July 19, 2002

Keep handguns out of Chicago

Well, I guess I'm writing for two reasons: first, in response to J.H. Huebert's article from last week, "Citizens need self-defense," in which Mr. Huebert argued for a rethinking of Chicago's law banning handguns. My second reason is just to say that I hate guns. Right out of the box I'll say this: Mr. Huebert's article was a well-researched, well-written argument for the decriminalization of gun ownership in the city of Chicago. Unfortunately, I disagreed with everything he said. Another quick disclaimer: just about everything I say here is just my opinion about guns. I have no plans to introduce legislation regarding your guns, I am not coming to take your guns away, I do not want your guns, so do not e-mail and tell me what your guns want to do to me or my loved ones.

I've only ever touched a gun once in my life. It was at an air show at Cleveland's Burke-Lakefront Airport when I was 11. There was an unloaded M16 on display, and a nice gentleman representing the United States Air Force let me play with it. It scared the hell out of me. I thought it was cool, but that didn't override the fact that the gun also scared the living crap out of me. I have not touched a gun since, and I do not plan on ever touching a gun again, unless I get drafted or some misguided soul gives me a gun as a Christmas present and I have to handle it out of courtesy. I've only known two or three people who own guns, and I have tolerated them quietly. I hate guns—they kill people, people that might not have died if guns were illegal.

I do not like guns, because they are stupid artifacts from a time when it was marginally more OK for people to kill other people, for one reason or another. People might point to the Second Amendment as an indicator of the hallowed place gun ownership occupies in the rich tapestry of American life. I might point out that the Second Amendment of the Constitution was written and ratified in the 18th Century, before the Internet, among other things. The United States Constitution has, at various points in its checkered history, signed off on a lot of questionable items: Slavery, only letting white men vote, only letting men vote, oppressing minorities, and other little things like that. What I'm getting at is that maybe, just maybe, the Second Amendment ought to go up for review.

While shooting sports might have some rustic cache for the kids, I don't care for them. Regardless of what you say you're using the gun for, it doesn't mean you can't use it to kill people. It'd be nice if you could trust someone to own a rifle and only use it for hunting or winter biathlon, but I don't trust them. And unless you like to kill your deer execution-style, you probably wouldn't be hunting with a handgun. There's something about the short barrel that makes handguns wildly inaccurate past about, oh, thirty feet. So that means that handguns exist for one purpose and one purpose only: so the owner of the handgun in question can use the handgun to put potentially life-threatening holes in other people.

Here's some more on why handguns are stupid: They exist with the ultimate purpose of killing people or animals. They have no other use. Most things that get appropriated as weapons have some other purpose: Axes, cars, shovels, nail guns, knives, razor blades, plastic explosives all exist to do something other than kill people. Important, useful things like cutting down trees, transportation, digging holes, building houses, slicing food, shaving, and building tunnels through mountains. Handguns don't do any of those things. The city of Chicago, or anywhere else for that matter, does not need handguns—especially concealed handguns.

I don't really rate the "More Guns, Less Crime" theory—or any statistics that one might cite telling us that "more than 2 million crimes are thwarted by an armed citizens every year." I don't really rate statistics. I think I could, if you gave me ten minutes with Google, find you statistics that superficially prove that guns cure cancer (they probably do in some limited sense—by killing people who otherwise might have died of cancer forty years later.). But I do have two statistics, one courtesy of the Department of Justice, one courtesy of the Chicago Police Department.

51% of homicides committed in 1999 were committed with handguns.

74% percent of murders in Chicago in 1999-2000 were committed using guns.

I'm not going to make blanket statements using these statistics or suggest that none of those people would have died if guns were illegal. Guns are illegal in Chicago, and people still get killed. Guns kill people, so they should be illegal. Of course, cigarettes and hamburgers kill people too—but there is a conscious choice involved.

I'm sure Mr. Huebert and anyone else with more than a lick of common sense will allow that most people who commit crimes in Chicago using guns aren't that concerned with the fact that guns are illegal in this city. If they were worried about breaking the law, they wouldn't be committing crimes in the first place. But I don't see how letting everyone else have guns solves anything. I won't even pretend as if criminalizing gun ownership would go any distance towards ending murder. It won't. Nothing will. There are probably more guns than people in this country, so it only stands to reason that people will continue to hurt other people using guns. But less guns undeniably equals less gun use—so less guns sure seems like the way to go.

My point is that I don't like guns because they kill people without having other uses, so let's all get rid of guns. Of course, the sad and simple response to my oversimplified anti-gun utilitarianism is that guns are, in most places, legal, so they're here to stay. The gist of Mr. Huebert's argument seems to be this: If criminals are going to have guns, why shouldn't regular law-abiding citizens get to protect themselves? That's a decent point. But I'd feel safer if I knew handguns were illegal. I still might get shot, but at least I would know it wasn't an accident.

If my argument against all guns is simplistic and infeasible, then the "the criminals have guns, so we should too" argument is just as simplistic and ultimately no more effective in the long run. More guns means a higher possibility of those guns getting used successfully. This article is probably a bunch of rambling nonsense from a bedwetting liberal, but I feel better for having stated in print that I hate guns. Advocating the revocation of the Second Amendment might be pointless, so I'll aim low. Let's keep handguns illegal in Chicago.

Pete Beatty is a fourth-year in the College, concentrating on being the delicate flower of life. He is also editor in chief of the Maroon.