Thursday, December 20, 2012

Lock, stock, and...well, you know the rest.

Last week, I mentioned there were some feelings of anger that I might blog about one day.  Well, for at least one of those issues, today is that day.

Here's just a sample of the dozens of memes I've seen circulating social media lately*:

First of all, grammar police time:  a family GETS, families GET.  Second of all, need the obvious be stated?  This particular family's security is of national importance.  Your family's security probably isn't.  Not to mention a secret service detail for every family is something we just don't have the manpower to support, and providing one for every family in America would be a logistical nightmare.  (Wait, that system actually sounds familiar...something about feudal lordship...)

Ad populum, red herring, sweeping generalization, false analogy...need I say more?  And this is one of the more sound memes I've seen out there.  (Of course, I recognize memes are generally reliant on rhetorical fallacies in the first place, so perhaps my expectations are just too high.)

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.

Figured I'd include a positive one.  This, in my opinion, is a much more appropriate reaction to the tragedy in Newtown, CT than any of the above memes.  Focusing on the tragedy and how to deal with it is much more useful than baring your teeth in defense against accusations and legislation and that haven't even been made/proposed yet.

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.


  1. I agree with you about the meme that says God "is not allowed in schools." Nobody can tell God where he can and cannot be. God is allowed to be anywhere he pleases!

    1. I totally agree, Kara. I hesitate to think that I, or our government, can or can't "allow" God to do anything. Just because students don't say a prayer at the beginning of the day doesn't mean that God isn't allowed in schools, and it certainly doesn't mean that He allows--let alone instigates--acts of violence like the massacre at Sandy Hook as a form of retribution for human attempts to limit Him, which I think is a horrific subtext, intended or not, to that particular meme.

  2. Outdated laws, Chris? The Second Amendment will never be outdated. Stripping gun rights from law-abiding citizens will never reduce criminal gun activity. When the law-abiding citizens are the only ones without guns, how does that make things safer for anyone? In an ideal world, no one would need a gun for protection. Period. But that's not the world we live in, and I have a family to consider. So do you.

    It's time for our nation to understand that people do bad things. The people who do those bad things don't care what the law says, and they're gonna do those things anyway. They will find a way!! Trust me, they will. Taking guns from honest people won't stop them. I know that we all want to believe that we can do something about something so reprehensible as gunning down 20 children... but we can't. The best we can hope to do is be better prepared for WHEN it happens again. And that means not forcing everyone else to lower their guard--that will only produce the opposite of what we all want to see: fewer tragedies like this one.

    1. Thanks for your comment, Lars (do you go by Lars these days? I remember you were Larry once upon a time :-)). I agree that the Second Amendment isn't necessarily outdated, that was another slip of the pen/keyboard in a moment of passion. But I do think that the original intentions behind the amendment are outdated, and that some things do indeed need to change. Perhaps I'm idealizing this, but if such restrictions were passed I would think it would be easier for "law-abiding citizens" to get guns, and more difficult for the bad guys, as it were. Which is not to say that the bad guys aren't going to get guns another way--of course they will, and they already do--but by making it that much more difficult, getting some of the guns off the street and out of questionable hands, hopefully crises like this one can somehow, partially be averted.

      I do agree that our nation needs to understand that, sometimes, people do bad things, and that it there is no one factor that can change that. Responsibility for one's actions is a principle that seems to be less and less acceptable in this country, and that is a sad and scary thing.