So, there’s a national conversation going on in the aftermath of the horrendous events in Connecticut. Like most everyone else, I’m sure, I’ve been trying to figure out in my head how this could have happened and what we need to do to about it. I’ve been participating in online debates here and there, which I’ve found has helped inform my opinion. So, I felt the need to try to get that opinion down in one place, which is why I’m writing this post.
First, I want to say that I’m thrilled this conversation is including gun control. (But I am absolutely horrified and saddened that 1) it’s necessary and 2) the death of so many people, especially children, recently is what’s prompted it).
The conversation about gun control has been needed for a long time. Since Columbine, there have been 61 school shootings in the US. In all other countries combined (most of which have stricter gun control laws), there have been 18. That doesn’t even take into account the other mass murders by shooting that have taken place in our country, like the movie theater shooting, the shooting of Gabby Giffords, or the multitude of workplace shootings.
You cannot deny that we have a problem with gun violence in this country. Well, okay. You can, and people like the NRA sure do. The great Neil deGrasse Tyson says, “The good thing about science is that it’s true whether or not you believe in it.” The same can be said about facts, and as shown above, the facts show there is a lot of gun violence in the US whether the NRA admits it or not.
And, after every single one of these events, when anyone says, “Hey, maybe we ought to look at our current gun regulations…” (and they invariably do), people come out of the woodwork screaming “You want to take away my guns!” and “No, it’s too soon to talk about this.” and “2nd Amendment!!!!!!!!!!!1!” And, the talk about reforming gun laws (aka “gun control”) pretty much stops.
So, the fact that the conversation about gun control has continued pleases me. It seems like people aren’t going to let it go this time. At least I hope so, because all those “gun control = gun bans = you’re a Commie Socialist who wants to take away my guns and ignore my 2nd Amendment rights” folks are still singing their tired old song, rather loudly.
But, now, there’s also a new voice being added…some folks are saying that the cause of this shooting has more to do with the shooter’s mental health and his lack of care, so therefore, they argue, we should not worry about gun control. Instead, lets focus on fixing the mental health care system. And, I agree wholeheartedly with the sentiment of this one, but not necessarily with the exclusivity of the stance. But, I’ll get into that in a bit…
So, I guess I want to use this space to address these arguments. Here are my responses to the common ones I’m seeing:
1. Don’t politicize this tragedy: A friend of mine said something rather poignantly in a Facebook status about this: “…about whether or not this should be made into a ‘political’ issue. To me this seems to reflect a deeper tragedy: the fact that ‘politics’ now means bureaucratic and rhetorical machinations rather than collectively finding solutions to our common problems and building a better ‘polis’. Gun violence is a collective concern: it IS political through and through. Whether the politicians and our current political environment are up to this type of real political problem is a different story.”
Because gun control has been a hot-button issue for so long, guns already are political. So, the fact that guns were the weapon used to commit this heinous act means that the event is also already “political.”
2. It’s too soon to talk about this: It is not “too soon” to talk about guns and gun control. 20 dead children prove that it’s too late. It’s always “too soon,” and by the time its ok to talk about, there’s another horrific tragedy like this making it “too soon” to talk about again. The time to talk about it is now – right now – when this travesty is burned into our brains, while we still remember the looks on peoples faces, and while we deal with our own fears and pain, because more people are paying attention. Jon Stewart, as usual, says it best. (Sorry WordPress won’t let me embed Comedy Central videos.)
3. If someone wants to be violent and we make guns harder to get, he will just use a different weapon: Yes, if people want to be violent, they will be violent. But short of a bomb (which requires research, preparation, planning and forethought) a gun is the singular most effective way to kill volumes of people. We are not arming our soldiers with kitchen knives and broken beer bottles. We arm them with guns for a reason.
At this point, someone invariably mentions the incident in China that happened on the same day.
