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Out of Left Field | Commentary by Charlie Vignola
| Sunday, Feb 3, 2013

charlievignolaI really thought I’d written my last gun column for a while.  I’d penned quite a few since Sandy Hook, with the same outcome: If you agreed with me that there is still some progress to be made in terms of new gun legislation, then I was just preaching to the choir. If you disagreed with me, then no amount of cajoling or evidence would ever convince you otherwise.

And then I saw two recent statistics, one from the Centers for Disease Control and one from the FBI, and I realized I wasn’t quite done with the subject matter.  If data mean anything to you, you should give the subject a second thought, as well.

According to the CDC, in 2011 there were 31,163 gun-related deaths in America. That number includes all deaths caused by a firearm, including murders, suicides, accidental deaths and justifiable homicides committed either by peace officers or by private citizens.

Now here’s the kicker. According to the FBI, just how many of those gun-related deaths were the result of justifiable homicide – meaning it was an incident in which either a peace officer or a private citizen used a gun in self-defense against a felon during the commission of a crime?  Ready for this number?  201.

What conclusion can we draw from these statistics? Not airy-fairy liberal opinions, mind you, but hard-core numbers from the CDC and the FBI?

The numbers show guns were used for their primary stated purpose, i.e., self-defense, less than 1 percent of the time.  More than 99 percent of the time, firearms in America were used for everything but self-defense.

Even if you’re a gun aficionado, those numbers should come as a bit of a shock to you.  And if you’re immune to the statistics, what you’re implicitly saying is, “Yeah, I don’t really care about those numbers.  The Constitution says I have the right to a gun, so I’m gonna have one to defend myself – even though 30,962 Americans were needlessly killed so that 201 felons could be justifiably put down.”

This is where you start to get into really sticky moral quandaries in terms of the trade-offs we make in our society.  If 155 innocent people have to die for every one person to legitimately defends himself with a gun, does society consider it a fair trade-off?  To put it in an equally valid but more queasy way, is it worth sacrificing one person’s life if doing so could potentially save 155 lives?

Pollsters never frame their questions this way, and I’m sure the NRA would cry foul if they did. But seriously, how could they argue with that logic?  This is not a paranoid fantasy but the reality of gun violence in modern America.

The only real fantasy is what gun rights advocate Gayle Trotter spun in her Senate testimony last week when she gave a hypothetical example about a young mother trying to protect her babies from a gang of violent felons attacking her home.  Trotter explained such a scenario was the reason assault weapons should remain legal, because such a “scary-looking gun gives (a young mother) more courage when she’s fighting hardened violent criminals.”

Conservatives are fond of accusing liberals of not living in the real world. But do those same conservatives believe this colorful scenario is reason enough for civilians to have access to military-grade weapons?

Gayle Trotter’s story is like a lurid scene out of a Hollywood exploitation movie such as “Death Wish” rather than anything you’d encounter in real life. You’re literally more likely to be struck by lightning than ever to face a situation like the one she describes.

This is the great irony of modern gun politics: On the off-chance they’ll have to protect themselves against the apocalyptic fantasies of roving bands of criminals or battle a tyrannical government, gun advocates demand we protect a status quo that cruelly takes the lives of tens of thousands of Americans every year.

The NRA and its ilk truly believe this annual blood sacrifice is a perfectly rational price for a society to pay for its peace of mind, as illusory as it might be.  The ancient Incas felt the same way about their blood sacrifices to please their gods and protect their harvests, but eventually their societies outgrew such irrational beliefs.

For the smart-ass conservatives who think all a liberal has to do is be victimized to become a gun zealot, I offer a counter-proposal. All a conservative gun owner has to do is accidentally kill a loved one with his gun or be paralyzed for life by a stray bullet to turn him into a born-again gun control advocate.

Theoretical bloodshed is one thing, but when that bloodshed hits close to home, as it did with the families of Sandy Hook – and the families of the other 1,501 Americans killed by guns in the weeks since Sandy Hook – it stops being theory and becomes a cold, stark reality.

And so we circle back to the beginning. Yes, I realize that again, none of this has changed a single mind. If you’re in favor of common-sense gun legislation, then you’re terrified by those statistics from the CDC and the FBI because they confirm every fear you’ve had about how firearms are actually used in America.

And if you’re a gun advocate, you could care less about those statistics – because you’re entitled to have as many guns and as much ammo as you can afford, and by God, you’re gonna have ‘em. Reality be damned.

 

Charlie Vignola describes himself as a former College Republican turned liberal Democrat.  A resident of the Santa Clarita Valley since 1999, he works in the motion picture industry and loves his wife and kids.

 

 

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5 Comments

  1. Gail says:

    Only law abiding citizens obey the law. Criminals do not obey or care about the law, that’s why we call them criminals. Bloodshed has hit close to my home. A family member was murdered in her own home. If she had a gun maybe she would be here today and her children would still have their Mother. When my home was broken into late one night all I had to do was take aim and yell get out or I’ll shoot and the man ran, it took the police 25 minutes to arrive. What would have happened if I didn’t have a gun? What will you do when/if your home is invaded? Call 911 wait and hope they get there in time, good luck with that! You can use your butter knife to protect yourself and the family you love and I’ll use my gun to protect mine… and you guessed it I am smart-ass conservative that’s smart enough to know that criminals do not obey the law.

  2. johntate90210 says:

    Gail, you’re a perfect example of somebody that rushes to post something without even reading the article. Only one out of 155 gun deaths was justifiable!

    As for your relative, it’s extremely doubtful she could’ve defended herself with a gun. Because of having children, she’d have had it unloaded and locked away. Totally useless. If it wasn’t locked up, well, it’s much more likely one kid would’ve killed another.

    As for you scaring off a burglar, a water pistol would’ve worked just as well. He probably never even saw the gun. He just knew somebody was awake and it was easier to go elsewhere.

    As for criminals not obeying the law, just pull all the ammo off the market immediately and the problem will pretty much dry up within a decade. Any that creep onto the black market will be so high priced that no criminal could afford them because, you know, they obviously have little money or they wouldn’t be stealing.

    • Mike says:

      Rather than fighting and arguing to remove the rights of free men, did you ever consider moving (or maybe just visiting) someplace that already has their freedoms diminished to the level you seek to see how you like it there? America is for free men. If you don’t like it, leave.

    • Gail says:

      johntate You are a perfect example of someone that assumes he knows how criminals think.You assume the man broke in to rob me, unless it was you how do you know why he broke in? You sir have NO idea why he broke in. I have NO idea why he broke in, but because I have a gun to protect myself I didn’t have to find out why he broke in. The man that broke into my home SAW the gun. I was not asleep in a dark house, the lights were on, the TV was on and he broke a window behind the sofa I was sitting on and came inside my home knowing I was up. Wise up, people don’t always break into dark homes and they aren’t always there to take your money or your stuff. Sometimes they are there to kill or hurt you. You need to ask yourself.. what would I do, how will I protect myself if this happens to me. You can have your water pistol and I’ll keep my gun loaded at all times.

  3. Mike says:

    201 incidents where deadly force was used by a good guy. How many lives did a gun save, just by being made present, without a single shot fired? What a stupid argument.

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