My gun control position in a fairly large nutshell:
The US has a ridiculously high homicide rate when compared with the rest of the developed world because of our obsession with guns (see chart to the left). This obsession means we have more guns than we have people in this country.
Guns are a controllable factor and yet we do virtually nothing to control them to the degree where it makes a significant difference in homicide rates.
It’s as bizarre as it is appalling. It’s as if we’ve discovered a virus that kills and have a vaccine to stop it, but choose not to administer it. I’m not saying all guns should be banned; I’m saying that they should be tightly, dare I say “well” regulated, as per the text in the Second Amendment.
All that said, yes, gun homicides have declined and as I’ve said elsewhere, will likely continue to decline for reasons unrelated to regulation.
And if the question is, “Is the likelihood of dying from a gun greater than many other devices/vehicles/objects/persons?”
My chances of dying by gun are very small but that doesn’t stop me from wanting Congress to act to help others avoid tragedy.
We’ve made cars safer. We’ve made car seats safer. We guard against vaccine-preventable diseases. We’ve made workplaces safer. We’ve made food safer. Wherever we can find a controllable factor, we’ve endeavored to control it, with this one obvious and embarrassing exception.
A week ago, some deranged lunatic in Colorado decided to take an arsenal in to a crowded theater and shoot a bunch of innocent people who were doing nothing other than trying to enjoy an evening at the movies. It was a horrible tragedy and now that the collective national shock has subsided, as sure as the sun rises, the tried and true “gun control” debate has begun popping back up. And as with any gun control debate in the United States, the Second Amendment gets bandied about by gun fanatics and gun control proponents alike.
By way of reference, here’s the Second Amendment to the US Constitution as a brief refresher to us all:
“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.”
Fast forward from 1791 to today, 2012 and let’s take a scan around the world to see how well the intention of the Second Amendment would fit in to a city needing to protect itself.
The Syrian city of Aleppo is under attack by the Syrian government; specifically, the Assad regime. The city [read its people] has been bombarded by artillery, tanks and helicopter gunships. While the rebels in Aleppo seem to have held strong, the Assad regime’s bloodthirsty and indiscriminate shelling of cities and neighborhoods over the past several months have proven that the regime has no regard for civilian lives and safety. So the only real recourse for the people of Aleppo has been to flee, en masse.
Here’s where we start to draw some distinctions. The Assad regime possesses a mere fraction of the sophisticated military firepower of the United States. Given that, what if the men, women, and children of Aleppo had a well regulated militia courtesy of their own Second Amendment? How well regulated and armed would this militia need to be if it were to withstand the government’s constant and ruthless bombardment?
In the United States, it’s ridiculously easy to go out and buy a handgun or maybe even a semi-automatic assault weapon, but how does a civilian populace needing to protect itself from a modern military force, go about buying a Bell AH-1 Cobra helicopter or an F/A-22 Raptor fighter jet or even a run of the mill FIM-92 Stinger surface to air missile? Of course it’s meant to be a ludicrous question, but it is also meant to illustrate the painfully obvious point that the tools of warfare have far outpaced the ability of a well regulated militia of minutemen to guarantee the security of a free State.
As a student of history, I totally understand where the founders were given the age in which they lived, but in the modern age, the best defense against tyranny is no longer a “well regulated militia” armed with even the scariest looking AR-15s, but a well-educated populace (both men and women) armed with a vote.
By now we know that in the early morning hours of June 12th, 2016, a crazed, Islamist extremist took a small arsenal of legally obtained weapons in to a nightclub frequented by the LGBTQ community in Orlando, and then proceeded to murder 49 people and wound 53 more.
Now that the initial shock and horror of that atrocity has started to subside, with the smoke barely settled, people are starting to retreat in to their sadly predictable factions.
Liberals are blaming gun culture in the United States. A culture that makes possible with obscene ease, the purchase of weapons of mass destruction (unless of course we decide that killing 49 people does not qualify as “mass” destruction). A gun culture that is a fact of American life. A gun culture which makes massacres like Orlando (and Charleston, and San Bernardino, and Sandy Hook, and Virginia Tech, and Aurora, and Columbine, etc.) so “easy” to pull off. The liberals don’t mention Islamist extremism.
Conservatives are blaming Islam. In fact, the presumptive presidential nominee for the Republican Party, Donald Trump, is once again calling on the United States to ban all Muslims from entering the country (never mind that the killer in Orlando was born in New York). The conservatives don’t mention guns.
The reality of course is that this most recent and most deadly atrocity was about homophobic bigotry, fueled by Islamist extremism, and made possible by guns.
There are clearly multiple variables at play. By focusing only on the variable that validates our political narrative, not only are we are dishonoring the lives stolen by this kind of hatred and violence, but we are leaving the door wide open for the next attack. We are being pitifully myopic. If we only attack guns, extremists will use bombs or knives or whatever tools they can find to main and kill others. In the case of Islamist extremism, if we vilify all Muslims, the extremists among them will simply use anti-Muslim bigotry and xenophobia as tools for recruitment and convenient excuses for more extremism. We clearly have to talk seriously about both the obscenely easy access we have to the tools of murder as well as the perversion of certain religious ideologies that inspire murderous behaviors.
Here is what must happen:
We have to better control the proliferation of weapons designed to kill. As a simple start, people who are deemed too dangerous to board a plane, should also be deemed too dangerous to purchase a gun.
We have to eradicate Islamist extremism. Preferably by convincing adherents that their extremist interpretation of Islam is morally bankrupt to the degree that they begin to once again place value on human well-being; but by force if they insist on violence against others.
Both of these actions are going to take time, so what can we do now? We can ensure that all people are treated with the same dignity and respect expected within a free and open society, particularly people such as those in the LGBTQ community, who are consistently targeted for derision by those who think their holy texts, irrespective of the religion, compel them to denigrate LGBTQ people as unworthy, sinful and broken. For example, Christian politicians in the United States don’t get to “pray for Orlando” in one breath, and in the next, make the lives of LGBTQ people who aren’t being laid to rest, miserable by restricting their restrooms or the marriages or their adoptions or whatever else they can find that helps them discriminate in the name of “Biblical” or “family” values.
Fundamentally, we have to champion and promote the “liberal” in the classical sense and secular values that make pluralistic societies work. These are the values that erode the walls between factions. We have to promote across the globe, freedom of speech, freedom of press, freedom of conscious, freedom of ideas, freedom from tyranny, and the rule of law.
If history is any guide, understanding that our problems are more complicated than any one faction would have you believe will take time. So in the meantime, consider a contribution of financial support to the victims now.