URBAN JOURNAL: Why not ban guns?


I’ve found it nearly impossible to avoid thinking about gun control as the stories kept coming over the past few weeks: 12 people killed and 58 wounded in Aurora, Colorado; six killed, three wounded at a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin; a security guard shot and wounded at a Family Research Council headquarters in Washington DC….

And then Friday morning, a few short blocks from the New York City hotel in which we were staying, a gunman shot and killed a former co-worker and, as he calmly walked away, police shot and killed him and wounded nine bystanders.

Friday’s shooting, outside the Empire State Building during a pedestrian-heavy morning rush hour, was simply the most spectacular of that city’s recent shootings. Tucked inside the Times the morning of the shooting was a report that the previous day, a street vendor had shot two other vendors near Yankee Stadium. Yet another case of a personal dispute, some witnesses said. The two victims were reported to be in stable condition with stomach wounds, having survived thanks to the bad marksmanship of the shooter, presumably. Certainly no thanks to the weapon.

And near that story, on the same page: a report of the death of a livery-cab passenger shot during a failed robbery attempt a week earlier.

“Once again, there’s an awful lot of guns out there,” New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who has been urging stricter gun-control laws, said after Friday’s shooting. An awful lot of guns out there in New York City and around the country, including in Rochester, where shootings can seem like a daily occurrence.

Calls for stricter gun control will continue to be flicked away by politicians too timid to go up against the NRA, gun manufacturers, and others. So odds are, Governor Andrew Cuomo won’t get far with the push he says he’ll make next year.

Some New York legislators want to tighten the state’s gun-control laws, and Cuomo says it’ll be a priority for him. The reaction from gun manufacturers in New York State? Remington officials in Ilion threaten to move to “a more sympathetic state,” the Times reported on Friday.

The loudest voices against gun control, of course, are those of gun owners and the NRA. Their concern: that any form of gun control leads to more control, and then more, and ultimately to a ban on gun ownership of all kinds.

So let me go ahead and suggest the unmentionable:

Why don’t we ban private ownership of guns?

Can we not create jobs in towns like Ilion, New York, without basing them on instruments of death?

Oh, but if guns were banned, bad people with bad intentions would have guns and law-abiding citizens wouldn’t. Of course, for a little while. That’s the situation now. But ban guns – shut down the gun shows and the gun shops, shut down the sales of guns to people not involved in police work or the military, and you’ll reduce the availability of guns, to law-abiding and non-law-abiding citizens alike.

There are, of course, gun-control opponents who warn that Americans must arm ourselves so we can resist a tyrannical government. But surely, even in this day of Tea Party ascendancy, those people are a small minority. The majority, surely, fall into two groups: people who believe they need guns for protection against intruders and people who want to own guns for pleasure: hunting, target shooting.

But if there were no guns, intruders wouldn’t have them. And yes, outlawing guns would mean that you couldn’t hunt with guns. People who find pleasure in perfecting their aim could no longer go to shooting ranges. But are those pleasures worth the cost of the repeated carnage – on streets, in homes, in offices, by mentally stable and mentally ill alike?

Isn’t it time to stop pretending that it is?

Can’t we have a rational discussion about this? Don’t we owe that much to the victims in Aurora and Manhattan, Oak Creek and Washington and Rochester?




  1. you are a dope! this is america! you should read the Constitution! you may answer your own stupid question of “Why don’t we ban private ownership of guns?”

    1. Havahd St · · Reply

      You should read it too! It says we can’t drink and we can have slaves! Oh, wait, we got rid of those idiotic laws because they were outdated, like the right to have guns.
      I think it’s too late to completely eradicate guns, but there has to be more control on access. The CO shooter was a headcase, the WI guy was a white supremacist, and the NYC guy seemed like a bit of a headcase also. The fact that I can’t drive after drinking 3 beers, but I can go to my local Wal-Mart and get a killing machine with little to no knowledge of how to use it is absurd.

      1. Anonymous · ·

        Please leave Ametica

      2. RochesterMusician · ·

        Good luck on repealing or significantly modifying the 2nd amendment. (“It says we can’t drink and we can have slaves! Oh, wait, we got rid of those idiotic laws because they were outdated”) Not a chance. Same as not a chance to eliminate the electoral college through a constitutional amendment. But if anti-2nd amendment people want to drum up support for its repeal, they’re of course welcome to. I imagine they have about zero chance of success.

  2. Mattaniah Harp · · Reply

    I understand you are the editor and have a right to put this viewpoint forward but I would urge further consideration. It seems the paragraph that begins “But ban guns – shut down the gun shows and gun shops…” is a fair summary of your viewpoint. Perhaps you have live a life more deeply affected by the dangers of firearms. I do not know. I would ask you to consider two issues though.

    First: The Aurora shooting occurred in a military town, full of soldiers and ex-soldiers with a surplus of munitions and firearms. It would have been easy for the shooter to obtain munitions through non-private sector interactions. National Guard members keep far more deadly firearms in their homes. The shooting at the Empire State Building involved a private citizen firing one bullet to kill one citizen. Public employees, the police, caused the majority of the injuries. Would these two sources of firearms, soldiers and public employees, not remain under a private ownership ban?

    Second: The current state of narcotic legislation bans production and private ownership in much the same way as you propose a ban on firearms. Alcohol prohibition resulted in a spike in organized crime surrounding the public’s desire to consume alcohol. If we ban gun production by legitimate businesses, do we not give the gun production market to those same people who captured the alcohol market during prohibition? To those people who we currently allow to profit from the drug market? Is it not a function of a free-market society that our citizens will find a way to acquire their items from criminals within our country or outside sources when necessary?

  3. Bill Liktor · · Reply

    I understand the emotional appeal to which you blame your argument, but unfortunately a blanket ban on guns would not bring the peace you think it would. Long before the invention of guns people were using all sorts of other tools to maim and kill each other. Now I can see that if you only allow law enforcement to carry guns, then that might stem the tide of people knifing, torching, drowning, etc. each other, but personally I am very uncomfortable with giving the government that much power over me. Now you could always take the guns away from law enforcement, but then people will be killing each other in all those other ways I alluded to. What then? Ban knives, fire, anything that could possibly be used to hurt someone else? That would ultimately be an absurd idea.

  4. Why don’t we ban abortion?

    After all, it would be more rational than going after guns. You’re vastly more likely to be an abortion victim than a gun victim. (For females, the odds are even more skewed, since they’re underrepresented among gun victims. And that’s before you consider the likelihood of sex-selective abortions.)

    Is privacy worth the cost of the repeated carnage?

    Isn’t it time to stop pretending that it is?

    Can’t we have a rational discussion about this? Don’t we owe that much to the victims?

  5. An American · · Reply

    I am aware this is a partial re-hash of some of the above comments but:
    1. Because we’re guaranteed our right to bear arms by the CONSTITUTION (not once mentioned in the below article).
    2. An unarmed populace is an easy target for ANYONE.
    3. Remember prohibition? The war on drugs? Abysmal failures resulting in immense spending, spikes in organized crime, over all rise in violent crimes, and the imprisonment of thousands (millions at this point?) of non-violent offenders as a result.

    I respect the author’s right to her opinion, but as someone who has had a gun put to his head (very likely illegally obtained), I would rather keep my guns, thanks. I feel a safe as one can feel in this screwy country. Also, check out Australia’s gun ban results then read about the Swiss’ gun policy.

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