On Bearing Arms

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.

Right?

39 thoughts on “On Bearing Arms

    1. Thank you, Rita. I’m in the same boat, many gun owners in my family (I own one, too). Many friends in my circle are also gun owners (and collectors) and some of them have concealed carry permits. I am absolutely not against gun ownership, but I am 100% against universal easy access to the same.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. That’s exactly my sentiment, Tom. If you have no ill-intent and nothing to hide then what’s the issue with securing the process? Being able to buy a weapon of mass destruction online (yeah, that’s secure) is simply fu@$ing stupid. We’re better than this. We have to be.

        Liked by 2 people

      2. We are. Like I’ve said, a large majority of Americans are in favor of stricter regulations, the only thing stopping us now are the elected officials beholden to special interests. We are better than this, our leaders are not.

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  1. Very well put. I agree. We can still own guns and reduce the number of gun related deaths with strict laws to regulate gun ownership. The average person does not need assault weapons! Any weapon that can kill hundreds of people in a matter of seconds needs to be banned! Doing nothing isn’t working! We need to stand up and do something!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thank you, Deb. A wide majority of Americans, even gun owners and NRA members, are for universal background checks, so that ought to be easy to push through, right? The only thing stopping it is money in politics. Beyond that, a majority of Americans (and nearly half of all Republicans) are for even stricter measures overall. Assault weapon bans, on the other hand, are not favored by a majority of Americans (at least not as of October ’18). That might be a harder push. On the other hand, as we begin to see the success of some of the other measures, tougher and necessary measures will become either less necessary or easier to get through. But let’s start with the universal checks. Congress?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. You’d think people would be more apt to let go of the assault weapons! Go figure. And yes, starting with universal background checks is a start and it’s better than not doing anything because that sure as hell isn’t working!

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, my brother, I really appreciate that. There are as many different opinions as people and at least two very visible “sides” to the argument in America. My intent is to understand both sides and come up with important compromises wherever possible. I really hope the powers-that-be find it within themselves to find those same compromises. In fact, I fear the future of our democracy may depend on it.

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  2. Excellent post. You see, this is why I’ve abdicated my former position of social commentary to you. Discouragement IS apathy, and despite my ever-deepening reservoir thereof, I still think that when I occasionally emerge from my Fifteen obsession and weigh in on these matters, it does more harm than good nowadays. Everything you just wrote is absolutely true, yet as I arrived at the conclusion calling for political action or voting out those who won’t, all I could think was “Mitch McConnell”. His constituents WILL vote him in again and he will NEVER even allow sensible legislation to come up for a vote. But just because I’ve thrown in the metaphorical towel doesn’t mean everyone else should. And frankly, thank goodness people like you still have the wherewithal to care.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Thank you, Paul. Mitch McConnell, maybe even more than Donald Trump, is the face of partisan extremism in this country, the former honestly entirely enabling the latter. He may indeed continue to win terms – of which there should be limits – so the important task facing the opposition to his style of demonstrative and uncooperative power is to ensure a turn of the Senate. He can be back in (though I hope he’s not) but in the minority leadership. I think if and when that happens, he’ll have to face the music of some of his ill-advised actions.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Cuz every modern country not named the United States on the planet Earth has instituted sensible gun reform laws. That’s what American exceptionalism really means. It means we’re slow. 😉

