There was yet another school shooting yesterday, at Umpqua Community College in Oregon, where ten students have died. This is the forty fifth school shooting this year alone. When is enough enough? How many children have to be sacrificed to the gun lobby? How much blood money in the coffers of the gun manufacturers, in the salaries of their puppets in the NRA leadership, and in the pockets of the politicians they’ve bought is each child worth? Forget all this crap about “sensible” gun control. What we need are radical measures, like those in all other of the industrialized countries, whose gun deaths combined don’t equal ours.
Okay, let’s start where all unfanatical and uncorrupted people would hopefully agree. Ban semi-automatic weapons. One doesn’t need an AK-47 to shoot Bambi. People who argue against this conjure images of a slippery slope. So if we have an uninfringeable right to “bear arms,” why not let everyone have atomic missiles for recreational use? The slippery slopers, and they are awfully slippery, make the same argument against limiting the number of rounds per marketable firearm, despite the fact that the mass murderers have generally been caught while attempting to reload. So enough bullshit. And that goes for their other arguments, too.
How about we look at the Second Amendment and read what it actually says? My copy of the Constitution 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.” Come on English majors, what does that actually say? The sentence is governed by the premise of “a well regulated Militia.” This is what guarantees the right of “the people” to security. No “strict constructionist” alive can offer proof that it has anything to do with each individual citizen’s rights. Why is there a comma before “shall not be infringed” if that related directly to some universal “right?”
And if one is not a strict constructionist it’s even easier. When this was written, people had one shot muskets that had to be painstakenly reloaded with gunpowder. People needed to hunt for food. The union, on the heels of a revolution, was shaky. We actually had a popular militia. Could the authors of this amendment have had even an inkling of the completely different realities of today’s society, and don’t we in other areas, such as equal protection and the right to privacy, interpret the Constitution based on projecting its principles to today’s circumstances and knowledge?
Today few people have to hunt for food or clothing. Those who do can be otherwise supported in their need. Hunting now is done for sport or tradition. Sorry, but that’s not good enough. Personally, I think that killing animals for sport is a sickness, not unconnected to why we have so many killings of people. And past cultural customs often have to give way to the general mores and welfare of the society as a whole. But even if one can justify hunting, is that “thrill” worth parents having to bury their children? Can’t people find another way to satisfy those alleged primal urges for adventure, perhaps by using it toward some form of freeing or rescuing rather than stalking and destroying?
So if not for hunting, what about for protection? More bullshit. Guns in the home are thirty four times more likely to result in unjustifiable homicide, suicide or accident than in any protective action. Gun owners are forty three times more likely to kill a family member than a dangerous intruder. People with guns in their possession are four and a half times more likely to be killed by gunfire. Those with guns in the home are at three times greater risk of being killed. And those guns are at least twice more likely to be used by the intruder against the homeowner than vice versa. A hundred children a year die from accidental gun deaths.
One hears, in response to a massacre like yesterday’s, that if only someone there had been packing it could have been averted, that we need more guns not less to prevent tragedies. More bullets flying “old West style” would make bystanders safer? Does anybody see a problem with putting guns in the hands of school personnel, mall guards or theater ushers and hoping they stay cool under pressure, aim well, judge clearly, guard them safely, don’t ever have any mental episodes, don’t ever inaccurately interpret threat or self-defense, and haven’t evaded anything in their background checks? We don’t even have reliable background checks as it is, now we want to use our schools and public places for such a social experiment for which we can’t call on a single one of those cases where it’s been successful?
There’s only one argument that, in my opinion, has any reasonability, although it carries its own kind of dangerous irrationality. It is the fear of having an unarmed population. If we give the government the right to disarm us, we potentially enslave ourselves. Okay, but even considering the high unlikelihood that we’ll be facing outright fascism here in the foreseeable future, if there were armed insurrection we’d be massacred. And considering the political mentality and insight of the average American and how much more likely, in that eventuality, they could be driven by politicians and media to turn on scapegoats and each other than on the government and plutocrats, are we really safer with, say, a well armed North Dakota or Texas, or will we have to shoot it out with them first? Yes, police brutality is still alive, but we saw what happened when the Black Panthers asserted their right to bear arms: they’re not. And this is all gross speculation. Meanwhile, real children, seven a day in America, are dying. You know how they say that regardless of laws criminals can always get guns? Well, in the midst of an outright revolution, desperate insurgents can always get guns, too.
But let’s examine that mantra about gun control taking guns out of the hands of “the good guys” while the “bad guys” can always get them by virtue of being “bad guys.” In this context, what exactly are “good guys” and “bad guys,” other than comic book caricatures? They tell us we need to focus on “sick people,” not guns, because “guns don’t kill people, people kill people.” And of course we need to devote more money and care to people with mental illness. But those with pre-diagnosed disturbances make up only a tiny percentage of armed killers. Most gun deaths are not premeditated or motivated by some ascertainable “evil,” they occur in “the heat of passion” or rage, during some kind of unpredictable psychotic break, in some irrational perception of self-defense, unintentionally or accidentally. But even if we tightened background checks, which we of course have to do (and the NRA fights even that), even if we had the best system of mental health care in the world (instead of one of the worst), it would only begin to chip away at the epidemic we face. If guns are available, they’re more likely to be used, it’s as simple as that.
When the victim of bullying starts to seethe, when the depression of the teen starts to deepen, when the man thinks he sees his wife with another man, when the spousal abuse begins worsening, when the fight continues to escalate, when the immature fool wants to show off, what does common sense say about whether it makes a difference whether a gun is readily available or not? If they even first had to go out and get them, how many lives would be saved? How many more would be saved if they couldn’t? We see this phenomenon in research. Those with guns are more likely to taunt and bully, to engage in road rage and reckless behavior, to escalate and not back down. So how the hell do they make us safer?
We need a war on guns. Bottom line: they have no place in a civilized society. Gun violence is a national health and child welfare emergency. We talk about it for a couple of days after a tragedy like this most recent one and then let it die, just like we let the next group of kids die. A new study by the Boston Children’s Hospital confirmed that the states with the strictest gun control measures tend to have the fewest gun fatalities, as if that wouldn’t be self-evident. But then there’s that pesky problem of neighboring states. In the news just today, surveillance tapes were released capturing a gun runner bragging about how he had bought an arsenal of weapons down south, in states with weak gun laws, and then sold them on the streets of New York. We need to expose the many politicians, more than half in Congress as of the last accounting, who put their NRA contributions before common sense and common decency. We can disagree about how far to go, although how far is far enough when it comes to our most vulnerable and precious resource? But at very least, it’s time we stopped talking, and then stopped stopping talking, and began to act.