I consider myself an “average” gun owner.
In my 43 years, I’ve owned a number of different pistols, a handful of rifles, and even a couple of shotguns. I’ve hunted both deer and doves. The vast majority of my shooting has been done at ranges in both informal practice and formally-instructed courses. While I’ve never felt a need to keep a running tally of the number of rounds I’ve fired over the years, I can conservatively estimate that I’ve fired at least ten thousand rounds. If that figure is closer to twenty thousand rounds, I wouldn’t be surprised. This is far few than many of the more serious shooters I know, some of whom have touched off more shots than that in a month.
Each and every one of those shots that I’ve fired, from the tiny .22 CB to the .50BMG, was an intentionally triggered controlled chemical explosion that was used to propel a bullet, sabot, or column of shot down a precisely engineered barrel and out the muzzle in a monotonously repeatable ballistic path. When I follow my training, the flight paths of these projectiles is eerily repeatable. In fact, I reviewed a hunting rifle earlier this year that was so accurate with match ammunition that I was able to drop concurrent shots on top of one another at 460 yards (1,380 feet, or 420 meters).
The engineering in the firearms I’ve fired tends to be exquisite. Despite firing so many controlled explosions, not once has the gun catastrophically malfunctioned. If a shooter does his part, follows safety rules, and maintains his firearms and ammunition, he can go through a lifetime without ever encountering a significant safety problem while shooting.
It was with this background that I began to read the most recent Nicolas Kristof column in the New York Times, entitled “Our Blind Spot About Guns.”
In the column, Mr. Kristof attempts to draw parallels between firearms and that other common and complex machine that has evolved over the past century-and-change, the automobile.
If we had the same auto fatality rate today that we had in 1921, by my calculations we would have 715,000 Americans dying annually in vehicle accidents.
Instead, we’ve reduced the fatality rate by more than 95 percent — not by confiscating cars, but by regulating them and their drivers sensibly.
We could have said, “Cars don’t kill people. People kill people,” and there would have been an element of truth to that. Many accidents are a result of alcohol consumption, speeding, road rage or driver distraction. Or we could have said, “It’s pointless because even if you regulate cars, then people will just run each other down with bicycles,” and that, too, would have been partly true.
Yet, instead, we built a system that protects us from ourselves. This saves hundreds of thousands of lives a year and is a model of what we should do with guns in America.
It’s a frankly disappointing and lazy argument that lesser intellectuals have tired before, and I frankly expect better from a Harvard graduate with two Pulitzers to his name.
Perhaps if Mr. Kristof was attempting to compare automobile accidents to firearms accidents, he might have a reasonably comparison that would approximate an “apples to apples” argument, but he isn’t even making that attempt. Nor is he attempting to compare the willful misuse of automobiles against the willful misuse of firearms, which again might approach having some sort of merit.
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