Thursday, August 04, 2005

Rage and Handguns

The Boston Globe has reported twice in two days on road rage incidents in Massachusetts that resulted in handgun shootings. In the first incident, a man shot another motorist to death while the victim held his nine-month-old baby in his arms. In the second, a man shot and wounded a teenager and his mother.

In both crimes, the shooters used legally licensed handguns.

Road rage is one of the least admirable behaviors of our time. Perhaps it results from an explosion of the stresses of modern life, enabled by the impersonal nature of confrontation with an unknown person in another vehicle. After all, drivers don't normally scream curse words, shake their fists, and give the finger to friends and relatives driving another car. Whatever the explanation for road rage and other forms of irrational anger, adding handguns to the equation can have deadly results.

The purpose of a handgun is to kill people, and more often than not its intentional use against another person by a civilian is both criminal and tragic. The result is the same whether the handgun is illegal or licensed. As I wrote in Gun Control,

I think all handguns should be outlawed, except for law enforcement officers and a very small number of trained, vetted, and licensed people who have a legitimate need. Anyone else caught possessing or illegally buying, selling, or distributing handguns would be guilty of a felony and subject to mandatory jail time. If this prevents some men from strapping an ersatz phallus on their belts or inconveniences a few legitimate target shooters, so be it.

No one, neither motorist nor 7-11 clerk, is going to be safe until we overcome our wild west mentality and rid our society of handguns. There is no other answer.

15 Comments:

Anonymous Jo said...

Great post! Although I don't agree with your feelings on gun control, I understand where they come from. When we were in Texas, my husband got his gun carry license and had to go through an extensive licensing class. There he learned the laws, etc. I think it's more important that if we are going to have gun carry laws, that classes should accompany them, not just a background check and that's all.

Have a great day!

6:21 AM, August 04, 2005  
Blogger John Walter said...

Interesting post. I favor handgun rights although I'm not what you call a "cold, dead fingers" man. I had heard about the first incident It is exactly the sort of stuff which will, if anything, undermine support in the U.S. for Second Amendment rights.

Two issues:

1. Despite the abuse of handguns and the occassional murder of innocent people by legally owned pistols, side-arms do still have a legitimate self-defense function. On a non-scientific basis, I'd say that for every tale of a tragic accident or murder with a handgun, I hear another tale of a dramatic rescue or foiled crime also accomplished with a handgun.

2. The Second Amendment is part of a whole matrix of issues connected (in my mind, at least) to whether the best values of the early republic will be restored or lost forever. Part of the reason handguns proliferate is that more and more people see society as being undisciplined, unsafe, unprotected. This is largely because the major disciplinary and educational elements in our country (police, courts, prisons, teachers, principles, and parents) have all lost the authority to discipline children, citizens, and others in an effective way.

I would bet that if law enforcement and educational institutions had the authority restored to them to create order in the fashion they once did before all issues became subject to litigation; the level of handgun ownership and abuse in this country would drop on its own.

I would sure like to see teachers, parents, and police re-empowered before seeing private citizens dis-empowered.

7:49 AM, August 04, 2005  
Anonymous Kevin said...

I completely agree with you about handguns, Tom.

The reality is that the ability to own and bear a long rifle completely fulfills our constitutional right.

I also don't think that extensive training classes would do anything about road rage and other kinds of irrational crimes involving guns. You can't teach a rational state of mind... It wouldn't surprise me in the least if either of the suspects cited in this post could, when in a calm state of mind, demonstrate a superior intellectual knowledge of the rules, safe handling, etc. The problem is that they didn't commit crimes of ignorance. They committed crimes of passion.

9:40 AM, August 04, 2005  
Blogger Matt Collins said...

I would dare say ownership of long rifles does not fulfil our Second Amendment rights.

The idea behind allowing the people to own firearms is to allow the general populace a option of last resort should law enforcement or military be used unjustly against them (remember the Boston Massacre).

However, this still leaves the problem of road rage and many other crimes stemming from the misuse of firearms. My solution to road rage, and other dangerous road behaviors, would be to make it a little harder to get a drivers license so some of the people who shouldn't be driving to begin with don't get the chance to be behind the wheel. I know this is not a perfect solution, but it would be a start.

