"Don't politicize tragedy", they say.
DON'T POLITICIZE TRAGEDY? The stream of expletives coming from my brain isn't making it to the page, but the right-wing rhetoric of "ignore shooting deaths until the issue dies down" prompts a visceral response in me that makes it hard to type. The time to talk about gun violence isn't after we're done worrying about it. So please don't be a jackwad and say something so lame as "don't politicize tragedy." Also on the list are "guns don't kill people" and "should we ban cars too?" These comments are based on logical fallacies - in fact, they are classical examples of logical fallacies - and do nothing to further your argument. They just make you look like a stupid gun-toting idiot, and you're not helping your case.
Let's talk about some reality for a moment.
The 2nd Amendment isn't going anywhere.
Conservatives, you too. The rash of gun violence this year means we need to take a serious look at how guns get into the wrong people's hands. Quit whining about politicization and Obama's hatred of your guns. That's just NRA talking point bullcrap. Dial down the paranoia.
The reality: Guns are part of the American psyche. This what happens when your country is born of rebellion, taking up arms against your oppressors. This is what happens when American liberty is purchased by our founding fathers with the blood of men who literally reached into their closets to pull out their musket and ran outside to go fight for independence.
When you are a young country that was born in this way, owning guns isn't just a "good idea". Guns are our history. We believe guns are our right. They are our privilege.
It's not that simple, however. We have to understand the self-contradictory nature the right to bear arms represents in this country: We have the right to have guns, but we do NOT have the right to use them against the government -or other people, except under certain strict conditions - though it IS okay if we use them against a home invader(sometimes) or an invading government.
Our right to bear arms is based on the concept of a "well regulated militia", whatever the heck that means. You have the right to bear arms, but those arms are limited - you can't buy a rocket-powered grenade launcher, for instance. Ultimately, we must recognize this as a kind of false freedom. But it's so deeply ingrained in the American psyche that it is unshakeable, part of who we are. We are totally free. Well, under certain conditions.
The right to own guns is a powerful ideology. It gives us the feeling of freedom. Power. Control. But today, as in dozens of cases over the last decade, it's clear that this power comes at a great price. Unfortunately, like most things in America that require real thought and effort, right now we're running through the fast food lane of gun control, sloppily taking our fill of 79 cent cheeseburgers and semiautomatic handguns with large capacity clips - and it's ruining our nation's health. We must exercise our rights properly, carefully, lest our lack of vigilance turn our country into one where every moron has a gun and every smart person does NOT. I was with my wife at a hobby store today, and there was a guy with an "NRA" t-shirt, a camouflage hunting cap, and a poorly concealed sidearm walking down the aisle. A hobby store. An NRA t-shirt. Facepalm. This image, in my opinion, doesn't really represent what "the right to bear arms" means for this country. Given the events today, given his rights, I don't blame the guy for carrying, but sheesh dude. Remember: you think you're protecting us from nutjobs, but everyone around you is worrying that you're the nutjob.
Is that the country we envision? That's worth thinking about, isn't it?
10 Paces: Notes for both sides:
Liberals, take note:
1) Major gun violence in this country is sometimes foiled by gun owners, with or without their weapons.
2) The 2nd amendment is not likely to be repealed. It's been around awhile, and a lot of folks in the US really like it. And they have guns. It ain't going anywhere.
Conservatives, take note:
1) Gun violence is often perpetrated by individuals who purchase their guns legally.
2) The number of accidents involving guns mean that, at the very least, many gun owners are poorly trained in handling a weapon. At most, they suck at life and decide to solve it with gun violence. That's a recipe for disaster in a country that sells weapons over-the-counter.
Okay, full disclosure here. I'm for gun control. That puts me squarely in the liberal camp from the get-go. However, unlike most liberals(or what guns rights advocates THINK of as most liberals, important point there), I am basically for gun ownership. I grew up in Alaska, where owning a gun is like owning a car. 90% of the population of Alaska are gun owners. People don't walk around whispering because their neighbor has a gun. They ask "what caliber", and "do you pack your own ammo?" I also served in the National Guard - which is, perhaps, the militia referred to in the 2nd Amendment. I qualified with the M-16 and carried a 9 mm. Guns don't frighten me as much as they do many liberals, so I tend to be much more moderate.
However, when killing sprees make news every other week - or twice a week, like this week - it's important that we re-assess our implementation of the 2nd Amendment. Whether or not you believe in the 2nd Amendment, we might have more consensus on the idea that we should at least address our handling of the 2nd Amendment. Frankly, guns are important enough that we should reassess our handling of them continuously. If you hear that 18 children are murdered and still believe our current gun control laws are adequate, then you need to rethink your priorities.
There's a reason this stuff happens less in countries with more gun control laws.
This is a powerful argument.
American has done a poor job of "owning" the 2nd amendment. The federal government leaves it to the states. The states have done poorly with it too, owing in part to the rhetoric by lobbying groups from the NRA. No pun intended, but it's an explosive issue. To be fair, the 2nd amendment is also intentionally vague, so there's not a lot to work with:
"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."
It's time someone - some state, specifically - took ownership of the 2nd Amendment and made it WORK, getting guns into the hands of abiding citizens who want them and are responsible owners, and keeping guns out of the hands of citizens who shouldn't have them.
(These are not "answers." They are, however, steps in the right direction.)
- Encourage handgun and rifle training from and through our reserve military and police forces. This was suggested to me by a police officer friend of mine, and it's a spectacular idea. Civilian training would reduce accidents, increase gun knowledge, increase responsibility for every round that leaves a chamber, and even lead to more gun ownership. It's a powerful idea that could help America reshape itself as a country whose armed citizens are properly trained.
- Require gun owners to have a safe. This is common sense crap, but you'd be surprised. I know someone who literally had their handgun ON THEIR NIGHTSTAND. But who am I to judge? Okay, I'm judging. None of their kids shot each other - that's the good news. But why your gun isn't secured somewhere I HAVE NO IDEA YOU JERKFACE. Secure your weapon or you're just a dipwad.
- Require mental health screenings to own a weapon. Sorry gun folks, it's time. If you are afraid of this, I am afraid of you. I'm not talking about a 4-hour personality profile, but if a guy sits down and starts barking, he should not get a weapon, not matter how badly the gun show vendor needs the sale.
- Limit assault weapon purchases. This is where I lose the gun control lobby and the conspiracy theorists for good. Look, you can't buy a rocket-powered grenade launcher(RPG). We regulate that crap. Similarly, assault weapons like AK-47s and AR-15's serve no purpose. There is no hunting or home defense issue that requires an individual to own a weapon of that power.
These measures aren't about hassling law-abiding citizens. They are about providing training and awareness to prevent the stupid accidents and horrifying bloodbaths we're seeing today. Restricting access to unnecessary firepower is a step. Keeping guns out of the hands of crazy people is a step. Training everyone in the proper use of firearms is a step.
The power of these ideas is that they MAKE SENSE and would go a long way to easing the fears and fixing the challenges of gun ownership in this country. The weakness of these ideas is that they make sense. When it comes to guns, there are few who stay rational on the issue.
Guns rights advocates are fond of painting every gun control advocate as an evil "other", but I suspect there are a great many more moderate views like mine out there.
The 2nd Amendment isn't going away. Let's make it something uniquely American and throw our full efforts behind what guns really mean to this country.
And if we can't do that, for goodness' sake - let's keep it in the conversation. Damn the "politicization" argument. When something is broken in America - and today, guns have broken homes, hearts, and lives - we'd damned well better be talking about it.