Today's Paper Latest stories Paper Trails Obits Weather Newsletters Puzzles/games

Before we discuss violence with guns, I'd like to run a couple of questions by you. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, every day nearly 30 Americans die in motor vehicle crashes that involve drunk driving. What kind of restrictions should be placed on automobile ownership? Should there be federal background checks in order for people to obtain a driver's license or purchase a car?

The FBI's 2015 Uniform Crime Report shows that nearly three times more people were stabbed or hacked to death than were killed with shotguns and rifles combined. The number of shotgun and rifle deaths totaled 548. People who were stabbed or hacked to death totaled 1,573. Should there be federal background checks and waiting periods for knife purchases?

Any mature and reasonable person would argue that it is utter nonsense to deal with drunk driving deaths and knife deaths by having federal background checks and waiting periods to obtain a driver's license or to purchase a car or knife. One would recognize, just as courts and the general public do, that cars and knives are inanimate objects and cannot act on their own. Therefore, if we want to do something about deaths resulting from drunk driving or being stabbed or hacked to death, we must focus on individuals. It would be folly and gross negligence of victims for us to focus on inanimate objects like cars and knives.

Guns are also inanimate objects and, like cars and knives, cannot act on their own. It's also plain folly to focus on guns in the cases of shooting deaths.

What about the availability of guns? It turns out that for most of our history, a person could walk into hardware and department stores or a gun store virtually anywhere in the United States and purchase a rifle or pistol. The 1902 Sears mail-order catalog had 35 pages of firearm advertisements. Other catalogs and magazines from the 1940s, '50s and '60s were full of gun advertisements directed to both youngsters and parents.

"What Every Parent Should Know When a Boy or Girl Wants a Gun" was published by the National Shooting Sports Foundation. Another magazine advertised "Get This Cowboy Carbine with Your Christmas Money." Only a few states had age restrictions for buying guns. Private transfers of guns to juveniles were unrestricted. Often a 12th or 14th birthday present, from a father to his son, was a shiny new .22 caliber rifle.

Today there is far less availability of shotguns, rifles and pistols than any time in our history. That historical fact should raise the question: Despite the greater accessibility to guns in previous decades, why wasn't there the kind of violence we see with today's far more restricted access to guns? Have rifles and pistols changed their behavior from yesteryear?

To answer in the affirmative can be dismissed as pure lunacy. Thus, if guns haven't changed, then it must be that people have changed. Half-witted psychobabble such as stopping children from playing schoolyard games like cops 'n' robbers and cowboys 'n' Indians won't do much. Calling for more gun restrictions, gun-free zones and other measures have been for naught.

We must own up to the fact that laws and regulations alone cannot produce a civilized society. Morality is society's first line of defense against uncivilized behavior. Moral standards of conduct have been under siege in our country for over a half a century. Moral absolutes have been abandoned as guiding principles.

We've been taught not to be judgmental, that one lifestyle or set of values is just as good as another. We no longer hold people accountable for their behavior and we accept excuse-making. Problems of murder, mayhem and other forms of anti-social behavior will continue until we regain our moral footing.


Walter E. Williams is a professor of economics at George Mason University.

Editorial on 03/08/2018

Print Headline: Agenda or ignorance?

Sponsor Content


You must be signed in to post comments
  • BoudinMan
    March 8, 2018 at 7:41 a.m.

    Let's see here. What about cars? They kill people, too. Check. Then, guns don't kill people. People with guns kill people. Check. And that's probably what Williams is getting from the NRA. Check.

  • 23cal
    March 8, 2018 at 8:09 a.m.

    "Guns are also inanimate objects and, like cars and knives, cannot act on their own. It's also plain folly to focus on guns in the cases of shooting deaths.'
    It is strange that such a blatantly illogical argument is one of the most prolific.
    The dishonest framing ignores that it is a COMBINATION of people and firearms which is the common factor in shooting deaths.
    The "guns don't shoot people, people shoot people" paradigm ignores the flip side of the same coin: people WITHOUT FIREARMS don't shoot people any more than guns without people shoot people.
    There are two components to the problem, and to ignore one component by pretending it isn't a factor is absurd.

