A Radical Proposal for a Safer America

When it comes to guns, even the most “liberal” amongst us has given in to the powerful 2nd amendment “right to bear arms” argument and fought gallantly for controls such as background checks and increased regulations on gun vendors.

Rev. Jeff Liebmann, a Unitarian Universalist minister from Midland, Michigan, supports these efforts. But Liebmann is a rebel with a radical mission. With more than 10,000 Americans dying from handgun injuries every year he says ENOUGH!

While he understands that efforts to control handguns in this country “have met with one failure after another” and acknowledges that his “personal stand lies far beyond that of any organization advocating for gun control in America today” … Liebmann believes:

“…the time is long overdue for us as a nation to completely and forever cut our ties with all handguns as being inimical to human life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

He thus proposes:

“…a total ban on privately-owned handguns and for the confiscation and destruction of all such weapons in existence. I call for the elimination of all private ownership of handguns in this country and a ban on the production of handguns for the use of anyone but authorized law enforcement agents forever.”

To illustrate his position, Liebmann speaks of children’s toys. No, not the infamous Red Ryder Carbine Action 200-shot Range Model air rifle with a compass and sundial lusted for by Ralphie in the 1983 A Christmas Story… the one his mother was certain he would “shoot his eye out” with.

No, Liebmann speaks instead of toys, such as lawn darts and others that were banned by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). He makes the point that the CPSC did not ask the toymakers to modify dangerous toys, but rather banned them totally. In the case of lawn darts, it was for the death of three children and an estimated 700 emergency room visits each year in the 17 years it was sold.

Anne Graham, Commissioner of the CPSC in stating her decision noted:

"What limited recreational value lawn darts may have is far outweighed by the number of serious injuries and unnecessary deaths...There are numerous alternatives to lawn darts, and I would urge adults who have lawn darts to throw them away now."

Liebmann uses this to argue against ownership of guns for those who simply like to use them for target shooting when they cause far more death and mayhem than lawn darts:

“…even the most ardent supporter of handgun ownership must agree that many hundreds of thousands of people have died from handgun homicides, accidents, and suicides during my lifetime. If we can ban businesses from even manufacturing a toy with only the potential of personal injury, why can we not ban a product with a long-proven track record of far more death and destruction?”

Americans are 10 times more likely to be killed by guns than are people in other developed countries.

Compared to 22 other high-income nations, the United States' gun-related murder rate is 25 times higher. And even though the United States' suicide rate is similar to other countries, the nation's gun-related suicide rate is eight times higher than other high-income countries….

The review of 2010 World Health Organization data also revealed that despite having a similar rate of nonlethal crimes as those countries, the United States has a much higher rate of deadly violence, mostly due to the higher rate of gun-related murders.

The researchers also found that compared to people in the other high-income nations, Americans are seven times more likely to die from violence and six times more likely to be accidentally killed with a gun….

Even though it has half the population of the other 22 nations combined, the United States accounted for 82 percent of all gun deaths. The United States also accounted for 90 percent of all women killed by guns, the study found. Ninety-one percent of children under 14 and 92 percent of young people between ages 15 and 24 who died by gun violence were in the United States.

In 2010, 67% of all homicides in the U.S. were committed using a firearm. In 2012, there were 8,855 total firearm-related homicides in the US, with 6,371 of those attributed to handguns. In 2012, 64% of all gun-related deaths in the U.S. were suicides. In 2010, there were 19,392 firearm-related suicides, and 11,078 firearm-related homicides in the U.S. In 2010, 358 murders were reported involving a rifle while 6,009 were reported involving a handgun; another 1,939 were reported with an unspecified type of firearm.

Firearms were used to kill 13,286 people in the U.S. in 2015, excluding suicide. Approximately 1.4 million people have been killed using firearms in the U.S. between 1968 and 2011.

Furthermore, compared to countries known for their high crime rates, such as Jamaica, Russia, South Africa and Kenya, the U.S. had the second-highest rate of gun homicide deaths after Jamaica.

Homicide rates in the U.S. and peer countries by weapon type, 2013.

The effectiveness and safety of guns used for personal defense is debatable. Liebmann refers to the CSPC decision in this regard where it was noted that the limited recreational value lawn darts may have is far outweighed by the number of serious injuries and unnecessary deaths...and that there are numerous alternatives. He thus suggests protection alternatives such as tasers or stun guns, which work just as effectively to stop an attacker but are much less prone to accidental misuse, result in death only in rare cases, and have never been used to attempt or commit suicide.

Perhaps the loudest argument by gun proponents is that if we criminalize guns, only criminals will have guns. Liebmann recognizes that:

“…criminals may well use rifles, knives, clubs, hand grenades, or just their fists to commit acts of violence. That argument, however, offers no reason to oppose efforts to attempt to reduce and even eliminate deaths directly associated with private handgun ownership.”

He thus suggests:

“…if we banned handgun manufacture and importation, then only time and the enforcement of laws stand between us and a relatively handgun-free America. Handguns are not marijuana – people can’t grow pistols in their backyards.”

Unfortunately, however, guns can be made in 3-D printers today. To implement this gun-free transition, Liebmann further suggests:

  • For one year, offer every recreational owner who turns in a handgun cash, or an appraised trade-in on a bow and arrow, rifle, shotgun, or other legal firearm of their choice – after that, all handguns will be confiscated and destroyed;
  • Provide every collector of historic handguns free conversion of their weapon, making it incapable of firing to avoid confiscation;
  • Offer every registered owner who turns in a protective handgun a free taser, stun gun, or other non-lethal option;
  • Provide research and development funding to… companies working to perfect “smart guns,” and then convert every handgun used by law enforcement agents to incorporate biometric recognition or similar techniques; and
  • Make mandatory sentencing associated with handgun-related crime so onerous, that no sane criminal will consider their use.

As for the cost of such programs, consider that in 2010, gun violence cost U.S. taxpayers approximately $516 million in direct hospital costs.

Perhaps the time has long past to stop pussy-footing around the gun issue and take this “radical” approach. As Liebmann notes:

“Our government routinely bans products with only the potential to cause harm…. So, where is our equivalent collective outrage against this far-greater ill plaguing our populace? Let us” he says, “include a call for sanity and demand that our government regulate the production and sale of all products threatening our lives.”

The idea of a total ban on handguns is not likely to happen any time soon. But that does not mean we shouldn’t hear all these sane sensible reasons why it should. Liebmann preaches his message to faith-based communities encouraging them to ban guns in their houses of worship.

And, as unlikely as these proposals are to come to fruition, radical, extreme positions - such as The Black Panthers - have helped other movements find a mid-ground, balanced, centered position far more acceptable.

Liebmabn’s complete thesis, entitled “Logic and Lawn Darts” can be accessed here.

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