Here are some things that have been said, and please keep in mind I’m posting these without regard for accuracy – it’s just a representative sampling of what I keep stumbling across:
“The guns are already out there, you can’t take them back. Don’t even bother trying to ban guns.”
“The woman bought guns to supposedly keep herself and her family protected, yet died at the hands of her family with those very guns.”
“The AR-15 (the primary weapon used in Connecticut) is not anymore deadly, accurate, or easy to use than any other firearm available.”
|But they do blame alcohol, which is why it's illegal to drink and drive.|
“Last year, handguns killed 48 people in Japan, 8 in Great Britain, 34 in Switzerland, 52 in Canada, 58 in Israel, 21 in Sweden, 42 in West Germany -- and 10,728 in the United States.”
“You could ban guns but then they would find out how to make bombs out of fertilizer and fuel and blow the objects of their anger away. You could ban fertilizer and fuel but they would figure another way since most of these perpetrators are bright but warped. It is the people that we have created in the last 30 years of enlightenment that are the problem, and until you address why this happens now and not in 1960 when I was ten you are deluding yourself. It is a cultural malaise of a troubled nation.”
“I fucking hate you anti-gun idiots.”
“I believe that a national consensus on gun control could put a damper on easy gun acquisition and start to choke off these repeated mass shootings. Just like illegal drug use, theft, drunk driving and so on, we don't just say that we're surrendering because it’s hard.”
“Schools are armed in Switzerland. They have the lowest crime rate and it’s required that the citizens are armed. They are even provided an assault rifle. It’s smart. An armed society is a polite society.”
“It's so sad...it's a heart issue, not a weapons one. The only answer...Jesus.”
“If the teachers had been armed like they should have been, Adam Lanza would have at most killed only 2 people instead of over 20 before one of the teachers shot him!!”
“Guns don’t kill, people kill.”
“Someone's "right to bear arms" is not more important than a child's right to grow old enough to get to middle school, have her first kiss, see Santa or light the final candles on the Menorah.”
Back and forth, back and forth… everyone talking… and not a whole lot of listening.
The reason I don’t belong to a political party is that I need to be certain I’m making my own decisions, guided by faith, ethics, morals, research, and logic, rather than by simply towing a party line.
My knee-jerk reaction to the tragedy in Connecticut was: “GET RID OF THE GUNS!!!” This phrase was screeching in my brain, sloshing in my stomach, wringing out my soul.
But… people who I would otherwise respect had some things to say that opposed my own personal reaction, so I did what I always do in situations like this: I researched the hell out of it.
And I’m going to tell you some of the interesting things I found, things I didn’t know before, on both sides of the argument, and I’m going to be as objective and emotionless as possible.
The first thing I found is that there is a general misunderstanding among gun-control advocates about the primary weapon used in the Connecticut shooting, and in particular, what the term “semi-automatic” means. When I researched the gun that was used in the shootings I saw a picture of it that made my heart jump into my throat. I thought what does it say about us as a people that we would allow a weapon like this to be accessible to anyone? It might as well be a nuclear bomb! In my mind, I saw Tony Montana with a couple of those bad boys tucked under his armpits and blowing away everything that was dear to him.
But the quote above, “The AR-15 It’s not anymore deadly, accurate, or easy to use than any other firearm available” compelled me to research further. This person had other things to say too, and was compassionate in his delivery and seemed to be a very knowledgeable gun enthusiast. But he didn’t explain why the AR-15 no different than, for instance, the pistol that my father kept in his nightstand. In my mind, it was about as different as a heat-seeking missile is from a firecracker.
But I discovered that although the AR-15 is designed to look like the fully-automatic version, like what the military would use, it’s not the same at all. (I don’t know why it has to look so scary. Because it’s cool to have something that looks terrifying? Because it gives the holder a feeling of power? Ayyy, that is speculation; strike it from the record.) The military version of this weapon really can shoot Tony Montana-style. But even with the military version you can’t just hold the trigger down and go all willy-nilly because the barrel will overheat and the gun will jam. The AR-15, a semi-automatic weapon, is different. You have to squeeze the trigger for each shot. One squeeze, one bullet.
How is any of this even relevant when we’re talking about the lives of our children??? It is relevant, my dear fellow gun-haters. It’s relevant because if you’re arguing about gun control with a gun enthusiast from a perspective where you are envisioning a Tony Montana-style shoot-out, like I was, you are arguing from a place of ignorance, and are therefore going to be less persuasive in your argument.
Whenever you argue from a place of ignorance, your argument loses validity.
