By now there must be a special command bunker ready for the White House communications team to man when Joe Biden decides to hold a press conference. If it exists, it certainly would have been used last week. Responding to Kate Ernest, who asked how a law-abiding citizen should best protect themselves if they have no access to firearms, the Vice President exclaimed, “Buy a shotgun! Buy a shotgun!” As the words rolled off of Veep’s tongue, communications staffers were likely sent into a panic mode that has become all too familiar.
“I said, ‘Jill, if there’s ever a problem, just walk out on the balcony here, walk out and put that double-barrel shotgun and fire two blasts outside the house,’” Biden said.
Why a shotgun? Because “you don’t need an AR-15. It’s harder to aim, it’s harder to use.” Biden’s advice is not only strategically poor (firing two rounds into the air from a two-round shotgun leaves you effectively unarmed), but it also leaves one vulnerable to the very real possibility of negligent homicide, as bullets that are fired up eventually do come down, many times with deadly consequences.
Biden’s remarks exemplify just how disconnected many ideologues are on the issue of gun control and use. Carrying a gun allows one to defend oneself in times of personal danger.
Additionally, research suggests that stricter gun laws correlate to increased rates in violent crime. Harvard criminologists Don Kates and Gary Mauser authored a study examining American and European gun laws and violence rates in exhaustive detail. According to Mauser and Kates, nations with stringent anti-gun laws generally have substantially higher murder rates than those that do not. In 2006, John Moorhouse and Brent Wanner studied how crime rates responded to gun control laws. The findings showed that gun control laws do not affect crime rates, and that a ban instituted post-shooting does not affect the crime rate itself, but that the use of the specific weapon is sometimes altered.
“Republican obstructionism!” or “Tea-Partyers!” are frequent phrases thrown around in any argument in order to delegitimize the possible validity of a dissenting opinion. Such is the case with the recent discourse on gun control measures. Increased background check measures poll favorably across the political spectrum. And while polls suggest that both Republicans and Democrats favor increased background checks, the NRA does not, and with good reason.
The NICS background check system works. Adam Lanza, the Newtown shooter, stole his guns — he did not buy them. To cite the NICS in any Newtown-related discussion should include that Lanza acquired his firearms through theft, not a faulty NICS system. When someone cites the statistic that 40 percent of firearms aren’t checked with NICS, that is because those firearms were purchased over 20 years ago and are no longer sold at licensed firearms vendors.
As Vice President Biden said earlier this month, there are too many gun control laws on the books to be able to enforce them all properly, especially when it comes to background checks.
The real issue when it comes to gun control discourse is that individuals should have the right to protect themselves in times of perceived danger.
Tragedies certainly put the debate into perspective. But tragedies do not change the following realities: our society is plagued by violent crime, and responsible gun ownership is an effective means of self-defense.