After every tragic, gun-related multiple homicide, the National Rifle Association claims that if everyone had a gun, the tragedy never would have happened. They claim the victims could have been gun-owning citizens, who would have shot the maniac killer before a murder turned into a rampage. They also tend to extend this argument further, claiming that if everyone had a gun, it would deter crime and we would inherently live in a safer society. This is easy to say, as this romantic hypothetical has gone untested in America. In Honduras, we are seeing the frightening reality.
Honduras is the murder capital of the world. This is largely due to extremely lax gun laws. According to the National Commissioner for Human Rights (CONADEH), only about 30% of over 850,000 guns in Honduras are officially registered and as many as 80% of homicides are firearm related.
But wait, if the gun laws are so lax, why doesn't our NRA argument work? Let's look at a recent example.
Three armed men board a bus in Honduras and order the passengers to give up their wallets. Two bold citizens raise their own guns in self-defense and a shoot-out ensues. Five people die and several are injured by stray bullets.
To be fair to our NRA brothers (and anyone that agrees with their argument), it should be noted that the Honduras is notorious for a low conviction rate and a cowboy culture of self-regulated justice. At least if you shoot someone in the U.S., you'll probably at least go to trial.
All of that said, I'm not advocating a drastic reform of our gun laws. I like guns. I also like that unlike Japan and Luxembourg (who are extremely strict), we Americans are free to own guns. I do, however, think there should be an application process and a background check because owning a gun carries a lot of responsibility.
While we don't always like it, we accept application processes and background checks for credit cards, cars, and homes because owning these things also requires responsibility and we as a society seem to recognize the utility of the screening. I can't think of a reason why an unregistered person would have to buy and have the gun in the same day. Hunting? Recreation? Home protection? If any of these are your motivations, you could have applied two weeks ago.
I like to think that we live in a responsible society that understands the repercussions of our policies. Yet, there is still a powerful contingent arguing for a more reckless, irresponsible system, while claiming that it would in fact make us safer. Honduras has unintentionally put the NRA's hypothetical ultra-widespread gun-ownership scenario into practice and is now one of the most dangerous countries in the world. We are not seeing more common heroes and less crime, we are seeing more gun-related killings. We don't necessarily need major gun law reform, just some minor changes. At the very least, the NRA and it's supporters need a new argument.
Photo Credit: J. Scott 2