I have been extremely reluctant to talk to anyone these days about guns. The vitriol from both sides is poisonous. But, that is the poison that allows terrible tragedies to happen. Silence, even well-meaning, isn’t going to help. So today I’m speaking my mind. I’m going to be talking about guns and the conversation about gun control.
I enjoy target shooting with all manner of weapons.
Does that make me feel safe? Yes and no. Yes, I know I can handle a weapon. But, no, if someone on a rampage is shooting at me and I have a gun, I’m as likely to get shot as anyone.
Could I protect my loved ones? Yes and no again. Yes, if the situation is right. By right, I mean if it were the average criminal who learned how to shoot watching tv and movies. Yes, I could TRY to protect my family. No, I can’t protect my loved ones against someone determined to kill as many people as possible. Anyone who thinks a gun in the hand can protect them is wrongheaded.
It takes at least 5,000 repetitions to get the muscle memory to do the work for you. I have had that many repetitions shooting at the range. But, due to many circumstances, I have not been target shooting in more than 2 years. My skills have rusted, I’m sure. I could handle a gun today but it would take some practice to get my accuracy back up to par.
Why Defend Gun Ownership
Why do I defend gun ownership when children are being killed? Because I believe the second amendment’s reference to militia meant the people, not the army, not the government. The people. The second amendment was written in 1791. A mere four years after the constitution was written and only sixteen years after the American Revolution. Given that context, the second amendment meant to give Americans the means to revolt against tyranny like our forefathers did. For that reason, licensing weapons is scary. An unlicensed weapon cannot be seized by the government.
Now I can hear you protesting that we don’t need to do that anymore. Are you kidding me? You’re the ones screaming about our current president and all the harm he’s doing, right? (Don’t get me wrong I’m with you on that one!) So, do you think that the vote and protests will keep our nation free? Have you thought about how many rights have been taken away since 9/11? Does that not concern you?
Over the past twenty years, rights we once had have been stripped away and you’re not worried about that? That’s scary to me!
But this is where you’ll start screaming that killing kids is WRONG! We should be able to protect our kids. You are damn right. I have no issue with that. We have LAWS in place. Murder is against the law. Yet, kids are still being killed. You want to take away guns from everyone. So you can feel safe. So you can feel like you did something.
You Want to Do What?
And while I’m at it, those of you arguing to arm the teachers. QUIT. Now. If you’ve handled a gun you know darn well that it takes LOTS of practice. Do you want the teachers at the gun range practicing or preparing to teach your children? Do you want someone who is NOT a skilled shooter with a gun anywhere near your children? Do you want a loaded gun in a room full of kindergarteners or angry teens? How many accidental shootings will affect teachers and children? How accurate would even a sharpshooter be in a room with 20-30 terrified kids? Need a cooler head and more logical argument against teachers carrying guns? See author and former Green Beret, Bob Mayer’s post.
Why Can’t We Just Ban Them?
Okay. Let’s say we ban assault weapons. I agree that’s a reasonable law. First, we have to agree upon some definitions. That’s not as easy as you think. The movies and inaccurate journalism have misled you on many points.
Did you know that the weapon used in this latest mass shooting is NOT an assault weapon? At least not according to the NFA list. It is a semi-automatic weapon. Meaning it will automatically re-load the next bullet. It will not fire until the operator pulls the trigger. (for more information read the Bayard and Holmes post here). Many pro-gun people and gun-control advocates will argue over the word choices and definitions. Stop it. You know what each other means. If you don’t, ask the other person for a definition. Don’t argue over it. Agree to disagree on the definition. Move on to discuss the REAL issue.
Second, we need to look at the laws that are already on the books. Did you know there has been a law on who can own assault rifles since 1934? The National Firearms Act (NFA ) imposed a tax of $200 on making, transferring, and possession of an NFA firearm. Its purpose was in part, to “curtail, if not prohibit, transactions in NFA firearms.” (The list of NFA firearms is here.)
The NFA allowed the passing of registration information on unregistered firearms owners to the state. This would allow prosecution of those firearms owners based on that information if ownership violated state law. The Supreme Court ruled this unconstitutional because it violated the Fifth Amendment.
