Bury Your Weapons: the Mormon Case Against Gun Violence

When I was little my dad used to come home from work with blood on his shoes.

At the time, he was a young medical student completing his ER rotation at a busy hospital in downtown Houston. It was gory work, and when he got home he left his shoes by the door so he wouldn’t track blood in the house.

My dad treated hundreds, maybe thousands of gunshot wounds as he worked his ER shifts. (One night, he says, they treated 27 separate people.) Gunshot victims weren’t his only patients, of course, but they were among the bloodiest, particularly in that part of the US. In fact, the hospital where my dad worked served as a training hospital for military medics before they were shipped overseas to conflict zones.

My dad treated gunshot wounds on all types of patients. Men and women, people of all races, old and young. Some children. One patient he treated was 13 year-old boy. He came in with a gunshot wound to the leg. As my dad stitched the boy up, he asked the family what happened. The boy’s mother replied,

“Never you mind what happened,” she said. “There ain’t no one in this town who ain’t been shot.”

Sometimes, after my dad came home, I glimpsed his bloodstained shoes sitting outside on the steps. I can still picture them, a pair of black and white lace-up sneakers, smeared and spattered with deep, dried-up brown.

by albioneurope

My two boys, who are both quite young, are still in the process of learning all the scripture stories. This Monday night for family home evening my husband took my oldest son on his lap and flipped through a large illustrated copy of the Book of Mormon. Each time they came to an unfamiliar illustration, he stopped and told my son the story behind the picture.

He came to this image of the people of Ammon burying their swords. The corresponding scriptures are found in Alma 24:

“They took their swords, and all the weapons which were used for the shedding of man’s blood, and they did bury them deep in the earth.

And this they did, it being in their view a testimony to God, and also to men, that they never would use weapons again for the shedding of man’s blood.”

My husband told my son the story, and he stared hard at the picture for a few moments.

“They buried their swords so they wouldn’t kill any more people?” he said.

“That’s the idea,” said my husband.

Two days later, as I took my son to school, we drove behind a large pickup truck. This truck had a fat white BYU sticker in the window. We came to a stop light and I noticed that the truck had a custom license plate cover. The plate cover read:

“Fight crime. Shoot back.”

It was then that I noticed the sticker that sat in the opposite corner of the window, this one hanging on the glass like a coat of arms. It was a simple white image: two shotguns laid one over the other like deadly crossbones.

by mariaeklind

Like many Americans, I was overcome when I read about the Las Vegas shooting. I was horrified that something so barbaric could happen on such a scale, and not for the first time.

After the initial shock wore off, I wanted desperately to understand how this could have happened. Again. I pawed through scads of data, scrolled through scattered charts, pinned dozens of studies to read and scrutinize in the days that followed.

The more I studied, the more I realized that the problem was not necessarily a lack of information. Numbers on gun violence are had easily enough. As Harvard professor David Hemenway says, “What you find is that where there’s more guns, there’s more death.”

And yet, Americans continue to cultivate a culture of gun worship. As it turns out, statistics matter very little to those who want to own guns. This is because gun owners don’t rely on data while purchasing a firearm. Instead, they’re motivated by strong emotions—emotions like fear.

One image in particular is imminently frightening:

The image of a deranged shooter killing us or those we love.

We easily imagine such a person because we’ve seen him—in the news, in movies, and on television. As disturbing as he is, most of us can easily picture this crazed shooter pointing a gun at ourselves, at our children, at our closest loved ones.

The thought is both terrifying and incredibly persuasive. It’s no wonder a majority of gun owners say they own a gun chiefly for protection, and the NRA continually capitalizes on this fear in their public arguments. (They also make the somewhat last-ditch argument that we need guns to protect ourselves from a violent government takeover, but  we lost that arms race decades ago with the invention of tanks, nukes, and battle drones.)

Sadly, those who base their decision to purchase a gun on this frightening image (a mental shortcut which psychologists refer to as the availability heuristic) are actually putting themselves and their loved ones at greater risk. That’s because people who bring guns into their homes are much less likely to imagine suicide than they are to imagine defending themselves from shooters, intruders, and those who would wish them harm.

And yet, when you purchase a gun, you’re 180 times more likely to use it on yourself than to use it to defend your home, your family, even yourself.

The reality is, gun ownership has a devastating effect on suicide rates across the board. In states where gun ownership is high, suicide rates (even by other methods) are higher. And the risk seems to be even more astronomical for suicidal teens. Recent data shows that teens who live in states with higher gun ownership are four times more likely to commit suicide than teens who live in states with low gun ownership. In Utah, a state where teens commit suicide at a rate well above the national average, more than half of those suicides are committed using firearms.

by jaredmayfire

It’s time to rewrite the script on gun ownership, and Mormons should be at the forefront of creating anti-gun, anti-violence legislation. Utah has some of the most permissive gun laws in the country. Nearly 1 in 3 Utahns own a gun, and because there’s no statewide gun licensure or registry, the number may actually be much higher. Utah has several loopholes to the universal background check law, and if Utahns want to carry guns around in plain sight, they’re allowed to do so without so much as a permit, so long as the gun is a step or two away from firing. Currently there are also no provisions in place for preventing someone with mental health issues from obtaining a firearm, even if they’ve attempted suicide in the past.

