Trigger Happy – My Views On The US Gun Control Debate

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As you may have guessed, yes, I’m taking on THAT topic. The gun control topic. I thought I would open this entry on a light, yet thought-provoking note.

The first thing I will put right up front, is I am NOT an American. I am a Canadian. If you’re in the mindset that an outsider won’t understand enough about the situation to draw any conclusions, feel free to move on now.

This debate and the “notorious”  gun violence incidents (Columbine, Virginia Tech etc) have been going on for many years. Though for me, the earliest I can personally remember it coming up, was with Columbine. I was 11 at the time, and I still remember the bits and pieces of the media coverage from the day. And oddly enough, I even remember questioning the “why”, as provided by the media at the time (later in the year, and in later years), even way back then, at that age. But not as much as when I hit high school.

But moving on, the past is littered with wasted chances for gun reform. Columbine was the first wake up call in my memory. Virginia Tech is another, the worst such incident so far in terms of the number of dead (though I hate ending sentences with “so far”, I must acknowledge reality). But the worst (in my opinion), and most recent, was Sandy Hook Elementary.

victoms

Though Sandy Hook is not #1 in terms of the number of dead (thankfully, when you consider the situation), I consider it the worst, just because of the age of the victims, and the effect it had on the world at large. 27 murdered in cold blood (including Nancy Lanza, Adam Lanza’s mother).

This had a chilling effect on not just elementary school parents everywhere, but, pretty much everyone with even a shred of conscience.

Being that I have forged friendships with many people all over North America via social media in the last few years, I got to see this play out from 2 angles. There was the Media/News/ Twitter angle. But there was also, what I call, the personal angle, which played out on Facebook. Friends, family, Pages, celebrities, pretty much folk from all walks of life, united.

And then, there was the mother. A mother of a child the same age as those killed in the massacre. Though she resides in another state, the incident struck VERY close to home for her and upset her deeply. I remember this because I was at a loss for words as per what to say to comfort her.

Which, for me, is unheard of, since I’ve always got an opinion or witty remark once I get to know a person well enough (some of the things I say, i don’t even know where they come from lol). Probably because there is really,  no right thing to say to someone in mourning.

The worst aspect of Sandy Hook for us all to grasp is its seemingly random nature.

Before, when it came to most of these mass shootings in educational institutions all over, there was SOME kind of connection to the location, even if the motive may not have been so clear cut.

http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0777958.html

And like the situation we have seen in every other case of this happening, people are picking one “scapegoat” and attributing it, AND ONLY IT, to the “Why” aspect of the incident. And of course, there is the gun control debate that has erupted (rightfully!), but at the same time, is being plagued by misinformation and unrelenting attitudes on both sides.

The NRA and many on the right, are, for the most part, taking the stance that “Guns do not kill people, People kill people”. And using diversion tactics to take the heat off of guns, such as pointing the finger at a mental health system in shambles, or violent media of all sorts. And those on the other side of the debate, are often either making a VERY unfair proposal (TOTAL gun ban) or are putting too much emphasis on guns.

I had formed opinions on this over the past few years but voiced them a lot more after the Sandy Hook tragedy.

Partially out of disgust for the way the pro-gun people were acting, even a day after the tragedy. Under a memorial photo of Viki Soto which was circulating on Facebook at the time, some pro-gun folks were pushing their arguments quite arrogantly in the comment section. This made me VERY angry, so I told them EXACTLY what I thought of them, nothing held back (my own little contribution on behalf of Viki and her family in their time of crises, as little as it is).
And I got more vocal, after realizing that there is not much further you can go, after killing 20 children. One of those situations that you realize, one does not even want to THINK of where the “what next” could lead.

For me, in the past, in terms of gun control, I admit, that most of my conclusions and opinions have been based on, these incidents. Columbine, Virginia Tech, etc. And I’m guessing that many people, on both sides of the debate and of all political stripes, are guilty of this.

The problem with forming an opinion ONLY based around those incidents, I’ve realized only recently, is that though they get large amounts of coverage and airtime (columbine and thereafter), they are still relatively rare. Compared to the everyday gun violence and death that is playing out on the streets and in the city’s all over the US, on a daily basis. But that often goes UN-noticed nationally and internationally, because I’m guessing it’s perceived as, shall we say, a “minority” problem.

Thousands of people getting shot and killed every year in poor urban areas, due mostly to gang violence. But these are not noticed, because most of the victims are poor minorities.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gun_violence_in_the_United_States

Yep, I went there.

When it comes to the whole gun control debate, this is where basing your laws and opinions on relatively rare occurrences becomes problematic.

Nothing ever gets done, because one side says, this is terrible, you guys are assholes if you STILL stick to your guns (forgive me lol), after seeing this (im guilty of this, I admit). And the other says, many things. You can’t base new laws solely on emotion (true). There is a whole host of things that contribute to the problem besides guns (also true, though an all to common diversion tactic).

