Recent events and an editorial in the CCR have prompted some letters about guns and gun control. The debate shows a great divide between those who feel that we are safer with more guns in the hands of the general public, and those who believe we would all be safer if fewer guns were out there. I suppose there are some folks who are on the fence about the issue. Perhaps another perspective on the subject would help people make up their minds on how they feel about the general ownership of guns.
Guns in the hands of the general public provide a measure of deterrence to crime. They need not be used by the gun owner to stop an active crime. The lock on your door deters crime, even if no potential criminal ever tries to open the door. A criminal knows that the vast majority of doors have locks and that the majority of those locks have been activated. The criminal knows that the locked door makes any attempted entry harder, so he doesn’t even try, thus the deterrence. Even if the door has not actually been locked. If he thought that your door was not locked, he would choose to enter your home before choosing a home with a locked door.
Same thing with guns in the home. Or rather, the perception by the criminal that there is a gun in the home. The gun need not actually be there. But, if a criminal knows that a large percentage of homes have guns in them, without actually knowing which home has, or doesn’t have, a gun, then he will be deterred. The criminal knows that an armed victim makes his criminal act more likely to be unsuccessful, and poses a danger to his own life. The higher percentage, at least as perceived by the criminal, of homes that have guns, the higher the degree of deterrence. Laws aimed at reducing the number of guns in the general public would reduce that deterrence.
One reason that “gun-free” designations don’t work very well is that a potential shooter has less reason to be deterred. Unless a school or business can provide a screening process, like the Clare County Courthouse, that uses professionals and metal-detection devices to keep guns out, then only those who are intent on breaking the rules will bring guns into a “gun-free” area. Guns in possession of law-abiding civilians also protect others who don’t have guns. Because the person who wants to commit a violent crime doesn’t know if his potential victim is armed.
Your answer to two questions may provide you with more insight on how you feel about the issue. The answer to the first question relies on a subjective analysis of how you feel. What makes you feel safer—having a gun in your home (or business, or car, or on your person)—or not having a gun? Answering “not having a gun” is a perfectly responsible answer, many people have situations in their homes where a gun would present a hazard and, statistically, the great majority of people will never need a gun to protect themselves.
But an honest answer to the second question requires an objective assessment of human nature. What makes you feel safer—no one in the general public knowing that you don’t have a gun—or everyone knowing that you don’t have a gun?