Meanwhile, the number of teen suicides in Utah (and subsequently, gun-related suicides) has tripled since 2009.

As Mormons, we’ve sat at the altar of gun worship for far too long. Our reluctance to bury our weapons of war has cost us so many lives. It’s time to put ourselves on the right side of history and end our reliance on fear and violence. As Christ said to Peter in the Garden of Gethsemane, “Put up again thy sword into his place: for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword” (Matt. 26:52.) So it is with us.

Becca

Becca Ogden earned her BA, MA, and MFA in English at BYU. She lives in a little pioneer house in downtown Provo with her husband, their two children, and an ornery cat named Draco Meowfoy.

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49 Responses

  1. Marcus says:

    Very well written, but I wouldn’t say that Mormons have lax view on gun, American Mormons do. As a Swedish Mormon I’m appaled and frustrated at the gun violence situation in America.

    • Becca Lee says:

      Agreed! I also think Utah-based Mormons are politically distinct from non-Utah-based Mormons. But even in non-conservative areas, much of the membership tends to swing toward American conservatism. Actually I think that puts Mormons (both American and non-American) in the unique position of being able to come down clearly on the side of anti-weapon, anti-violence advocacy. I hope our worldwide church will be instrumental in helping US and Utah-based Mormons see their blind spots, particularly when it comes to making excuses for gun ownership.

    • spunky says:

      Agreed, Marcus! Having lived in Canada and the US (and other countries), I see the problem as a North American Mormon thing. The gun situation in North America is sickening and makes no sense.

    • Marc J says:

      Don’t be throwing stones from your Swedish house of glass Marcus. Should we conveniently ignore the fact that violent crime has spiked in Sweden ever since open immigration? Should we also be “appalled and frustrated” that since 1975, when the Swedish parliament decided to change the former homogeneous Sweden into a multicultural country, that the dramatic consequences would be an increase in violent crime by 300%? or worse for women – that rapes would have increased by 1,472% (421 in 1975 vs. 6,620 in 2014)? Sweden is now number two on the global list of rape countries. According to a survey from 2010, Sweden, with 53.2 rapes per 100,000 inhabitants, is surpassed only by tiny Lesotho in Southern Africa, with 91.6 rapes per 100,000 inhabitants. Here in America, Guns rights are also Women’s rights as they do have a legitimate role in keeping all people, including women, safe. – see https://youtu.be/2iKBEJp92CA

      • Becca says:

        The statistics cited here seemed odd, so I looked them up. According to Sweden’s official crime reports, violent crime has remained relatively constant since 1977. I also found that sexual crime is measured differently in Sweden. Since the 1960s, Sweden has considered marital rape a crime, and they have worked hard to crack down on unreported rape, which causes their numbers to be higher. The high number of reported rapes in Sweden can also be partly explained by differing legal systems, offence definitions, terminological variations, recording practices and statistical conventions, making any cross-national comparison on rape statistics difficult. So far, I don’t find a ton of support for the argument that Sweden has somehow become a criminal hotbed over the past several decades. They still have one of the lowest crime rates in the developed world.

  2. Jonathan says:

    So… um… they didn’t bury their weapons so they wouldn’t kill themselves. They buried their weapons because of all of the Nephite blood they had spilt. So that story doesn’t relate to the point you attempt to make.

    “While we will be the last to oppress, we will be the last to be driven from our post… Any man who will not fight for his wife and children is a coward and a bastard.” (Joseph Smith, journal, 29 Jan. 1843.)

    D&C 134:11 “We believe that men should appeal to the civil law for Redress of All Wrongs and Grievances, where personal abuse is inflicted or the Right of Property or Character Infringed, where such laws exist as will protect the same; but we believe that ALL men are justified in Defending Themselves, their Friends, and Property …from the unlawful assaults and encroachments of all persons in times of exigency, where immediate appeal cannot be made to the laws, and relief afforded.”

    • Becca says:

      Cherry-picked scriptures and de-contextualized prophetic quotes from the cowboy era aren’t sufficient evidence to suggest that God wants us to keep guns and kill people.

      On the contrary, violence is something God is actually pretty clear on. “Thou shall not kill” doesn’t leave a ton of room for interpretation.

      • Marc J says:

        So, you can “cherry-pick” scripture, but Jonathan can’t? That makes you a hypocrite Becca. And actually, “Thou shalt not kill” happens to only be a part of the commandment. It should be, “Thou shalt not kill, unless commanded otherwise” – see 1 Nephi 4:10-13 “And it came to pass that I was constrained by the Spirit that I should kill Laban…” and read verse 13 very carefully – and then “liken” it to our day – …for it is better that one bad criminal should perish than you and your family perish because you lacked the tool (a gun) and preparation (training, practice, knowledge of…) to defend and preserve life during a violent incident (home invasion, robbery, kidnapping, etc.).

