I am not a gun enthusiast. And I find the tactics used by some pro-Second Amendment groups to be counterproductive and intimidating.
While I don’t own a gun, I know how to shoot one. It’s a skill I’m happy to possess, and one I intend to refine with additional practice and training. That’s what responsible gun owners and users do.
It comforts me to know that were I ever to find myself in a situation in which using a gun was my best chance of survival, I would be able to use one with maximum lethality to my target and minimum danger to myself.
But I’m a mother, too, and extremely susceptible to the fears that rattle so many parents all over the U.S. — that a gun might find its way into the hands of someone who could use it do harm to my child.
Like so many Americans, I’m tired of seeing headlines about mass shootings — or any shooting, for that matter. Every time the news breaks that the lives of innocents — in a shopping mall, a church or a school — have been prematurely ended by someone with a gun, my heart sinks.
And like so many Americans, I am eager for policy solutions that will put an end to such atrocities.
Granted, I believe the Constitution guarantees U.S citizens the right to arm themselves and every person exercising that right has an obligation to do so responsibly.
But I’ll admit that I would not be opposed to limited restrictions on certain kinds of weapons or additional background checks on gun buyers if there were convincing evidence that implementing additional precautions would, in fact, reduce the number of weapons that end up in the hands of criminals and mentally ill people and demonstrably prevent the kind of senseless shootings that dominate our headlines.
The problem is, I have yet to see a gun-control proposal that persuasively purports to do this or even one that would have stopped any of the recent high-profile events.
In the wake of mass shootings, including the terrorist assault in San Bernardino, Calif., gun-control advocates trot out the same narrative — that there are too many guns in the U.S. and mass shootings are the natural result of our insufficiently restrictive gun laws.
Indeed, America does have a robust gun culture.
While it’s tough to know exactly how many firearms there are in the U.S., the Congressional Research Service estimated there were around 310 million in 2009.
The FBI has already processed almost 20 million background checks for people seeking to purchase guns so far this year.
But while there are more weapons on the street, violent crime, including that involving firearms, is down — it dropped 4.4 percent between 2012 and 2013. Even Texas, with its gun-slinging culture, has seen its rate of violent crime decline.
Ironically, gun crimes are highest in cities with strict gun laws, like Washington, D.C., and Chicago, which should suggest to policy leaders that other factors are at play.
Still, it does feel like we see, hear and read about more mass shooting events than ever before.
To that end, gun-control proponents argue that a ban on “assault weapons” would be a helpful step. But, as writer Rich Lowry points out, a study backed by the Department of Justice concluded that a prior version of the assault weapons ban would have effects on gun violence that were “small at best and perhaps too small for reliable measurement.”
Recently, the president has called for a law that would restrict gun purchases by people on the no-fly list. Due-process questions aside, I don’t recall any of the culprits in a recent mass shooting — San Bernardino included — being on the no-fly list.
Usually, policymakers prescribe proposals that apply to a recent policy failure, but in the case of gun control, the proposals don’t even address the margins.
I am eager to be convinced with facts, not emotions or politics, that proposed measures to increase gun control would save lives.
But I’m still waiting.
Cynthia M. Allen is a columnist for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.