© Othmar Vohringer
It has become a common scenario to target firearm owners after a mass shooting and it is no different with the recent shooting at a gay bar in Orlando. Mainstream media and politicians fall over themselves promoting the urgency of more gun control laws, using buzz words like “gun violence”, “assault rifles”, “AR-15” and “semi-automatic weapons”. The latter three phrases are often used interchangeably to create the illusion that are all the same. This strategy works well to scare a largely ignorant population into thinking that drastic measures are needed to prevent people from getting murdered with firearms.
Of course there is no such thing as “gun violence”. Firearms are not violent, people can, and often are, violent and they use whatever means they have to commit murder or harm. If you look up the FBI statistics about murder rates by weapon type it turns out that a large number of homicides are not carried out with firearms but with an array of other weapons too. The knife, for example, ranks the highest after firearms. Next are blunt instruments (baseball bat, crowbar and such). Yet, nobody in their right mind would use the phrase “knife violence” or “baseball violence.” According to an article in the Washington Post, privately owned legal firearms number as high as 360 million, compared to that stands an average of 11,208 deaths by homicide (3.5 per 100,000 people).
The simple truth is that stricter firearm laws do not lower violence. Here in Canada we had a very strict gun control law for over ten years: the $2,000,000,000 Firearms Registry. When the conservative government finally abolished it there was a big outcry with fears fueled by the media that now ‘gun crime’ would rise. Statistics show that this has not happened. The crime rate involving guns did not rise in fact it went down. Even the RCMP, in charge of gun control and enforcing the law, had to admit that not a single registered firearm, of the millions of guns on the registry or their owners, was involved in any firearm related criminal activity. England, next to Germany, has the most restrictive firearms control laws in Europe, they even banned carrying a knife, and yet the man who murdered British MP Jo Cox last month did so with a firearm and a knife. In China civilians can’t own any firearms whatsoever, even the police officers must store their firearms at the police station at the end of their shift, yet China experiences a relatively high number of violent crimes involving firearms.
If stricter laws don’t work to reduce violent crimes then what is the problem? The system is the problem! In several interviews Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke, points out that the system is broken, more specifically the information exchange between law-enforcement agencies. For example, in the case of the Orlando shooting the FBI knew for the two years that Mateen was a radicalized individual and put him on a “no-fly” list. However, according to Sherriff Clake and others, the FBI did not pass that information on to other law-enforcement agencies in the country. Neglecting to pass information on made it possible that Mateen could legally purchase a firearm. When the firearm store owner made the mandatory criminal background check Mateen’s name came up clean.
We don’t need more laws; we need to fix the broken information system, enforce the laws we have and enforce them to the fullest extent instead of making up the usual excuses for criminals. Above all, let law enforcement do their work uninterrupted by politically correct agendas. This would serve much better to protect people from violent offenders then vilifying millions of law-abiding firearm owners. With issues like gun- control I am always reminded of a line I read a few years ago “For every problem there are hundreds of people chopping away at the leaves and branches, but nobody tackles the root of the problem.”
For a better understanding let me explain the terms “assault rifle”, “semi-automatic firearms” and “AR-15”. Knowing the difference may make you less vulnerable to the lies and myth you hear and read.
An ‘assault firearm’ is capable of select and serial fire, meaning, by the flick of a switch it can be turned from a single shot into serial fire capability. Serial fire capability lets the shooter pull the trigger once and the weapon keeps on shooting, like a machine gun, until the trigger is let go again or the magazine is empty. There is no need to ask for a ban on assault firearms because they are already forbidden to own, sell and purchase, even in America. However that does not stop the anti-gun lobby from suggesting that these types of firearms are legally owned by private citizens.
A ‘semi-automatic’ firearm (also called ‘self-loading firearm’) uses recoil or gas from the spent cartridge energy to automatically load a new cartridge into the chamber. Unlike the ‘assault rifle’ the shooter must pull the trigger each time to fire the gun. Many hunting firearms are semi-automatic, including shotguns and .22 caliber sporting rifles. The much maligned AR-15 rifle is also a semi-automatic rifle but cosmetically dressed up to look like an assault rifle, the “AR” stands for ArmaLite Rifle, not as often deliberately described by mainstream media, for “Assault Rifle”.
On a closing note I suggest that people should not give too much credit to the constant spread of deliberate misinformation and outright lies about firearms and lack of firearm laws. And finally, we don’t solve problems of escalating violence by vilifying and discriminating against the millions of law-abiding firearm owners. Problems are solved by targeting the root of the problem, not by looking for scapegoats.