You should not have a gun

I heard about the shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, hours after it happened. I was flying East that day, and hadn’t checked in with the news. I don’t know anyone involved, but I have two boys in elementary school, one a six-year-old first grader. I have been sad, confused, and angry in turns, sometimes all at once.

It has been several days, and I think I’ve come to some… conclusions about what I think. Buckle up.

First off, mental illness is a terrible problem. Unlike with guns, it is an almost unfathomably complicated topic, of enormous importance, that I am completely unqualified to speak to. I do think that, as a country, we should be able to tackle both guns and mental illness. Both clearly need the attention.

But, on guns, I think this:

  • I believe that people should only have access to guns if their profession requires it. Yeah, I’m a little left of Liberal on this. But there is no reason, in a civilized society, for individuals to own guns for any sort of recreational purpose. None. Try your best to give me a reason. I like them doesn’t count. I grew up with guns doesn’t count. I need to defend myself (from other people with guns) doesn’t count. I’m part of a well-regulated militia and I need them to defend myself from a future totalitarian/socialist government. Really? Guns kill, and you can’t tell me that killing is an acceptable end goal. Punto final.

  • If you own a gun for recreational purposes, I will be civil to you (lest you, you know, shoot me), but I will not be your friend. My children will not play at your house. You had better tell me now, and get it over with. You can unfriend me and we can go our separate ways. My children and I will be safer.

Sure, a full-on firearms ban will never fly in this country. I understand the practical problems with my stance. A ban on assault weapons, or on high-capacity magazines, or on bullets, is likely to be much more successful. But I remain convinced that you do not need a gun. You should not have a gun. You are not safer with a gun. I am not safer if you have a gun.

Gun-related deaths in 2010 in the United States, from the CDC:

  • unintentional firearm deaths: 606
  • homicide firearm deaths: 11,078
  • suicide firearm deaths: 19,392
  • total firearm deaths: 31,672

Gun related non-suicide deaths per 100,000 people:

  • United States, 2008-2010: 3.97
  • France, 2009: 0.68 (17.1% of US total)
  • Italy, 2009: 0.47 (11.8%)
  • Australia, 2008: 0.26 (6.5%)
  • Germany, 2010: 0.16 (4%)
  • United Kingdom, 2011: 0.07 (1.7%)
  • Norway, 2010: 0.06 (1.5%)

Yes, in the US, you are 56 times more likely to die from a gun than in the UK. That does not include suicides.

Once they come out of hiding, the NRA will trot out all their usual tropes: guns don’t kill people, gun safety training is very important, everyone should have gun locks, or gun safes, or unloaded guns, or something that makes your gun safer.

You know what is more effective than gun safety training? Not having a gun. You know what is more effective than gun locks? Not having a gun. You know what is more effective than gun safes? Not having a gun.

You know what is safer than having a gun? Not having a gun.