A few words from a gun owner

NOTE: This story has been updated with new statistics.

I’m a gun owner. I like shooting targets, and I like knowing I can protect my home in the event of, say, a zombie apocalypse.

It’s also a social thing. I go shooting with my brother. I talk guns with my dad. I have other buddies who collect guns and who go shooting in the desert. More than anything, gun ownership is a hobby, and it’s an enjoyable one for me and millions of other law-abiding Americans.

You can probably see where I am going with this.

I’ve spent the last 24 hours reading Tweets and Facebook updates that call for increased restrictions on gun owners or the outright abolishing of the Second Amendment. The underlying assumption is that somehow a tragedy such as what happened in the Aurora movie theater can somehow be prevented through legislation.

The end, reduced violence, is noble.

The means, unfortunately, are misguided.

Let’s set aside for now the horror of living in a country where only the police, military and criminals have guns.

Making it more difficult or even impossible for law-abiding individuals to own a gun will not prevent the next James Holmes from killing people. Murderers ignore the law. It’s what makes them murderers. Case in point: Washington, DC. The district makes it virtually impossible to legally own or transport a firearm within city limits, yet gun crime is rampant. Gun laws don’t stop bad guys from committing crimes.

I’d like to point out a few more facts most people are not aware of:

If you don’t own a gun, you might find the following informative.

I purchased my gun in California, a state that has many laws concerning gun ownership.

All firearms purchases and transfers, including private party transactions and sales at gun shows, must be made through a licensed dealer under the Dealer Record of Sale (DROS) process.

California imposes a 10-day waiting period, during which a background check is performed, before a firearm can be released to a buyer or transferee.

A person must be at least 18 years of age to purchase a rifle or shotgun.

To buy a handgun, a person must be at least 21 years of age, and either 1) possess a Handgun Safety Certificate plus successfully complete a safety demonstration with the handgun being purchased or 2) qualify for an HSC exemption.

As part of the DROS process, the buyer must present “clear evidence of identity and age,” which is defined as a valid, non-expired California Driver’s License or Identification Card issued by the Department of Motor Vehicles. A military identification accompanied by permanent duty station orders indicating a posting in California is also acceptable.

If the buyer is not a U.S. Citizen, then he or she is required to demonstrate that he or she is legally within the United States by providing to the firearms dealer with documentation that contains his/her Alien Registration Number or I-94 Number.

Purchasers of handguns are also required to provide proof of California residency, such as a utility bill, residential lease, property deed, or government-issued identification other than a driver’s license or other DMV-issued identification.

To recap, I can only buy a handgun through a licensed seller, I must give the state my personal information to keep on file, I must prove that I am a state citizen, I must be 21, I must pay a series of fees to the state, I must wait 10 days, I must consent to a background check and I must pass both a written test and physical safety test with the gun being purchased. Also, I can only buy one handgun every 30 days and I cannot carry a concealed firearm.

With all these rules and regulations in place, California ranks 13th-highest in the country for firearm murders. The national average is 2.84 per 100,000 people. In California it’s 3.37. (In California you are three times more likely to die in a car accident as you are by being shot by a firearm. Shall we ban cars next?)

There is a very human tendency to take any tragedy and try to make it fit within some type of pattern. It’s comforting: If something fits within a pattern, the pattern can be broken, and we can prevent that bad thing from ever happening again. Guns can be purchased, and they can be used to murder people. That’s a pattern. We can break the pattern if we can stop people from buying guns. Right?

No. Some acts are so random, so evil, so far beyond the norm, they defy pattern. They are black swans, and they are sad, tragic and horrible and overreaction to them leads to farce. (Example: 9/11 and the TSA.) That’s not to say tragedies can’t be prevented. I believe our nation’s police, soldiers, intelligence services, firemen, teachers, counselors, doctors and citizens do prevent much tragedy every day, but it’s beyond the scope of human capability to prevent all tragedy.

When I hear someone say we need to do away with the Second Amendment, as one woman on Facebook said yesterday, I can’t help but think: That solves nothing, and it punishes the wrong people.

My prayers go out to the families of those who were shot and killed as well as to the survivors in that Aurora movie theater. You have my most heartfelt condolences.

UPDATE: I was accused, on Facebook, of making a specious argument, because “serious” people don’t want to ban guns, I was told, they just want to ban assault rifles and the like. In addition to the multiple friends of mine on Facebook who called for the banning of guns, here is intellectual Noam Scheiber, in The New Republic, calling for the banning of all guns.