Here's just a sample of the dozens of memes I've seen circulating social media lately*:
|Really? REALLY? Would you like to go explain to the victims of Sandy Hook that the reason they or their loved ones are dead is because God is annoyed He isn't allowed in schools? Or should I? That's not the God I subscribe to, thanks.|
So, yeah, I'm going to talk about gun control.
Quick caveat. If you haven't read this yet article, go read it. It's written by a mother with a son who is mentally ill, and it's both poignant and relevant. The issue of mental health in our country (or, more accurately, the lack of it, and the lack of appropriate, available methods of identifying, dealing with, and treating it) is appalling. A number of people very close to me deal with mental illnesses, and I've seen firsthand many of the effects. That said, this post is not going to be about mental illness. That is an issue. It does need to be addressed. Things do need to change. And, while we're on the subject, there are quite a lot of other factors that go into mass murders like the one in Newtown, CT. (As pointed out by my friend Jon on his blog.) A discussion of said factors could be the subject of an entire series of blog posts, or an entire blog, for that matter.
But let's not fool ourselves; gun control is an issue, too. And while most people would probably agree that our country needs to approach its mental health issues differently, something tells me (memes aside) that not quite as many people would be on board with gun control. So, let's chat.
First thing's first. I don't own any guns myself, but I've fired and handled a few different types of firearms in my day. Many of my family members and friends own guns (and my Dad, as he would say, has "more than you could shake a stick at"). Overall, I think the Second Amendment is a neat thing. I think it's an important part of our Constitution. As many of you know, the original intent behind the Second Amendment was to allow civilians the ability to protect themselves from the government. Hopefully I'm not the only person who thinks that particular purpose is more than a little outdated. Trust me, if the US Government wants to take you out, even an automatic assault weapon with an expanded ammo cartridge, a fancy laser sight, and scope-y magnificence (redundant, I know) isn't going to save you. Unless we legalize aircraft carriers, biological, nuclear, and chemical weapons, oh, and drones, than I think you're just out of luck.
That said, I think there are legitimate reasons for owning firearms. Protection is one. Hunting is another. Zombie apocalypses are a very real threat, and we all know how essential firearms will be when one of those comes around. I'll even, hesitantly, add recreation to this list.
Long story short, I'm not completely against guns. I don't think guns should be banned. So all of you who are having a first-class freak-out about how the government is going to confiscate your weapons and murder your family, relax. Take a chill pill. I don't want that, and I'm pretty sure the majority of America doesn't want that, so it's probably not going to happen**.
Here's what does need to happen, though: more regulation regarding the procurement and possession of firearms. Seriously. When it's easier to get a gun than it is to get a driver's license, or an apartment contract, or a bottle of Nyquil, something is wrong. I went with my sister, who is considering purchasing a firearm, a few weeks ago to look at some options. We could have walked out of the store with a gun that day. To me, that was a pretty scary realization. Utah, of course, is one of the most gun-liberal states in the union, but still.
Now, I'm no expert, (neither on guns nor legislation), but I have some vague and ill-informed suggestions that I'm going to propose, anyway. Which is my First Amendment right, by the way, and we all know First comes before Second, so there.
Suggestions: Gun licensing might be a good idea--and I mean licensing for any firearm, not just the right to carry a concealed weapon. Mandatory firearm safety classes could be a good thing, too. Background checks (including a check for specific forms of mental illness) might also help. Registering every owner of a weapon, and the make and type of weapons they own, on a national or state list is another possibility.
Many states already operate under some of the above mentioned options, or other similar firearm regulation policies. And there is indeed a general relationship between states with tighter gun control and states with fewer gun-related deaths (of course, a relationship doesn't indicate direct causality, but it's certainly helpful in piecing these situations together). While adopting such policies wouldn't eliminate mass shootings, it would help. These types of laws also wouldn't prohibit common, gun-savvy citizens from exerting their Second Amendment rights. They could go hunting, go to the shooting range, and perhaps even stop mass shootings from happening (a benefit of bearing arms that the gun-savvy are always so eager to establish), as long as they do the paperwork, as it were***.
What if they don't want to do the paperwork, you ask? What if it's just too damn inconvenient? Well, screw inconvenience. Tell them to suck it up. If this sort of thing could even potentially stop another Columbine, or VA Tech, or Sandy Hook, then it is worth the effort ten million times over.
But don't take my word for it--look at Australia. In 1996, Australia suffered the worst mass shooting in its history, and immediately set to work on legislation limiting civilian access to firearms. And, wonder of wonders...they haven't had a large-scale massacre since.
There's a recent OpEd in the NYTimes that offers some more information on the necessity of gun regulation in America. I encourage you to check it out for further information.
And don't go all liberal-media on me, either, because, look: Justice Antonin Scalia--appointed by Ronald Reagan himself, if that means anything to you--said the following****:
Like most rights, the Second Amendment right is not unlimited. It is not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose: For example, concealed weapons prohibitions have been upheld under the Amendment or state analogues. The Court's opinion should not be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms.The Second Amendment isn't all-powerful, after all--according to a conservative Supreme Court Justice, anyway.
This is an issue that needs to be addressed. We can't hide behind outdated laws and ignorant claims of entitlement when twenty innocent children are murdered. Things aren't just going to get better. On Monday--the next school day after the massacre in CT--a child in Utah brought a gun to school.
Brought a gun.
To a school.
That a child even has access to a firearm without parental supervision defies all forms of sanity.
He claims to have done it to protect himself against a shooting like the one in Newtown. He also, allegedly, put the gun to a classmates' head and threatened her life. Another source says his parents encouraged him to bring the gun to school. Which is, to me, a sign that the entire gun-culture of our country needs to change.
I hope you're willing to help that change along.
* While I'm quite sure there are some equally offensive/factually incorrect memes out there from the liberal end of things, I haven't seen any. Apparently 90% of my Facebook friends are conservative (or, at least, the majority of the active posters are).
** This does not mean that I think specific weapons bans--or even a ban of firearms altogether--would be a bad thing. I see a lot of good that could come from that kind of legislation. But it might also cause more problems than it solves, and, let's be realistic, that kind of legislation is never going to pass in the USofA.
*** While on the topic of preventing shootings, particularly in schools, I'll briefly address the idea of arming school staff and teachers. It's ludicrous. You seriously want to put more guns in schools where children, apparently, don't even understand the danger? Where there will undoubtedly be people of questionable mental health in close proximity? Or, let's just indulge the slippery slope for a moment: why don't we just start arming everyone in schools, students included? That can't possibly be a bad idea.
**** From the 2008 DC vs. Heller ruling.