Friday, June 13, 2014

Gun Rights and Wrongs

As I write this (and the statistics definitely change from day to day) there have been 74 school shootings in the last 18 months.  74 school shootings since the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School where 20 children and 6 adults were killed by a madman with guns.

I remember the outrage that accompanied that shooting.  That was it.  We had finally had enough.  We were finally going to stop the crazy laws allowing “freedom” to let just about anyone own just about any gun.  We had reached the apex of our frustration.  Too many people.  Far too innocent.  Far too young.  We were going to do something about it. 

Oh, there has been gun legislation passed.  In just one year after the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary 1,500 gun bills had been introduced.  Just over 100 of those bills became law.  And two thirds relaxed restrictions on gun ownership rather than restricting them. Seventy of those laws amplified gun rights and 39 increased gun control. 

Have you seen the open carry rallies down in Texas?  Guys going into fast food restaurants carrying M16s and AR15s.  Crowds of people in malls openly carrying rifles, shotguns and huge handguns.  The NRA in a moment of lucidity released a statement that this behavior was “downright weird”. 

“Using guns merely to draw attention to yourself in public not only defies common sense, it shows a lack of consideration and manners. That’s not the Texas way. And that’s certainly not the NRA way,” said the post, titled “Good citizens and good neighbors: The gun owners’ role.”

Then the Open Carry Texas folks fired back (pun intentional) that the NRA was attacking it for fighting to preserve the rights of gun owners.  Their stated goal is simply to educate the public about the right to carry firearms and to show that responsible gun owners are not a threat.

A few days later the NRA backed down and retracted their statements disagreeing with open-carry-everywhere policy, going back to their idea that the more people who carry guns, the safer we are. 

So is that it?  Have we just thrown up our arms and given up on rationality?  Think of the kids at Sandy Hook.  I don’t think many people truly believe that if there are more armed citizens, if there are more guns with unlimited amounts of ammunition available to almost anyone, that if there are fewer regulations on who gets to own guns, that we will be safer.  I don’t think even the NRA believes that.  But they are dug in.  And they are powerful.  And they are sticking to their guns.

Bill O’Reilly said the other day that, “No matter what society does, there will always be mass murder.  Always.”  And while I don’t disagree with that sentiment, I think our efforts to minimize mass killings should increase not decrease simply because we are getting used to it.  Think of the kids at Sandy Hook.  Even if we had absolutely no guns, there would still be nutcases who could manage to kill with swords or arrows or spears. 

But with the strongest lobby in America being the NRA, and with politicians sucking up to them, proving their manliness (or whatever) by shooting the biggest guns they can find on camera, to ensure that certain percentage of votes – it looks as if we as a culture are just giving up on rationality.  We have simply accepted that guns will be everywhere and that…  mass shootings are just a part of our culture. 

It’s like Jon Stewart said, “You see people?  Acceptance!  It’s like America has a dog that’s always sh!%$ing in the house and we’ve solved the problem by getting a brown rug.”  But I don’t think we should give up on rational gun laws. 

On average, 86 Americans die each day from gun violence.  That is one American killed every 17 minutes.  Don’t think for a moment that it is because we don’t have enough guns in the hands of citizens.  Every one of those people killed has families, connections, stories of a life.  Some are rich, most are poor, some are old, most are young, some are veterans, some are cops, some are business people, many are children.  Consider this list just from California, just from one week recently.

A shooting at a barbershop left one dead and three injured
         Sunday night.
Derrick Whitfield, 23, was shot to death at the Potrero Hill housing complex on May 21.
Gail Temple, 75, died from a gunshot wound on May 16.
April Jace, 40, was shot to death on May 20, reportedly by her husband, actor Michael Jace.
A 26-year old mom was killed by stray bullet in Compton on Tuesday.
Anthony Johnson, 28, was shot to death on Monday.
A man shot in Oakland on Monday became the city's 31st homicide of the year.
Leonicio Banuelos was shot to death on Saturday.
Janet Jimenez, 17, "was riding in a car late Friday with friends when someone fired into the vehicle, striking her in the upper torso and killing her."
A Stockton, California, shooting and fire left one dead on Sunday.
A 69-year-old was shot dead by an armed robber on May 16 while hiking with his 76-year-old companion.
There was a triple shooting in San Bernardino on May 16 that resulted in the deaths of 21-year-old David Lawler, his 20-year-old half brother Terry Freeman and cousin Kavin Johnson.
Alex Gines, 23 was shot to death on May 17.
A woman shot to death in Hyde Park in Los Angeles on Monday.

Bill O'Reilly says, "There is nothing on earth we can do to stop those people [from killing with firearms].  Nothing that is except to give up our freedom...  Random violence will always be with us.  Always.  Evil human beings armed with freedom make that terrible scenario inevitable."  

No, the shooters are not armed with freedom.  The killers took freedom from others while they were armed with guns.  You know what?  The NRA needs to man up.  Because it takes a real man (and woman) to trust people, to go out and face the world without an AK47 strapped to your back or a Glock concealed under your jacket.  Bravery isn't shown in what kind of weapon you carry - it is demonstrated in how you carry yourself without one.  


Nic E said...

I think so. I also think that the mental health system needs a massive shake up. Calling these people 'mad' or 'nut cases' is not helpful to anybody, but only closes down any useful compassionate space where we could look at what is going so desperately wrong with people who feel the need to do this. Having a mental illness myself, I have had a variety of things thrown at me, including 'nut case'. It puts a massive gap between me and those people, and there is no room for understanding. Nor do I feel inclined to talk about how I feel with people like that, not surprisingly. So if this is done on a colossal scale, I am not sure how we will ever come to understand those who go to these extremes. And if we are not interested in understanding them, I can't help but think we are missing out a huge chunk of the problem.

Tim O'Keefe said...

Thank you Nic. Well stated. Looking at the reasons behind gun violence and mental illness is crucial to perhaps preventing some of this needless slaughter. Mental health is another area in which our country is flawed.

Nic E said...

And ours, Tim. It's diabolical!

Tim O'Keefe said...

On the other hand, Nic, I hear your gun "freedoms" allow for more people to live.