Tag Archives: gun control

Gun Laws: I’m About To Give Up

Honestly, I’m just about to give up.

Every time a tragedy occurs involving a mass shooting in America, the gun laws conversation gets started again. And every time, people start pretending that gun control equates to an all-out ban on guns, that gun control is never going to stop all murders anyway so why bother, that gun control leads to more violence/murder even though that is not even remotely true in any of the first world countries that are remotely comparable to America.

But all those comparisons really don’t matter because America is its own country and, frankly, we won’t know what stricter gun laws will actually accomplish until we try them out.

Ultimately, I know one thing: Doing absolutely nothing, which is what we’ve been doing for the past many many years, has done absolutely nothing.

Honestly, I don’t know if stricter gun laws or more accessible mental health care (which is definitely related to lowering crime in America) would have helped prevent 20 dead children in Connecticut. But our strategy of doing nothing certainly did nothing to stop it.

America has become on of the world leaders in violence. We have some of the highest rates of mass murders, school shootings and gun crimes in the world, particularly among first world countries. And yet so many seem content to just say, “Eh. Whatever. It’s fine.” And seem to enjoy calling people that think something should change, that we should do everything in our power to stop the headlines tomorrow being 20 more dead children, or people of any age, anti-American, taking away Americans’ rights to own any and every firearm in the world.

It’s frustrating. It’s so immensely frustrating because the conversation ends before it can begin. Because people that are pro-gun rights refuse to admit that maybe, just maybe, we have a problem. That maybe we shouldn’t accept that our current situation is the best situation, especially when statistics have shown that America is far and beyond the norm for gun violence and mass shootings.

Yes, there are crazy people. Evil people. No, we’ll never be able to stop them all. But if the person in Newtown had, say, a chamber with 10 or 20 less bullets in it, instead the 100 or more it had, would there maybe be one more child left alive today?

Maybe. It’s possible. But as long as we do nothing, nothing’s possible but more of the same. And I’m too sickened by that to want it to continue on. But I’m also feeling beaten down. I don’t know what we can do when Americans seem so intensely divided on this issue and politicians cower and refuse to take action. There is some hope, after this most recent incident, that President Barack Obama will step up and force a political conversation. But who knows. So I’m going to try to bow out of the conversation for a time. I know what’s right, and I know what “rights” people should have, and that certainly isn’t free and unabated access to any and every single firearm and weapon on the planet. Mutually assured destruction just doesn’t work.

But I think I’m just going to shut up for a while. Until the politicians start bringing real changes to the discussion table, there just doesn’t seem to be a point.

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When Can We Talk About Gun Control?

This year, more than any other I can recall, really feels like the year of the gun in America. So many people have died and been injured in high profile mass shootings, with things kicking up heavily in July. Tuscaloosa saw a mass shooting, and then there was about one every week for another month. Even The Onion tried to run a satirical article about how everyone was rejoicing that it had been a week since the nation’s last mass shooting, and mere hours after they posted it, there was a shooting in New York City. Their response? An update to say “Never Mind.”

Just recently, the gun issue was brought back up with a high profile murder-suicide of an NFL player’s girlfriend, committed by Kansas City Chiefs player Jovan Belcher. It picked up even more steam when NBC sports broadcaster Bob Costas read from a pro-gun control column about Belcher. And tonight, it’s likely to get another boost of conversation, thanks to¬†a shooting in an Oregon mall, with two dead.

But every time these tragedies occur, we’re told that it’s rude and inconsiderate to talk about gun control. Fox News, for example, just went nuts on Costas. Of course, it’s perfectly alright to stump for lessening gun control soon after a tragedy, like they did on Fox News after the tragedy in Norway.

After all, people that support the Second Amendment to the nearly fanatical point never want to talk about gun control. Because they’re convinced that gun control equals a ban on all guns and the destruction of the Second Amendment. They have painted the opposition as so extreme, they think they know how every conversation will go. And since they don’t want to hear it, they try to play the “cheap” card, the “tragedy” card and keep the conversation muted. A free speech issue, might I add, and people that are fond of the First Amendment are more than happy to have conversations about regulation and why it may or may not be bad, generally speaking. As President Josiah Bartlet from “The West Wing” said on Twitter today, “If we cannot talk about gun control legislation in the aftermath of a tragedy, we will never be able to talk about gun control legislation. Maybe that’s the point.”

