Advice column reader asks about gun control – part 1 of 2

Is it gun control or constitutional infringement?“, asks a reader of the popular advice column called He Said She Said in the Guidon at Ft. Leonard Wood.

Questions you might have

Questions you might have

Here, the expanded version of the question includes the reader’s discovery that the He Said She Said columnist duo also guest blog for MilSuccessNet. Formerly known as Mr. and Mrs. Smith, Shaun and Pam Collins are now fully retired and out of the closet where columnists with pseudonyms are kept working, under cover.

Shaun Collins responds today and next time we’ll read Pam’s point of view. It should be noted that what they write, represents their own personal opinion based on their work and life experiences.

But first, the question!

QI saw that you were both featured on the Military Success Network web-site and I learned a lot about both of your careers that I didn’t know before from the introduction you published in the Guidon.  As you both have spent over 25-years, each, on active duty and you were both CID Special Agents, you no doubt investigated hundreds of homicides and other violent crimes. I’m curious about how you see the gun control debate and what the real impact of such legislation would be.  Every mass shooting breaks my heart and I think we, as a society, should do something. I am just not sure what that is.  Should we ban assault weapons, or have a high capacity magazine limit. Or universal name checks?  What do you think we should do?

Shaun Collins

Shaun M. Collins

HE SAID:  I certainly understand your concern and despair, this is a sensitive issue and I appreciate you approaching this by deliberate consideration and research rather than simply jumping on one bandwagon or the other.  I don’t think there is a simple solution that can be fixed by signing more restrictive laws into effect.

When you examine the facts, I don’t think the currently proposed gun-control efforts will have any impact at all other than to restrict the rights of law-abiding citizens.

No matter how difficult you make it for law-abiding citizens to acquire firearms, criminals will obtain them illegally as they almost always have.  There are an estimated 300 million unregistered firearms in the United States, but there is no way to know the real numbers as there are no records of how many guns people own, pass down, or smuggle into this country. ‘

If you look at the gun violence throughout the period of the first assault weapons ban, you will see that it did not reduce the number of firearm homicides or violent crime at all.  Additionally, if you look at the states and nations that have the lowest percent of home intrusion crime, you find that they are the same locations that have the highest percent of gun ownership … places like Switzerland. there  every male over the age of 18 is issued a fully automatic rifle and a handgun as part of the national militia. They have an extremely low percentage of home intrusion crime, as is the case in places like Texas, Arizona and Alaska.

When you examine the locations with the most stringent gun control laws, such as Chicago and Washington D.C., it seems that the only people without firearms are the law-abiding citizens and they have some of the highest gun homicide and violent crime numbers in the nation.

This movement toward a new assault weapons ban is purely emotional, in that an extremely small percentage of gun crime is committed with such weapons.  Taking Chicago as an example, 99 percent of all gun violence is committed with handguns – not assault rifles.

I could go on and on, citing fact after fact and they all end up at the same place: when you disarm law-abiding citizens, they just become a food source for criminals.  If we really want to address this issue in a meaningful way, we need to examine the root cause of these ever-increasing mass shootings.

As a matter of fact, in two recent incidents wherein the attackers were armed with “assault rifles” they were too complicated for the attackers to use and they jammed or were left in the attacker’s car because they did not have the training to use them.

We have teenagers making bombs using instructions off the Internet – so I submit, guns are not the problem. They are in fact just a tool that can be misused like any other.

The one thing that almost all of these incidents have in common is the fact that the offenders were well known to their families and other officials within their communities as having severe psychological problems. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), however,  restricts the reporting of these individuals to a competent authority who determines whether or not someone has the mental capacity to own, safeguard and responsibly use a firearm.

That is where we need to start, if we want to make any meaningful change in law that will actually diminish these senseless acts of violence.

The second amendment was designed to ensure our citizenry could protect themselves against both the potential tyranny of our own government and of foreign invasion.

Reducing the rights of the whole in order to protect the rights of the psychologically dangerous is irresponsible and will continue to endanger our society.

Why do you think schools and other “gun-free” zones are on the rise?  Based on my years of experience as a federal agent, I can make an educated guess that it is because criminals are acutely aware that there are not armed individuals present who can minimize their deadly intentions.

A gun free zone is only a gun free zone, if you have people screened for weapons like at a courthouse or an airport.  Merely declaring an area “gun-free” accomplishes little more than to prevent law abiding citizens from “breaking the rules” and tells criminals intent on harming as many people as possible, that this is a good location to do it.

A friend of mine just provided me with this link. Its content seems to add some credibility to my supposition and it indicates this trend will continue until we change our thinking of what a “gun-free” zone is – please check it out for additional insights.

National Review on What motivates mass murderers 

We should:

  • Avoid any knee-jerk responses to appease the masses
  • Conduct thorough and meaningful research and analysis
  • Then adopt measures that will actually reduce these incidents and minimize their impact when they do occur.

