Simple metal propulsion. It's what makes bullets fly out of guns with such severe force. It also ushered in the era of modern warfare by allowing strangers to kill other strangers with heretofore-unknown efficiency.
It is the concept that recently enabled a sniper to kill 10 people, wound three others and hold the entire Washington metropolitan area hostage. Talk all you want about eroding family values and a culture that bombards our youth with violent images. Simple metal propulsion was the common denominator in the sniper attacks, the Columbine massacre and the recent Wichita massacre, where Reginald and Jonathan Carr kidnapped five people, pulled off onto an abandoned soccer field and then shot each of them in the back of the head.
Indeed, simple metal propulsion can be a horrifying proposition. So it is easy to understand why some oppose the concept and denounce guns.
But it is not enough to point out the destructive capacity of guns. One must argue in terms of alternatives. That is to say, one must consider whether the world would be safer without guns. All other arguments exist in a vacuum.
Contrary to anecdotal evidence, there is ample scientific research that gun ownership makes our society safer. According to a 1993 survey conducted by Florida State University criminologist Gary Kleck, approximately 2 million law-abiding citizens per year use guns to resist crimes. As Kleck observed, ".there seems little legitimate scholarly reason to doubt that defensive gun use is very common in the U.S., and that it probably is substantially more common than criminal gun use. This should not come as a surprise, given that there are far more gun-owning crime victims than there are gun-owning criminals and that victimization is spread out over many different victims, while offending is more concentrated among a relatively small number of offenders."
Get it? Guns give victims the ability to fight back against violent criminals. And whereas strict gun control measures would not be likely to inhibit criminals (they do, after all, break the law for a living), it would strip law-abiding citizens of the ability to defend themselves against violent attacks.
Indeed, it is telling that the cities with the most restrictive gun laws - Washington, D.C., Chicago, New York and California - consistently rate among the highest level of violent crime in the country. In New Jersey, the murder rate jumped 46 percent in the two years since lawmakers enacted what they called, "the most stringent gun law" in the country. In Washington, D.C., the murder rate has skyrocketed 134 percent in the 26 years since lawmakers banned gun ownership. Presently, D.C.'s murder rate is more than 90 percent higher than that of Virginia, where gun ownership is prevalent.
And let us not forget that important addendum to the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, which guarantees our citizens the individual right to bear arms in self-defense.
Still, the opposition to simple metal propulsion is understandable. In this country, everyone owns a television set and we increasingly learn through images, rather than words. Images of gun violence can convey a wide range of visceral emotion. But the one thing images cannot do is articulate meaning. Images cannot consider the alternatives.
Images cannot convey what scientific research has long since discerned: Our country is safer with guns, and efforts to restrict gun ownership should be limited strictly to criminals, not law abiding citizens.