LETTER TO THE EDITOR: A Response to Glen Mollette’s “How Many Bullets?”

In response to the opinion written by Glenn Mollette and published in this paper August 15. I agree with two of his points. First “A weapon of mass destruction can be … whatever an evil person chooses to utilize …” Secondly, and I feel more importantly, “Our greatest need is a cultural change.” However, I find that his argument is not entirely accurate and fails to identify a feasible solution. 

I would like to begin by pointing out that we are living in a time of declining violence. One would never know it with the way the media and politicians portray crime. According to the F.B.I.’s Uniform Crime Report, there is an overall nation-wide decline in all categories except for rape. Despite an increasing population, 2018 violent crimes is down 4.3%, murder is down 6.7%, and aggravated assault is down 2%. 

We are told frequently that we need more and tougher gun laws. These have proven to be ineffective in the many forms in which they have been instituted. This can be seen in England, During 2017, the same year we experienced a 0.9% decrease in violent crime, they experienced a 13% increase in violent crimes. Which, according to the Guardian constituted a 27% rise in gun crime, and a 26% increase in knife crime. This, despite their very restrictive gun laws. 

I believe this disparity is because the proponents of strict gun laws, or the complete banning of them, do not take into account human nature. Conflict is endemic to the human experience, with this comes murder. If one intends to commit the horrible act of murder, they will find a way to attempt it, whether with a firearm, knife, club, or car. Remember, it is illegal to kill someone, but people still do it. 

Of the shootings that have occurred, few of them have been committed by owners of legally purchased firearms. This is presented in Sources of Guns to Dangerous People, volume 79 of Preventive Medicine Journal published in October 2015. Where Cook, Parker, and Pollok wrote that “criminals obtain most of their guns through their social network… rarely is the source either a gun store or even theft.” As well as it is evident in a 1999 study done by the A.T.F.; where it was stated that 93% of guns used in crimes are obtained illegally. 

This issue references Mr. Mollette’s assertion that Congress must enact background checks. According to current federal law, any new firearm purchase must be preceded by a background check through the F.B.I’s NICS system. This is done by a licensed dealer (FFL), and the firearm does not exchange hands until the F.B.I. gives the approval. The same is applied to gun show sales. The federal government already has comprehensive regulations in place, which, upon research and investigation, have been proven to have little effect in keeping firearms from those who are determined to commit violent crimes. 

So what does work? I opine that a good place to start would be to keep the NICS as a safeguard, while reducing restrictions. Allowing people to possess what they believe is the right tool to defend themselves, their families, and their communities. I agree that average citizens should not possess explosives or rocket launchers. To obtain these extra licensing should be required, just as it is for automatic firearms and silencers. 

An informed populace would be another great help. We can continue misinforming and sheltering people from firearms, or we could promote teaching everyone proper gun use and safety. Beyond that, we should be encouraging those responsible citizens to carry firearms in order to steward a safer and more idyllic society. 

Unfortunately, seldom do we hear of the merits of gun ownership. James Wright and Peter Rossi wrote in their 1986 book, Armed and Considered Dangerous, that 60% of convicted felons avoided committing crimes if they knew their chosen victim was armed. They also found that 40% of them avoided committing crimes if they suspected the potential victim was armed. Every year guns prevent 2.5 million crimes, often without being used, and without bloodshed. This according to Dr. Gary Kleck, Criminologist at Florida State University in his 1997 Targeting Guns. 

Consider these two incidents: In May of 2008 Ernesto Villagomez entered a bar in Reno, Nevada, and opened fire, instantly hitting two patrons. A licensed concealed carrier then drew his firearm and fatally shot the gunman, saving untold lives. Similarly, in April of 2015, there was an incident in which an Uber driver stopped and engaged Everardo Custodio, who had opened fire on a crowd in Chicago’s Logan Square. He injured the gunman, thus ending the shooting. Both of these could have been far more horrific without the bravery of those responsible individuals. They serve as evidence that firearm ownership is much better at reducing crime and saving lives than restrictive gun laws, which fail to save more lives than they protect. 

Criminals with guns are only stopped by good people with guns. Let us place the responsibility of gun legislation and ownership back into the hands of “We the people.” Stop allowing Congress to infringe on one of the rights bestowed upon us by our creator. Many of them know nothing of firearms, and yet, claim we must do something. They are failing to acknowledge the cause of the problem. One should not blame the object of destruction, but rather the person who cannot respect the sanctity of the lives they seek to destroy. 

This, I argue, is the “cultural change we need.” People need to get involved, informed, and engaged. Reunite behind what made us strong; the sense of individual responsibility that lies at the heart of our founding documents. We should meet and have open and honest conversations about how to maintain our rights from government encroachment, and work together going forward. Instead of having people that know nothing of the topics write the laws, let “We the people” think critically to find well-informed solutions. 

In the case of firearm laws, we have plenty of evidence to show that they do not work, at least not effectively. Ben Franklin once warned us that if we try to buy safety by giving up liberties, we deserve neither. It is not worth stripping good citizens of the chance to defend themselves while criminals do not abide by the same rules. We can protect ourselves and our communities, rather than wasting precious seconds waiting for law enforcement. 

Let us stop passing irrational laws that do nothing but make us feel better when we only further restrict ourselves, and empower the criminals. Our laws should be measured by the logical standards set forth in our founding documents. Is it Constitutional, has it worked in the past, and will it work now? In the words of Thomas Jefferson, we must “fix reason firmly in her seat, and call to her tribunal every fact, every opinion…” 

If we return to reasoning and logic, we will answer Mr. Mollette‘s question “How many bullets?” with a resounding, “As many as possible.”

Christopher Hrehor 

Ava, Mo