  3. Kindra says:

    Excellent post and reply to Marcus (who, as you noted, is also correct in drawing some distinctions among various Mormon populations).

  4. Ziff says:

    Great post, Becca. I’m sorry that you seem to have attracted a GUN NUT in the comments.

  5. Patricia I Johnson says:

    I really appreciated Rebecca’s post. Thank you!!!

  6. el oso says:

    The marked increase in UT teen suicides is not correlated at all with gun ownership in UT. Clearly, gun use in suicides is a big factor, but something else was/is going on also. Suicide involving firearms is quick and easy, if gun access is available.
    If I lived in one of the many pleasant suburban areas in UT, I would probably not own a gun. If I lived out in a rural area, I would have several. In the urban areas, it is a toss up if I would have a handgun/shotgun for protection. Lock up (bury) your guns and ammo if you have children for sure.

  7. Dave DeFord says:

    They buried their weapons because they had learned to delight in bloodshed and then had a change of heart. Their actions do not apply to most Mormons, gun owners or otherwise. Their own children took up weapons just a few years later to prevent further bloodshed – that is a big part of the lesson there.

    • Becca Ogden says:

      I would argue that Americans do delight in bloodshed. We choose not to regulate guns as much as other countries simply because we like guns.

      Recent evidence also suggests that nonviolent conflict resolution is not only less fatal, but more effective than violent conflict. There is no righteous excuse to arm ourselves as private citizens.

      I would recommend the book Nonviolent Action by Ronald J. Sider. According to a recent study on 325 violent and nonviolent insurrections against oppressive dictators “nonviolent resistance campaigns were nearly twice as likely to achieve full or partial success as their violent counterparts.”

      http://www.patheos.com/blogs/theologyintheraw/2016/03/nonviolence-more-powerful-than-violence/#dlQvJT64ms0oWSRt.99

  8. Eileen J. says:

    These people voluntarily buried their weapons, they didn’t force others to get rid of their weapons. Also, as Dave DeFord pointed out, very soon they relied on other armed citizens to protect themselves and their unarmed parents.

    These are huge differences that should have been noted.

    • Becca Ogden says:

      We should voluntarily give up our weapons, absolutely it should be voluntary. One way to do that is to stop being protective of gun ownership in our culture and our discussions. Be honest about the toll it takes on our community, and don’t shy away from the death and destruction (both intentional and unintentional) caused by the members of our community who choose to own guns.

      One way we do that is to come together as citizens and vote on legislation. Clearly it’s not enough for a handful of concerned members of the community to choose not to own guns. We need to persuade our brothers and sisters to give up their weapons, also.

      I’d also point to the comment I left on Dave DeFord’s about nonviolence versus violence in conflict resolution.

      • Eileen J. says:

        You said that there is no righteous excuse to arm ourselves as private citizens… How about this girl, was this unrighteous? https://www.click2houston.com/news/girl-17-fires-shot-at-intruder-while-chasing-him-out-of-her-house Not sure how non-violent conflict resolution works in one of the many cases like this.

      • Eileen J. says:

        I guess you’re not going to answer if it’s righteous for people to protect themselves and their families with a gun. Next time you want to present on this issue I hope you’ll consider how commenters explained that righteous people in the BoM did use weapons to defend themselves and others. Another interesting angle is how Jesus Christ used a whip to cleanse the temple and maybe a parallel to us using a weapon to protect our own temple that God has given us. Just a thought. A lot of people don’t live in the favored circumstances that you live in.

    • spunky says:

      The story you’ve linker to sounds weird to me, Eileen J. Something wasn’t quite right of she knew he was planning on breaking in. I think a good set of locks would’ve been the best answer in this situation, or a house alarm– and shooting at an unarmed intruder isn’t self-defense.

      • Eileen J. says:

        She had been warned by her dad that there was a carjacker loose in her neighborhood. The screen door wasn’t locked, but the door was. People break into homes all the time. The question was whether defending yourself in your home is an righteous reason to own a gun.

      • spunky says:

        It still doesn’t make sense to me. I think a good set of locks, faith and a prayer would’ve been significantly more powerful.

      • Marc J says:

        Spunky – how about a good set of locks, faith, prayer, AS WELL AS – preparation, and firearms? This combination is the most powerful. Consider how Gun rights are also Women’s rights in that they ‘level the field’ and take any physical advantage a perpetrator would have against you, a child,or anyone for that matter. https://youtu.be/2iKBEJp92CA

  9. rgenck says:

    The Ammonites had to flee to survive, and where did they flee to? Those who had a well established civilian army.

    Sorry, but your argument defeats itself if you just continue the story.

