In addition to sporting a tweed Jacket, a style so suave he feels comfortable buttening his shirt all the way to the top, and that upper-lip arc of black smack that would make Selleck's mark look as impotent as a Hitler 'stache, Mr. Kleck is nothing short of a brilliant and brunt erudite of the highest caliber.
What Robert Price is to the historical Jesus debate, Gary Kleck is to that of gun control: a sardonic, witty, brutally erudition professor who tells the truth as he sees no matter what the consequences, and makes you laugh a little bit in the process, too.
Kleck is a gruff and opinionated criminologist who's done the research. And he has a meticulous, borderline obsessive quality of work to use it. Every time a gun-control lobby pundit publishes a paper or study, he reads it and tears it to shreds in his own article, and not ideologically either, but based on an adroit understanding of study methodology and his own massive erudition pertaining to crime and guns in America. He knows what he's talking about. He's done dozens of studies on effects of guns, effects of stricter punishments and longer prison sentences, the death penalty, intentionality, instrumentality, and, his magnum opus, a landmark study on effects of guns on crime deterrence in the United States. Kleck won the 1993 Michael J. Hindelang Award from the American Society of Criminology for his book Point Blank: Guns and Violence in America, and his work was instrumental in the Supreme Court's landmark District of Columbia v. Heller decision, that struck down the D.C. handgun ban and said the Second Amendment protects individual right to keep and bear arms. A decision which, mind you, arguably reduced the DC homicide rate to its lowest in over 30 years (104 in 2013 as opposed to 186 in 2008 when it was passed, though, to be fair, the trend had already been downward since 1986).
Anyways, remember instrumentality? The idea that guns, when used, increase the legality of crimes committed? Kleck calls BS on it. Instead, Kleck argues that the intent of the criminal is more to blame for higher lethality of crimes in which guns are used; namely, more hardcore criminals more often use guns, they're more hardcore; less hardcore criminals more often use knives and other less hardcore weapons, they're less hardcore. The more hardcore criminal, even if they are deprived of their gun, will still be just as lethal because of their intent to be so, not because of the weapon they use.
Now, I'll be honest, it's the one area I think Kleck is reaching a bit too far. A 1968 study by Zimring found that gun attacks were about five times as deadly as knife attacks, the next most-deadly weapon (Nisbit 223). Kleck knows of these studies and holds to his position. That being said, common sense says a hardcore criminal, his intentions of the same vehemence, armed with a gun could do far more damage in the same amount of time in a school shooting that one with a knife. But then again, common sense is what has gotten us into this mess...
That being said, the "deterrance hypothesis" is Kleck's really big shooter. Essentially it says that guns deter more crime and violence than they cause. And with his 1995 study crafted and written with Marc Gertz, Armed Resistance to Crime: The Prevalence and Naue of Self-Defense With a Gun, he mowed down the control-activists' assertions that they cause more violence than they prevent.
In his study, he found that nearly 2.5 million DGUs (defensive-gun-uses) occurred annually in the United States, nearly three-times the most liberal previous estimate (Nisbit 431). He also found that in nearly 400,000 of these cases defenders claim that their actions "almost certainly" saved someone's life. Now, that's a hugely subjective claim, as Kleck acknowledges in his published paper. However, he also notes that if even one in ten of those claims are accurate the number of lives saved still outweighs the annual number of gun homicides in the US. Which is true.
And the response of the gun-control advocates? Well, from what I've read, silence... Kleck's barrel sits and smokes, and not a responding gunshot to be heard. Except one, a shot from Marvin E. Wolfgang, called the "most influential criminologist in the English-speaking world" by the British Journal of Criminology. But his shot isn't at the study, rather it's a salute to it:
"The methodological soundness of the current Kleck and Gertz study is clear. I cannot further debate it... The Kleck and Gertz study impresses me for the caution the authors exercise and the elaborate nuances to examine methodological. I do not like their conclusions that having a gun can be useful, but I cannot fault their methodology."
This from the guy who says “If I were Mustapha Mond of Brave New World, I would eliminate all guns from the civilian population and maybe even from the police.”
This salute may sound like a bland compliment, but from one criminologist to another, this is the equivalent of saying I hate it but you've proven me wrong.
All this being said, I've now done a pretty good survey of the basic arguments for and against gun control, and have seen the statistics, quotes, and ethos of the respective representatives of each camp. And I have to say, the gun-control lobby has brought a bubble gun to an M-16 match.
That all being said, I still hate America's gun situation.
Guns, from what it seems like, do not cause violence. Nor do they have a significant positively correlated effect on the homicide rates of any particular country. In fact, the statistics seem to suggest that they, in fact, reduce the number of deaths, especially the lives of law-abiding citizens.
Yet, the fact is that our nation is one in which hundreds of thousands of households need to own a gun in order to feel safe sleeping at night. This is, at best, sad. Further, our 'gun culture's' massive mistrust of our nation's government sings a similar societal jeremiad. Why do nearly half of handgun owners cite 'self-defense' as the number one need to keep firearms in their homes? What are they protecting themselves from, and why don't they trust the law enforcement to do it?
