Ben Cosgrove of Time magazine's sister publication Life penned a piece today concerning gun safety in the 1950s, saying it was important for historical context about the gun control debate in today's political environment. The Life editor dusted off a March 1956 Life story on an Indiana conservation officer teaching grade school children basic gun safety, using real shotguns and bolt-action rifles.
While the historical retrospective is instructive, Cosgrove's accompanying commentary was fraught with liberal swipes, and missed the mark on the Second Amendment. What's more, Cosgrove insinuated that our gun culture is, and always has been, loaded with “insane” statistics when it comes to the harm it inflicts on society:
The numbers related to gun violence in the land of the free are, of course, deeply chilling. More than 8,500 Americans were murdered by guns (or rather, by killers wielding guns) in 2011, according to the most recent FBI data. Of those, 565 were under the age of 18; 119 were kids 12 or younger. Wherever one comes down on the gun debate, most sane people can agree that those statistics are a national disgrace and … well, insane.
But it’s always worth pointing out that there millions of Americans who own and shoot guns entirely within the letter and spirit of the law. Hunting, for example, is a pastime and a rite of passage in countless communities around the U.S., and the vast majority of hunters — men and women, boys and girls — are not taking down deer and ducks and bears and doves with slingshots, or with bows and arrows. They’re using rifles and shotguns — as they have for generations.
Well, speaking for the insane, motor vehicle accidents and tobacco kill a lot more people. In fact, in 2012, 443,000 people died as a result of smoking, with an additional 49,000 succumbing to second-hand smoke. In the first half of 2012, from January to June, 16,290 people were killed in automobile accidents. Now, that’s insane. Tobacco roughly kills 58x more people than guns, and almost 2x as much with motor vehicle accidents, albeit that's only half the butcher's bill for 2012. Both tobacco and cars are capable of killing people, including children, but it’s not as highly charged, or exciting, as a gun death. If it bleeds, it leads, goes the old journalistic saw.
What's more, in the 1956 article article Cosgrove cited, the author noted there were 550 children in 1954 who were killed in firearm accidents. In an editorial note, Cosgrove noted that number was 606 in 2010. But between the 1950s and 2010, the U.S. population doubled, making the increase not as statistically relevant as he might think. What's more, while it may have been fairly common in the 1950s for police officers to walk grade school students through gun safety, it's much less common in public schools these days, and yet there's no dramatic increase in annual accidental gun deaths, despite increased firearms ownership and the liberalization of concealed carry laws, etc.
Second, the right to bear arms wasn’t put in place to protect hunting. It was meant to protect citizen's rights to defend themselves and their communities, whether from mob violence or insurrection or foreign attack. The people at large are the (unorganized) militia.
"The earlier a kid learns to respect a gun and what not to do with it the better chance natural curiosity won’t get him in trouble," the original 1956 article quoted a National Rifle Association (NRA) official.
Cosgrove agreed that that wisdom holds true today, but worked in a parting shot taking aim at handguns:
Love or hate the NRA, it’s hard to argue with a logic that stresses education and safety around firearms.
Now, about those millions of unlicensed handguns out there …