hands on a computer”
Gun rights supporters are correct to point out that Chicago has some of the highest levels of homicides with guns in spite of the infringements they place on Second Amendment rights. Cook doesn’t draw the obvious conclusion that people who strongly desire guns will go to considerable lengths to obtain them. He thinks strict gun controls on places outside of Chicago (where the crime rate is much lower) could reduce the number of firearms that get to Chicago. It seems unlikely.
Chicago is a textbook case of inflexible demand. To understand this inflexibility of demand, dedicated anti-gunners would have to step outside their comfort zone. Few ever do. The number of people who actively support the Second Amendment, however, has been growing for decades.
That is why gun rights are slowly being restored across the nation, and why pushes for more infringements are so often defeated.
©2016 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice is included.