America's obsession with guns isn't the problem, and it doesn't seem to be the cause. But it sure as hell points to a few.
First, our nation's massive governmental mistrust. Why do massive amounts of people mistrust our government to perform its basic functions? Where did this mistrust spring from? Has it always been like this? I'm no history major, but shouldn't our people at minimum trust the government with the small number of societal tasks we entrust to it?
Now, I'm a firm believer that government should only serve to provide services that individuals and private groups or companies fail to, cannot, or should not provide. When a government is forced to provide a service, it points to either the failure of individuals to perform that service for themselves or a practical necessity of its delegation. Why would we need massive healthcare system and Obamacare if we, as individuals and families and social groups, took better care of ourselves and those closest to us physically, emotionally, and spiritually? Why would we need to delegate education to governmental-funded institutions if our families, private organizations, and, hell, the students themselves were doing a better job at education? And in this case, why would we need a government with strong gun-control laws when individuals are raising children and relatives in a culture spiritually, economically, and interpersonally conducive to lower crime rates, tranquil community, and enlightened ethics? Which, we're not, if you haven't noticed the statistics on crime in youth.
Sure, there are certain responsibilities more practically in the hands of a central governing body: some level of healthcare, national-defense, and a centralized justice system should be delegated to this body in some affect in order to save lives, keep armies organized, and prevent the resurgence of the wild-wild-west vigilante justice system. But gun-control, healthcare, and education are not three things necessarily fully in the hands of the government.
That being said, the fact the government has largely taken over in these areas doesn't point to a conspiracy of evil Illuminati sitting in the white house planning world takeover and the institution of Plato's philosopher kings. No, it points to a failure of local communities and individuals in themselves to perform the services without government intervention. If we took care of the damn poor on our own, we wouldn't need social services, or did you Conservatives miss that?
So, when taken in relation to gun-control, the simple need for gun control points not to an evil government, but to a large-scale failure by us as individuals, as well as our families, communities, and our nation to culture an environment where guns aren't needed for anything but hunting, sport shooting, and looking at and singing, "Ooh, shiney!" We've failed, we as individuals, not the government. The government is just there to pick up the slack, and there's a whole hell of a lot of rope to be pulled up these days.
We as people need to stop whining about the government about to take our guns, stop looking at them as Big Brother just waiting to happen if we give too much ground, and get down to business crafting a nation where the government doesn't have to.
Second, I would never use a gun to kill even a criminal, no matter the cost to myself. Yes, guns protect property. Yes, guns scare off and even kill criminals. Yes, guns prevent rape and violence. Yes, Kleck, guns are socially practical and deter crime. But the fact is our nation is one so uncomfortable with its spiritual and moral values that it's more morally acceptable for "defenders", as Kleck and Gertz term them, to kill a robber, a human robber, then lose their plasma screen TV.
How many dollars must be saved every year on property or hospital bills for criminal-caused broken noses, to equal the value of a single human life, even that of a criminal?
Now, there will be cases in which it will be life for life, life for rape, or life for the life of a loved one. What would I do if someone threatened my father, mother, sister, close friend, or myself? What if the use of a gun could save me at only the expense of some poor strung-out heroin addict? Would I use it?
Each person must decide this one for themselves.
I, for one, because of my spiritual and pacifistic beliefs, wouldn't. It would be the most agonizing decision I'd ever made. At least, I hope I wouldn't. I can't even imagine the internal conflict of someone pointing a gun at my mother Patty's face and forcing myself to stand by and do nothing. But I'd try. Call me a terrible person, but I'd try. I can never warrant trading one life for another on my own volition, no matter how much I care about the life at the end of the barrel. Plus, most of those close to me I feel confident with their 'eternal' continuation, if such a thing exists. I couldn't say the same thing about the person pointing the gun, for obvious reasons.
Yet, as I said, each person must decide this one for themselves.
I imagine a culture in which guns are tools, toys, and trophies, and nothing else. Like bicycles, snowmachines, or ATVs, each gun would be no more 'evil' than a banana. Sure, some people might slip on the peels and bonk their heads on occasion. But the object itself would hardly be to blame. But that won't come with more or less control, that will come with a whole new culture and outlook on violence, responsibility, and self, none of which are easy or cheap to fix, unlike gun regulations, either for more or less of them.
I leave you with one last quote from James Wright, a professor of sociology at Tulane University.
“And there is a sense in which violence is a public health problem. So let me illustrate the limitations of this line of reasoning with a public-health analogy.
After research disclosed that mosquitos were the vector for transmission of yellow fever, the disease is not controlled by sending men in white coats to the swamps to remove the mouth parts from all the insects they could find. The only sensible, efficient way to stop the biting was to attack the environment where the mosquitoes bred.
Guns are the mouthparts of the violence epidemic. The contemporary urban environment breeds violence no less than swamps breed mosquitoes. Attempting to control the problem of violence by trying to disarm the perpetrators is a hopeless as trying to contain yellow ever through mandible control” (Wright qtd. in Nisbit 372).
Whew. Now that's a blog post.