The Gun Issue IS Political. Talk About It!

I am so tired of talking about guns, but more than that, I am tired of no one else talking about them enough. Too often, the discussion ends before it even really starts because people from all sides of the gun debate refuse to actually discuss it in an open, honest way.  These admonitions on the part of Republicans to stop making this a political issue is the height of silliness. It IS a political issue. Kids and other innocents getting killed while sitting in church and asking God for grace and forgiveness is political. Only the government can solve this problem.

Take yesterday’s shooting in Texas. For more than 48 hours now, I have been treated to a number of asinine arguments as to why there is nothing we could have done with this guy, or to prevent the deaths. And I’m sorry, but that is complete bullshit.

Here is a simple, undeniable fact; compared to every other industrialized country on the planet, the odds that we will be killed by a gun are simply off the charts. No one else in any other country is even close to us. And I’m sorry, Ted Cruz, but the fact that one terrorist ran over people on a Manhattan street doesn’t absolve the Republican Party from responsibiity for the gun carnage that happens daily everywhere in this country. We exoerience more than 30,000 gun deaths every single year, and our next-door neighbor to our north, Canada, sees around 200 per year. That should set off alarm bells, but all it seems to earn from Republicans is a shrug. We should be embarrassed, and yet, we’re not. If history holds, we wil do nothing.

I this the America we really want? Do we want to live in a nation where 30,000 people get killed with guns and we tell ourselves there is nothing we can do? Want to make America great again? Then help me do something about this. I mean, When Australia saw a small surge in gun deaths a few years back – one that was about one-half of one percent of our problem – they saw a problem and instituted a buyback of and banned certain types of weapons that were being used to cause the upsurge. Since then, their gun death rate has dropped significantly. And no, it is not true that violent crime skyrocketed; that’s one of those myths the gunloons like to propagate, along with their claim that the only solution to bad guys with guns is good guys with even more guns, which is equally asinine. That’s like saying the way to make traffic move more smoothly is to put more cars on the road. More guns means more gun deaths. It’s not a difficult equation. It’s also not a difficult equation to figure out that, if we do little to nothing about access to guns, then bad guys can access lethal weapons far too easily and cause even more carnage.

Here’s the thing; I get why some people need a gun. I get why a woman who has to walk home in the dark might want to carry one to keep from being jumped and/or raped. I get why a farmer needs one to stop predators from hurting his or her livelihood. I also get hunting, as long as it’s within legal parameters. I get all that. What I do not get is why anyone would need to keep a military-style M-16 clone in their home. And I certainly don’t get why anyone would need a dozen or two of them. And I sure as hell don’t understand why anyone should be allowed to keep hundreds or thousands of rounds of ammunition in their homes or their garages or their apartments without every relevant police agency being aware of it and keeping an eagle eye on them.

We need new, common sense gun laws on our books. And we have to do so nationally. Having a hodgepodge of laws based on a state’s average view of guns is in no way helpful. Right wingers like to bring up cities like Chicago and New York when they try to “prove” that strict gun laws don’t work, but most of the guns used in. Chicago come from Indiana and points south, and when New York had a gun murder problem, it was proven then that most of the guns used came from a pipeline thatran from Georgia and South Carolina, which have extremely lax gun laws. In other words, if we are going to allow people to travel from state to state unencumbered, we have to stop pretending that the effects of state laws end at the state’s border. The reason virtually every financial transaction is interstate commerce and every business is essentially an interstate business is because, when you open a store in Kansas, someone from California can walk into your store and buy something.

That’s a tiresome argument, but so is the whole “it’s about mental illness” argument. Yes, we need better mental health treatment in this country and one thing many of the mass shooters have in common is likely mental illness. However, that’s not the problem here. The overwhelming majority of people with mental illness will never even want to shoot someone, let alone 26 people sitting in church, or 600 attending a concert. Most of them probably don’t want to  own a gun, for the same reason the rest of us don’t want to own a gun. However, even for the few who do want to own a gun, that’s not the problem. The problem is, in most of this country, everyone who gets momentarily pissed off and feels “wronged” can go check the classifieds or go to a flea market and buy any gun they want and as much ammunition as they want and “ease their pain.” That is the problem. They can go online and buy an assault-style rifle and a couple of 30-round clips and a few thousand rounds and have at it. And since no one is obligated to let law enforcement know, police are too often at a disadvantage from the very start.

The asshole who shot up the Texas church Sunday, whether he was mentally ill or not, was court-matialed from the Air Force for beating his wife. He received a Bad Conduct Discharge and spent a year in military prison. While he lost all of his Veterans benefits, he did not lose his right to buy a gun. In other words, the reason “bad guys” are so easily capable of buying guns is because there is, quite literally nothing to stop them, especially in a state like Texas, where owning and carrying a gun is practically an obligation.

The movie theater shooter in Aurora, Colorado a few years back was able to stockpile about two dozen guns and thousands of rounds of ammunition that he bought online without so much as a background check. He was able to collect them all in a small apartment without anyone notifying Aurora police or the Colorado state police of this. As a result, many Ives lives were ruined and families lost loved ones. It didn’t necessarily have to happen. Yes, that jackass was obviously mentally ill, but if he was only able to get a shotgun and maybe 20-30 rounds, many fewer people may have been killed or maimed that night.

Likewise, the Las Vegas shooter was able to stockpile dozens of guns and thousands of rounds, as well as a lot of cool accessories that made his guns automatic and capable of shooting 600 people in a matter of a few minutes. If he could manage to get access to get a shotgun and maybe 50-60 rounds of ammunition, a lot more families may not be in mourning right now and for the rest of their lives.

