Let me get this straight. I am raising children in a country where gun violence is increasing, yet elected officials continue to not only look the other way, but believe that guns are a necessity for living the American lifestyle. This wisdom baffles me. I don’t get it. I’ve tried to understand where people are coming from, those that feel that that holding onto their weapons is not only their rights as Americans, but also necessary for their survival. I have many family members and friends that are members of the NRA or believe that owning a weapon is a right provided by the Constitution. I also have family and friends whose lives have been destroyed because of gun violence.
In 2009, the Office of Justice Programs released a bulletin that stated that 1 in 5 teenagers have witnessed a shooting and according to the Children’s Defense Fund, gun violence is the second leading cause of death among kids ages 1-19. And what happens after every violent occurrence involving guns, people like me shout out asking for a change, only to be told by some, “now isn’t the time to have this discussion.” Well, it is happening way too often. The discussion needs to happen and needs to happen now. And I’m talking about a conversation between reasonable individuals, not a debate that involves two sides yelling at each other. In July, President Obama told the BBC that opposition towards gun control was the most frustrating part of being in office for him. It’s frustrating for me as well. I’m still confounded that after the Newtown shooting in Connecticut, nothing was accomplished to make our country safer. And since then, we have had other shootings in churches, schools, movie theaters, and now live, on air, during the news. And I have no hope anymore that this is going to be solved. I fear that it will only get worse.
What can be done about this?
Now, if I get this right, some people think that the answer is more guns. Of course, this would bring more money to the million dollar money-making machine that is the NRA, because more people would become members, which would, in turn, bring more funds to the candidates they are buying. But, more guns can’t be the answer. We evolved from those days, remember? It didn’t work. The belief that all people should own guns because, if we didn’t, then only the bad guys would have them is reminiscent of the Cold War arms race and is preposterous to me. To me, adding more guns is like saying, “since we have a drug problem, let’s hand out drugs.” Recently a man boarded a train in France and began firing an AK-47. Three Americans subdued him without any weapons at all. If the NRA had their way, that train ride would have turned into an old fashioned Wild West shootout.
Another argument I hear constantly, and that I can’t stand, is since vehicle deaths are much higher than deaths related to firearms, should we ban cars? For me, this is the most absurd of all arguments against gun control. First of all, there are laws in place to limit fatalities related to vehicles. Speed limits, driver’s training, driver’s tests, registration renewal, inspections, vision and age requirements, seatbelt laws, and laws prohibiting driving under the influence all exist to minimize the likelihood of driving fatalities. So you know what, gun lobbyists are right here. Let’s have more regulations and restrictions for gun ownership. Let’s have inspections every year with a list of requirements. Sounds great. But equating guns to cars is also illogical. Guns are not necessary to get from point A to point B. You don’t need a gun to get to work, school, the hospital, or to the store.
The only argument that holds any water, in my opinion, are those offered by hunters. Hunting has been a big part of my family and my wife’s family for centuries. We do not hunt ourselves, because that isn’t our lifestyle, but I respect those that do. They are taking responsibility for obtaining the meat they eat themselves; they are not contributing to the mass production of meat and practices that are inhumane and damaging to the environment. But no-one needs semi-automatic guns or even handguns to hunt. (And bow hunters will tell you that you don’t even need a gun at all.) Plus, hunting guns are not easily hidden or used in a quick manner.
Some people argue that those who use weapons to commit violence are mentally ill and the answer is to increase services for the mentally ill, rather than restrict guns. And we absolutely should do more to help those who struggle with mental illness. But there also should be a way to keep them from purchasing weapons. And there is – stricter gun control laws with deeper background checks.
And then, of course, there is the long cherished argument that the right to bear arms is given to us by the Second Amendment to the Constitution, because a well-regulated militia is still important to the security of a free state…. Hmm, regulated. Well-regulated. Regulations, hmm. Let me see what that word, “regulated” means. According to Merriam-Webster, regulate is defined as, “To bring under the control of law or authority. To bring order, method, or uniformity. To fix or adjust the time, amount, degree, or rate of. “ It seems the founding fathers agreed in regulating the right to bear arms. And that Amendment was written during a time when a militia was needed to hold off an invading enemy. We now have the military and law enforcement to fulfill these duties. The British are not coming. And one last thing on the Constitution, it was written to be changed with the times. The Constitution is not a fixed, complete document, but an ever-evolving one. Thomas Jefferson actually said the Constitution should be re-written every 20 years to change due to the advancements of the time.
I believe that many people that own guns do so for their own sense of security. It makes them feel better knowing that they have the perceived power to stop an intruder. They point fingers at people like me and say that I live in fear. But they are the ones who are allowing fears of potential threats to create a real threat – that a child could die from playing with a gun or that a gun will be used for violence against someone else or that a gun will be used to commit a suicide.
There is no easy way to handle this discussion. But it must be done by reasonable people. Comments that I have seen lately on both sides of the gun control debate are limiting my belief that there are reasonable people left. But a discussion must take place. And the results to not have to be all or nothing. Our Founding Fathers found ways to compromise; hopefully we can do that once again.