It is hard not to be discouraged by the news.
In something like 16 hours we had two mass shootings over the weekend, one in El Paso and one in Dayton. Last I checked some 31 people lost their lives to senseless violence. I read earlier in the week that we’ve had some 250-plus mass shootings in the United States in something like 215 days. It’s madness, but on the level of madness that becomes the norm. “Oh look,” we say, “there was another mass shooting today.” What separates this weekend from any other is the fact that they were so close together, these shootings.
I’ve seen tiny profiles of the assailants. They were both relatively young, and both mentally disturbed by all accounts. One or the other, maybe both, had people in their lives unsurprised by their violence. Forgive me for not elaborating the finer details of their histories or even mentioning their names. I don’t care to. I’m not here for that. I could tell you about the lives of all these shooters and find similarities and differences – ideologically and mentally, personally and spiritually. They all have one thing in common, though, and it is indisputable.
They all used guns to kill people, and those guns were relatively easy to procure.
This is the United States. We love guns. In many ways we are a unique culture on the planet, and we need to understand that. We will always love our guns. Guns will not go away in our society, and the 2nd Amendment of the Constitution of the United States all but assures that, even if the vague rendering of the passage is often in dispute.
And that’s okay. Gun ownership, on the face of it, is okay. Just fine.
That’s not to say that the bumper sticker arguments for mass gun procurement are correct. Guns do kill people. As someone pointed out earlier in the week saying that guns don’t kill people is like saying that defibrillators (or seatbelts, come to think of it) don’t save people. They do. Defibrillators and seatbelts save lives. Guns take them. And the only thing that can stop a bad guy with a gun isn’t a good guy with a gun. Many things can stop a bad guy with a gun. All of us can stop a bad guy with a gun, and we can do it without ever owning a gun. Know how I know? Because laws limiting access to guns by those with ill intent work everywhere in the world they are tried.
Americans may be unique in the world, culturally, but we are not uniquely stupid. Stupidity (just like sagacity) occurs everywhere. The way you stop stupidity from prevailing, or mental illness from descending into violent madness, is with sensible legislation. Again, there are great examples throughout the world that we can follow.
Licensing. Registration. Universal, integrated background checks. Waiting periods. Stated reasonings. Bans on certain types of firearms. As I’ve mentioned before, Switzerland and Canada are prime examples of nations that can have both legal gun ownership and stringent laws restricting access. One study I read, years ago, said that the laws of Switzerland – whose gun ownership rates at the time were second only to the United States in developed nations – kept gun death rates at a level 4x lower than the US.
Folks, there are 40,000 gun deaths in America annually. Better laws restricting access could save some 30,000 lives every year, and still allow those who sensibly want to own guns to own them. It’s the good kind of math and we need it.
We won’t stop them all. We won’t reduce the number of incidents of violence. Those who seek to harm others will find a way. All of those arguments and reasons, stated by gun enthusiasts, are correct. Folks with intent to kill, will.
What we can do, however, is mitigate the damage of madmen. And we do that with sensible gun-restricting legislation. Americans are for it, in unusually vast numbers. The American will for this is here. Only the political will stands in the way. If the politicians beholden to the special interests won’t act, vote them out.
We’ve already lost too many, senselessly. Quit playing around. Get off the fence. Change the game. Discouragement is apathy. Get mad. Get active. We need gun reform in the United States of America and we won’t settle for anything less.