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  3. Very well said, and, frankly, I’m tired of the argument that just because we can’t stop all gun deaths we shouldn’t try anything. To rephrase your seatbelt analogy, or, rather, to offer a completely different analogy involving cars, just because we can’t stop all drivers who run red lights and hit pedestrians doesn’t mean we should get rid of red lights.
    And since you mentioned mental illness I’d like to emphatically point out that the majority of people with mental illnesses are more of a danger to themselves than they are to anyone else. On that point, though, people who have suicidal thoughts often report that those thoughts are fleeting; on average they last seconds. Some people, unfortunately, are going to harm themselves. That doesn’t mean we should make it easier for them to do it.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Very good information, Chris! Most of the gun deaths in the United States do not come from mass shootings, though those incidents bring our gun problem to the forefront because of the random and unnecessary tragedies involved. Most gun deaths come about through suicide. In fact, half of the over 45,000 suicides in the US come from a firearm. Fascinatingly, only about 10% of suicide attempts utilize a handgun but they still result in half of the actual deaths from the attempt. So, by the math, stricter gun laws may not reduce suicide attempts in the United States, but they can reduce the effectiveness of such attempts quite a bit, and still save countless lives. It’s worth doing, without a doubt.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Frankly, I’m glad the mentally sick or furiously aggrieved are too stupid to figure out better ways of killing lots of people. Ask anyone who follows Middle-Eastern news if there are more efficient means for wreaking death and havoc.
    Which points out that when rational firearm ownership restrictions are enacted, fewer deaths will occur. In the United States, the only option to such malignant perpetrators who would want to do harm is: grab a gun. Such individuals come unprepared for being creative in their means. Let’s hope it stays that way.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I read a study once on why we don’t see other such (particular vehicular) attacks in the United States. The bottom line was that it’s just easier to grab the gun than perpetrate any of the other attacks (such as car bombs or ramming, etc). Consequently, I thought, we might see more of the other types of attacks in America once we tighten up gun laws. On the other hand, we might also see a reduction in mass killings altogether when the act of perpetrating it isn’t as simple as easily procuring a weapon designed to do it. Either way, we’ll never see attempts to kill completely extinguished so we’d be silly to think all-or-nothing, and we’ll never know who is going to “find another way” until we make it harder for the perpetrators to easily do it now. As Christopher said, we don’t eliminate red lights just because some people will run them. We don’t let everyone out of jail just because some people not in jail will commit crimes, anyway. And we shouldn’t let easy access to weapons designed for mass killing out on the streets just because someone might use a truck instead. We stop what we can, and work on the next thing next.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. • Let me clarify, I don’t condone the idea of avoiding rational gun legislation because they’ll just use something else. I merely point out that, fortunately, alternative, advanced terrorist mechanisms require intelligence, absent in your garden variety gun wielding maniac.
        • I wonder why when government enacted the “no fully-automatic weapons” law, they didn’t expand that to include “no military-grade weapons” in general. They were obviously in-the-mood when they voted in that useful—but ineffective—law.
        • And here’s an additional, encouraging thought: given the millions of military, high-capacity weapons already in the public’s hands, one might assume that were such weapons to be used in domestic attacks, a high percentage of those attacks would have already occurred—but haven’t. Therefore, blocking *new* sales or acquisitions of such weapons would indeed reduce the number of attacks.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. That’s what I understood you to mean. 🙂

        That final point is a particularly salient one. Hopefully this Congress has the guts and wherewithal to get this done. If not, hopefully this Congress’ days are numbered. We need a political body willing to look to the future, and the future of American democracy has better gun control (and universal health care).

        Good talk and ideas, Anony!

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  5. The only thing I would disagree with about this is the impression that the common thread in mass shootings is mental illness. That isn’t true. I read something recently that only 3% of the people who committed these heinous acts were mentally ill. Hate, in my opinion, is the common thread here. Hate regarding people of different color. Hate about an employer or woman who did someone wrong (in there opinion). Hate about one’s status in the world and feeling impotent about being able to do anything about it. And we all know there has been a lot more hate spewed since 2016

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s a fascinating distinction, Steve. I tend to think that the rationale required to go from wanting to harm others into the realm of actual hurting others is pure insanity, so madness must be at the core. Smarter people than me, if your study is correct, say otherwise. But regardless, hate is indeed the overwhelming cause of mass shootings, and we’ll never solve hate. Better we limit the access of those who hate from the guns they use to commit these atrocities. I suppose the counter to that from the gun crowd would be that America just has more hate than other countries do?

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Regarding hate: A good article on the Atlantic:
      https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2019/08/conversation-christian-picciolini/595543/
      The man has a number of insightful things to say. Groups vs individuals is telling. Two notions stuck with me: radicalization during a person’s formative years. If a person can avoid being turned into a racist during their 14-24 years of age, the probability of turning into a radical is lessened.
      The second thought-thread was, once radicalized (to me meaning anyone branded with severe biases of any kind) one would need some smarts to at least entertain alternate modes of thinking. Radical and stupid is for life, it would appear.

      Liked by 2 people

  6. Great article and I love your passion for the issue. I hope that others can rally behind you and support you because it is passion which will lead to change. I am an Australian and have written an article on my blog about the recent mass shootings, I would be very interested to hear your thoughts on my article.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Mr Levine, for reading and sharing your thoughts. I have been away from the blogosphere for a couple of weeks, so sorry for the late response. I jumped over and checked out your site and read the piece you mentioned and enjoyed it. I have some thoughts. I’ll be following.

      Liked by 1 person

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