The mainstream media is like a dog chasing a squirrel. Talking heads pontificate about the crisis du jour, while public figures rend their clothes while wearing sackcloth and ashes before the klieg lights and cameras. There is something fresh, new, and horrible every single day. It is predictable. That’s a great way to earn clicks but a really bad way to shape government policy.
According to them, our country’s greatest existential crisis is assault weapons. Now we all know that it’s not even possible to define a “semiautomatic assault weapon,” much less control its proliferation and nefarious use via legislative fiat. However, reality has never stopped the Left from throwing ineffective laws at a problem. As it relates to the Second Amendment in general and an assault weapons ban in particular, it behooves us to appreciate a few inconvenient facts.
Everytown for Gun Safety is a rabidly anti-gun political activist organization. Let’s give them the benefit of the doubt and assume their numbers are accurate. Everytown defines a mass shooting as a rampage event wherein four or more people are killed with firearms excluding the shooter. They counted an average of nineteen mass shooter events per annum between 2009 and 2020, with a total of 1,363 fatalities. Of these tragedies spread over 12 years, firearms that could be defined as “assault weapons” were used in 30 shootings, resulting in 347 deaths.
Ours is a nation of 328 million people. In 2019, 364 Americans were killed with rifles of all sorts. That’s 364 unimaginable tragedies. I do not for a moment trivialize that. However, there is the issue of scale.
In that same year, we lost 480,000 Americans to cigarettes. Of those 480,000, some 41,000 were innocent non-smokers killed by secondhand smoke, mostly children with breathing disorders. That same year, 1,476 Americans were killed with knives, 600 were beaten to death with fists, and 397 died from attackers wielding clubs and hammers (statista.com). More people were murdered with knives in that single year than were killed in mass shootings between 2009 and 2020. People are just bad.
The images are undeniably heartrending. No normal person can gaze upon the pictures of terrified survivors streaming out of a school or shopping center without being viscerally moved. However, isolated images are no basis for sound policy.
As horrible as these diabolical events are in the grand scheme, the cold absolute numbers are still fairly small. By contrast, there is a flip side to the Second Amendment question that is typically completely overlooked in the national discourse. Just how many lives are saved by America’s unique infatuation with these implements of violence?
Gunfacts.info estimates that guns are used to prevent crimes some 2.5 million times per year in America. That’s an average of 6,849 incidents every day. The same researchers assert that guns are used to avert a life-threatening crime 400,000 times per year. These numbers are amply footnoted, but statistics are readily manipulatable. I take all those things with a grain of salt. Today, I’d like to think a little bigger.
Our great republic has served as a beacon of freedom and democracy to an oft-enslaved world for some 245 years now. Ours is the most resilient, long-lived, and productive democracy in human history. We are also a gleaming exception. Time after time after time, governments have their day in the sun but then devolve into blood-soaked despotism. That cycle is a lamentable part of the human condition.
Cambodia suffered unimaginably under Pol Pot (2 million dead). Germany had Hitler and the Nazis (21 million dead). China had Mao (45 million dead). And then there’s Putin (pushing half a million dead total).
The real body counts don’t come from mass shooters. The serious body counts come from governments. And the only thing standing between the United States government and something similarly ghastly, as has been the case with democracies throughout human history, is a well-armed populace.
An armed population is absolutely ungovernable without their consent. Those great wise old guys who drafted the U.S. Constitution knew that to be the case. That’s why the right to own a weapon was enshrined right behind the right to gripe about the government and attend the church of your choice.
I have a dear friend who is alive today because he had a gun on a remote deserted road late at night. The cops were never notified, and the incident never made it into any statistical database. However, I’m sure glad he traveled with a weapon. It’s a scary world.
The American phenomenon is unique in human history. The unhinged rantings of revisionist activists notwithstanding, we have been the greatest force for liberty in the history of the planet. And that could all be gone in a generation. We are not fundamentally different from the Germans, the Cambodians, the Russians, and the Chinese. We simply can’t let short-sighted witless agendas undo two centuries of profound, timeless wisdom.