Homicide statistics don’t support push to limit rifles
Editor’s note: This is an edited version of a letter that Jeff Rezak sent to members of the state Senate. We believe it offers a different perspective on the gun debate. To view the unedited version, go to the opinion page at GJSentinel.com and click on “Columns,” then “Guest Columnists.”
By Jeff Rezak
Recently, I was sent an email that contained a paper from the White House titled, “Now is the Time: the President’s plan to protect our children and our communities by reducing gun violence.”
I read the paper from beginning to end, and I have reread it several times since. I tried very hard to make sense of it and to see where the leaders of this country were headed. Then my own state started doing the same thing.
I am a patrol officer for a police department in Colorado. I have worked in law enforcement continuously for the last 18 years. I also had the honor of serving for four years with the U.S. Marine Corps.
During my time in law enforcement I have mainly been patrol, responding to calls for service. I served on a SWAT team for many years and had the collateral duties of sniper and tactical medic. I served three years as a school resource officer and had four schools assigned to me, with about 1,700 students. I also served for nearly 10 years as a volunteer firefighter and an emergency medical technician.
I am not a political figure, a college professor, a talking head or a statistician. I have never been to college. I am your normal, everyday working stiff. I have a very deep love for my family, my community, my country and my God.
So, with an open mind, I began to look at facts — not the political rhetoric, but the bare-bone facts of this issue.
I only looked at U.S. government findings. I used the FBI Uniform Crime Report 2011 as my main focus, the most recent data available. I also obtained figures from the Centers for Disease Control and the White House paper.
I am against gun control in the manner portrayed in the press and by lawmakers. With that said, I was very surprised with some of the information I found:
In 2007 there were 14,916 total murders reported in the United States. In 2011 there were a total of 12,664 — a decrease of 15.1 percent over five years.
Of the murders listed for 2007, 453 were committed with rifles. That is with any rifle, not just “assault rifles.” A muzzleloader from the Revolutionary War would count. This accounts for 3 percent of all murders in 2007.
During this time. 19 law enforcement officers and eight private citizens used rifles to kill a felon in the commission of a crime, defending themselves or others.
In 2011 there were a total of 323 murders with rifles, or 2.6 percent of the total homicides. This is a decrease of 28.7 percent of homicides using rifles since 2007. In 2011 law enforcement and private citizens used rifles 45 times to stop crimes.
Also in 2011, there were 1,694 people killed with knives or cutting instruments (1,371 more than rifles). There were 496 killed with blunt objects (173 more than rifles) and 726 with “personal weapons,” defined as hands, fists, feet, etc. Given these numbers, the odds are higher that someone will be stabbed to death or killed with a baseball bat than shot with a rifle.
In Colorado in 2011, there were a total of 147 reported homicides. Of those, three were with a rifle, or 2 percent. During the same time, 22 people were killed by cutting or stabbing, or 15 percent, and 21 were killed by hands, fists, feet, etc., or 14.5 percent.
On July 17, 2012, the Government Accountability Office published a paper at the request of Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., which, in essence, stated concealed-carry permits were increasing nationally. As of March 2012, only one state, Illinois, and the District of Columbia continue to prohibit concealed-carry permits.
It’s interesting that these are two of the most dangerous places in the United States, and FBI data confirmed this. In Chicago alone, with some of the most stringent gun-control laws in the nation, there have been 228 homicides this year.
I am not a scholar, but I do have common sense and can see the relationship between the decrease in homicides and allowing people the right to take responsibility for their own safety.
When I looked at the last several mass murders, I could find nothing in proposed gun laws that would have prevented these shootings. Each one of the shooters violated multiple laws already in existence, both state and federal.
The Centers for Disease Control estimate alcohol is responsible for more than 79,000 deaths annually and costs the United States about $185 billion in health care and criminal justice expenses. Every year 12,000 people die in the United States from a motor vehicle crash that involves alcohol. That is very close to the total homicide rate. Where is the outrage for this?
As a law-enforcement officer, I often go to fatal motor vehicle crashes. Many of these are alcohol-involved deaths. The last two mass-fatality accidents to which I have responded involved blue Ford vehicles driven by drunk drivers. Should we outlaw all blue Ford vehicles, because obviously they are used by drunk drivers to kill people?
I know that is ridiculous, but that is exactly what the gun control laws being proposed now suggest. The number of rounds in a magazine will not stop mass murderers, and making honest people undergo background checks won’t stop them.
In fewer than 30 years, beginning in the 1980s, we reduced alcohol-related traffic deaths by 61 percent. We did it without banning alcohol or vehicles, without requiring background checks to purchase alcohol or limiting how much alcohol a person could buy. We did it with education, communication and enforcing the laws. We encouraged people to be involved in reporting drunk drivers. We arrested people when before we would have just taken them home, and the courts enforced those arrests.
There are enough gun-control laws on the books now, reportedly more than 22,000 among federal, state and local jurisdictions. I fail to see how passing one more law that only honest people will honor will make a difference.
Let’s try something new. How about we enforce and actually prosecute the laws we already have on the books? Open up communication between mental health providers and law enforcement. Let’s try to fix the problem instead of passing some more feel-good legislation that will do nothing.
Jeff Rezak is an area police officer and owner of Rezak’s Gun Works.