But I have some problems with the AR-15, even after being satisfied that it isn’t what I thought it was:
1) It’s convertible. You can make it automatic. Just writing that makes me want to puke. But I’m going to try to stay calm, reasonable… rational. I won’t call anyone a wacko for putting up a YouTube video on how to convert your AR-15 to fully automatic. Really. I won’t.
2) It’s not a hunting weapon, at least not traditionally. There is plenty of debate on that, but just Google it if you don’t believe me.
3) It’s not a defense weapon. Well, it could be. But isn’t it a little cumbersome to keep that thing in your night-stand? It’s freaking HUGE.
My final determination on the type of gun used? Neutral. A semi-automatic hand-gun with a significantly less nefarious appearance would have had the same disastrous outcome. (UPDATE 12/22: See MadWoman comment below for why I've changed my opinion on this topic - AR-15s ARE more deadly than other types of semi-automatic, because of the extended magazine capability.)
One of the pro-gun arguments circulating the internet is that in Switzerland, everyone is required to have a gun and keep it in their home, and yet they have a much lower fire-arm related death-rate. Well, actually… not that much lower. It’s about a third of ours. Based on the repeated shares in my Facebook newsfeed, I was expecting statistics closer to that of Australia, whose fire-arm related death-rate is only 10% of ours, or United Kingdom, which is only 2.5% of ours (both countries have very strict anti-gun laws). In Switzerland, there is mandatory military conscription during which nearly all men are required to join the peoples’ militia and receive military training, including weapons training. Storing the weapons in the home is part of the military obligation.
The Switzerland argument is an irresponsible comparison to make, because the circumstances between our two countries are so vastly different. Unless you’re in favor of mandatory military conscription in the U.S., then please stop making this argument. I would actually be okay with a law that permits gun ownership only if you’ve served in the military and have undergone extensive weapons training. Many people in this country own guns and don’t have a clue how to safely operate or store them. Lanza’s mother was one of them.
Gun advocates make the argument that banning guns or imposing more restrictions wouldn’t be effective because a) criminals don’t obey laws anyway and b) that would only take the guns out of the hands of law-abiding citizens, leaving them defenseless. This is a valid point. It wouldn’t be fair to take a gun away from a law-abiding citizen who owns that gun solely for defense or for hunting, and stores the gun safely. (That’s a whole other argument: Is it possible to store a gun ‘safely?’) And it’s true that criminals, by definition, don’t obey laws. Psychopaths couldn’t give a rat’s ass about laws. They will do whatever it takes to get a gun, or two, or three, legal or not. The gun in the Sandy Hook shooting was illegally obtained. But it was obtained easily from someone who legally obtained it and did not store the weapon in a manner safe enough that it could not be ‘illegally obtained.’
The other argument that I’ve seen is that guns are simply an instrument; the real problem is the person holding the gun. “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people.” This is absolutely true. Guns don’t kill people all by themselves. No one thinks that. And of course mental health needs to be addressed. But I’m not talking about mental health right now—I’m talking about guns.
Guns don’t kill people, people kill people... guns just make a much more efficient job of it. Like a nail-gun instead of a hammer. Obviously if a carpenter can’t get his hands on a nail-gun he’d settle for a hammer. But you don’t have to be Einstein to know which tool will bury the most nails.
Hence, if you’re advocating the right to own a firearm, do not use the phrase “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people.” It is an argument that is like Swiss cheese: Full of holes. Don’t talk to a gun-control advocate about how that crazy person in China used a knife, and how crazy people will use whatever they can get their hands on. No one died in the China incident; you’ll unwittingly be arguing against your own case.
I’ve seen a staggering number of people come out in favor of arming teachers. Maybe it’s true that a psychotic would-be killer would reconsider his decision to enter a school if he thought he would meet resistance in the form of gunfire. But considering the possibility of armed teachers from a purely statistical perspective, totally wiping emotional subjectivity out of the picture, if that’s possible: If teachers are armed, it is a statistical certainty that there will come a time when a teacher or a student, gone off their rocker, will abuse that weapon and we will see similar carnage to what we have witnessed at Sandy Hook. It isn’t just a possibility; it is a statistical certainty.
Here is a brief excerpt from an article that has a pro-gun-control bent:
“The National Rifle Association is quick to associate more guns with less crime, saying that since the early ’90s, when many states relaxed their weapon laws, violent crime has dropped 70 percent. Despite the rampages on campuses and military bases, as well as the hail of gang bullets in Chicago that has killed over 200 so far this year, the national murder rate is at a 47-year-low.
