In the aftermath of the gun violence at Sandy Hook Elementary School, there has been a resurgence of discussions centered on the issue of gun control. Some argue that these discussions must not be about guns, but must be about issues of mental health and violence in the media and in video games. It is true that these are serious issues confronting us and society needs to address them. However, these are separate complex issues, which have merit in any conversation about violence in America but sadly are being used by those with a vested interest in the gun industry only to distract and divert attention from the pressing issue at hand, which is gun violence. They know that it will take time and financial resources to deal with the issues of mental illness; they know the depiction of violence in the movies or in video games is a 1st Amendment issue that would certainly not be resolved quickly. They insist we need to take the time, that we can’t do anything quickly. That is simply not true and they know it. We can do something sensible right now about gun violence if we focus our attention on guns. We can talk about mental health and violence in America, but we need to talk about guns – it is time for common sense regulations.
What most people want, including the President and his Administration, is to keep guns out of the hands of the mentally unstable, children, and criminals and to keep guns that have the capacity to kill large numbers of people, and whose only purpose is to do just that, off of our streets. Mandatory universal background checks and a complete ban on the purchase of military style weapons (guns capable of shooting multiple rounds without the shooter stopping to reload), and high capacity ammo clips (more than 10 bullets) by those not in law enforcement, are two practical ways to accomplish what most Americans believe is sensible and needed gun regulation.
While this makes sense to me and to most Americans, I know there are those on the extreme, the survivalists, who argue against any such regulations of the gun industry, fearing the government is out to “get them” and their guns. Gun manufacturers oppose such a gun and ammunition ban because selling these guns and high capacity ammo clips is highly profitable and they fear a loss of revenue. The NRA does not support such a ban because it fears losing the financial support of the gun manufacturers. Some politicians do not want to support such a ban for fear of losing the financial support of the NRA. Are any of these manufactured “fears” more worthy of consideration than the authentic concerns of those in favor of such a ban? Should the fears of the paranoid few who believe they need guns to protect themselves against a tyrannical government outweigh the concerns of the vast majority of Americans who seek sensible regulations? Should any industry or organization’s greed for bigger profits carry more weight than the concern Americans have about the safety of the product producing those profits, whether that product is oil, cars, or guns?
“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.”
The 2nd Amendment guarantees the right to bear arms and neither universal background checks nor a prohibition on purchasing assault rifles infringe upon that right. President Obama never had, nor does he now have, the intention of taking away everyone’s guns. To believe otherwise is to believe the lie perpetrated by the conspiracy theorists, the NRA, the gun manufacturers or some politicians – all who have some personal, most often financial, stake in maintaining the status quo. Imposing sensible regulations on the sale and purchase of guns is well within the purview of the federal government; it is not an overreach and it does not mean all guns will eventually be banned. Every product made and sold in America is subject to regulations pertaining to that product’s safety; guns should not be exempt from such regulations simply because of some people’s contrived fears and other people’s greed.
This cannot be said often enough – the 2nd Amendment is not being threatened. Nevertheless, the 2nd Amendment has always been open to interpretation. What exactly did the founding fathers mean by a “well regulated Militia”? Whatever they meant back in 1791, the words imply that some form of regulation was considered appropriate; regulations in and of themselves do not infringe upon the 2nd Amendment. Regulating who can purchase a gun and regulating what kind of guns are available for purchase by the public are not in violation of the intent of the 2nd Amendment and do not threaten it. Should policies restricting the purchase of some types of military style guns become law, the 2nd Amendment will still exist and all adults who are qualified will still be able to purchase a handgun for protection and a rifle for hunting. A ban on the so-called “assault weapons” will not take away this fundamental right guaranteed by the Constitution, a right most recently upheld in 2009 by the Supreme Court. It also will not prevent all gun violence. However, it can go a long way to prevent the kind of violence that devastated the children and staff of Sandy Hook Elementary School.
There are those who argue guns don’t kill people, people kill people. This argument says that guns are not to blame for the violence in society, people are. That is true – violence is not the by-product of owning guns; violence is the tragic consequence of complex psychological, mental, emotional, economic and sociological causes. The typical profile of a mass shooter is a young man who feels totally alienated from society, who feels invisible and voiceless; he did not become this way because of guns. However, the ability to obtain certain guns with high ammo clips makes it possible for him to turn his personal anguish and alienation from society into a vengeful attack on society in horrific, catastrophic ways, ways that would not be possible without those particular guns. Yes, with a handgun or a rifle he could shoot and kill a few people, but not 20 innocent children, each shot multiple times, within a matter of seconds. This kind of carnage cannot happen without these types of rapid-fire guns and high capacity ammo clips.
People behaving irresponsibly can do all kinds of damage with all types of means. Drunk drivers kill innocent people almost every day, proving that a car can be lethal; however, a car is not a lethal weapon whose only purpose is to kill; a car’s purpose is to provide transportation and that is why there is no ban on cars. A person can kill with a knife, but that is not the singular purpose for knives, and that is why we do not ban knives. The singular purpose of these rapid-fire, multiple shot rifles and guns and high capacity ammo clips is to kill as many people as possible as quickly as possible – there is no other purpose for these guns and there is no other purpose for these ammo clips – that is the only reason for their existence. They are not used for hunting, they are not used for self-defense; they are used for combat. For a soldier engaged in military combat there is good reason and a justifiable purpose to have such a powerful weapon and the ability to keep shooting and killing without stopping to reload his gun. However, what good reason or justifiable purpose would anyone not in combat ever have to own such a lethal gun and to have such a deadly ability?
According to the head of the NRA, the only way to stop a bad guy with a gun, is a good guy with a gun. That does not make sense to me – that sounds like a return to the lawless Wild West and with the availability of today’s lethal weaponry that cannot be good for society; that will not make us safer. We do not need to arm teachers to protect our children from the type of devastation a seriously deranged person can inflict with a high-powered, rapid-fire rifle with ammo clips that shoot 100 bullets. I would argue that the only sensible non-violent way to prevent such a bad guy from committing such carnage is to prevent him from having that gun in the first place.
The Vice-President will be making his recommendations on Tuesday. I hope his recommendations include mandatory universal background checks for the purchase of any gun, as well as banning the sale of high capacity ammo clips. I also hope his recommendations include some regulations restricting the sale of rapid-fire multiple shot rifles and handguns; they simply should not be easily available to the public. These three measures while not addressing – and certainly not solving – the causes of violence, would go a long way to protect society from the devastating effects of this particular kind of gun violence – the kind that kills numerous innocent children and adults, within minutes, and without pause. This is the kind of sensible gun legislation Americans deserve and I hope that this time they get it. I hope that this time common sense triumphs over fear and greed.