Guns—A Way of Death
“THEY have this illusion,” said one prominent police official, “that they’re going to point the gun at someone and they’ll be in control and when it doesn’t work out that way, they hesitate, just as many police officers will hesitate a split second, and they pay for that with their lives.” There is also this observation from a noted U.S. public-safety commissioner: “Many people don’t come to grips with the fact that owning a handgun means being prepared to live with the aftermath of killing another human being. If you don’t actually shoot and a criminal fires at you, it is more dangerous to own a weapon than not to have it at all.”
Finally, there is this: “Even a little imagination ought to tell us that all this designer weaponry will lead to more, not less, trouble,” wrote a woman reporter—a member of a policeman’s family and herself an expert shot. “Have women who are buying ‘pretty’ guns confronted the aesthetics of blown-out brains? The result is not pretty. Ever seen a man with his face shot off?” Or, she asks, “could you aim for the heart?”
How quickly could you get to your concealed gun if you were suddenly accosted by an assailant? Consider her own experience: “When I was mugged—by a crazed addict with a butcher knife—the steel was at my throat before I saw or heard my attacker. If I’d gone for a gun, who’d have won a photo-finish?” Then she adds: “I would not dream of keeping a gun for personal protection. This is not a matter of morality; it is a matter of practicality.”
Now consider some overwhelming facts. In the “relatively rare shoot-outs between householders and burglars that do occur, it might easily be the burglar who proves more skilled in handling his gun and the householder who winds up in the morgue,” reported Time magazine of February 6, 1989. Whatever deterrence a gun might be in the prevention of a crime, it is more than offset by other devastating factors. Consider, for example, suicides. In the United States alone, in one 12-month period, over 18,000 people shot themselves to death.
How many of these were spur-of-the-moment acts that might not have been carried out if a gun had not been available in a purse or a dresser drawer cannot be determined. Surely, however, the ready access prevented some victims from having sufficient time to think rationally and perhaps save their lives. Add the number of U.S. suicides by guns to those of the rest of the world and the total would no doubt be shocking indeed.
Time magazine of July 17, 1989, reported that in the first week of May 1989, 464 people were shot to death in the United States alone. “This year more than 30,000 others will share their fate,” Time said. The magazine reported that “more Americans die of gunshot wounds every two years than have died to date of AIDS. Similarly, guns take more American lives in two years than did the entire Viet Nam War.”
Parents who own guns must bear the responsibility for their children who use them to take their own lives or the lives of others. “The rise in suicides by young people in 1988,” wrote one newspaper, “can be linked in part to easier access to guns as more homeowners stockpile weapons to protect their residences, police said. . . . If you have a weapon in the house, there’s just a chance a kid is going to get to it someday.” “Last year , over 3,000 children shot other children,” reported a June 1989 U.S. television newscast.
Parents, do you know where your guns are? One parent did, but so did his ten-year-old son. “He loaded his father’s high-powered hunting rifle,” the August 26, 1989, New York Times reported, “and shot to death a girl who had bragged that she was better than him at video games.” Do you know what is in your child’s lunch box besides sandwiches and cookies as you send him or her off to school? Would you believe that it could be your gun? What were the parents of a five-year-old kindergartner to think when school officials notified them that they had taken a loaded .25-caliber pistol away from their son in a crowded cafeteria, while hundreds of students ate their sandwiches, milk, and cookies?
Later in 1989, a six-year-old first-grader was caught showing off a loaded pistol. That same month a 12-year-old was arrested for carrying a loaded pistol in school. All of this in the same school district. In Florida, a student was not fortunate enough to escape the disaster of a loaded gun in the hands of a child. She was shot in the back when an 11-year-old girl accidentally fired the gun she had brought to school to show her friends.
“Our little six-year-olds go home and almost all know there is a gun in their home,” said one school principal. “Many of them have seen the result of a gun,” said a teacher of a third-grade class. “Maybe a father, an uncle or a brother is no longer in their house as a result of a gun,” he said. Some school systems have even found the need to install metal detectors to ferret out guns brought in by the very young, not to mention the older students! Must not parents bear the responsibility for the actions of their children, especially parents who see fit to have guns in their homes where their children can find them?
Parents may comfort themselves that their guns are concealed where their children or others cannot find them. Unfortunately, however, dead children have proved their parents wrong. Also, consider the obvious. “Well, you can’t have it two ways,” said one police chief. “If you really safeguard your gun so that innocent people in your house, your children or visitors or someone else, can’t get hurt with it, then [you] won’t be able to get to that gun for the kind of emergency that [you] bought it for in the first place.”
Police estimate that if a household gun is ever used, “it is six times as likely to be fired at a member of the family or a friend as at an intruder,” reported Time magazine. “A wife or mother thinks she hears a burglar and ends up shooting a husband or son coming home late,” said one public-safety commissioner. ‘How, then, should people protect their homes?’ he was asked. “Perhaps the best way to protect yourself is by risking your property rather than your life. Most robbers and burglars are there to steal, not to kill. Most firearms deaths in homes are committed with the homeowner’s gun. In any case, urban residents should try to increase protection by forming anticrime ‘watch’ groups.” And, finally, the gun owners must ask themselves if they are willing to take another human’s life in order to protect the contents of a purse or wallet or a few valuables in a home.
If you are wise, you will not resist the one who threatens your life for your valuables. Your life is worth more than these.