In my blog Are Guns Killing our Freedom instead of Defending It? I pointed out how the love and glamorization of guns in our culture, and particularly the dangerous linking of guns to freedom, contributes significantly to gun violence in the United States. This weekend, after the NYPD announced that all nine of the bystanders injured in the shooting near the Empire State Building were shot by cops responding to the gunman, the predictable response from many readers was that since it was the cops' fault, guns were not the problem.
Aside from the screwy logic in that, the fact is that the NYPD's frank admission makes the case for gun control even stronger. What happened in New York City is an example of the mayhem that ensues when guns are used in any situation.
The police officers who responded to the Empire State Building shooting were trained to aim accurately, yet in the chaos and uncertainty of the precise moment when they confronted the gunman, their training and instincts took a back seat to simple human error. Unlike a shooting range, which is a controlled environment, the real world is literally a flesh-and-blood "moving target" and the likelihood of the wrong people being hit is much higher.
Now consider what would have happened in that situation if all New Yorkers were armed. With more guns in the mix and more citizens deciding to take matters into their own hands, many more shots would have been fired, and if the professionals themselves could miss their target and shoot innocent bystanders instead, you can imagine how ordinary citizens, most of them with only amateur shooting experience, would have done a hell of a lot more damage. In the madness that would have erupted, a simple take-down of a suspect by police would have turned into a modern day shootout at the OK Corral. Anyone who believes that a scenario like that would have resulted in fewer casualties is patently insane.
The other important thing to recognize is why our police need to carry guns in the first place. It is because we have a proliferation of guns in America in private hands. As I have said earlier, the cowboy culture and the spread of heavy duty weapons like the AR-15 semi-automatic rifles make our society a dangerous place, which then necessitates a strong armed response by law enforcement.
Compare this to the United Kingdom, where guns are strictly controlled, where most cops do not carry firearms, where incidences of gun violence are rare, and rampage killings like the insanity in Colorado even rarer. While it is difficult to prove whether gun crime across the pond is lower because of gun control or other factors, one thing is for sure - there are fewer guns in circulation in English society and that reduces the need for the police to be perpetually armed. My point is that the only surefire way to avoid "friendly fire" is to obviate the need for guns all around - something that cannot happen as long as civilians want to be armed. Contrary to popular Constitutional lore and manipulative NRA rhetoric, an armed citizenry does not make us safer but destroys our safety completely.
The Empire State Building incident may have had a lower body-count than the shootings in Colorado and Wisconsin, but given how it played out, it should be a cautionary tale of what can happen when guns are used at all, and should be utilized to ramp up the pressure against gun violence, the gun culture, and the twisted arguments of the gun lobby.
Mayor Bloomberg, can you hear me?
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