Consider the Sandy Hook shooter.  It’s convenient and it’s easy to consider that it was his mental illness that caused him to shoot those precious little children and their teachers, but if you’ll recall, he was barely inside the school building. If he wasn’t able to get a gun capable of shooting dozens of rounds per minute through solid walks, it wouldn’t have mattered whether he was “mentally ill.” We don’t screen for that, and we don’t enforce personal responsibility on anyone who does damage to others with their gun.

When Rep. Gabby Giffords and others were shot by an obviously mentally ill man sevaral years ago, this guy was considered to sick to attend a nearby community college, but he was able to walk into a gun shop and walk out with a gun. That is the problem. It’s not that he was mentally ill, it’s that we have almost no restrictions in most states for owning a gun. Every gun should be registered and every gun owner or user should be licensed. Also, everyone with a gun should be required to insure it, in order to ensure that all gun owners are responsible.

The current gun laws are inadequate. Period. And I am going to continue talking about this. This is a POLITICAL issue. We all have to work toward a solution and the first step is to stop electing Republicans.

Also published on Medium.

About Milt Shook

A writer with more than 45 years in the political game (and let's face it, it is a game). I am a liberal because facts have a liberal bias, and I really like facts. If you like facts, you'll like this blog. If not, you'll have a hard time.


The Gun Issue IS Political. Talk About It! — 4 Comments

  1. There’s also a difference between “clearly mentally ill” and “diagnosed with mental illness”. I think it’s a bit of a red herring to even lump mental illness in with gun crime, because (as you said) most of us mentally ill people wouldn’t harm anyone, with the major exception being ourselves. What I’m saying is that the link between registered mental illness and the kind we blame for gun crimes is really, really slim- and while I would love to see improved mental health coverage, I’d rather see it for the right reasons. Anyway, other than that I agree- we need to do something and to do that we need to talk about it- and listen to each other. There’s a lot of room for common ground here if we can get the NRA knee-jerk bullshit out of the way.

  2. As usual, you’re off base when it comes to guns even though you’re usually on point everywhere else. It’s not the guns. We aren’t the only country with widespread gun ownership, but we are the only country with a mass shooting problem and with ridiculous homicide and violent crime rates.

    No laws on earth could have stopped Mandalay Bay. No laws on earth would’ve stopped Sutherland, Texas. Why? In the first case, the guy had fuck you money, $25,000 for a rifle wouldn’t have been jack shit to him. In the second case, the guy purchased a gun legally because some lazy fuckwit bureaucrats couldn’t be bothered to file paperwork correctly.

    There have been dozens of studies of the 1994 Assault Weapons Ban and they are unanimous in the conclusion that the AWB didn’t do jack shit. So why the hell do you think a ban would work, even when we have numerous data points that strongly indicate that bans don’t work? Is this where you sidestep to “Australia bought guns back and had fewer mass shootings!” while ignoring both the obscene cost involved (it would cost the country over $6bn to buy back the same 20% of guns Australia bought back at the same $100 per gun, which fucking no one will go for), and ignoring that Australia – despite having rather lax laws and widespread ownership before the laws – had basically no mass shootings before the laws?

    I know it’s really fucking hard for a lot of liberals to admit this, but the guns aren’t the problem. You want to see homicide rates drop? End the war on drugs so that gangs lose a lot of their power, and improve accessibility for mental healthcare services so that people are less likely to kill themselves with their guns. Improve education and increase accessibility to higher education or job training. Raise wages in line with inflation rates and find ways of increasing economic mobility.

    These are the REAL reasons that drive the vast majority of gun crime, or violent crime in general. This is also easily seen in other countries with very strict gun laws – people don’t stop killing each other or robbing each other just because they don’t have guns, and there’s precious little data to support an assertion that access to guns causes more crimes to be committed.

    The guns aren’t the problem, man. If you want to be taken seriously, you need to cut the crap.

    • No. I’m pretty sure you’re the one who’s way off base here. This whole idea that we can’t do anything about any shooting misses the fact that every other industrialized country in the world HAS fixed the problem. Specifically, the idea that the Law Vegas shooter couldn’t be stopped AT ALL is frightening in its ignorance. About 600 people were shot. Making bump stocks unavailable would have cut that in half. That is 300 lives saved. If he didn’t have access to clips of more than 10 rounds, he would actually have had to stop regularly and he would have had to aim, which might have bought some time for more people to run away. If he hadn’t been able to modify the AR-15 to make it more useful for him, he might have only gotten off a few dozen shots. Assuming that half of them missed from that range, he might have only shot 10 people. Still a tragedy. but not nearly the massacre that occurred. Moreover, if all guns were registered, all shooters licensed and all guns insured, he might only have been able to get a standard shotgun, he might have only killed 3-5 people.

      You said:

      “No laws on earth could have stopped Mandalay Bay. No laws on earth would’ve stopped Sutherland, Texas. Why? In the first case, the guy had fuck you money, $25,000 for a rifle wouldn’t have been jack shit to him. In the second case, the guy purchased a gun legally because some lazy fuckwit bureaucrats couldn’t be bothered to file paperwork correctly.”

      To claim that you know all of this because of what happened means you once again don’t get the gist of the article. Not surprising, since your reading skills seem lacking. You might have a point if we had a shit-ton of laws on the books and he had managed to get around them all. However, we have almost no laws on the books to prevent this kind of thing.

      BTW, genius, during the 10 years of the assault weapons ban, the number of gun homicides dropped and the number of mass shootings also went down. Since the Republicans let the ban expire, both have been rising again. And like I said, no other country has our gun death problem, so to claim that we can’t solve a problem that we’re not even trying to solve is the height of stupidity.