Can We Talk About Gun Laws?
When discussing gun control, it’s difficult for either side to find common ground. Many people, like me, have no problem with safe, responsible gun ownership, with logical and effective controls that minimize risks of misuse and accidents. But when we discuss such controls, the NRA and the Second Amendment fanatics freak out and say we are trying to take everyone’s guns away. “It’s a slippery slope to tyranny,” they say. If so, I contend that we have jumped off of a cliff toward death and destruction to avoid that slope.
Our children are dying and our response is MORE GUNS! Arm teachers, put guards in every school, concealed carry all over the place. MY RIGHT to bear arms trumps your right to life. If a few crazies slip through and shoot up a school, that’s the price of freedom.
No, I don’t accept that. Freedom is watching a movie in peace, sending your kids to school without fear, buying a pizza without getting shot, not worrying about someone “going postal” at work. We can’t end all violence, but the answer is most certainly not BUY MORE GUNS.
In the video, Annabel Park, founder of The Coffee Party, tries to talk about gun regulation reform with a gentleman at the first NRA press conference after the Newtown school shooting. The man is against gun control, because making crack and cocaine illegal hasn’t stopped people from using drugs. He later concedes that he is okay with waiting periods and background checks. Hooray! But when asked if he would like to see the “gunshow loophole” closed, he says “NO” He doesn’t really follow up with a good reason, other than making guns illegal will do nothing to curb gun ownership and he is a believer in “free commerce.” Miss Park then asks if, since making crack and heroin illegal hasn’t stopped drug use, should they be made legal in the name of “free commerce.” The man says, “NO” and chuckles as if she is the irrational one. She wrote a great article about her experience at the press conference, titled “The Zombification of America,” that was featured on HuffPo. In it she says:
This is my fear about America in a nutshell: Are we feeling so alienated from one another that we see the other as zombie-like and worthless? That is, not deserving of compassion, a voice in the political process, or even life? And, is this alienation creeping into our legislative process? Everything from gun control to the budget, immigration policies and Stand Your Ground laws?
And if that is the case, what are ultimate consequences and what are the remedies?
I do accept the point of my pro-gun friends and perhaps the creators of The Walking Dead that to some extent that civilization (law and order) is more fragile than we’d like to believe it is and there are some truly awful and destructive people out there. I can readily imagine needing to defend myself from chaotic and violent forces in our society.
The problem is that the belief that civilization is breaking down can become a self-fulfilling prophesy. The less you trust and value civilization and the inherent worth of human beings, the more willing you will be to live outside it and see the people inside as weak, parasitic and worthless. This kind of alienation from our society just is destabilizing.
In a recent discussion about gun control, I asked what regulations we could all agree on, to have some common ground to start from. My question went unanswered. The reason why this question usually leads nowhere is because if they allow that a single regulation makes common sense, they cannot logically proceed with their assertion that the gun show loophole should remain in place.
It makes SENSE to do background checks to weed out criminals and the mentally unstable. It makes SENSE to have a short waiting period to possibly cut down on rash violent events, such as when a woman purchased her weapon legally at a gun shop, walked out, and shot herself dead in the store parking lot on New Years Day. It makes SENSE to require gun owners to keep their weapons SECURE to prevent horrific tragedies. And I think it makes SENSE to modify STAND YOUR GROUND laws to clarify that it doesn’t mean you can provoke an altercation, use a gun in a fistfight, and kill an unarmed person with impunity.
A tip when discussing this subject with a pro-gun/zero restrictions person: do not say “assault weapons.” This sends them off on a tangent about how there is no such thing as an assault rifle and every gun is technically an assault weapon. SO, just call it a semiautomatic rifle or by its name to avoid that tedious pitfall. The other day I saw this image on Facebook, posted by several of my friends:
AR-15s and its cousins are capable of firing a hundred rounds quickly without reloading. There are no restrictions on owning this weapon after the assault weapons ban was allowed to expire. The fact is, there isn’t much difference in the above weapons. It is quite easy to convert an AR-15 to fully automatic, though it’s illegal to do so. The expired federal assault weapons ban was easily and regularly sidestepped. There is no limit on the size of the magazine. There is no limit to ammunition that can be purchased and absolutely no monitoring of unusually large weapon and ammo purchases. James Holmes, who killed dozens in the Aurora, Colorado theater shootings, purchased a massive amount of ammunition and tactical gear online without raising a single eyebrow.