The problem with this is the children in China were not killed. 20 children in the US ARE dead today because a gun was used. We may not be able to stop every single person from doing harm, but we can minimize the harm that person is able to inflict by making it harder for him to obtain such a deadly weapon. The only purpose of a gun is to kill. Period. And, it can kill more people than any other weapon except for maybe a bomb or a hijacked airplane…both of which are not nearly as accessible as guns.
As I said before, since Columbine, there have been 61 school shootings in the US. Now, how many school bombings in the US have there been? TWO. How many mass murders at schools with knives in the US? ZERO. Any knife attacks that occurred resulted in just a few people being afflicted, not mass murder. So, the simple fact of the matter is, the easy availability of guns plus their ability to produce a higher body count with less effort than, say, a knife makes them the weapon of choice for people who want to commit mass murder.
You lock your doors to make it harder for someone to break into your home. So, why is it any different to impede someone from committing mass murder by making it harder for him or her to obtain the weapons that are used the most and are most effective in mass murder?
4. Gun control won’t stop criminals from getting guns: The goal of realistic gun control is not to prevent, but to reduce violence. The issue of gun legislation has nothing to do with convincing criminals to follow laws. That doesn’t make any kind of sense at all.
Rather, the issue has to do with the availability of firearms, the type of firearms we choose to make available (legal) to non-military or non-police personnel (civilians), and the types of measures we use to make sure only responsible and qualified people are in possession of said weapons.
Just dismissing the issue is not the answer. It’d be like saying “Boys will be boys” when every 2 minutes in the US someone is raped, and 99% of rapists are men. It’s cowardly and lazy to not even try to address the problem simply because one feels like the situation is hopeless.
I don’t understand this attitude of “Well, even though what we’ve got now isn’t working, we shouldn’t bother to find other solutions.” Making it hard for a mentally ill person to obtain a gun, perhaps by making it illegal to sell guns on Craigslist, for example, is a reasonable idea to explore. Further, these crimes seem to be impulse driven as well. So, slowing down the ability to act on that impulse makes sense to me.
I’m calling for a serious examination of the existing regulations and enforcements to see how we can improve this horrendous situation. Why are people so resistant to that logical idea? What will it hurt if we do that?
For example, why does your ordinary everyday average citizen need a semi-automatic? This argument has already been made by many people (here’s one recent example), so I don’t feel the need to go into it here. But, that’s just one example of a regulation we can improve.
Here’s another example: According to the Department of Justice, 40% of legal sales happen without a background check.
That is an example of a current regulation that needs to be fixed. Fixing that is not going to mean you can’t buy guns at all. It’s not going to mean more regulation…it’s revising regulations that already exist.
Let’s have a national, civil conversation about *how* we can stop this gun violence, not if it exists (because it really, really does) or why it can or cannot be curtailed (because it has been in other countries). We have a problem, and the “We can’t stop it”/”psychos will always find a way to be psycho”/”criminals just use other weapons” arguments are not doing anything to address that problem.
5. Gun control is a slippery slope to a total ban / You want to take away my guns. / You’re infringing on my 2nd Amendment rights / You’re just a libtard who never owned a gun: Creating and reforming regulations is not a ban. I don’t want to take away your guns (unless they’re semi-automatic.) I don’t know how to make that any clearer or how to make you believe me.
For those that continue to insist otherwise, a Facebook Page posted something I think accurately describes my feelings here: “Gun ownership advocates who do not want to deal with the reality of gun violence, even on this tragic day, do not deserve a place at the table as we discuss how to combat this madness…you (and your convoluted views) are now irrelevant.”
Yes, I am a liberal. But, I am also a registered gun owner with a conceal and carry permit, and I plan to stay that way. I happily submitted to a background check, and I will stick with my .44 and never purchase a semi-automatic, and I don’t think it’s unreasonable for every other gun owner to do the same things.
