On Tuesday, an op-ed piece was published on National Review Online with the headline, "News We Never Hear About: Guns Save Lives." Immediately, the first thing that comes to mind is that this is an argument often made by those who also say, "guns don't kill people."
On the surface, the logical fallacy from asserting both becomes obvious: If an inanimate object is not capable of one action on its own, then it can't be capable of the other.
There are many who believe that in a debate over gun policy we shouldn't focus on guns, because the gun itself does not kill a person. Logic dictates that if guns don't kill people, they don't save lives either.
To the author's credit, he remains consistent. He begins the article by saying, "We all know guns can cost lives..." The author, political philosopher and writer Thomas Sowell, makes it clear that while he believes guns can kill people, Americans never hear about how they can save lives.
Sowell argues that defensive uses of guns are rarely discussed in the media and when they are, a picture is painted that resembles a scene from the Wild West. It is true that Americans are more likely to hear about a gun-related homicide, an armed robbery, or something of a similar nature before they hear about the home invasion that was thwarted by an armed home owner.
According to Sowell:
Surveys of American gun owners have found that 4 to 6 percent reported using a gun in self-defense within the previous five years. That is not a very high percentage but, in a country with 300 million people, that works out to hundreds of thousands of defensive uses of guns per year.
To be fair, there are over 300 million Americans in this country, but not all 300 million are gun owners and these surveys reached out to gun owners specifically. Still, plenty of people have used guns to protect property and self, and people rarely hear about it in the news.
Thomas Sowell is right to some degree. There needs to be an open and honest discussion when debating gun policy.
Ideally, this means we should not only discuss the mass shootings, homicides, gun-related crimes, and accidental shootings we do hear about, but we should also discuss the defensive uses of guns we don't hear about, as well as the countless number of additional gun-related crimes and incidents where loved ones are mistaken for home invaders the media does not report on.
Guns can be used to kill, to do harm, and to commit crimes, but they can be used to protect, which is why common sense dictates that lawmakers should explore initiatives to keep guns out of the hands of people with malicious intent while preserving the rights of those who rely on guns to protect. Initiatives such as universal background checks on all gun sales is a step in the right direction.
After all, it is not the gun that kills, but the person. As it is the case with defense, however, the gun makes it easier. This is all the more reason practical reform should not be bound to partisan talking points.