The real question we should be asking here is: What is the difference between an “assault rifle” and THIS:
A very well-trained infantryman could fire, at BEST, five rounds per minute from this weapon. A semi-automatic weapon with high-capacity magazine can fire about 60 shots per minute, or as quickly as you can pull a trigger. I’ve heard some say 400 per minute for fully-auto, but I don’t know about that. That’s a pretty big difference. Old Brown Bess above was the type of weapon used when our founding fathers drafted the Constitution. There’s a WORLD of difference between these two weapons.
So, the argument is that one needs guns for personal protection. More importantly, there is some kind of major event on the horizon. Maybe there will be a terrible plague that wipes out most of the population, and the ones that are left want YOUR shit! There may eventually be a zombie apocalypse or Obama may decide to finally go full dictator on us and we will need to defend ourselves against a tyrannical government. The seeds of this are already planted with the Patriot Act, warrantless wiretapping, and drones flying around over American soil, spying on its own people. There are chemtrail clouds crisscrossing the sky, raining mind-control down upon us.
The Second Amendment reads:
A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.
If one delves into the history and the context of the second amendment, it becomes clear that this amendment doesn’t grant unfettered rights to guns. Historically, there has been all KINDS of regulation going on, with many of the population (BLACK PEOPLE) exempted from this “right.” The founding fathers had very strict gun regulations. In addition to the aforementioned exclusion of black people, slave or free, white men who refused to swear their support for the revolution couldn’t own a gun. Men who were allowed to bear arms were REQUIRED to own a weapon and regularly report for militia duty. Hello, individual mandate! What would Antonin Scalia have to say about this? A record of each man’s guns were also recorded by the government! How would the NRA score George Washington? FAILING.
After the Civil War, freedmen who had fought for the North brought their weapons home to the south. Posses quickly rounded up their weapons as southern states instituted ”Black Codes”- laws against black people owning firearms. Predictably, the modern gun control movement began in the late 60′s when the Black Panthers took to carrying around loaded weapons in public. This led California Republicans, most notably Ronald Reagan, to support tough restrictions on firearms. In California he signed Mulford Act in 1967, “prohibiting the carrying of firearms on one’s person or in a vehicle, in any public place or on any public street.” Eventually, Congress passed the Gun Control Act of 1968, which required federal licensing for dealers, regulated interstate commerce of firearms, and prohibited sales to minors, criminals, and the mentally ill. Ronald Reagan was also a supporter of the Brady Bill, enacted after his attempted assassination and named for James Brady, who took one of the bullets meant for Reagan in the head and was nearly killed. This is what Reagan had to say about it in an Op-ed for the New York Times:
This nightmare might never have happened if legislation that is before Congress now — the Brady bill — had been law back in 1981.
Named for Jim Brady, this legislation would establish a national seven-day waiting period before a handgun purchaser could take delivery. It would allow local law enforcement officials to do background checks for criminal records or known histories of mental disturbances. Those with such records would be prohibited from buying the handguns.
While there has been a Federal law on the books for more than 20 years that prohibits the sale of firearms to felons, fugitives, drug addicts and the mentally ill, it has no enforcement mechanism and basically works on the honor system, with the purchaser filling out a statement that the gun dealer sticks in a drawer.
The Brady bill would require the handgun dealer to provide a copy of the prospective purchaser’s sworn statement to local law enforcement authorities so that background checks could be made. Based upon the evidence in states that already have handgun purchase waiting periods, this bill — on a nationwide scale — can’t help but stop thousands of illegal handgun purchases.
And, since many handguns are acquired in the heat of passion (to settle a quarrel, for example) or at times of depression brought on by potential suicide, the Brady bill would provide a cooling-off period that would certainly have the effect of reducing the number of handgun deaths.
Critics claim that “waiting period” legislation in the states that have it doesn’t work, that criminals just go to nearby states that lack such laws to buy their weapons. True enough, and all the more reason to have a Federal law that fills the gaps. While the Brady bill would not apply to states that already have waiting periods of at least seven days or that already require background checks, it would automatically cover the states that don’t. The effect would be a uniform standard across the country.
