INTRODUCTION & DISCLOSURES
In the wake of Parkland and the amazing, inspiring March for Our Lives and #nomore movement, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking and talking on the subject of gun control.
Before I get into my personal feelings, let’s just take a moment to acknowledge that this is an incredibly complicated situation. We have federal laws, we have state laws, and we have local ordinance. While I’m well versed in some parts of current US gun laws, I know I don’t know everything.
So this is a discussion. Not a mud-slinging “fuck you and your mother,” but an honest to god discussion.
As an Uber driver in the KC Metro area–the city being decidedly blue, but the surrounding area/state(s) very red–there are a lot of different people who get in my vehicle and start conversations with me. I’ve had MAGA-apparel wearing, NRA-supporting far-right conservatives. Anarchists, socialists, moderates, Republicans, Democrats, and ‘non-political’ folks have all occupied my vehicle at one point or another. The topic of gun control has risen a number of times, and we’ve always managed to keep it civil and bring up salient points.
In full disclosure, I’m very far left. More Socialist than Capitalist. More moderate than anarchistic. I know that I can be biased and that because many of my friends lean the same way that I do, I live in a sort of echo-chamber of beliefs. That’s why this has to be a discussion.
In the tune of a book I’m reading, We Need to Talk: How to Have Conversations That Matter—we can respect the person even if we do not respect the belief. When all the chips are down, we are each and every one of us just trying to do what we believe is the right thing for ourselves and for our loved ones. Our shared humanity should never be overlooked.
Below is the ‘article’ in question, with sources listed at the end.
Again, feel free to fact check me, discuss, and debate in the comments. I only ask that we keep this civil. I will remove any comments that I deem inflammatory or to deviate from the topic at hand.
Side note: I will refer to the United States and its populace as both US, United States, and America/Americans. I know we’re not the only Americans, it’s just the vernacular I’m used to working with. Apologies to all the other Americas. We know you’re there, too, sorry for bogarting the name.
SOMETHING HAS TO GIVE
Our system is broken.
When a 13-year-old actor can buy a gun from a gun show but cannot buy a lotto ticket, cigarettes, or alcohol, we should know that something is desperately wrong.
This is a private sale, and there have been moves recently to crack down on gun show regulations. From what is seen in the video, the boy was able to buy the firearm but not ammunition. That said, if there was ammunition at home, or someone selling privately through a website like Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace, he may be able to get away with buying the ammo as well.
The United States is bristling with firearms. An estimated 37% of people in the US own or have someone in their household who own a firearm (1), and somewhere between 270-310 million guns are in private hands. The exact number is unknown, as there is no national registry or way to track down firearms that have been passed down through the generations, including collector firearms from various wars that may or may not be usable.
Still, there are 327.5 million people who live in the United States. Which means that, on the upper end of the estimation, there is almost one firearm per person.
Gun manufacturing and sales continue to rise, and again this only accounts for new firearms and firearm sales. What goes on at shows, between private collectors, through antique dealers, etc., do not make it into most of the statistics.
Now, while mass shootings are sensationalized and easy to point to, there’s constant gun violence that occurs in the US. Guns are used more than half the time in suicides (5). They are a part of gang violence, police violence, domestic violence, hate crimes, and robberies. There are accidental deaths from children who stumble upon and ‘play’ with their parents’ weapons. Hunting accidents, cleaning accidents, and stray bullets from (idiots) celebrating holidays are some of the smaller but still pervasive issues.
Now is about the time that I’m hit with the Second Amendment argument.
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. (3)
There are a few things I’ll point out in that simple sentence.
One – well regulated militia. Most of the time the people who argue in favor of the second amendment are not part of a militia, well-regulated or no. They are private gun owners who keep their guns for personal protection, hunting, or… just because? Honestly, I’ve had a lot of trouble understanding the compulsion to buy copious amounts of firearms (a small segment of gun-owning Americans, but still).
Two – the security of a free state. At the time of the constitution, most of the people who lived in the United States contributed their citizenship more to their state than to their country. The country was so new, and the states so different and rather quarrelsome, that defending the state was considered along the same lines as what we now, in the 21st century, consider as defending one’s country. There were fears that one state would try to swallow up another. To prevent this possibility, those responsible for drafting and finalizing the constitution wanted the supreme law of the land to make clear that each state would be capable of securing itself.
Three – we have amended the constitution constantly and consistently since its inception. The muskets and canons of the 18th century, destructive as they were, are nothing in comparison to what modern Americans can get their hands on today. It is always difficult to try and peer into the future to imagine what technologies and advancements will be possible. Those men had no idea what kind of ordinance we’d be able to get our hands on today. They only had their own lives, experience, and current technologies to refer to.
Our society has changed so much in only the past decade, not to mention the last two hundred and twenty-nine years since the constitution took effect. We don’t ride around in horse and carriage anymore. We don’t use candlelight at night. We live in buildings that pierce the clouds and communicate with people on the other side of the world instantly. Our weapons are capable of incredible destruction. This was a future they could not have foreseen, but it is our now. We cannot keep clinging to a dead past if we are to successfully navigate our future.
Another argument that is often used as pro-gun is that we would be a disarmed populace. People have argued that if the population of Germany was armed, it would not have let Nazi’s take over and Jew’s to be led to the Holocaust. They say that if we are to surrender our arms, the government and the police could strip away our essential liberties without any resistance.