A study in the Journal of Trauma and Acute Care Surgery found that the gun murder rate in the U.S. is almost 20 times higher than the next 22 richest and most populous nations combined. Every one of those nations has stricter gun control laws.
Among the world’s 23 wealthiest countries, 80 percent of all gun deaths are American deaths and 87 percent of all kids killed by guns are American kids.”
That’s nice that the U.S. murder rate is at a 47-year low, huh? But what about the other stuff? That last statistic, standing alone by itself, is the most jolting bit of information I have come across. I can’t just ignore that information and curl up with my gun under my constitution blanket. I have to look at those numbers and wonder how to change them.
But we can’t just throw the constitution out the window. We can’t take away a responsible hunter’s prized gun that he keeps under tight lock and key. We can’t take away a single mother’s pistol that she keeps for protection because she lives in a rough neighborhood and can’t afford to live anywhere else. Can we? Anyway, even if our government suddenly decided to enact a complete ban on guns, it’s not as if we can simply zap all the guns and make them disappear in a puff of smoke. Try taking a gun away from someone who really isn’t keen on surrendering it. That probably won’t end well.
So what are we supposed to do to form a compromise that protects 2nd amendment rights and still keeps innocent people, especially children, safe?
1) School accessibility: There should be one and only one entrance to a school during school hours, and it should be sealed by either an iron gate or a bullet-proof door, similar to a bank. Visitors should have to show I.D. and be buzzed in like in an apartment building. This system would be much cheaper and safer than the idea of metal detectors or trying to arm and train teachers. A trained security guard is another compromise (between no guns at all, and handing out pistols to the staff).
2) Gun control: Making schools less accessible won’t stop a crazy person from shooting up a mall, movie theater, or playground—God forbid—because apparently nothing is off-limits. We need to enact tighter gun control laws, and enforce them. Get over it, gun-lovers. You’ll get your guns; just prove you’re sane first. Everyone who wants to own a gun should be required to take a class and pass a test on gun safety, and should be required to prove they passed it. You liked the idea of Switzerland being armed to the teeth and having less shooting deaths, right? Well, they’re all trained. Added bonus: this is a whole new potential commercial sector, and would be great for the economy: Gun safety. If this training were mandatory, gun aficionados could make a solid living running gun safety schools.
3) Public Awareness: Once upon a time, there was litter all over the place. It was ugly and unseemly; downright impolite. Then the government ran a big campaign on TV that told everyone why it was a good idea to stop littering. And it worked! Our streets and highways are surprising clean considering the traffic that traverses them daily. Same thing with smoking; we’ve had a measurable reduction in smoking in this country since public awareness campaigns showed us disgusting pictures of shriveled lungs, and people talking in a monotone through a hole in their throat. Seatbelts. I wear a seatbelt today because in the 1980s, my TV told me to.
So why not run a public awareness campaign about gun safety, with an emphasis on the safest and most secure way to store your firearm? There are plenty of people out there living in ignorance—not that they are stupid or unwilling to do the best they can to be safe—they just need a little nudge, a reminder of how best to keep a gun out of the hands of a sociopath, an angry jilted lover, a curious child. Unfortunately, studies have shown that teaching children about gun safety is ineffective. Even after repeated admonitions to never touch a gun, a curious child will still pick it up, aim it at himself or someone else, and pull the trigger. It’s the adult’s responsibility.
I know guns aren’t the only issue, here. Maybe we just need a scapegoat on whom to pile our dismay. I’m sure I’ll spend the next week researching mental health in the United States. It's how I cope; I research.
I hope that, regardless of which position on guns you take, I’ve said some things about guns that you hadn’t read or thought of previously. I hope I was successful enough in my mission of detachment to convey my message in an objective way. I know I slipped up a couple of times. Sorry; I’m a mom.
And if it wasn’t clear enough… After all my research, after opening my mind and carefully scrutinizing both sides of the issue: I AM ANTI-GUN. There. I said it. I hate guns, I hate that they make it so easy for us to kill one another. I wish even the military didn’t have a need for guns. From the deepest longings of my soul, which is that we could all love each other, love each other’s children, be tolerant of and kind to one another, and give freely of ourselves for the betterment of those who are less fortunate… my insane and hopeless dreams that taunt and torture me relentlessly… guns literally shoot holes in them.
But… I know my hopes of ridding the world of guns are ridiculous, impractical, and unattainable, and so I’m willing to compromise.
Let’s debate -- with compassion. Please leave your thoughts in the comments below or on the Facebook page.
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