The Anti-Gun Culture: Irresponsible, Phobia-Driven and Just Plain Wrong on the Facts

The one thing you find in the debate about gun control is that there really is a gun culture. And an anti-gun culture.

The anti-gun culture probably is never going to agree with the gun culture, because the two cannot see eye to eye.

The people on one side owns guns. They've fired guns. They understand how guns feel, how they work, what they can and can't do. They know from experience that a gun, properly stored and handled, isn't dangerous.

The other side: Sort of metrosexual. Unwilling to take their own security seriously. The anti-gun culture doesn't fear guns in the way that members of the gun culture fear guns. Their fear is more irrational, phobic - almost superstitious, as if the very presence of guns invites death.

Stereotyping? Well, sure — but to someone of the gun culture, it's inconceivable that some people can claim that they're prepared for emergencies and not own a gun.

It's a cultural disconnect.

People who eschew guns completely, who don't even keep them in their homes for self-defense, have abdicated their responsibility to themselves and their families. Perhaps they don't believe the truth of one of our favorite snarky sayings: When seconds count, police are minutes away.

The anti-gun culture has trouble with the fact that that guns sometimes save lives. Gun-control advocate and New Times writer Stephen Lemons tells me he's never a needed a gun, as if that proves something. But the gun culture always sees the need. I see it.

Back in the 1990s, a woman I knew from college shot and killed an intruder in her home.

The intruder had been released from prison a couple of months before, having served 14 years. He'd been convicted of breaking into a couple's home, tying up the husband, raping the wife, and burglarizing the place. My friend and her fiance found the ex-con hiding in the closet of their Mesa home — and managed to blow him away after a struggle.

I'll never forget what my friend told me afterward: You may believe in guns, she said, but you never want to go through something like that. She'd had nightmares, anxiety attacks, and pangs of guilt in the weeks following. Knowing this woman and hearing of her experience first-hand, (it also made the papers), taught me that it's foolish to be cavalier about the possibility of using a gun in self-defense.

To not own a gun at all? Crazy.

The cultural divide explains a lot about the political viewpoints of either side. Naturally, the anti-gun culture wouldn't be concerned about restricting products they'd never buy or use. Of course someone like Lemons would think that banning a firearm accessory after a mass shooting "should be an obvious first step."

In fact, there's nothing "obvious" about such a proposal, if you're not on the anti-gun side. This wasn't the first shooting spree, and it won't be the last. What's "obvious" to the gun culture is that if we mandate a restriction or prohibition after each incident, eventually there'll be nothing left to restrict.

Lemons writes today that I and too many of my "gun-lovin' compatriots" seem to favor no restrictions on gun ownership. Speaking for myself, it's not true. It seems prudent to require a federal firearms license for fully automatic machine guns and to perform computerized background checks at gun stores. It's only reasonable that if you're in an establishment that serves alcohol and you're packing heat, the state prohibits you from drinking. The state should be required to submit information about severely mentally ill people and convicted felons to the federal background-check system.

Lemons, perhaps because he's so ingrained in the anti-gun culture, makes another mistake in comparing the danger of cars to guns in the United States. He quotes a Center for Disease Control and Prevention stat from 2007 that says firearm deaths for 2007 totaled 31,224, which he points out is not too far off from the motor vehicle body count that year of 44,128.

Problem is, his stat includes suicides, which was 56 percent of the total. Without minimizing the 12,000-plus firearms-related homicides or the 613 accidental fatal shootings, Lemons' argument suffers a breakdown when you subtract the suicides. Then, it's about 4.55 per 100,000 for firearms deaths compared to 14.63 for motor vehicles.

If drivers were required to get the same amount of training as gun buyers - that is, zero training - it's a no-brainer that the road carnage would be even worse.

Lemons takes the position that since New York state has only one-third the firearms-related deaths (including the suicides) as Arizona, its gun-control laws must be working. His analysis is flawed.

Looking at the 2009 FBI stats for murder, (which discounts the suicides), you find that Arizona has a 5.4 per 100,000 murder rate compared to New York state's lower 4.0. New York ranks 6th in the Brady Campaign's 2009 scorecard, while Arizona ranks the 6th lowest. So far, his thesis holds up. The problem reveals itself when you compare other states.

California, which ranks No. 1 on the Brady scorecard, had a 2009 murder rate of 5.3 per 100,000, nearly the same as Arizona's. Maryland, the 5th best on the Brady scorecard, has a murder rate of 7.7.

Meanwhile, Idaho and Utah, near the bottom of the scorecard, have murder rates of 1.4 and 1.3, respectively. North Dakota and Alaska, in the scorecard's bottom-10 states, also have lower murder rates than New York.

If anything, the stats show that gun control laws aren't necessarily effective, despite the limits they put on freedom. This is something the other side simply can't understand.
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Ray Stern has worked as a newspaper reporter in Arizona for more than two decades. He's won numerous awards for his reporting, including the Arizona Press Club's Don Bolles Award for Investigative Journalism.