Remember, the first 3 words of the 2nd Amendment are, after all, “A well regulated”. The thing that gives us the right to have guns itself says there should be gun regulation! (Don’t even get me started on “militia”…)
6. Guns don’t kill people, people kill people. It’s not that simplistic. There’s a psychological reason that guns are chosen for these attacks. (Hint: it has to do with perception of power.) Yes, a gun isn’t going to shoot itself; it requires a person to make it function, and it inflicts a deadlier force than almost any other weapon. As I said before, the single purpose for which a gun was created is to kill. You can’t cut a steak with a gun. (Well, you could, but there wouldn’t be much left of the steak you could eat.)
The truth is, “Guns Kill People, AND People Kill People.” If the problem is really “people kill,” then the solution shouldn’t be “Here, people. Have this instrument that makes it super easy to kill. “People Kill People” will always be true as long as we create and nourish a culture where killing is an option.
7. If the teachers had been armed, this could have been stopped: Ignoring the fact that teachers are typically not trained in the use of hand guns, wear protective armor to school, or could have reacted quickly enough in such a chaotic scene while at the same time trying to hide and evacuation their children, sure someone maybe could have gotten off a shot at Adam Lanza. Okay. Scratch that. I don’t believe that for one second. The key here is teachers are not trained like our soldiers to keep their cool in combat situations, and that’s exactly what this was.
So, are you really saying that we need to train our teachers to be combat ready? I highly doubt the Republicans in Congress, who a few days ago thought teachers were lazy union thugs who get paid too much, are really going to invest the money it would take to do that.
And, don’t forget, the very first person to be killed in this tragedy was a gun owner. A lot of good that did her, huh?
8. This happened because we removed prayer from school. / … because the shooter was raised by an unwed mother. / … because God is punisheing us for homosexuality: I am not going to respond to these sick, twisted, disgusting, selfish, ridiculous, delusional claims. The people who seriously believe them are so irrational and closed-minded and ignorant that they won’t hear anything anyone has to say in response. Why bother? You can’t argue with crazy. Though, this meme did make me laugh about it.
9. This isn’t a gun control issue. It’s a mental health issue. / Changing gun laws wouldn’t have stopped Adam Lanza.:
Okay, here we go. This is the big one. I do believe it’s both a gun control issue because, well, a semi-automatic gun was used (see my rant above) and a mental health issue.
With everything I’ve said about gun control, however, I do not believe it is THE answer. This is a complex problem that’s going to have a complex solution. I agree it is imperative that we reform the way mental illness is handled in this country, but gun control must be part of the overall solution.
In one of the online debates, I was asked what specific regulations could have been used to stop Adam Lanza. I will be the first person to admit that, other than removing semi-automatic weapons from the general public’s hands, I do not know, and I never said I did. I am not an expert in gun laws. It’s possible there isn’t very many. But, it’s equally possible that there are. In this case, we don’t have many details yet, since it’s so recent. We know he used his mother’s guns to kill her at home, and then went to the school where she taught and did this evil. Did he live at home with her? Did she keep her guns out in the open or in a locked case? Maybe regulations that require all guns be kept in locked cases or background checks of all adults that live in the home where the guns are kept might have helped?
I know, I know. I can hear the collective groans and sense the blood pressures rising from the pro-“don’t take my guns”-crowd at those suggestions, and I can see their “but he would have just broken into a locked case” counter arguments. I’m not saying those two ideas will work. I don’t know. That’s why I’m throwing them out there. Until we take the time to entertain all possible solutions with an open mind, we’ll never know if they will or won’t work. There’s no harm in exploring all options, but instantly dismissing them and those who make them isn’t productive in any way.
Now, again, I agree whole-heartedly that we have a serious, serious problem in this country with the way the mentally ill are treated…or not. This blog post is a good start. I’m also thrilled that people are having a discussion about this very important problem, as it’s been needed as well.
But, why do the conversations about reforming mental health care and gun laws have to be mutually exclusive? Why do we have to focus on only one? It’s clear to me that both guns and mental illness played a role in this tragedy, so it makes perfect sense to me to address them both at the same time.
I think the best way to honor the memories of the Sandy Hook shooting victims is to engage in meaningful, respectful dialogue about ALL possible ways to ensure this doesn’t ever happen again.