I originally began this post in the wake of the mass shooting at San Bernadino. I couldn’t quite get it right at the time, so I saved it as a draft. I actually hoped that I would never finish it, because that would mean that the subject of guns and mass shootings hadn’t become a topic for discussion again. As we all know, that has not been the case.
I’m not sure my words will actually influence anyone’s thinking. If you disagree with what I say, I don’t think I’m going to change your mind. But hopefully, at least some of you maintain an open mind, and don’t automatically dismiss what I have to say.
The Cutter’s Guide to Fixing America: Guns
I sometimes allow my children to use an iPad. Sometimes, they’ll fight over it, get too rough, or become frustrated and throw it on the ground. When that happens, I tell them that they’ve proven unable to properly use it, so I take it away from them. It feels like we may have reached a similar point when it comes to guns in America. How many deaths do we have to endure before we say “this isn’t working?”
I’m not completely opposed to the existence of guns or for people to be able to own firearms; I simply don’t want anyone else to die in a shooting. I don’t want the next incident to take place in my town. I don’t want my family or friends to be among the next victims.
Unfortunately, it seems that not everyone feels that way. There is a certain segment of the population that loves their guns, and either refuses to admit that they may be a problem, or simply don’t care. I’m going to look at a few of the common arguments made by these gun enthusiasts and try to make some sense of them.
The only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun
While you’d assume the opposite, mass shootings like the one in Orlando often empower the pro-gun crowd. After the San Bernadino incident, I read arguments that California’s relatively strict gun control laws helped make it possible. Their logic was that the laws made it harder for law-abiding citizens to obtain guns, and those gun-carrying citizens might have served as a deterrent – or even been able to stop the shooting.
Have we really reached a point where vigilantism is our only hope to remain safe? And would we truly be any safer?
Remember the Tamir Rice case? How about what happened in Ferguson? Those are just a couple of instances when the judgement of police officers’ use of lethal force was called into question. Keep in mind that these are police officers – men and women who have undergone extensive training. If we don’t trust them to make the right decision with guns, what hope do the rest of us have?
Many gun owners think that if they were in a dangerous situation that they’d be able to calmly take out the shooter. I’m not so sure.
Yes, there have been cases where armed citizens have stopped or deterred crimes. There have also been cases where would-be heroes misidentified the shooter and almost shot the wrong person.
And let’s not forget about people like George Zimmerman. Do we really want to depend on our fellow citizens to identify and take down potential terrorists or mass shooters? “Hey, that dark-skinned guy looked like he might be pulling a gun. I didn’t want to take any risks, so I shot him!”
You may have seen this meme before:
This is supposedly proof that the president is a hypocrite. He pushes for gun control, and meanwhile surrounds himself with armed guards. The sad thing is, many people will agree with this meme because they don’t understand the difference between a member of the Secret Service and John Q. Public who wants to obtain a firearm.
I actually agree that more “good guys with guns” are necessary, but that doesn’t mean relaxing gun laws so that anyone can get one. It means that we need to have armed guards at public places like schools and churches. If police officers can’t serve in that role, then the guards would need to undergo an exhaustive vetting process and undergo extensive training, and be subject to frequent reviews.
It shouldn’t have to come to that, but given the current state of affairs, I don’t see any other choice.
Criminals will find a way to get guns regardless
I acknowledge that despite gun laws, criminals still find a way to obtain them. If there were tougher laws, some people would still find a way. Does that mean we shouldn’t make it harder for them?
Since my kids are adorable, I’ll use them in another analogy: If we don’t want one of the twins to have something, we’ll put it on a high surface that they can’t reach. It’s still possible that if they’re truly determined, they still might find a way to get it. But as they’re pushing a chair over to the counter in order to reach it, there’s a good chance that I’ll notice them doing it and put a stop to it.
Likewise, if we make it harder for would-be criminals to obtain guns, the more likely it is that they’ll be caught.
As for the criminals who already have guns, I’m all for a concentrated effort by our law enforcement agencies to track down illegal firearms. As has been pointed out, the existing gun laws on the books aren’t enforced as well as they could be. That seems like a good place to start.
Guns don’t kill people, people kill people
Here’s another meme that’s popular with the pro-gun crowd:
Assuming you believe the Bible (which is a dicey proposition in its own right), Cain killed Abel with a rock. But I’m pretty sure that if Cain walked into a nightclub with a rock, the death toll would be significantly less than 50. And if rocks are such efficient weapons, then why do people need guns in the first place?