An Amendment to the NFA in 1968 fixed this problem by grandfathering in firearms already in one’s possession. In 1986, another amendment defined the term silencer. It also prohibited the transfer or possession of machine guns. (There are exemptions with the NFA for military and law enforcement.) In a nutshell, the law requires all NFA weapons (see the list) to be registered and taxed. Only weapons of that type owned by civilians before 1934 are exempt. In other words, it’s already illegal to own an assault rifle that is not registered.
Next step in banning all assault weapons, we’d have collections. Even if all the good people would comply, there would still be many, many weapons out there. Owners who would not willingly give up their weapons. They have plans for those guns or they believe that giving up their guns is the first step down a slippery slope. Then we’d have a house-to-house search for those weapons. I don’t own any of those weapons so you’d think I would be fine with that search. I am NOT. That’s another right we have that you are thinking we can give up for this issue. Not only that, but these people who aren’t giving up their guns, aren’t going to let someone into their homes to take those guns. We will have even more gun battles and even more senseless death.
The innocent, law-abiding people will give up their guns and the criminals will not. The people who think that taking lives is something they have the right to do will continue to kill people.
Talking About Guns and Australia
Collecting those guns is not going to be easy. And it will not make anyone safer. Now someone will point to Australia as an example. Hmmm. do some research? And by research, I mean check out the opposing views.
In 1996 a gunman killed 35 people in Tasmania, Australia. In the aftermath, Australia government acted quickly. All six states agreed and enacted a gun control law. They banned automatic and semiautomatic rifles and shotguns. They haven’t had a mass shooting since. This is true in so far as it goes.
According to foxnews.com, New Zealand provides a useful comparison to Australia. They are both isolated, island nations, and have similar socioeconomics and demographics. Their mass murder rates were nearly identical before Australia’s gun buyback.
From 1980 to 1996, Australia’s mass murder rate was 0.0042 incidents per 100,000 people. New Zealand’s was 0.0050 incidents per 100,000 people. After 1997, both countries experienced similar drops in mass murders, even though New Zealand had not altered its gun control laws.
Those results suggest banning the guns had little to do with the drop in mass murders in Australia. Now, before everyone goes crazy, what I am saying is we need more data. We need to use appropriate data and comparative data. I don’t think there are too many countries we can appropriately compare with the U.S. And I’m not the only one to think that.
According to the Australian ambassador to the U.S., Joe Hockey, “Australia and the United States are completely different situations, and it goes back to each of our foundings. America was born from a culture of self-defense. Australia was born from a culture of “the government will protect me.” Australia wasn’t born as a result of a brutal war. We weren’t invaded. We weren’t attacked. We weren’t occupied. That makes an incredible difference, even today.”
No Easy Fix
Am I saying gun control won’t work? NO. I’m saying it may not be the fix-all-be-all.
Am I saying because it’s hard we shouldn’t try gun control? NO. What I’m saying is rein in your emotions people. Both sides are entrenched in thinking it can only be one way. Talk to each other like reasonable adults. All the name calling, hate throwing, ‘there’s only one-way’ thinking is not helping. YOU are not saving kids by arguing that way.
Even if we manage to come to an agreement to ban all weapons that are or can be automatic. And we ban all high-load magazines. And we ban all armor-piercing projectiles. It will take time—lots of time—to collect and destroy those items. What’s your plan for the between time?
What To Do
So, how do we save kids? We start enforcing the laws we already have. NO ONE who takes another person’s life without cause (and by cause I mean self-defense or defense of another) should be exempt. No plea bargaining, no commuting sentences, and no leniency. Period. There are laws on the books that say using a gun in a crime adds years to one’s jail time. Yet this law is RARELY enforced. Let’s ENFORCE the law.
Make ALL states have the same gun laws.
Have you looked at the gun laws for your state? Do you know what laws are on the books about murder? How can you propose new laws if you don’t? Will every state agree to the same laws? I don’t believe so, not without federal oversight. So now we add the struggle of getting the Federal government to agree on gun laws. And we add to the burdens already on the ATF or the police or the military. Will you feel safer? I won’t!
Our government hasn’t done anything productive about this. It is unlikely to do anything in the future. Quit making this all about ‘the government’ needs to do something. Take responsibility. Do something. Don’t know the laws in your state? Educate yourself. Make your state legislators, your governors, your mayors, your judges, your attorneys UPHOLD THE LAW. Enforce mandatory sentences and terms.
Boot offending representatives and judges out of office. Yes, that will still take time. People. This isn’t tea we’re talking about. We cannot make an instant fix.
