My news sources say the only answer to gun violence in America is for all of us to start packing, all the time. Especially in public places. This way, we can take out the bad guys, before they target their victims. But this approach doesn’t work for me. I’ve never fired a gun and have no desire to do so. So, I’d be letting down the team.
These same sources say that passing more restrictive gun laws wouldn’t work. They would take the guns from law-abiding citizens but wouldn’t stop bad guys from getting them. It would also start us on a slippery slope. Before long, the government would seize all our guns and march us off to concentration camps.
There is one civilized country, though, where tough gun laws appear to be working – Germany. According to a June 17 article in the Chicago Tribune, it took only two school shootings for the German people to say, “Enough!” After the deaths of 31 in mass shootings, Germany passed the most restrictive gun laws on the books.
Keep in mind, Germany is a gun-happy nation. More than five million guns belong to about two million owners. But in the wake of those massacres, 200,000 owners voluntarily turned in their weapons. Those who kept their guns were required to register them.
Germany is the only country that requires purchasers under 25 to pass a psychiatric exam before applying for a permit. They also have to ace a safety test and give a sound reason why they need a gun. The applicant then has to wait a year before getting permission to purchase a gun.
Unlike here, there was no hand-wringing about infringing on the rights of hunters. In fact, if these experienced gun owners get a DUI or are guilty of other anti-social behavior, they are required to undergo psychological testing.
Cops are also entitled to visit a gun owner’s home at any time, to make sure their weapon is securely stored. These measures have resulted in a 25-percent drop in gun-related crime. There were 61 gun homicides in Germany in 2012. We had more than 10,000 in 2014.
As much as Germans love their guns, they are willing to abide by these restrictions, because they don’t see guns as protecting their personal safety. They know that having a gun can actually put them more at risk.
It’s easy to scoff at the gun laws in other countries. They don’t seem workable here. But the majority of Americans now favor some baby steps toward sensible gun laws. In the meantime, we can’t even restrict the sale of assault weapons. I was telling a responsible gun owner about Germany’s laws. He said surprise visits from the police were already a deal-breaker.
Besides despite the perception of increased violence, I take comfort from the fact that human violence has declined from the time we started walking upright. Our ancient ancestors settled disputes with whatever blunt object was handy. But with the formation of nations and the passage of laws, there was a sharp decrease in violent crime.
I was feeling good about this until I read some other statistics. The murder rate in America is on par with England’s in the 1600s. The rate in Los Angeles compares to the days when Shakespeare was writing plays.
Washington, D.C.’s rate goes back even further, to Chaucer. Baltimore’s rate was seen back when Dante was penning his Inferno. We should be proud that Chicago’s rate only goes back to Italy in the 1700s. Weren’t they using poison back then?
John Rice is a columnist/private detective, who has seen his business and family thrive in Forest Park. He thoroughly enjoys life in the village and still gets a thrill smelling Red Hots, watching softball and strolling through cemeteries.