The Certainty of More Shootings, Cont'd

Editor’s Note: This article previously appeared in a different format as part of The Atlantic’s Notes section, retired in 2021.

A regular reader, Doug Pancoast, joins the depressingly ongoing thread led by Fallows:

I think America’s gun problem (and I do believe that America has a gun problem) really boils down to three major divides.

The first is the urban-rural divide. For the Americans who still live in rural areas, their experience with guns is very different from people who grew up in cities. There are far more shootings in cities than in tiny towns, and so the perceived level of danger is very different. Furthermore, cities have police who can respond to problems much more quickly than a sheriff might be able to respond to a shooter out in the country. People in rural areas don’t feel like they can depend on police to protect them, and therefore they feel like they need the protection of a gun. However, people in rural America want to to force people living in populated cities to live with the same loose gun restrictions, even though the dangers associated with guns are much greater for people living in cities.

The second divide has to do with the way individuals, regardless of where they might live, view guns.

Some people view guns as a source of danger, while others view guns as a source of protection. That’s why after a mass shooting, some people (like myself) want to enact far more restrictions on guns, while others run out to buy one. However, it’s hard for me to believe that more guns will lead to less crime.

Finally, the cause of our gun problems are rooted in a divide over how to interpret the Constitution in 2015. When the document was written, America did not have a large, permanent standing army that protected the country from foreign enemies. American towns also didn’t have a police force like they do now. And so when the Second Amendment was written, it was explicitly pointed out in the amendment that a well-organized militia was necessary for the security of a free state. However, times have changed. America has a very large standing army now. American cities have a police force to respond to criminal activity.

And the power and accuracy of weapons has changed dramatically. When the Framers gave the people the right to bear arms, guns couldn’t fire 60 rounds per minute, just like nuclear weapons did not yet exist. Would the Framers have given every American the right to buy a weapon that could fire 60 rounds per minute, online or from a private seller at a gun show without a background check? You’d have a hard time convincing me of that.

However, these divisions on guns have not changed much in recent years. Those in rural areas, those who view guns as more of a protection than the cause of danger, and those that interpret the Constitution like it’s still the 18th century will continue to insist that people in the cities “enjoy” the same rights they think they are entitled to. However, I am not so sure that people in the cities are really enjoying these rights. In fact, these rights seem to be killing us.

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