Only the Facts
Make journalist stick to the facts. Don’t demand 24-hour news. You will continue to get inflated and inaccurate stories that inflame your fear and don’t inform you.
Make all media reporters NEVER publish the details of the shooter. NEVER tell us what weapon and how many rounds. Why do we need to know? How is that relevant? How does that help anyone? We know it has inspired others to be copycats. Don’t make the shooting and the shooter headline news. Lots of people say tell us about the victims, HONOR the victims. But as a parent would I want this? I don’t know. I cannot imagine how devastated I would be. This is where RESPECT comes in. If a family wishes not to have their loved one listed as a victim, make it so that the media CANNOT report it. Make is so a journalist cannot get within 100 feet of the grieving. If the family chooses to talk to a reporter, that’s different. But let them make a choice.
Will this make us safe? Hell, no. Safety is an illusion. You’re not safe from death EVER. Oh, you want to be safe from just this kind of death? Unfortunately, we cannot protect our kids or even ourselves all the time. I wish we could. We can’t protect them from the sickness that seems to rob people of the sense that life is precious and that others (regardless of race, gender, religion, etc) deserve respect and courtesy and kindness.
And gun owners? I have a few words for you, too. Get over it. Kids are getting killed. SOMETHING has to change. YOU have to change, too. You have attached yourself to the American Wild West mythology that a lone gunfighter can save the day. Do you envision yourself barricaded in your home protecting your guns and your rights? Yeah. Right. Tell me about it when a drone guides a missile into your home or armored camp or whatever. Do you envision yourself as the lone gunman who will change history? Yes, there has been the lone gunman who changed history. How many times was history changed for the good as opposed to the bad? Maybe one of the victims of these many mass shootings would not have been the politician or leader who would change the world in a way you would love? SOMETHING has to change.
I’m not saying we take away all guns. I’m not saying all guns should be registered. That’s a slippery slope, too. But get your fingers out of your ears and start having a conversation that is meaningful. FIGURE IT OUT.
No One Size Fits All
I don’t believe that laws can solve the problem. How many laws are on the books now that are not enforced? Heck some of them are long forgotten.
Laws can punish the extremes, but it doesn’t keep people from killing. A person who has no understanding that all life is precious is not someone who will start believing life is precious because of a law. He also will not stop killing because there’s another law against it. Criminals, killers, do not think like normal, life-respecting people do.
Not a One-level Problem
What we have to do is stop this madness BEFORE it starts. How do we do that? I don’t know. It’s not a one-level problem. Easy access to guns doesn’t make a person devalue life. Playing video games that devalue life and watching programs or movies that devalue life MIGHT be an influence. But none of those factors change everyone who plays those games or watches those programs. So what is the difference? Why would it affect one person that way and not the next person? Is it parenting or lack thereof? (Think about trying to pass a law about that one!)
Let’s stop poisoning conversations with name calling and hate and disrespect. For the children. For our society. For your own safety. Don’t fall for the instant knee-jerk responses. Ignore the name-callers. Invite reasonable discussions. Ask WHY. If someone’s opinion or belief is different ask why do they believe that way? Then, LISTEN. Be empathetic. Ask the other person, would they like to know your why? Then, don’t spout statistics or logic. Talk from your heart.
Assuming you’ve read this far, you’ve heard me rant on things I think are important but now it’s time to hear my why. Why do I care? I love children. I love their innocence, their faith in love and knowledge and magic. And I’m afraid. I’m afraid more children will die. I’m afraid more concert goers will die. And I’m terrified.
I’m terrified that the country I love is dying. It’s becoming a place I don’t want to live. I love the myth that America means freedom and independence for all people regardless of race, creed, religion, gender, or any other thing. I want that country. But I can’t make that happen unless I raise my voice. And I sure as heck cannot make that dream reality by myself. We must work together to make this a country where we all can live.
How do we find out where our society went wrong? More importantly…
How Do We Fix It?
It’ll take smarter people than me to figure that out. But until we figure out how to talk to each other like adults who respect one another, the gun problem, the violence, the senseless deaths, will never go away. And that makes me incredibly sad.
Please note: I will also not tolerate poisonous speech (name calling, disrespect, or excessive bad language). If you can speak your opinion with respect, you are invited to comment. We need to talk about guns and gun control and violence.