Either way, both sides end up getting in a pissing match in the political houses and on social media sites, and in the end, nothing gets done. Neither side budges even an inch, and as a result, thousands (millions?) more die.

One of the arguments AGAINST gun control I hear used quite a bit is that banning guns (or certain types of guns, such as assault rifles) won’t stop gun crime completely. This is true, but a stupid argument.
It would be GREAT if any law enacted would immediately cease the activity, such as laws against speeding or fraud. But the goal is REDUCTION.

People, if they want them bad enough, will be able to obtain guns somewhere. Some of these folks will go on to use these weapons in the commission of crimes such as armed robbery or murder. Some will commit mass shootings. This can’t be helped. The goal is to make it as difficult as possible, to obtain firearms (and ammunition).

First of all, I should tackle one of the bigger misconceptions from the right, which is that gun control means no guns (“They gonna take my guns away!”). This is not true. Though I am opposed to gun ownership, I understand that they do have a purpose. For some, it’s hunting. Some, it’s protection (protecting themselves from other people with guns. Ironic, but a necessary evil).

But then comes the subcategory, assault riffles (be it burst fire or semi-automatic). Many will disagree with me on this. But I am not so lenient when it comes to these weapons of war. A perfect description of these guns because frankly, I don’t see why any civilian should NEED one, other than for a collection (in which case, it does not need to be operational). In terms of personal protection, it seems ridiculously excessive.
That is, ridiculous if your definition of personal protection/standing your ground (depending on your state) does NOT involve killing the assailant. Though there may be cases in which a person may have no choice but to use deadly force, it seems to me that the VAST majority of times, an injury will work just as well.

One thing I will note is that in Canada, deadly force can only be applied if your LIFE is in danger, NOT to protect property. Something I can agree with. Every situation is different, but if someone is in your home lightly armed, chances are you don’t need to kill them. A bullet to the arm or the leg should be enough to scare and throw most people off momentarily, hopefully causing them to drop any weapons and giving you time to take control of the situation.

In order to injure someone, you do not need an assault weapon. In fact, you do not even need an assault weapon to apply deadly force (though you may need more training as per your aiming. Though to OWN a firearm, you should have had the training, to begin with).

This means that assault weapons really have no purpose in the whole “legitimate” gun ownership area. Other than for collectors. In which case I fall back to, the disabled weapon argument (does it REALLY matter if a show gun can’t be fired? Even if it’s stolen, it’s not going to add to the problem, as it’s useless!).

As far as I can see, the only folks that are seeing the benefit of assault weapons of any kind outside of the military or collectors, are gangs and mass murderers. And if an item has seemingly no other purpose than to enrich and enable criminals, then why is still available?

But when it comes to the gun situation, assault weapons are not the only problem. Handguns are the weapons used in the vast majority of gun crimes in the US.

http://www.cnn.com/2013/01/29/us/handguns-and-federal-legislation

Which illustrates another necessity of gun control, which is the flow of weapons and ammunition. While some states do have tougher gun laws than others (Connecticut being one of them), their work is often undermined by the lax laws in others (mainly in the south). These states oftentimes require no identification or background checks and have little or no restrictions in terms of the number of weapons one can purchase. And these weapons often make their way North, to cause trouble in other jurisdictions.

This could be easily remedied at the federal level by first, limiting the number of weapons that can be purchased by a person at any one time, and possibly in a time period (such as a year). And background checks along with a mandatory “cooling off” period (to weed out the folk acting out of rash emotion). And the same rules should apply to the purchase of ammunition.

While this will not put a complete stop to the flow of guns onto the street, nor will it completely end gun violence all over America, it should at least put a dent in it.

Even though the notorious cases of gun violence that often make the news are rare, one still can not talk about this issue without covering them.

Though some of the mass shooters obtained their weapons from friends, relatives or family members (such as Adam Lanza, who used his mother’s arsenal in his rampage), others obtained some if not all there’s legally (such as Eric Harris). In fact, he mentions the Brady Bill (how it set up a roadblock) in his journal:

Fuck you Brady! all I want is a couple of guns, and thanks to your fucking bill I will probably not get any! come on, I’ll have a clean record and I only want for personal protection. Its not like I’m some person who would go on a shooting spree … fuckers.

That alone should speak volumes. As in this case, even though the regulations did not STOP him and Dylan from getting the guns, it made it more slightly more difficult. Which is the best goal you can hope for when it comes to situations like Columbine (they are only as dangerous as their arsenal).

When it comes to these explosive incidents, there almost always seems to be more going on, then initially meets the eye. I first realized it back in high school, largely by comparing my situation with that of Eric and Dylan. Years later, I now know that the information I was using at the time (the information from the media), was not entirely correct. Firstly, that Marilyn Manson, the artist that took the most shit because of the incident, was not even acknowledged by the boys (the journals are full of Rammstein and KMFDM references, but no Manson).