In pretty much every single argument I’ve gotten into about why we should try to limit guns or try to regulate them more in some way or another, a few topics always seem to be brought up: Knife deaths, “You can’t stop them all” and self-defense.

See, if I mention just how many gun deaths there are in America compared to somewhere like the United Kingdom where there are far stricter gun laws, they point out how many stabbings there are. If I talk about regulating guns or bullets to attempt to limit the number of homicides, the rebuttal of “Someone willing to kill’s going to find a way. You can kill with [fill in with a far more innocuous weapon here, like piano wire].” And inevitably the idea that we need guns to defend against criminals that have guns gets mentioned.

Well, here’s just a few little nuggets to ponder, not that any proponents of gun rights will listen, because they’ve spent so long trying to get people to stop talking, why bother listening at all? First, yeah, there are a higher number of stabbings in the U.K. than in the U.S. What’s your point, exactly? I’m pretty sure that the percentage doesn’t even come close to the percentage of gun-related homicides in the U.S., so if we could see the percentage drop and become all knife-related, then fine. Second, exactly how many knife-related mass killings are there? How many people can walk into a mall or a church or a school with a knife and slay multiple people before they’re stopped? Third, there was a very recent story about a 7-year-old boy being shot by his father outside of a gun store, accidentally. Exactly how many accidental knife deaths are there every year?

Will gun control eliminate gun violence? Certainly not. Not even close. Would it maybe, just maybe see the number of deaths per year drop, even slightly? It might. So, no, we’re not able to stop it all. People will find ways to kill. But isn’t seeing one less murder enough of a reason to try?

Isn’t the possibility of at least one less gun-related murder, one less death per year enough of a reason to talk about solutions?

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More Gun Violence, No Solutions, Only Words

Three times in a month.

In case you haven’t heard, a Sikh temple in Wisconsin became a bloodied crime scene earlier today when one or more shooters opened fire on the Sikh worshipers. This is the third time in a month there has been a large, multiple victim shooting in the United States. First here in Tuscaloosa, where there were fortunately no deaths. Then in Aurora, Colo. And now this.

When Aurora happened, there was a small explosion on social networking sites like Facebook where people “discussed” gun control. Some actually discussed and had intelligent debate. Others… got angry and hateful and threw generalizations. You may have even seen that stupid Willy Wonka meme that attempted to dismiss the entire conversation by boiling down a one-sided argument into two snide sentences. I would talk about it more, but my friend Joey Gamble has far more elegant words than I already written in his blog. Plus, he hasn’t given himself a restriction on pictures, so you can see the meme I’m talking about there.

Now, when last this discussion arose, I avoided it for quite a while, out of attempted respect and a desire that, hopefully, people could calm down. When I eventually did discuss it, I asked for a discussion. I hoped that we could, on a personal, local, state, national level discuss guns. Discuss ways to prevent these massive tragedies. Try to find some way, ANY way, to help stop these things from occurring.

I, of course, have been called several things for suggesting such action. People have assumed I want to take their guns away.

Frankly, yeah. I do. I want there to be no guns left in the world. None. All of them, disappeared. That would be swell.

But, as I’ve yet to discover the genie’s lamp, that isn’t likely to occur.

Instead, I will once again make a plea.

People. People who like guns, who love guns, who hate guns, who fear guns, who have absolutely no opinion on guns, who don’t even know what guns are: We need to talk.

If you are perfectly okay with the deaths of innocents, the slaughter of people living their daily lives in an attempt at normalcy and peace, then seek help. A lot of it. If you’re not, if you have some acorn of reasonable decency somewhere in your character, then you need to help these people. Help ALL people. You need to join the drive to talk about what we can do to prevent these things from happening.

I don’t know if there is an answer. Really. A complete ban on guns is utterly unconstitutional, of course, and wouldn’t likely change much. And maybe even limiting certain guns, or banning the sale of tactical armor, or putting a cap on ammunition purposes… maybe none of those would help either.

But they’re things to talk about. And talking is the first step. If we don’t discuss ways to make things better, ways to improve life and protect it, then we simply lie down and let all the evil and bad walk over us unhindered. We accept evil. We accept turmoil.

