On The Issues

Gun Control

In Brief

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Gun control kills.

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The Pennsylvania Constitution mandates, “The right of the Citizen to bear arms for the defense of themselves and the State shall not be questioned.

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Passing more gun control laws would not help. Criminals don’t care about breaking a law.

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Facts show that supporting the right to keep and bear arms reduces crime and homicides.

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Handguns are a girl’s best friend.

In Depth

This speech was delivered by Mr. Krawchuk to the Educational Testing Service Toastmasters.

Gunning for a Solution

“A well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.”

So says the infamous Second Amendment to the Constitution for the United States of America. But the same Constitution promises to “promote the general welfare” and “ensure domestic tranquility”.

Do you think that the 193 million privately-owned firearms promote the general welfare and insure domestic tranquility?

The Pennsylvania Constitution goes even further. Article I says, “The right of the Citizen to bear arms in defense of themselves and the State shall not be questioned.” But it also says that “governments are founded… for the peace, safety, and happiness” of the people.

Happiness? Three months ago, 12 students and a teacher were killed in Colorado. Does that make you happy?

Safety? Almost 40,000 Americans were killed by firearms last year alone. Do you feel safe?

Peace? The peace of the grave, perhaps.

Welcome, fellow Toastmasters, to the saga of the War on Guns.

It’s a battle between the right to bear arms and the right to live your life; the battle between pro-gun versus pro-gun control, a battle between the “haves” and the “want-them-to-have nots”.

And it’s an interesting battle because as divided as people are about guns, there is one thing that both sides readily agree upon the facts.

It’s surprising, but there is very little disagreement over the facts. People on both sides of the gun issue quote the same numbers: Guns are the seventh largest killer in the nation. There’s a gun for every man, woman, and half the kids in the country, and thousands of those children were killed by firearms every year; it works out to one dead child, every two hours.

Both sides readily agree that these are facts. So it’s not so much the facts about guns where the disagreement comes in; it’s how each group puts a certain emphasis on the facts; how they spin the facts if you will.

For example, in 1995 there were 185 fatal firearm accidents among children. Gun advocates point out that it’s down by almost 2/3 from the high-water mark of the 1970’s. But gun control advocates point out that it’s ONE HUNDRED EIGHTY-FIVE DEAD CHILDREN! 370 grieving parents.

Do you see what I mean? Same facts, different spins

Another example: Gun advocates prove that Americans use guns defensively 2.5 million times a year, preventing many more murders, rapes, and robberies than if they were unarmed.

The gun control advocates agree but counter that with a gun in the home, you’re 3 times more likely to have a homicide, 5 times more likely to have a suicide, and a whopping 43 times more likely to kill a friend than to kill in self-defense.

All these numbers come from the same facts. Each side sat up late at night spinning their numbers in just the right way to promote their agendas. Each side claims they prove their numbers are right.

What, then, should we do about guns?

First, we must realize that there is no Utopia. Pandora’s box is open. Guns are here to stay. We can’t eliminate illegal drugs and guns in prison; so how can we expect to do it in a free society? The answer is: You can’t.

We must realize that more laws would not work. Criminals don’t care about breaking a law. Did you know that the students in Littleton broke 19 different laws?. Do you think they cared? More laws would only impact law-abiding citizens — because they abide by the law — and not the criminals — because they don’t.

So what, then, do we do about guns? The best programmer I ever met once told me a fundamental truth, useful not only in programming but also useful in life. He said, “More important than solving the problem correctly is to solve the correct problem.”

So when it comes to guns, what’s the problem that we’re solving here?

Do you know what problem I’d like to solve? 40,000 people die every year from firearms. THAT is the problem to be solved. To my mind, all our actions must be aimed at reducing the number of deaths as best we can.

And who could disagree? I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of hearing about dead children on the 6 o’clock news.

So what can we do to reduce gun deaths? We need to look at the things that have already worked. What successes have there been in America recently?

Without a doubt, the most astounding success, statistically speaking, is occurring in Florida. According to the FBI, over the ten years between 1987 and 1997, their handgun homicide rate dropped 41% while the rest of the nation’s rose 24%; and it continues to drop today, 5% a year, while the rest of the nation’s continues to rise. And before 1987, their rate had pretty much gone along with the rest of the country.

How did Florida achieve this boon, you may ask? How did they reduce their handgun homicide rate to its lowest level since 1933? What did Florida do in 1987 that started their contrarian trend?

They made it legal to carry a concealed handgun.

Surprised? I was shocked; I couldn’t believe it at first. But the statistics are there, plain as day. An armed society is a safer society, 41% safer. Some local communities have eliminated over 90 percent of gun deaths that way. But don’t take my word for it; ask the FBI.

Here’s another shocker: Everyone knows that if a woman resists an attacker, she’s twice as likely to be seriously injured. But John Lott at the University of Chicago did a county-level, nationwide study. He confirmed that common wisdom, but he also discovered that if a woman resisted with a handgun, she’s half as likely to be seriously injured.

The obvious conclusion to draw from Lott’s study is that handguns are a girl’s best friend.

But we have to be careful when we rely only on statistics like these. Statistics can be very cold. So let’s take a look at what happens in real situations with real people. Let’s look at a few of the recent school shootings, for example.

In Pearl Mississippi in 1997, 2 students were killed by a fellow student. But the vice principal ran out to his car for his gun, then held the killer at bay for 5 minutes until the police arrived. If he hadn’t stepped forward, how many more people would have been killed in those 5 minutes?

In 1998, a little closer to home in Edinboro Pennsylvania, only 1 student was killed because a neighboring merchant with a shotgun held the killer at bay for 11 minutes until the police arrived. How many more people could have been killed in those 11 minutes?

This year, in Littleton Colorado, there was no one there to stop them. Thirteen were killed.

Fellow Toastmasters, I cannot escape the truth.

No matter where I look, the evidence is clear. No matter how you spin them, the facts are clear. No matter whether you look at statistics or individual disasters, the answer is clear.

If the problem you’re solving is to save as many innocent lives as possible, there is one incontrovertible, inescapable conclusion: gun control kills.

And if you disagree, if your goal is NOT to save as many innocent lives as possible, then I have to ask you: What problem are YOU solving?

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