 Next up:   what SHE SAID with Pam Collins


  1. This was a really good fair post. People with relatives who are insane or violent need to police their own. My father used to get drunk and threaten with his rifle — we took it away from him and never got it again (my grandmother threw it in the bay); when he got another years later, my brother hid it from him and he never got it again. Luckily, he was not the type to steal a weapon, nor rich enough to just go right out and buy another. The only 2 he had, our family took them from him. If families would police their own, the govt would not have to do it. Thanks.

    • Helena Kaufman says:

      Thank you for sharing your family’s “hands on” take on caring for their own with swift and peaceful action.

  2. Shaun Collins says:

    I would also like to thank my friend Jason Beighley for his expert advice and counsel in writing this particular column. Jason is a retired SGM, who knows far more than I do when it comes to tactical operations and anything related to weapons.!

  3. Erick Bryant says:

    Hi Shaun,
    First , let me say that I enjoyed reading your post. I’d like to add the following…
    I agree that the issue of gun control is an emotionally charged topic on both sides. I believe only when we can set aside the emotionally charged and polarized atmosphere, can a meaningful dialogue on the issues take place. Before I go any farther, let me point out a few bits of data that I think are difficult to dispute.

    As you mentioned, handguns are used in the vast majority of gun crimes in this country. (CDC) The focus on “assault” weapons is misguided and representative of the lack of awareness our Nation has on the issue.

    Firearm deaths in this country can be broken down into three broad categories; suicides which represents the majority of gun deaths, homicides which are the next largest block, and accidental deaths. There are a few instances of justifiable shootings, but they are only a small fraction of the total number. (CDC)

    Of the homicides, nearly 75% of homicide victims (not just firearm homicides) had some type of relationship with their attacker, very often a domestic relationship of some sort. (CDC)
    Owners of a handgun in a home are far more likely to die from their own firearm, usually by suicide than use it in their own defense. (CDC, I think, can’t remember for sure where I got this.)

    The percentage of crimes committed by authorized concealed carry permit holders is very small. (Lott)
    That the UK and Australia have firearm death rates orders of magnitude less than that of the US. (Wikipedia)

    While the Swiss mandate that every person serve in the militia and keep a gun in their home, after a firearm tragedy a few years ago, they prohibit keeping ammunition in the home. The ammo has to be kept in a local unit armory. (Wikipedia)

    I’m admittedly not much deeper than the few articles and studies I’ve read on this topic. But what I’ve read has led me to the following conclusions.

    The issue of gun control is far more nuanced than can easily be parsed in a few news bites. The emotional content always seems to prevail against facts, of which there very few. There’s been very little foundational research on the effects of gun control on crime. What has been done is disputed from every political viewpoint/constituency. The NRA (of which I’m a proud member) has pushed to prohibit US Government funding on this type of research. But we need it.

    Only by studying the problem can we begin to understand how to cope with it. Intuitively, I don’t believe most of the more sensational gun control propositions will have any real effect. But there’s no denying that the UK and Australian ban had some type of effect on their homicide rates. They had low crime rates to begin with but those rates are lower still following the bans. Not to say there’s a casual relationship but that there’s clearly something happening there. But intuitively, I think it’s obvious that if there are fewer guns in circulation, they’ll be fewer deaths.

    But that same thing would be unlikely to happen in the US. We have a rich cultural history with guns, not to mention the right to posses them is enshrined in our Constitution. But our constitutionally guaranteed right to have a gun is running up against thousands of deaths every year. Those deaths deserve serious study to see how they can be prevented.

    And from those studies we can hopefully develop sound policy decisions that go beyond our intuition and emotion. These studies need to be done methodically, subjected to critical peer review and debated. And within that debate, the issue of our right to bear arms and the cultural heritage of firearms needs to be included.

    Erick P. Bryant
    CW4, US Army

  4. Shaun Collins says:

    In the interest in full disclosure, I have to state that I have know Erick for a number of years and consider him a friend and respected colleague … I love his approach, using research and evidence to come to logical conclusions. We may not agree on the interpretations of studies or the reliability of Wikipedia as a research tool (which a graduate level educator should know better than to cite), but his approach is exactly what we should all embrace. Do our own research, weigh all angles and biases, then come to our own conclusions. Kudos Erick!

    Despite the use if Wikipedia, most of the facts are correct, ammunition in Switzerland is strictly controlled, but as I understand it, a small amount of ammunition is allowed in each household. Empty guns have the same disuasive power as no guns. We can go on and on about I international examples, Isreali approaches to resolving school violence, etc., but as Erick stated, the United States is a completely different animal for a myriad of reasons, many of which he touched on.

    Erick, thank you for your comments, I believe they truly helped all readers gain a deeper understanding of the issues we are trying to address! Pam an I deeply appreciate you taking the time to contribute! Miss you and Terri, Shaun and Pam.


  1. […] Part 1 Shaun Collins said his piece. Now, Pam Collins shares her point of view on gun control and key […]

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