    • Becca says:

      I think it’s reasonable to expect our military to protect us, much like in this example in the scriptures. There is no sufficient excuse for private ownership of firearms.

  10. Sharon says:

    Eileen,

    a main point of the OP is that statistically, you’re more likely to be killed/injured by your own weapons than you are to successfully use them in self-defense.

    Anecdotes do not effectively support your argument.

    rgenck,

    I don’t think the OP is arguing against military action to defend life and liberty, but rather the excessive proliferation of personal gun ownership. And she’s using a scriptural analogy, which, as we all know from other scriptural analogies, can sometimes even be contradicted in the next chapter. That doesn’t necessarily invalidate the message or truth being communicated in THAT scripture.

  11. Marc J says:

    I find this article completely disingenuous and ignorant. The author, Becca, completely ignores the fact that guns save more innocent lives each day than they take. Should we not protect the president or any “celebrity”, for that matter, with armed officers? Why do police officers have guns? Should we disarm them? The only one taking mental shortcuts here is you Becca. Gun owners don’t stand for violence and aren’t bad people, yet you paint us as a bunch of dopes who blindly follow the NRA. Your ignorance is too great to pass up. Do you really think that no one has legitimately used a gun to save their life here? It’s all “mental shortcuts” until it actually happens to you! Yes, I’ve been saved by a gun. The problem with violence isn’t the fault of gun owners. It’s the lack of education around how to properly store, bear (carry with you), and use a firearm. It has nothing to do with the type of firearm, number or rounds, number of guns, etc. Also, your lack of understanding of the important role the 2nd amendment plays in both securing our liberty and as one of the checks and balances in our government structure is sad. Do you think it’s all about some lost “arms race” between the military and the people? In our country, the military is made up by the people and I know plenty of military personnel who wouldn’t be participating in any “violent” takeovers, but who are ‘oath keepers’ who would keep balance in any scale conflict. But Becca’s type of extreme thinking would also argue that the voices of 535 members of Congress overpower and outweigh the voice of just 9 Supreme Court Justices. No, Becca, in this case the judicial branch serves as a check and balance on the legislative and executive branches. To help enforce that this balance is preserved, the armed people are a check on all three.
    As I mentioned before, people should have the proper training for gun ownership. Unless you have mental health issues that would preclude you from being a responsible gun owner, I would challenge every law-abiding citizen to go to Front Sight (www.frontsight.com) and take their 4-day defensive handgun course. Please get educated on guns and proper gun ownership before you take an argument against them.

    • Becca Ogden says:

      You say that the author (me) “completely ignores the fact that guns save more innocent lives each day than they take”

      This is patently false.

      As I mention in the article, a person is 180 times more likely to use their gun to kill themselves than they are to use it to save their lives in an emergency. Firearms take far more lives than they save.

      I’m also taking issue with a lot of your more tangential accusations. I’ve not mentioned disarming police men in my post. Nor have I mentioned Congress overpowering the Supreme Court Justices. If we enact any legislation that further restricts gun ownership and rights in the US, it should be done through legal means.

      I do firmly stand on the side of anti-violence when it comes to individual citizens. I think Mormons should lead the cause against weaponry, and claim our heritage as a peace-loving people.

      • Marc J says:

        Becca – You are either “patently” ignorant or just a liar! Guns are used 2.5 million times a year in self-defense. Law-abiding citizens use guns to defend themselves against criminals as many as 2.5 million times every year — or about 6,850 times a day. This means that each year, firearms are used more than 80 times more often to protect the lives of honest citizens than to take lives. In addition, nearly 200,000 women use a gun every year to defend themselves against sexual abuse. So you DO ignore the greater cost in innocent human life against any small one. That’s asinine and crazy.
        You indirectly call for unilateral disarmament and the removal of the 2nd amendment. You completely are ignorant of the historical fact that governments have been the biggest mass murderers of their own people. The staggering number of 260 million people killed by their own governments in the last 100 years. And it always, yes, – ALWAYS… starts with the government unilaterally disarming the people. And there seems to always be an endless supply of dopes like you who are willing to trade liberty for a false sense of security. Gun ownership is not evil. Done in the right way, it is good, educational, life-saving, and even fun. Oh – and you cannot legally enact legislation to restrict gun ownership. You’d have to amend the US Constitution contrary to what the founding fathers put in there originally. I would disagree with your anti-gun ownership stance and vote against you. I would also be willing to take a stand and fight for my liberty, even if it means I sacrifice my life in doing so. Think about it, You don’t stand on the side of anti-violence because ultimately you’re saying that you want people with guns to come and force me at gunpoint to abandon my guns, ignoring the greater cost of life the lack of private gun ownership would bring. Good luck. If you don’t like the USA and our liberty, Why don’t you move to another country that suits you? Plenty to choose from. Do you think that all gun owners don’t stand on the side of anti-violence? Wrong. We do. But we just realize the difference between fantasy and reality. We realize that we live in a world that still harbors violence and hatred. Guess what Becca, it’s possible to be for anti-violence AND own a gun. Don’t believe me? Try it. And I would suggest… – no… I challenge you – to take the 4-day defensive handgun course at FrontSight Firearms training institute in Nevada. Shed this fear you have around guns and discover the ‘comfort of skills at Arms’!

