September is safety month for the National Association of Realtors, and that makes it as good a time as any to bring up the issue of whether real estate agents should carry guns.
Being a real estate agent can bring inherent risks. Real estate agents work often odd hours, in parts of towns they may not be familiar with, and they often find themselves alone in empty houses. They have been, time and again, targeted by thieves, rapists, kidnappers, strong-arm robbers and worse.
The National Association of Realtors has a great list of safety precautions agents can take, but the list is conspicuous in what it doesn’t mention – gun ownership.
I am not in favor of real estate agents bringing guns to work, unlike my colleague Trey Garrison.
First and foremost, let me issue a positioning statement on guns. I recognize that we live in a scary world full of scary people. Realtors, real estate agents, brokers, and others have every right, duty, and responsibility to protect themselves.
But count me among those who think that the answer to gun violence is not introducing more guns into the equation.
That argument has never made any sense to me. It’s like saying we can defeat heart disease by eating more cheeseburgers.
The real answer is making sure we live in a safer world. I’ve often said that the world would be a better place if guns didn’t exist at all. Maybe that’s naïve or narrow-minded, but it’s what I believe.
But I also recognize that I’m fighting an uphill battle when I argue that all guns should disappear. Despite my pie-in-the-sky ramblings, I certainly appreciate and understand the rights granted to all U.S. citizens by the Bill of Rights.
The Bill of Rights is something that I hold very dearly. I probably wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing if the First Amendment didn’t exist. But I also recognize that the founding fathers couldn’t possibly have predicted that we’d live in a world when a 20-year-old man can walk into an elementary school and brutally murder 20 young children and six adults in a few minutes.
Now, those who believe differently than I do about guns will argue that the number of gun homicides and the number of fatal gun accidents has fallen dramatically in the last two decades.
There’s no arguing on that point. The facts are the facts.
According to the U.S. Department of Justice, the number of homicides has fallen 39% over the last 18 years. A recent report from the DOJ’s Bureau of Justice Statistics show that homicides have fallen from 18,253 in 1993, to 11,101 in 2011.
Non-fatal firearm crimes dropped 69% during the same time period. According to the report, firearm homicides declined from 1993 to 1999, rose through 2006, and then declined again through 2011.
While the rate of gun-related homicides has fallen dramatically, the rate of gun ownership has risen just as dramatically in the last 25 years.
According to a Gallup poll from 2011, the self-reported rate of gun ownership is at the highest level since 1993. The number of guns in the U.S. is now estimated to be roughly 300 million in 90 million households.
So gun violence is falling and gun ownership is rising, right? Clearly that means that more guns are the answer.
Not so much actually.
According to a recent study from the American Journal of Medicine, the more guns that exist in a country, the less safe it actually is. Not more safe. Less safe.
The study showed that the U.S. had the most guns per person in the entire world and the highest rate of deaths by firearms. Japan on the other hand, had the lowest rate of gun ownership and the lowest amount of gun deaths, too.
“There was a significant correlation between guns per head per country and the rate of firearm-related deaths, with Japan being on one end of the spectrum and the US being on the other,” one of the study’s authors said. “This argues against the notion of more guns translating into less crime. South Africa was the only outlier in that the observed firearms-related death rate was several times higher than expected from gun ownership.”
I would caution and say that correlation is not causation. There are mitigating circumstances in each country. Each country’s culture is different and the inherent proliferation of guns in the U.S. is something that will forever be hard to fight against.
But I often think about what future generations will think about our generation. Will they think of us in the same way that we think of our grandparents’ generation, for example?
In 50 years, will we think of this time like we think of the Wild West? It seems like some folks won’t be happy until we can all carry a handgun in a holster on our hip wherever we go.
If I see a stranger carrying a gun, I turn and run. I don’t feel safer.
But as I said before, I recognize that we live in a scary world and we all have to protect ourselves. Some people work in professions where they’re more prone to encounter bad people with bad intentions.
Last month, an article on HousingWire about Realtors and safety generated some of the most spirited debate we’ve ever had among the commenters. Real estate agents, Realtors, brokers, the pro-gun folks and the anti-folks all weighed in.
Some agents said that they carry pepper spray or other safety measures with them during any showing or open house. Some said that they can and do carry a concealed handgun in states where it’s legal.
But as a consumer, if I walk into a showing and realize that the agent is carrying a gun, I’m leaving. No ifs, ands or buts about it.
I understand that in many states, carrying a concealed handgun is allowed. That doesn’t make it right.
I’ve also often argued that handguns are designed for one specific purpose. To take someone’s life. I can see the appeal of hunting or skeet shooting, for example. So I recognize that rifles and shotguns, when used properly, have a place in our society. But they’re not always used properly, are they?
Handguns on the other hand, to me, have one purpose and one purpose only.
Others would say that the presence of a gun can act as a deterrent to crime. I argue that if there weren’t so many guns in this world, then we wouldn’t need as many deterrents, now would we?
Real estate agents, Realtors, and brokers all have to protect themselves against the dangers and risks they take each day when they meet strangers in strange places or invite strangers to be alone with them in tight quarters.
But I would argue that there are other measures that we can all take to make sure that we are safe in an unsafe world.
The National Association of Realtors, for example, listed ten steps to help agents stay safe. Among those is: try to have someone else with you when you are working at an open house, make sure you are aware of all possible escape routes from a home in case something horrible does happen, and finally, be prepared to defend yourself.
I can’t argue with any of NAR’s points and many of the commenters on that post made very valid points about agent safety.
But as I said before, it’s my hope that in 50 years, we can look back on this period of time as an era of savagery that we all regret.
I think we, as a society, should be constantly evolving and improving. And to me, a society with more guns isn’t moving forward, it’s moving backward.
You can call me naïve, optimistic, a Pollyanna, or just in outright denial, it’s my sincere hope that we can work together to make this country safer for everyone and that we eventually arrive at a time when we all feel safe wherever we go.
In the meantime though, real estate agents, Realtors, and brokers all have to take all the steps necessary to protect themselves. But realize that there are plenty of us out there who don’t feel comfortable in a world with more guns.