And I will nod to that argument… a little. We have an incredibly violent police force. When I did research for this post, I checked into how other countries handled their gun laws. In Norway, they do a lot of work to foster community trust in the police. (4) “…[A]n analysis in 2015 found that the number of fatal shootings by police in Norway in the past nine years was less than the number of fatal shootings by US police officers in one day.”
Norway is a much smaller country, 5.23 million vs. our 327.5 million, but that statistic is still absolutely staggering.
It is incredibly difficult, however, to pursue common sense gun laws if we cannot trust our own police force. Not only is there the tension between African-American communities and law enforcement–the largest and most endemic problem that we have right now–but barely a day goes by without a report of some kind of police misconduct, theft, aggression, or violence.
Yet, to circle back to the “disarmed populace = government tyranny” argument, we also have to remember something: the US Military is the most over-funded and WMD-bristling military in the world. A drone could knock out a protest in a second. They already have that capability. And what I’m going to propose does not include the loss of all weapons.
Gun violence has never been a purely American issue. Other countries have had and dealt with this problem. I’m not saying it’s easy–I’m not so naive to think that–but I’ve got a few ideas on how we could curb overall gun violence based on their successes.
One – a no-questions-asked nationwide gun buyback program. Handguns are the most common weapon used in gun-related deaths, probably because of ease of use and concealment. How many of these have been illegally obtained? How many could have been used in a previous crime? There are a lot of reasons why someone may be keeping a weapon they do not want because they are afraid to sell it or discard it. There may be a large number of people who no longer want these weapons for a myriad of reasons and a gun buyback program could help dispose of firearms in a safe way while providing financial compensation. There are ethical concerns involving this, but this is one of those circumstances where I’ll firmly place myself in the sacrifice the one to save the thousand camp.
Two – forbid the NRA or other pro-gun groups from lobbying or contributing to governmental campaigns. Lobbyists, in general, are one of the groups that I detest most in our governmental process, regardless of what side they land on. And the ability for a group or corporation to contribute exorbitant funds to a candidate (or to their opposition) is shady business altogether. Putting power in the hands of corporations and the rich is a whole other subject that I could get into… overall, this is a change I would love to see implemented. The amount spent is staggering, as is the jump in spending when another mass shooting takes place.
Three – extensive background checks, a cooldown period, cartridge exchange, gun safety classes, and separation of guns & ammo. That’s a lot all at once, I know, but these are some of the simplest and most common-sense approaches we could implement. Background checks should take time, time that we can use as a cool-down period just in case someone is buying a gun because they are planning to do something stupid in the heat of the moment. Giving it a few weeks between purchase and pick-up would go a long way. Additionally, we could follow Japan’s example (6) and not sell fresh cartridges until the spent cartridges you last bought are exchanged. In the same thread, an extensive gun safety course, which needs to be re-taken every 3-5 years, and the mandatory separation of guns from their ammunition would reduce accidental death by a large amount.
Four – no more military-style assault rifles. I’m on the fence when it comes to hunting rifles v. handguns, but assault rifles HAVE TO GO. They’re excessive and entirely unnecessary. The only pro I’ve seen is that they’re “fun to shoot,” and that may be so, but your fun is not worth the massive destruction those particular weapons are capable of.
Five – extensive training, recruitment, higher pay, and more funding allocated for community outreach programs within our police force. There’s a problem with US police forces, and it has to be tackled sooner rather than later. We need to have better training for our officers, better screening, higher pay and better benefits offered to entice new and better recruits, and we need to fund community engagement. Police should not be the boogeyman or the abusive parent. They need to be allies. We have to fund them properly and train them extensively. Not just in cities but in rural areas and mid-size towns as well. If we can create a system of trust between the average citizen and an armed police officer, we will see a decrease in domestic violence, gangs, robberies, and other violent incidences.
Six – a thorough revisit of existing gun laws, and further national gun laws. We have a patchwork of laws currently depending on your location in the United States and what particular city you’re buying your gun in (7). Laws are contradictory and non-standard. We need to make a coordinated effort to simplify gun laws and enact further nation-wide regulations that will make the entire situation less confusing and more in line with common sense gun ownership.
I don’t want to take away all guns. I think hunting and providing fresh game for your family is pretty awesome. It’s something I’ve been thinking about getting into recently (with a bow and arrow, because if I’m going to do something I like to make it as hard as possible), and we’ve been doing it as long as we’ve been humans in one form or another. And if target practice is a skill that you want to hone, who am I to say that you can’t do it? Competition and personal betterment is never something that we should do away with.
Personal protection is a more shaky topic for me, primarily because I’d like to see number five happen sooner rather than later. If we could reduce response time and increase trust and community engagement with law enforcement, the need for personal protection would organically be reduced even and especially in rough neighborhoods. But on this topic, I will mention that I believe a shotgun to be a far more effective deterrent than a handgun. Not only does it make a frighteningly distinctive sound when primed (which in and of itself would frighten off most home intruders), but if used with the correct shells it will not penetrate walls in case of use in an apartment, townhome, or condo.
Again, this is an incredibly complicated, divisive topic, but I think we all want the same thing here. We all want to be safe.
But we have to make some changes. They may seem drastic, they may take a while to implement, they may fail or have problems, but we have to try. We regulate the manufacturing of building material, the acquisition of a drivers license, and the purchase of cold medicine more than most gun purchases.
Something has to give.
Please feel free to contribute to the discussion below in the comments section. I’ve provided my sources and some additional reading. I have made every attempt to find as many impartial statistics and articles as possible. Please make an effort to do the same.
And as a final reminder to anyone who wishes to contribute to the discussion, respect the person even if you do not respect the belief.