      • Becca says:

        Marc, I am going to refer you to our comment policy, which can be found here: http://www.the-exponent.com/site-map/comment-policy/

        Disagreement is welcome on this thread, but name-calling and personal attacks are not. If you violate this policy again, your comments will be removed and you will be unable to post further comments on this thread.

        I apologize for not providing my source in the comment, but the source is available in the post above. The gun violence statistics I mention are taken from the Gun Violence Archive, a non-partisan non-profit group dedicated to validating and cross-checking all national reports of gun violence. You can read their “About” page here: http://www.gunviolencearchive.org/about

        I’m not sure where your numbers are coming from, but if you provide your sources our readers can evaluate for themselves whether they are trustworthy or not. As for the GVA, I’m satisfied that they are both thorough and accurate. Their numbers are supported by the limited CDC numbers we have on gun violence.

        Also, I am not indirectly making a call for forced disarmament or the abolition of the 2nd amendment. Any restriction of gun ownership needs to happen through legal means, as I have argued again and again.

        I am arguing that people choose to lay down their weapons voluntarily. I’m calling on my fellow brothers and sisters in the church to choose peace instead of violence. I’m calling for a shift in our perception of guns. They are weapons, using them against each other constitutes killing, and killing has no place among disciples of Christ.

        Also, when governments get it into their minds to kill their own people, gun ownership hasn’t stopped them. As I mention, we lost that arms race long ago. Not even the strongest private arsenal could fend off the US military.

        I don’t think gun classes will change my opinion on the subject. No amount of training or gun safety will make taking a life any less deplorable. I used to refuse to handle guns because I was afraid. Now I do it as a means of protest. Violence is not the answer to the world’s problems.

  12. Becca Ogden says:

    I should also point out to readers that statistical anomalies (like the fact that a small number of gun owners use them for their intended purpose) are not a sufficient reason to allow the continuation of reckless gun laws. For every one person who defends herself or her home with a gun, 180 more take their lives. Does the 1 justify the 180?

    According to the most recent numbers, in this past year, you were as likely to shoot yourself or someone accidentally as you were to use your weapon in defense.

    Guns used in defense: 1,614 incidents this year
    Gun accidents (including death and injury): 1,606 this year

    If someone said, “Here’s a gun. You can use it to protect yourself and your family from danger. But just so you know, you have as much likelihood of shooting yourself or someone you love. Even if no one comes into your home, you might just accidentally use it to shoot someone you care about – the probability is equal.”

    If someone told me that, I would definitely not take the gun. It’s madness to risk people I care about over something that’s very unlikely to happen to me or my family.

    So why do people still buy guns? They like them. They want them. They don’t care about the statistics, or they assume that they’ll be the exception.

    Okay, fine. If people like them and want them and aren’t willing to get rid of them we can at least try to persuade each other, as brothers and sisters, that gun ownership is a bad idea, even morally irresponsible if we value human life.

    I would also argue that just because someone breaks into my house to steal my possessions, I shouldn’t consider that a good enough reason to take their life. A person isn’t burglarizing my house because they’re an evil dictator (like King Laban in the story from the Book of Mormon that everyone is citing). That person is breaking into my house because they’re desperate. They need money, maybe they’re even addicted to drugs and lack sound judgment. Do I get to shoot this person? Do I get to use lethal force against someone who, statistically, is probably just here to steal my laptop? My laptop isn’t worth a person. The Book of Mormon, as well as the Bible, do not argue that property is worth more than human life. Even that D&C scripture isn’t relevant here. At the time the scripture was written, Mormons lived in frontier country. There was imminent risk to house and home. Now, we no longer face those dangers.

    Some might argue that we do, that there are evil people going around breaking into people’s houses and murdering their loved ones. I have two issues with this.

    1. I don’t know any family that sleeps in the same room together. I can’t see how I would really be able to prevent someone from breaking into my kid’s room and killing them, if they really wanted to. Especially considering the fact that a safely-stored firearm is several steps away from being fired.

    2. Statistically, people just aren’t being murdered by armed intruders.

    The incidence of armed intrusion is far, far lower than most statistical risks in the US. Only about 100 people die each year at the hands of an unknown armed intruder (people are far more likely to be killed by someone they know, usually by a family member who knows where and how the guns are stored).

    To give that 100 deaths some perspective, according to the US weather service, 300 people are struck by lightning each year. That means you are three times more likely to be struck by lightning than you are to be killed by an armed intruder.

    Can you do things to decrease your risk of being struck by lightning? Yes. Don’t go outside in storms.