11:48 AM, August 04, 2005  
Blogger profmarcus said...

i'm not often in agreement with you, tom, but, on this issue, i couldn't agree more... when i read stories like this, it makes me slightly crazy...

"Fresh from its victory last week, when a timorous Senate voted to protect the gun industry from damage suits, the National Rifle Association is now urging a boycott of a major energy company, ConocoPhillips, that dares to protect its employees from gunplay in the workplace. With a sense of civics worthy of the O.K. Corral, the N.R.A. announced a national campaign, replete with billboards, to urge gun lovers to bypass Conoco and Phillips 66 gasoline stations until the company drops its ban on employees' keeping firearms in company parking lots."

http://takeitpersonally.blogspot.com/2005/08/nra-guns-for-everybody-everwhere-all.html
http://www.nytimes.com/2005/08/04/opinion/04thu3.html?th&emc=th

11:56 AM, August 04, 2005  
Anonymous Kevin said...

conservativeprogressive, the text of the 2nd Amendment simply doesn't support your contention of what the idea behind it was.

Further, not only does 2nd Amendment not articulate a carte blanche to own any form of arms one wishes, the notion that it recognizes such an unbridled right is disproven by the Constitution itself when it explicitely reserves the right to possess and operate impliments of naval warfare to the government alone.

The 2nd Amendment bluntly and clearly articulates the right to own a bear arms. If you can own and bear a long rifle then your right is in no way being impeded or abridged as you are then owning and bearing an arm precisely as it says you have a right to do.

It's not a complicated Amendment. Indeed, it is arguably the most clear, concise and self-explanitory amendment of the lot.

12:48 PM, August 04, 2005  
Blogger MaxedOutMama said...

Regardless of the merits of banning handguns, I'd have to say that we aren't going to be completely safe while nutcases are driving.

Let's not kid ourselves - a car or truck is also a very effective weapon.

1:30 PM, August 04, 2005  
Anonymous Schmedlap said...

Tom,

I would say that I agree with you over 99% of the time. This is one of the rare occasions when I don’t agree.

You wrote, “The purpose of a handgun is to kill people, and more often than not its intentional use against another person by a civilian is both criminal and tragic.”

The purpose of a handgun is to protect its owner. When used in self-defense of peaceful citizens, its purpose is to save life.

I went to college in Boston and carried a concealed Glock model 23 (.40 caliber), with a magazine in (no round chambered) at all times. I worked nights, from 11 PM to 7 AM. It was against the law for me to carry that weapon – in my car or on my person. The People's Republic of Taxachusetts has a one-year mandatory sentence for people carrying concealed handguns. I considered it worth the risk. There was no way that I was going to start with nothing, bust my tail since the age of ten, pay my own way through school, only to get gunned down by some street thug when on my way to or from work. I carried my handgun to protect my life, not to take the lives of others.

Now, years later, I can look back with 20/20 hindsight. I did not need to draw my weapon one time. Was I too paranoid, in thinking that I needed to carry a handgun? I don't think so. It was a half-mile walk through drunks and punks from the parking garage to my job – even farther if I had chosen to take the subway. Even if I were too paranoid, what was the harm in me carrying a handgun? I did not use it for any purpose other than the piece of mind of knowing that I could defend myself if I needed to, or more importantly that I could deter violence altogether if some thug pulled a lesser weapon on me, such as a knife or club. Why should that be crime?

1:42 PM, August 04, 2005  
Blogger Matt Collins said...

Gun control is an issue only because of misuse of firearms. If we take the firearms away, the people who would misuse them would simply find another weaon of choice, like a knife or automobile. Taking away the weapons does no good. Besides, those likely to do harm with firearms are likely to ignore and find ways around laws to prevent them from having said firearms.

As for the ConocoPhillips boycott by the NRA, it's just plain dumb. Nobody should have a firearm at an oil refinery, just like they shouldn't carry anything that is probably going to make a spark capable of blowing the place up.

On the Second Amendment, there is a distinct difference in operating a naval implement, or tank, or any other heavy military weapon and owning a firearm. you can't level a building or even stop a large angry mob with a handgun. And in a situation of selfdefense, you cannot defend yourself with a long rifle as they are not designed for close range or rapid fire (legally).

