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I saw this image posted on Facebook this week and was shocked (and I’m not shocked by much I see on Facebook).

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I googled this photo trying to learn what it’s source was and was even more shocked to see these photos (and many more like them) show up on the results page:

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I’m an avid supporter of free speech, but memes like this often make me want to reconsider.  There are so many things wrong here it’s difficult to know where to begin, but a number of gross errors in logic should immediately stand out to everyone.

1). The cavalier attitude toward killing another person just doesn’t mesh with real life experience.  The idea that you can just tell your 10-year-old daughter to aim for the head, or your teenage daughter to blow away anyone who comes into her room uninvited, and they just blow them away, we figure out if it was the right or wrong move later, then we all sit down for dinner, is obscenely ridiculous.  The act of killing another human being is a psychologically traumatic experience.  Even soldiers who are intensely trained for this task are haunted by those memories for the rest of their lives, even after undergoing years of psychological treatment to deal with the trauma.  PBS published an excellent Q&A on this subject interviewing former vets and military psychologists.

The people that we’ve spoken to, if they have killed someone, those images in particular are the most haunting, which I thought was a little bit counter-intuitive. I thought that seeing your buddy die, or seeing other horrible things that you could imagine happening [would be the most traumatic image], but it is really the act of actually taking another person’s life that in the long run had the most emotional strain on them.

Everyone who thinks handing their kids a gun and telling them to kill anyone they perceive as a threat is a better alternative than relying on law enforcement for protection, needs to read this article.  If professionally trained soldiers have a difficult time dealing with this, imagine the effect on your 10 year-old daughter. It’s not as easy to kill another human being as the gun manufacturer’s want you to think it is. I know Glenn Beck says it is, but I wonder how many people he has killed?

2). The idea that a gun is the most effective method of self-defense–of preventing violent crime–is in itself rather naive.  The fact is that most violent crimes take the victims by surprise.  Consider the Sandy Hook Elementary school shooting (or most other mass shootings).  The first warning anyone gets of danger is when the door is kicked in and an automatic weapon fires.  Many recommended that the answer was to give teachers loaded guns.  Unless the teacher is going to carry the loaded weapon in his/her hand at all times while teaching and be expecting a criminal to break through the door at any moment, it’s going to be useless.  Even a second of delayed reaction is too late.  If your daughter is carrying a loaded weapon on her side or in her purse walking to her car from work or from the store and an assailant hiding behind a dumpster or casually walking the other way, suddenly springs and grabs her from behind the gun isn’t going to be a factor.  The same with someone breaking into your child’s room while she’s sleeping.  She isn’t likely going to have time to react.  And if she keeps the loaded gun in bed with her while she sleeps and fires the instant the door cracks open, there is a very good chance she will end up shooting her brother or one of her parents.  I’m not saying a gun is never a viable form of self-defense, but I am saying that very often there are other alternatives that are more effective:  better security systems, double bolt locks, martial arts and self-defense training, never walking alone, and so forth.  The idea that giving your daughter a gun and teaching her how to shoot it is her best safety option, is grossly naive.

3). Further, the idea that increasing private gun ownership is the best deterrent to violent crime and increases public safety isn’t backed up statistically.  In fact, statistics show the opposite to be the case.

The five states with the highest per capita gun death rates in 2011 were Louisiana, Mississippi, Alaska, Wyoming, and Montana,” the Violence Policy Center (VPC) said in its latest analysis of federal statistics. “Each of these states has extremely lax gun violence prevention laws as well as a higher rate of gun ownership. The state with the lowest gun death rate in the nation was Rhode Island, followed by Hawaii, Massachusetts, New York, and New Jersey. Each of these states has strong gun violence prevention laws and has a lower rate of gun ownership.

The evidence strongly suggests–as the author points out–that “when guns are plentiful, they tend to get used.”  There is not one shred of evidence to suggest that higher rates of private gun ownership increases personal safety or in any way deters violent crime.  Rather, the higher the per capita rate of private gun ownership, the higher the rate of gun related deaths.  That’s a statistical fact that flies directly in the face of the advice these gun advocates are giving.

4). Finally, I am not opposed to teaching one’s daughter to shoot a gun.  There are several good reasons for doing so, but because “a restraining order is just a piece of paper” is not one of them.  The last time I checked, violating a restraining order is not punishable by death. The idea that we can place ourselves above the law and function as our own judge and jury–and teach our children to do the same–is simply not acceptable. Maintaining law and order in society is a direct function of our judicial and law enforcement systems.  Undermining these institutions undermines our social stability.  Gun ownership comes packaged with gun responsibility, and respecting and functioning within the laws of the land are fundamental to that responsibility.

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