Personally, I refuse to accept it. I recognize it exists. I recognize that there is evil in the world. I even recognize that it will always be there. But I don’t accept it. I choose to bare my teeth at it. I choose to defy it. I choose to throw anything and everything I have at it in an effort to at least slow down its slow march toward the collective soul of humanity.

At the moment, all I can throw at it are words. A mere pittance of chained-together letters. But those letters, those words… they can become powerful. Words can incite ideas, can start wars, can create peace. They can forge nations. They can end lives.

They can defy the status quo and say to the world, “We are not satisfied. We will not go gently into the night. We will not accept the steady flow of viciousness seeping into our human consciousness. We will fight.”

They can change.

It is my hope that my words, meager as they are, can create more words. More conversations. And I hope these conversations can evoke ideas. And these ideas can create policies. And these policies can perhaps create laws.

But, ultimately, I hope these words can help prevent and protect people. I have no solutions. I have only words. Perhaps we can all share our own words and at least try to make this a better place to live.

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Let’s Talk A Little About Gun Control

Okay. So, just shy of a full week after the shootings in Aurora, Colo., I’ve decided to actually say my piece about gun control, an issue that got some amount of discussion afterwards. And still is. Which I think is a good thing. Discussion is necessary.

What isn’t necessary is vitriol and attacks.

While I tried to avoid the subject of gun control, I ended up talking about it on two friends’ statuses on Facebook. In one of those conversations, I ended up extending the number of comments from around five to around 35.

So much for avoiding the subject.

As a bleeding heart, pinko commie liberal, you may have guessed that I’m a fan of gun control. What this does NOT mean is that I am a fan of banning guns everywhere. As the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution states, “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.”

Clearly, citizens are allowed to have guns… (It is in this way that I disagree with “Seinfeld” alum Jason Alexander in his own rant on gun violence and control) but here’s my reading of the amendment, as informed by historical facts.

Note that the amendment mentions a militia. At the time of this being written, America was less than a decade out of a war for independence from Britain. Britain had tried to take the guns of the American colonists away. Had such a thing occurred, the revolution would have been nigh impossible. The ability of people to quickly form a ragtag resistance, people like the Minutemen, was important during the fights.

Further, guns in those days were often ways of life. There was fear of attack, from the British or the Native Americans. There was the need to hunt for food. There were people that hunted for trade. They knew how to use guns, by and large, and needed them for daily function in many cases.

And, to be more frank, guns back then were not nearly as efficient as guns now. Have you ever shot a black powder rifle? I have. They take some time to load. Quite some time. When they fire, it can be pretty devastating, but getting more than a shot or two off in a minute is asking a lot. So I’m not entirely certain the Founding Fathers predicted the invention of automatic and semi-automatic weaponry.

But all that aside, I am not trying to start a conversation on the banishment of guns. Just the control of them. Somehow, the idea that they were one and the same kept cropping up in conversation. They aren’t.

Would I love it if guns simply didn’t exist in the world? Yes. It’s awful how we’ve streamlined the ability to maim and kill people. It’d be great if it weren’t so easy.

Which brings me to the next point… in these discussions, the argument of, “We can kill with pretty much anything” kept cropping up. This, to me, is quite similar to the argument, “Controlling guns won’t stop these things from happening,” so I’m going to tackle them both here.

Yes. Humans suck. A lot. We’re good at killing and, when we set our minds to it, we can find new and inventive ways to do any project. Cruelty and murder are definitely included in that. But the idea that it will happen anyway so why bother is ridiculous. Allow me to make an analogy.

People, inevitably, die. It will happen. One way or another, your mortality will get to you. So, since it’s going to happen anyway, why should we try to prevent it? Why bother with medicine or healthy living?

Another analogy, dealing with crime: People are going to drive at reckless speeds. Since it’s going to happen whether there are speed limits or not, should we just not have speed limits? I posit that, without speed limits, a WHOLE lot more people would be driving at reckless speeds. And that’s why the limits are there. To discourage some from being dangerous, and to make those who are being dangerous be considered lawbreakers.

Which is another thing that happened a few times… there was this attempt at a tautologous argument that criminals are the ones that commit crimes. It was weird and senseless. To that, all I have to say is, yes. They do. And there is probably a point in their lives when they aren’t criminals. So shouldn’t we be looking at people before they commit their first gun-related crime?

