On Wednesday, December 2, two people went into the Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino, California and shot and killed 14 people while injuring 21 others. Before the massacre, the Center had been hosting a training seminar and a holiday party. Hours later, local authorities cornered, shot, and killed the two murderers, detaining a third person that had been seen near the scene.
Understandably, people across America and the world were shocked by these events, and the San Bernardino community quickly got together to begin the mourning process. While it’s still unclear what the motivation for such an extreme and senseless act was, we do know that the couple had been heavily armed and highly prepared. They knew what they were doing.
All across social media, people began doing what they always do in the face of a mass shooting: mourn, condemn mentally ill people, and say they were going to purchase a gun. While the first is appropriate, the second and third are not. I’ve talked in great length about how mentally ill people are overwhelmingly not responsible for violent crimes, but I’d like to address this knee jerk reaction to purchasing a gun.
Despite what some of our politicians and the NRA say, owning and having a gun on you is not more likely to prevent a tragedy like this. At the Planned Parenthood shooting in Colorado Springs just a few days ago, one of the victims was a police officer. Police also arrived relatively early to the scene, but they still got embroiled in a standoff with the shooter (as they did at the Umpqua Community College shooting in October). Furthermore, despite the fact that America has less than 5% of the world’s population, we own over 40% of all guns. We also have 88.8 guns per 100 civilians, and yet we have a gun homicide rate six times as much as Canada, seven times as much as Sweden, and 16 times as much as Germany. Millions of new guns are registered every year, but we are not required to take a competency test before bringing our guns into the real world. Yes, you might have to pass a background check or register your gun, but you don’t have to do any sort of training for it – which is probably why we have so many gun homicides per year (above 100,000). So, if more guns equals less shootings, why do we have more than one gun per adult and more guns than almost the rest of the world combined and yet have more mass shootings than any other first world country?
Yes, we all want to be safe, and, yes, some of us live in areas that make knowing self-defense important but having a gun doesn’t automatically mean we will be safer. It doesn’t mean that in a moment of crisis we will act wisely and defuse the situation – especially if we receive no prior training. So before you go out and purchase a gun, consider the actual responsibility of owning one. Will you learn how to maintain and use it properly? Will you take a certification course that will help you handle yourself and it in an emergency? Will you renew that certification periodically? Do you have someplace special to keep the weapon away from your children and strangers? Will you, in an emergency situation, actually be helpful with your gun or will you simply complicate the situation and stress authorities by having another gun on the scene? And if your only response is, “But I need a gun,” I recommend rethinking the purchase and putting your time and money to something actually helpful – charitable donations, self-defense courses, and on-the-job emergency training. More than a heavy piece of death in your pocket, those will save lives.
* Photo taken from http://smartgunlaws.org/multiple-purchases-sales-of-firearms-policy-summary/