    Can you also do things to decrease your risk of being burglarized or killed by an intruder? Also yes. Lock your doors, close your windows. Keep motion-activated lights at all points of entry. Install security cameras, if you’re that worried (most security camera systems are fairly cheap, especially compared to firearms/ammo/proper gun storage safes). I saw one at Costco for $79.99. All of these things have been statistically proven to decrease your likelihood of being burglarized, contrary to gun ownership, which is undetectable from the outside of a person’s house. I suppose you could keep a sign on your window, but considering the rate at which firearms are stolen, that’s probably not a good idea.

    Considering the risks that come with gun ownership (i.e. the likelihood of using it to commit suicide, or the likelihood of using it accidentally against someone you love, or the likelihood of your spouse using it to murder you), I still feel it’s morally irresponsible to choose to bring a gun into your home, especially as “defense” against an extremely rare statistical anomaly.

    If you’re really worried, keep a baseball bat under your bed. Buy a taser, for heaven’s sake. They’re legal in most states.

    We don’t need to protect guns. We need protection from guns.

    • Marc J says:

      I should also point out to the readers that this author uses politically skewed statistical data that has been compiled by groups funded by anti-gun groups. 1 in 180 is not even close to an accurate figure. I know the source for this – so let me educate the readers. This number under-counts defensive homicides by using unreliable data. It’s based upon data reported by the FBI, which reflect only law enforcement agency reports and not the final disposition of cases by the criminal justice system. For a variety of reasons, the FBI counts of civilian justifiable homicides represent only a minority of all civilian legal defensive homicides. They also have under-counted homicides by law enforcement officers. And it doesn’t capture cases where the criminal is not shot. More importantly, the author is trying to get you to focus on the number of criminals killed, but the value of guns for self-defense isn’t measured by that, but by the number of violent crime victimizations prevented.

      After your paragraphs of anti-liberty diatribe and how “there was imminent risk to house and home..” You say “…Now, we no longer face those dangers.” Are you crazy? Human nature has not changed from Joseph Smith’s time to ours. There are many counts of home invasions where I could cite the home owner taking your attitude of “hey, no problem, take whatever you need.” I would be for that too, except that is an extremely dangerous gamble with your life to take. Many of these criminals would take what they want, including your virtue, and then shoot you in the head. Do you really want to gamble like that? Tell that to the guy over here who was robbed at gun point a couple weeks ago who gladly gave his wallet and was shot anyway. Tell that to the girl who had just arrived at her family’s home after work and was quickly approached by two men who fatally shot her. They didn’t want her belongings, they didn’t want to assault her, they just wanted to drop her dead. Do you really think you can just turn around and just start singing “Kumbaya” to violent criminals like that and they’ll just magically desist from their acts? Also – You write from the standpoint of home-invasions only. You don’t take into consideration that we also ‘conceal carry’ our weapons with us. Has this saved my life before? Yes! I have been saved by a gun. Does that bother you that an innocent life was saved by a gun? Perhaps it does because it doesn’t work for your agenda. You really should get educated in this area before writing about it. -most good writers do.

      • Ziff says:

        “You really should get educated in this area before writing about it.”

        Oooh! I have the interpretation! This means “You need to come around to my point of view and accept the statistics that I like.”

        I’m super thankful that you’re here to share with us your completely unbiased view on guns, Marc. But you should really get educated about your own biases before writing about *anything*. Most self-aware writers do.

      • Becca says:

        We don’t face imminent threat to house and home any more. I’m not sure about human nature, but society has changed. Violent crime has dropped sharply in the last quarter century, as validated by Pew Research: http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2017/02/21/5-facts-about-crime-in-the-u-s

        A few anecdotal stories about violence do not change national trends. They are drops in an ever-shrinking bucket.

        I take my chances in a way that’s supported by gun violence statistics. I’m not risking my life by simply walking around unarmed in the world. The truth is, violence is simply not as prevalent as it used to be. And if we chose to give up our guns, there would be even fewer instances of gun violence. Even if many gun owners store their guns safely, between 300,000 and 600,000 guns are reported stolen each year, according to researchers at Harvard. 300,000 to 600,000 guns in the hands of criminals. How can we continue to justify introducing that kind of violence into our communities?

        As I mention before, only 100 homicides last year were caused by armed intruders. The numbers are from a special report released by the Bureau of Justice, found here. Disbelieve them at your own peril, I suppose.

  13. Jared says:

    Very good argument however, in the Book of Mormon, captain moroni was viewed as a strong leader both spiritually and militarily. He did not delight in bloodshed but he rose a banner of liberty that in defense of our homes our religion and our children we will fight. And the people of Ammon who bury their arms in the ground as a symbolic covenant with god to not shed innocent blood nor blood at all lest they enter into their blood thirsty past. Also the armies of Moroni, which consisted of men and even at times women and children were sent to the people of Ammon to protect them and forbade them to help in the war lest they break their covenant with the lord to no longer take up arms against their brethren. I understand the argument, but to say gun ownership is solely based on fear is not a great argument. There are people who just like guns and collect them, never shoot them, some people like the sport of being able to hit a target with accuracy and precision which takes great skill. And yes, they protect us from intruders ect, but not the sole purpose of gun ownership is based on fear. Also it is a constitutional right given by the founders of the constitution which in the doctrine and covenants states is an inspired document. Personally if you feel like you should bury our arms as a symbolic covenant to god to not enter into bloodshed then i agree that is noble, but to suggest that we all should be on the forefront of deleting the 2nd amendment and getting rid of guns all together is truly not a noble cause and aims to restrict others opinions on the subject and restricts the right for people who believe in protecting themselves with arms and takes away their agency.