4:21 PM, August 04, 2005  
Blogger Gindy said...

"Perhaps it results from an explosion of the stresses of modern life, enabled by the impersonal nature of confrontation with an unknown person in another vehicle. "

It is also from the stress of being on over crowded roads where people are constantly forced to cut off other people (due to the high traffic).

10:34 AM, August 09, 2005  
Blogger sygamel said...

Any extremely hot-headed fool with a case of road rage and go to the back of his trunk and pick out a knife or any other potentially deadly weapon and commit the same act. If you want handguns to be banned, you ought to examine all of the other potential deadly weapons out there.

There are a very substantial number of crimes committed with unlicensed handguns, probably far more than with licensed guns (though I'd be interested in checking the number).

5:45 PM, August 10, 2005  
Blogger Tom Carter said...

I agree with the pro-control arguments here, and I think Kevin made some very good points. I've laid out my position in general and specifically on the First Amendment previously in Gun Control.

There are two issues I'd like to address:

First, it's simply invalid to argue that if the perpetrator of a handgun crime hadn't had a gun, he/she would have used a knife, a baseball bat, a tire iron, or whatever. What makes a handgun so extremely dangerous is that it's easy to hide and kills from a safe distance. Almost anyone, however, angry, will think longer about attacking someone close-in with a bat or a knife. It's a whole different thing.

Second, the silliest of all cases against gun control is the "remember Bunker Hill" argument. In the first place, our government isn't going to come after us in the way you mean. But even if such paranoid delusions were to come true, when the black helicopters come over the horizon and American infantry deploys into your neighborhood, you can kiss your butt goodbye. The little hanguns you and your neighbors may have will be useless. What's inifinitely more likely is that those handguns will accidentally kill a family member, such as a child, be used in a suicide, or be used in the commission of a crime.

4:33 PM, August 11, 2005  
Blogger sygamel said...

First, it's simply invalid to argue that if the perpetrator of a handgun crime hadn't had a gun, he/she would have used a knife, a baseball bat, a tire iron, or whatever.

If you can't testify to said person's potentially homicidal state of mind, then it's totally valid.

Almost anyone, however, angry, will think longer about attacking someone close-in with a bat or a knife.

I agree, yes, because it's easier to do. think this is one of the few arguments for gun control.

4:05 PM, August 12, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would like to comment on the "SILLIE" argument that the government won't take your gun. Look what happend in New Orleans after Katrina hit. The great city of New Orleans disarmed the law abiding citizens and left them defenseless against the looters. The police beat up a 90 year old lady after they asked her to show them her weapon. Funny how the policy did not disarm the looters, only the people stuck defensless in New Orleans.

There are several illustrative aritcles demonstrating how firarms were used to save lives in New Orleans. A study by John Lott showed that about 1 million times a year guns are used again perpetrators.

The argument that guns in homes are more likey to be used again family members is a flawed study and argument. (The author of the study admits that)

Sir, you have a very weak arguement.

8:50 AM, November 20, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The "fact" that handguns have no use except to kill people comes as a surprise to those of us who use them for hunting. As a disabled vet, I have the use of only one hand; a rifle or bow is not an option for me.
I don't hunt for sport; I do it to either suppliment my food budget or rid my property of pests and predators without resorting to "anti-gun" promoted pesticides which pollute our environment and poison non-dangerous wildlife or inhumane traps.
You want to end gun violence? Make the penalties for using a firearm, except in self defense, so severe that the option is no longer viable. Quit coddling criminals who use firearms with plea bargains, reduced sentences and prosecute to the full extent of the law.
The concept of a "select few" being allowed to own handguns flies in the face of equal rights for everyone under the law and stinks of an extreme elitist attitude of the priviledged. I thought the subjugation of the rights of minorities during our first 200 years as a country taught us better.
Obviously persons such as you and Senator Fienstien of California, an anti-gunner who also posseses a license to carry a concealed weapon and does so, believe some people are better and more deserving of the rights we all are supposed to have under the Constitution and its Amendments. That smacks of bigotry just as if it were a matter of race.

7:10 AM, October 20, 2008  

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