I understand what the meme is trying to say: We should figure out WHY people are killing each other and stop that, rather than becoming so concerned with HOW people are killing each other. I agree that we need to figure out why people are killing each other with such regularity. But until we figure that out – and as I’ll discuss below, we don’t appear to be very close to doing so – can we make it a little harder for people to kill others with such efficiency?
It’s not a gun problem, it’s a (fill in the blank) problem!
So yeah, let’s figure out the why. Unfortunately, nobody can seem to come to much of an agreement on that either. After every mass shooting, people offer reasons why it isn’t a gun problem. Here are some examples:
“It’s not a gun problem, it’s a terrorism problem!”
Not all mass shootings are the work of terrorists, so it’s not always a terrorism problem. And if we really want to stop the terrorists, making it harder for them to obtain weapons seems like a really good step in that process.
“It’s not a gun problem, it’s an Islam problem!”
Similarly, not all mass shooters are Islamic. I’ll talk about the Bill of Rights more later, but for now we should remember that government persecution based on religion is one of the things it doesn’t allow.
“It’s not a gun problem, it’s a hate problem!”
I agree with this. I’d love it if we could all get along and nobody felt the need to shoot anybody else. Unfortunately, humanity has found reasons to hate one another since the dawn of time, and that problem doesn’t seem to be getting any better.
“It’s not a gun problem, it’s a mental health problem!”
I agree that mental health is a problem in America, but blaming it for the gun violence doesn’t explain this:
You’re telling me that America either has that many more mentally ill people or is that much worse at identifying and treating them? Let’s hire some Japanese doctors immediately, because they’ve apparently found the cure for mental illness!
Whether the shooters were motivated by religion, hatred, or mental illness (or some combination of them), they all had one thing in common: They were able to obtain firearms. That makes me think that it is – at least partially – a gun problem after all. So while we’re busy fixing all of those above problems, maybe we can work on the gun issue too.
I need to protect my family
Some gun owners claim that they need a gun in order to protect their home and family against burglars or other intruders. When I hear people talk about home invasions and needing to defend themselves, here’s what comes to mind:
Statistics show that gun owners are far more likely to harm themselves or a family member than actually stop any would-be home invader. I have some really bad news for all you semi-automatic rifle owners out there: If you are facing a threat that can only be stopped with such a weapon, it is very likely that gun or not, you are going to die. (There is one exception which I will talk about below)
If you’re that concerned about your safety, why not rig your house with booby traps? It worked pretty well for Macaulay Culkin in Home Alone, right? You can even go a step further and set up some explosive devices that will put a stop to any potential intrusions upon your homestead.
You might be thinking, “That’s ridiculous. Setting up booby traps would put my family in danger! I have small children around!” My suggestion is to just teach your children how to properly use and respect the booby traps. That should be enough to ensure that they are never harmed by them.
Seriously though, if you’re that concerned about your safety, there are lots of ways to protect yourself: Learn martial arts, stock up on pepper spray, carry a taser gun. Perhaps you could even learn to use a bow and arrow. It worked pretty well for Katniss and Hawkeye.
I have to protect myself when the zombie apocalypse happens!
I mentioned there was an exception, and here it is: If the zombie apocalypse does happen, people with semi-automatic rifles are probably going to have a better chance for survival. I concede this point.
The Constitution gives me the right to buy a gun
This is correct…technically. According to the current interpretation of the Second Amendment of the Constitution, American citizens are allowed to own firearms.
Here’s the thing about the Constitution: It’s an imperfect document that in some cases, reflects the time in which it was written. Perhaps the smartest thing that the founding fathers did was acknowledging that the Constitution was imperfect and would likely have to change over time. That’s why we have the ability to amend it.
For an unbiased history of the Second Amendment, please read this. If you don’t feel like clicking that link, here’s a brief summary: The Amendment was written at a time when the validity of a standing national army was in question, partially because there was fear that the national government would use it to usurp states’ rights. As a result, militias consisting of armed citizens were seen as necessary for national defense.
I’d say that times have obviously changed, although if you ask some people, the whole “gun control” movement is just the first step for the national government to somehow take over the country. Because…
Sigh…this is not Nazi Germany – Stop making everything out to be Nazi Germany! Whenever the government talks about doing anything that might restrict rights, people start making comparisons to Hitler. Yes, the Nazis disarmed their people. That’s pretty much where the comparisons end.