Something else I learned?

That the part of bullying is not so well understood as I (we?) had previously thought it was. While the general consensus NOW  seems to be that it was not as big a factor as previously thought, it’s hard to know for sure. Partly I’m guessing because it would be hard for people that were in the situation (perpetrators or not) to admit what was happening in the time previous, knowing what the end result was. And partly, because though most of the theory’s now available to do make a lot of sense, they are still,  missing something.

http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/assessment/2004/04/the_depressive_and_the_psychopath.html

The conclusion here makes much sense for Eric. But at the same time, I can’t help thinking, one does not develop a hatred for people (hence the opening journal line), overnight. I have personally never heard of someone who was BORN with a hatred of people. I have, however, seen time and time again, people develop such a hatred due to the environment that they are in. What about the environment that would act as the trigger(s), eventually leading up to the REACTION that was the massacre, This is a question on my mind.

One theory is even that the Luvox (fluvoxamine) that Eric was taking could have had a part in his thought process leading up to the massacre. A side effect vaguely noted in the Wikipedia article.
This possibility would fit right into the previous conclusions, possibly even eliminating the question above (depending on how much the drug-impaired his judgement).
But there is really no way to ever know what was REALLY going through the minds of Eric and Dylan, nor any other mass shooters. But that does not mean that there are no actions that can be taken, in the name of prevention.

Above, I went a bit in-depth into Columbine, because it is the incident I am most familiar with, AND it was the one that I had discovered so much misinformation floating around about it. I encourage all to look around for yourself, come to your own conclusions, do not blindly accept my writings at face value.

One of the big things I believe that the public has to quit doing in terms of these explosive incidents is looking at only what is on the surface and forming a conclusion with that alone. For example, pegging the blame ONLY on lax gun control, violent movies/video games, certain artists, mental health issues. When what you have to do is, do a little digging.
Something I find quite hard to believe is that violent video games/movies/songs can ALONE, without any other environmental stimulation, cause someone to go berserk.

The way it seems that most people see these events, is as actions. For me, it seems to be a REACTION to a more complex situation.

The question then comes to, what lead up to the explosive “Reaction”?

This, in my opinion, can be applied to most of these incidents, but you just need to get your hands a little dirty by doing a little digging. For example, could the motive have been some form of abuse (including bullying)? Or was it due to a mental disorder of some sort?

I believe the only way to even have a chance at preventing many of these things from happening again, is understanding these past cases. Looking at them from many angles, and not just from one.

HOWEVER, even if we get better at spotting the signs of people that are potentially capable of committing similar crimes, there will be those that will slip through the cracks. Like every law on the books in the nation, the goal is reduction, not 100% satisfaction.

Which is where gun control comes in. For those that do slip through the cracks, make it as difficult as possible to get the weapons. Sure, this won’t do any good if the weapons are readily available to the person in their home (or elsewhere they have access to).
But a small percentage (of a very small percentage of total shootings in the US) is not a reason to throw the baby out with the bathwater.

There is A LOT of guns floating around the US and there is not a whole lot that can be done about those, even if we restrict the number of new ones added to the problem. Criminals with them currently, will continue to use them. “Legitimate” weapons will be stolen from homes and people that do not properly store them.

Throwing restrictions up will not prevent the above from happening. That excuse for inaction is just stupid, so, throw it away NOW. Think of it this way. If a city has a major problem with heroin, which is causing all kinds of deaths, permanent injury’s and other destruction, is the answer to the problem to keep flooding the city with more heroin?

I understand that guns have legitimate purposes. Some people hunt with them, some like to go to the gun range, some feel the need to have one for protection, and some just like to collect them. And though gun control may add a few new hoops to jump through in order to obtain weapons for even the above purposes, you must think, is it really all THAT bad?

Do you REALLY need to have your new gun, RIGHT after you purchase it? (same for ammunition)

Do you REALLY need to be able to buy guns in bulk amounts?

If you like to collect weapons mostly just for show, why do they have to be operational? A disabled gun looks exactly the same as an operational one.
The difference? A stolen disabled gun can not be used to harm anyone. It’s useless in the hands of criminals of ANY kind, mass murderers or common criminals.

And, the biggest one, why do you REALLY need an assault rifle of any kind? What civilian situation could ever POSSIBLY call for such a weapon, that any other less powerful gun could not also be sufficient?

In terms of gun control, there are no easy answers. Neither side (well, the most vocal of each side anyway), will get exactly what they want out of the deal. There will have to be compromised.

And if despite being faced with mounting evidence, one side continues to refuse to budge, a decision has to be made. Does the right to INSTANT, unrestricted access to weapons (and assault weapons), trump the right of the majority to live a reasonably safe life?

Gun control alone will not stop all the gun violence that is happening, be it on the streets or in the schools. But that is not a valid reason to entirely dismiss it.

Mental-illness-gun-control

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