    • Becca says:

      Having someone shot by a firearm also takes away their agency. I’m not sure why a pro-gun person’s agency trumps a non-violent person’s agency.

      • Jared Miller says:

        I don’t agree, if someone is attacking your family and their goal is to do harm to you and your family, he is using his agency. The family also has choices. Use a weapon if they have one to allow this individual to use their agency to do horrific things to us. They have knives, however your attacker has a weapon. A knife would only put you in more danger and possibly lose your life that day. Instead you use a gun and shoot at your attacker and either injure him or kill him. That is not taking away the agency of the attacker for his agency was to take away the families potential of a long and prosperous life, to end their probationary period short. However the family defending themselves and killing the attacker with a gun would be a consequence of the attacker doing an evil against the family.
        And concerning the last sentence in your comment, I do not understand in which circumstance you are referring. Give me an example of how someone owning a gun for their own protection affects the other individual who does not like nor want to own a weapon. How does the “pro-gun individual”’s agency of owning a gun affect the “non-violent type”’s agency of not owning a gun?

      • Becca says:

        The risk of someone attacking your family is minimal, even nonexistent to American citizens. If something is statistically unlikely to happen, there’s not good evidence that we need to be protected from it.

        As I’ve mentioned in other comments, only 100 homicides per year happen at the hand of armed intruders. 100 out of 323.1 million people. That’s a 00.00003% likelihood of that happening to you if you live in the United States. As I said before, you’re 3 times more likely to be struck by lightning.

        Contrast that with the likelihood of using your gun to kill yourself, which accounts for around 22,000 deaths per year. That’s a 0.007% chance of killing yourself with a gun. So look at those chances: 0.00003% chance of being killed by an armed intruder, or 0.007% chance of killing yourself. Clearly you are much, much more likely to use your gun to kill yourself than you are to use it against an armed intruder. People think that they will be the exception to the statistics, but they simply cannot predict that with any real accuracy, because the statistics haven’t really changed. In fact, firearm suicides have only gotten worse in the past 30 years: https://www.thetrace.org/2016/04/cdc-study-gun-suicides-getting-worse/

        So when you ask how gun ownership affects non-gun owners, my first answer is this: if you have a gun, it’s more likely you or someone else that I love will use it in committing suicide. As far as how that affects our society, it’s violent and traumatic to lose a loved one to suicide, particularly if that suicide is accomplished with a gun. Other methods of suicide are less fatal, easier to survive. Guns almost never are.

        But that is just one aspect. Unfortunately, gun owners and even gun vendors still haven’t been able to adequately protect themselves from gun theft. If like 300,000 to 600,000 people per year, your gun is stolen from you, you are responsible for the allowing an untraceable weapon to enter into criminal hands. The people who steal those guns are probably not stealing them so that they can protect their families. They’re stealing them to sell, and people who want untraceable weapons are typically not up to much good. Likewise, they’re much less likely to store guns safely, or to use them solely in defense (stats found here: https://www.thetrace.org/2016/09/stolen-guns-cars-trucks-us-atlanta/ and here: https://www.jhsph.edu/research/centers-and-institutes/johns-hopkins-center-for-gun-policy-and-research/publications/guns_theft_fs.pdf). That contributed to rates of violent crime in the thousands. You may be a responsible gun owner, but if your gun is stolen, you can no longer guarantee that your firearm is being used solely for protection.

        Another aspect is homicide and domestic abuse. There is plenty of data to show that households with a gun on the property are statistically linked to homicide. It makes sense: if you or your partner becomes angry enough, and you keep a gun, it’s more likely that one of you will use it against the other person. Most homicides by domestic abusers (typically abusive husbands and boyfriends) are committed with firearms. If those abusers didn’t have access to firearms, many of those women (and men) would still be alive. Other methods of homicide are less fatal, and take a longer time to execute. This includes poisoning, stabbing, strangulation, etc. These methods are less instantaneous, so they’re less likely to be committed in a moment of intense emotion.

        These are no doubt morbid topics to consider, but they must be discussed when we’re talking about the toll of gun ownership on our society.

        In sum, it’s true that the idea of armed home invasion is scary, but the risk is just not realistic when we look at the numbers. The NRA is deeply invested in perpetuating the myth of home endangerment because it sells more guns. They don’t want people to know that violent crime is down, and armed home invasion is practically nonexistent. According to Pew Research statistics, 67% of gun owners say they keep guns as a means of protection. If they knew they didn’t need guns for protection, or if they knew the true cost of gun ownership in terms of suicide/homicide/theft, they’d probably not own them.