  • hah406
    March 8, 2018 at 8:37 a.m.

    In the first paragraph, Williams conveniently ignores the facts that we impose lower age limits on driving, and a variable upper limit based on physical condition as well; that getting a drivers license involves passing a written and physical test; that the licenses are of limited duration and must be renewed; and that the license can be revoked for a myriad of reasons. Yet none of that exists with gun ownership, so stop trying to say that apples and peaches are the same fruit.

  • WhododueDiligence
    March 8, 2018 at 9:02 a.m.

    "Before we discuss violence with guns, I'd like to ..."
    ... change the subject.
    So let's discuss motor vehicles instead. Why, sure. Of course. Perfect analogy. Guns and motor vehicles are SO much alike. When you get in your car and press the trigger it keeps firing on all cylinders until you run out of gas or you text someone and smash it to smithereens. This is perfectly analogous to pressing the trigger on an assault rifle rigged with a bump stock and 100-round magazines--it keeps firing until you run out of ammunition or the barrel starts to melt from overheating, whichever comes first. Remember the guy in Las Vegas who, from more than a quarter mile away, killed 58 people and wounded 400 more not counting additional hundreds who were injured in the ensuing panic to escape? No? Well, no worries, that doesn't count since what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. Willfully forgotten. End of story.
    Bump stocks on assault rifles are also perfectly analogous to bump stock car racing on the largest tracks where bumping stock cars reach speeds of 300 feet per second. The stream of bullets from an assault rifle travel only 10 times faster than that. But it's easier to talk about motor vehicles instead. How about those bump stocks at Talladega!
    Like motor vehicles just sitting there, guns are inanimate so we mustn't do anything. If only they were animated, someone could frown on them. But, nope, they're not. They're inanimate. By rights, they've been tried and found forever innocent by reason of inanimativity. Of course machine guns and flame throwers and those cute little sawed-off looking grenade launchers are inanimate too, so ... WHOOO$$$$$$$$$HHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    There we go.

  • RobertBolt
    March 8, 2018 at 9:37 a.m.

    A common pro-gun strategy is to tire us out with repetitious arguments so obviously stupid we don't bother to refute them, allowing them to claim victory by default. Thanks for refusing to be defeated by boredom.

  • 23cal
    March 8, 2018 at 9:57 a.m.

    About "We must own up to the fact that laws and regulations alone cannot produce a civilized society."
    Maybe this author needs to "own up to the fact" that countries with heavy firearm restrictions have very few firearm deaths, proof positive that easy access to firearms is a significant component of shootings. I suggest as we fight against his governmental overreach to "produce a civilized society" by draconian and biased social engineering, that we take some time to try to keep firearms out of the wrong hands.

  • RobertBolt
    March 8, 2018 at 10:16 a.m.

    Which is more essential to civilized society: the ability to transport people and the necessities of life or the ability for each of us to shoot many people at will? The false equivalency between cars and guns is beyond ludicrous.

  • DoubleBlind
    March 8, 2018 at 10:38 a.m.


  • 3WorldState1
    March 8, 2018 at 11:31 a.m.

    Or that you had to attend two weeks of driving school to reduce your car insurance by 10%.
    So, let's do two weeks of gun/shooting school so you can get 10% off of your gun/negligence insurance. I'm sure the NRA would love to go down that road.
    This article is just so stupid.

  • LR1955
    March 9, 2018 at 11:20 a.m.

    Just an observation about all the above comments: nothing about assault rifles in particular, nothing about enforcing laws in place (felons possessing guns is against the law but tracking them down would be very difficult) just guns & fire arms. Just Progressives progressing into their real agenda, taking up all guns from legal owners. That would be pretty easy wouldn't it.