At first glance, the term “gun nut” would appear to be nothing more than an ad hominem against the more enthusiastic weapon owners of this country. However, as one reads the literature espoused by gun nut organizations, the reasoning behind this term becomes startlingly clear. Gun nuts are called as such because they are incontrovertibly insane.
The gun lobby has adopted the same attitude toward politics as Rush Limbaugh: “Don’t confuse me with facts, I’ve got my mind made up!” Gun nuts are so obsessed with opposing gun control laws that no amount of factual evidence against their position will sway them. Some call this “sticking to your guns.” I call it “deliberate stupidity.”
The National Rifle Association (NRA) claims that a society that owns guns is a safe society. Throughout the pages of gun magazines are various ads which depict Joe Average wielding a hand cannon, defending his helpless family from a masked intruder who has invaded his home in the dead of night. Ignore for a minute that the probability of encountering a burglar dumb enough to enter your house while you are there is incredibly slim and look at the FBI’s study on gun violence. In 1993, of 39,595 firearm-related deaths, only 251 were determined to be justifiable homicide. That is less than 1 percent of all firearm deaths for that year. Furthermore, studies in 1994 found that you are much more likely to be murdered by someone you know, not some masked boogey-man with an eye for your wife’s jewelry. Suicides, homicides and accidental deaths far outnumber instances where someone has successfully used a firearm to defend themselves or their loved ones. Either these findings have not reached the NRA, or they are deliberately turning a blind eye to them.
Unrestricted ownership of weapons essentially follows the tenets of the classical theory of criminology. This theory is hardly modern, developing in the late 1700s through the works of Cesare Beccaria and Jeremy Bentham. The core ideas of classical theory are: the decision to commit crime is a rational cost-benefit evaluation and that crime can be prevented through administering certain, severe punishment. Gun nuts believe that if every citizen owned a weapon, potential criminals would be too afraid to commit crimes.
The right wing, not just the gun nuts, has become so enthralled by classical theory that they have completely ignored the mountains of evidence that contradict it. While America fairs better than its developed counterparts around the world in most areas of crime, it tops them all in the category of murder. While you stand a better chance of being robbed in Sydney, Australia than in Los Angeles you are 20 times as likely to be killed in L.A. A rational mugger would prefer to give up and flee should his activity lead to conflict (as murder comes with a much higher cost than mere robbery, while the benefit is relatively minute), but statistics point out that in the U.S., victims that put up a fight are typically killed. This is not rational behavior and all the guns in America haven’t changed it.
When the chips are down in the debate on crime, a gun nut will always fall back on the Constitution. Gun nuts love to quote the Second Amendment, or at least they love to quote the second half. In its entirety, the Second Amendment reads, “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.” This does not, in any way, clarify the issue of personal gun ownership. It is vague, leaving one to wonder whether or not gun ownership rights should be extended to the individual without mandatory enrollment in a “well organized militia.” Historically, the Supreme Court has ruled that states have the right to enact gun control laws, as was determined by United States v. Cruikshank in 1876. The NRA has conveniently ignored the first half of the Second Amendment, typically printing only the second half. Former Chief Justice Warren Burger denounced the NRA’s editing of the Second Amendment as a “fraud.”
Owning an arsenal is not a “way of life,” it is a mental disorder. It is an unjustifiable paranoia that leads to thousands of unjustified deaths every year. Let’s put this in perspective. Annually, about 17,000 people die of illicit drug use (illegal), 0 people die of marijuana use (also illegal), 20,000 people die of sexual behaviors (not illegal, but frowned upon), while some 29,000 die in a firearm related incident, 1 percent of which result in a “bad guy” eating a lead sandwich.
I’m not suggesting that people stop owning weapons or that the NRA disband and start crusading for rights that don’t kill anyone, like smoking pot for example. What I want is an end to the lies that the gun nuts want so badly to believe in. I want them to face the fact that they are much more likely to kill their wife and children than defend them. I want them to realize that the only crime wave in this country is in homicide, a crime inextricably linked with firearms. Perhaps when gun nuts stop living in Charlton Heston’s movies they will pursue a safer, more reasonable route to gun ownership and use.