  14. matt says:

    Yeah and what happened to those Lamanites? They ended up needing to be protected. By Nephites with Swords.

    • Becca Ogden says:

      The message of the story could be interpreted a few ways. The way I interpret it is this:

      If there is a group of people that is addicted to violence and bloodshed, they would do better to give up their weapons than to use them to kill more people. If those people need protection, they can seek it from an organized military.

      In America, we face no threats to our safety. The idea that we face threat to our safety from armed intruders is not supported by national crime data (if you see the stats from the above comments, you’ll see a person is 3x more likely to be struck by lightening than to have an armed intruder in her home).

      According to Mormon doctrine, we’re commanded not to kill, unless God commands us to do so. God is not commanding contemporary Mormons to use guns. If He is, I must have missed that episode of General Conference.

  15. Marc says:

    Becca – Anyone can find stats showing that they are right. People can manipulate the data they use to show their point. That is why in this comment section we find so many different “stats” that differ. I would say that if we are only finding stats that support our own views then we being biased in our search. I would say before we believe any stats, we need to do our homework to see how the stats were collected and not just accept stats we agree with. One website that I visit on some controversial topics is justfacts.com. This sight has several different studies on subject matters and analyses the studies to make sure they weren’t biased in the study. They will list out the reasons why they did not accept the study. This sight has some studies that support gun ownership and some that don’t that deemed valid. If we want something to be done on this matter both sides have to come together and understand true facts not biased “facts”. We also have to understand the reasons why the other side feels the way they do. I feel that you are unwilling to look at the other side. Saying all gun owners are ignorant is just as wrong as saying that all pro gun control are ignorant. I am a pro 2nd amendment, but I also believe that if you decide to own guns you have to take the responsibility of owning a gun seriously, because of the additional risk if you are not being responsible. Kids/teenagers should not have access to them. I am for laws that will reduce violence, not just gun violence. Replacing one type of violence with another does not make difference. I am not for making new laws that will not make difference. We need both sides to come together to see what new laws would make a difference in violent crimes.

    • Becca Ogden says:

      I didn’t say all gun owners are ignorant. I think there are two groups of gun owners: those who own guns to protect themselves from perceived threats, and those who own guns solely for sport. I think the former group could use to weigh the consequences of gun ownership against the advantages more carefully, because the statistics don’t support gun ownership as a safe means of protection in America.

      I think the NRA has been very persuasive in convincing people that they’re in imminent danger unless they’re armed. Sadly, the mere act of keeping a gun in your home is more of a danger than armed criminals.

      I understand how statistics can be manipulated, but I’m confident in the collection and verification of these numbers. I’m open to specifics if you’d like to dispute one of the numbers I’ve provided. So far, I haven’t seen much compelling evidence to persuade me that these numbers have been falsified. Similar numbers pop up in other studies, so I’m going to maintain their legitimacy until I have some clear, specific evidence that the numbers are wrong. The mere idea that stats can be manipulated doesn’t prove that all stats are false.

  16. Burning Bush says:

    Hi Becca,
    I see you live in Provo. I love Provo! My kids live near there. The issue I want to take up with you is your statement that violence is not a problem in this country. You live in Provo not Detroit or Chicago. Look at those statistics. You claim that violence is down. Down is not enough. Just because you have not been touched by violence in Provo does not mean it’s acceptable. You say 100 homicides is acceptable. You want me to be powerless as you are powerless against violence. If my family is one of the 100 you say it’s ok because my gun could be stolen or someone could kill themselves with it. You also say that I am ignorant. I have protected this country with a gun. I’ve instructed 100’s or maybe 1000’s of military members and law enforcement so that they could use their gun to defend themselves. I’ve read quite a lot of your reports and statistics that you tout. In my experience most of these numbers don’t jive with reality. Of course that is just my opinion. I also do not agree with your interpretation of scripture but that’s a whole different argument. The only thing that I agree with is that guns do kill. The only way to save ourselves from evil is to get rid of every gun. Then I guess we’d have to get rid of knives and cars too. Getting rid of all guns is impossible. In this country the gun gave us our freedom. I’m not saying that makes it good, just stating a fact. We are not Australia, which does actually still have guns, so that would not be an argument. I’ll tell you who does not have a lot of guns in citizens hands, Communist countries. But they don’t have much freedom either. Becca I understand your concern. I think you’re brave to write an article like this and I appreciate your view. You asked for a fight by writing this way and I believe that you believe in your cause. I do not, however, think that you know much about guns and defense. You know statistics I think. But reality can be a different animal. I don’t know everything, but I know how defense works and what it’s like to defend your life. I hope you never have to know that. Anyway, that’s my lame view.

  1. October 15, 2017

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