It’s also amazing how many people don’t understand just how government works. The government was the one who granted us all those rights in the first place, so they can take them away if they so wish. People surrender individual rights all the time in order to serve the greater good. For instance, I can’t drive my car 100 MPH on the highway; that “right” has been taken away from me.
What’s amusing (and by amusing, I mean so ironic that I have to nervously and sadly laugh) is that many of the people worried about civil rights when it comes to the Second Amendment, seem perfectly okay with violating other civil rights. I’ve heard talk about banning anyone from the country if they are Muslim. There are some people in favor of the government rounding up the country’s Islamic residents and putting them into internment camps. Apparently, in their minds Amendment Two carries more weight than Amendment One. The Constitution giveth, the Constitution taketh away.
That leads to an important question: Since Islamic people are the ones who might actually be in danger from the government, shouldn’t they be given the easiest access to weapons so they can defend themselves?
The real enemy
Recently, the president spoke about gun laws. He didn’t say anything about “seizing everyone’s guns,” instead he promoted a message of, “let’s make sure the wrong people don’t get them.”
You would think that the truly responsible gun owners would have been on board with his message. You’d think that they’d see that the criminals are giving all gun owners a bad name, and threaten the right of all citizens to own a firearm.
Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to be the case. There doesn’t seem to be any acknowledgment that perhaps there is a middle ground between “everyone has the right to own a gun” and “Obama’s comin’ to take our guns!” This seems to be mostly the fault of one organization:
Instead of working to make sure guns are used responsibly, the NRA has instead fostered an environment of “us against them.” They’ve made it seem like ANY additional gun laws are an egregious violation of civil rights. They’ve caused all gun owners – responsible and criminals alike – to be lumped together.
Why are they doing this? If you answered, “Because they care about and want to protect the civil rights of Americans,” you’d be wrong! While I’m sure some members do genuinely care about civil rights, like many things in this world, it’s much likely more about money. The NRA essentially serves as the lobby for weapons manufacturers. And stricter gun laws would likely be very bad for business for them.
The NRA is powerful and has been fighting restrictions on guns with all the might they can muster. But aren’t we about at the point where someone calls the head of the NRA in front of Congress and asks, “Have you no sense of decency, sir?”
Here’s my question to the pro-gun crowd: Why are you so worried about tougher gun restrictions? Assuming that the government isn’t really planning to seize everybody’s guns (And bad news: If the government wants your guns, they’re going to get them one way or another), then what are you afraid of? If you’re truly as responsible and deserving of owning a gun as you claim, then shouldn’t you have nothing to fear?
So what can we do?
We’re a far way away from “Obama coming to take your guns,” but if the mass-shootings continue, it just might come to that. So it seems that responsible gun owners and anti-gun crowd should realize that they have some common ground: Get the guns out of the hands of those who would put them to evil use, so that all would-be gun owners are not punished.
As it turns out, the Second Amendment allows people to bear arms, but it doesn’t prevent stricter regulation. (The word “regulated” is right there in the text!) It’s been done before, and can be done again.
First off, since they have little purpose besides mass murder, semi-automatic weapons should be banned from civilians. Next, let’s place some heavy taxes on the sale of guns and ammunition. Sure, it will cost more, but if owning a gun is necessary for the protection of your family, then money should be no object.
Most importantly, let’s switch the burden of proof. Instead of relying on the government to identify people who shouldn’t have a gun, let’s require would-be gun owners to prove they deserve one.
You want a gun? Fine. You need to complete an extensive training class and be subject to an exhaustive background check. And the fun shouldn’t stop once you have the gun. Every gun owner should undergo an annual mental health exam to make sure they are of sound mind. (Also helping the country’s mental health problem. That’s killing two birds with one bullet!)
If anti-gun lawmakers were smart, they’d find a way to allow the NRA to profit from these reforms. If that happened, I’m willing to bet there would be a lot less opposition.
This is not a simple problem, and it isn’t going to be solved easily. I’m not naive to think that anything I’ve suggested will immediately fix the problem. Criminals will still fall through the cracks, and people will still die from gun fire. But actual ideas seem to better than what I’ve heard from most of the pro-gun crowd, which is nothing.
I can guarantee one thing: If we continue to do nothing, nothing is going to change. The mass shootings will continue, and we’ll have to listen to this debate once again. Is that what any of us really want?