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.