WHAT THE HELL? Can it be true? How would the NRA, who appointed Reagan an Honorary Life Member, score the former president today? FAILING! While we’re at it, how would the NRA score itself if it were rating the NRA of the past? FAILING! Karl T. Frederick, president of the NRA, helped draft The Uniform Firearms Act of 1930, a state-level act which required permits for carrying firearms, allowed police to confiscate weapons if proper documentation was not provided, prohibited sales to minors, habitual drunkards, and other undesirables, required licensed dealers to record each sale and report it to the government, and wait 48 hours before completing the sale. This gave rise to the National Firearms Act of 1934, which regulated sawed off shotguns and machine guns. Frederick gave testimony about the legislation and had this to say:
”I have never believed in the general practice of carrying weapons. I seldom carry one…. I do not believe in the general promiscuous toting of guns. I think it should be sharply restricted and only under licenses.”
OH, MY GOD. He sounds like Hitler. But actually, Frederick was a fierce advocate for gun rights. Again, some common sense regulation, something the current incarnation of the NRA opposes, was not always anathema to the “gun crowd.” Especially when it came to undesirables having them. Often, the NRA supported these laws because it tended to PROTECT the right to bear arms because it sought to keep them out of the hands of those who would give guns and responsible gun owners a bad name.
There has to be a line somewhere. If semi-automatic rifles are okay, why not submachine guns? IF, god forbid, a tyrannical government comes a-knockin, what use will a semi-automatic rifle be? If Special Forces dropped out of the sky into your heavily-armed compound, would you be able to successfully repel them with your trifling semi-automatics and shotguns? Landmines, nerve gas, and perhaps some missile and grenade launchers would greatly level the playing field. But really, you need a nuke to be totally prepared for tyranny.
If we accept that the Second Amendment grants us all the right to bear arms without prejudice, then every government law regarding firearms ever passed is unconstitutional and we might as well start stocking up on M-16s. If we accept that there are some reasonable restrictions that can be imposed, then we have to debate what they are. And we can’t cry SECOND AMENDMENT every time a law is proposed, because that in and of itself is no argument if we have already agreed that some regulation is needed. There has to be REASON and deliberation involved.
Gun Guy says, “the Swiss government gives every citizen a gun and there is almost no gun violence there because guns don’t kill people!” Okay, this kinda portrays us as a bloodthirsty serial killer culture, doesn’t it? But also, it’s a misleading statement about Switzerland, as I wrote this summer. 80 PERCENT of gun deaths in 23 developed nations occurred in the United States. There have been over thirty mass shootings in the US since Columbine. Immediately after most of these shootings, applications for purchasing firearms and sales of semiautomatic assault rifles skyrocket.
The most popular gun purchased after the Sandy Hook Massacre? The Bushmaster .223, which was used by several mass murderers: John Allen Muhammed and Lee Boyd Malvo, the DC snipers used it to kill 10 people. James Holmes, the Aurora theater shooter, killed 12 and wounded 58 with it. Jacob Tyler Roberts, mall shooter, killed 2 and himself with a Bushmaster. Last, but not least, Adam Lanza, murderer of 20 children and seven adults, used one to fire multiple bullets into each tiny body. This was a powerful advertisement for the effectiveness of a Bushmaster in the hands of a human being. Because, of course, a Bushmaster just lying there on the table is nothing more than a paperweight.
Another point from Gun Guy: “They should outlaw cars because cars kill more people than guns! I mean, we regulate the crap out of cars, license drivers, ticket people for breaking traffic laws, require them to be insured, prohibit them from drinking and driving, make people register them and pay taxes on them-and we STILL have vehicular deaths EVERY DAY!” It’s true, you just can’t legislate away bad stuff happening. Seat belts save lives, but you have to CHOOSE to wear it. There are speed limits, but we’ve all broken that law. So should we go back to the days when there were no seat belts and you hold a cold one between your legs as you shifted gears? I don’t know…I’ll let you imagine the consequences.
Same with forks, because it feeds my mouth, makes me fat, and gives me diabetes. Guns and forks, menaces to society. The discussion over gun control always leads to this highly sophisticated conclusion. Every. Single. Time. There is no “middle ground.” There is no place upon which we can begin to agree. I say “gun regulation,” you say “from my cold, dead hands.”
But I don’t want to even think about cold, dead hands. I just want to figure out how to minimize gun violence and accidental deaths. Let’s look at Switzerland, let’s look at Canada, let’s think about Australia, ALL countries that have armed citizenry, but have a tiny FRACTION of the gun violence that we have. Let’s talk about access to mental health care and help for parents trying to care for mentally ill children. Let’s discuss violent cultural messages and video games and TV shows and music. Let’s talk about what makes America unique among all other developed countries in gun-related homicides, suicides, and accidents. We have to start somewhere.