Again. I’m not talking gun elimination. Let’s just toss ideas around to maybe try and help prevent things like Aurora, Colo., or Tuscaloosa, Ala., or Tuscon, Ariz., from happening. Yes, the violence will happen. Yes, people that want to commit crimes will try to find a way. But instead of lying down and letting it happen, why not throw up roadblocks? Why not get suspicious when a guy buys a crapton of explosives and guns? Why not put a limit on the types of weaponry you’re allowed to have? (For example, in Texas, people are apparently legally allowed to purchase rocket launchers. In what way is that a good idea?) Why not put a limit on the number of guns you can have? Or the amount of ammunition at any given time?

Some will say these suggestions violate the Second Amendment. I point them to the First Amendment and remind them that there are laws against slander and libel despite the freedom of speech. There are common sense things, things to prevent harm, that must be addressed in our freedoms.

Some will say their weapons are a defense against tyranny. To them, I say that’s ridiculous. Unless you’re secretly hoping for a second Civil War, those guns are not going to be used to defend against tyranny. In fact, such an argument could cause more violence, as people seek to defend a perceived tyranny that doesn’t necessarily exist.

But none of what I’m saying is an absolute. It’s an argument. It’s another side to the conversation. A conversation that, frankly, needs to happen. Because if there is ANYTHING that we can do to potentially prevent such a horrible event from ever occurring again, then it’s worth it.

So let’s talk a little about gun control.

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The Risks Of Media Justice

The case of the killing of Trayvon Martin has seen its first day in court, essentially, as George Zimmerman made his first appearance today. This case will easily be one of the most followed, popular cases of the year, as the media (taking a couple of weeks to get started) took on the case in pretty much every single facet over the past month.

This is certainly not the only case that has had such explosive media interest and treatment. The Amanda Knox and Joran van der Sloot cases garnered quite a bit of public interest when they swung around, but the media hounding and partisanship didn’t seem to be as massively present in those cases as it is in the Martin case.

No, this case reminds me of two other cases that seemed to cause much more fervor and emotion: The Casey Anthony case and the Jerry Sandusky case, particularly when dealing with former Penn State football head coach Joe Paterno.

I’ve written on the Paterno case before, but I kind of want to talk about it from a different angle. Recently, the story of JoePa, the former Penn State president and others involved in the Sandusky case was written on by ESPN in a long, but extremely thorough and actually somewhat troubling, article. It’s one of the better pieces of journalism I’ve read, and well worth a read.

See, with Paterno, as with Zimmerman, the media reaction was almost instantaneous ad the fervor began. Condemnation was swift and unforgiving. Paterno was culpable, a disgusting example, a man forever to be tarnished by his inaction. People were pointing at Paterno and assigning him duties he did not necessarily have, and then hanging him for not completing those duties.

Now, Paterno admitted, as do I, that he perhaps should have done more than he did. Hindsight does give better vision. And thanks to the actions lacking in several others in the case, added to Paterno’s perceived weight at Penn State, he took the brunt of the public ire.

But as the article from ESPN shows, we are now seeing that perhaps some of that ire and disdain should have been directed at other people. We see that others were perhaps mining out personal gains from all the tragedies.

And perhaps, the media and those following it were far too quick to hang a man for moral crimes. This is one danger found in the media rush to involve itself in trials: They reach the verdict before all the information is in. This is something that clearly happened in the Martin case, as the discussions the media should have been having, discussions on “Stand Your Ground” laws, gun control, police procedure, the slow justice system, were all set aside as the media went after solving the case. Eventually, the case became politicized, as Barack Obama’s comments were jumped on by some of his political rivals as encouraging racist thoughts. Then it became a left vs. right issue, one it never should have been. Unfortunately, the media went with it, straying far and away from the topics the nation should have been hearing about.

These quick, from the gut, overly-emotional rushes tend to just lead to people getting too involved and upset, or people doing or saying things that they should know better than to say, and then later apologizing for them. Unless, of course, you’re Rush Limbaugh.

In the Casey Anthony trial, something similar happened. Nancy Grace of HLN grabbed onto this case and made it a national sensation. In her typical style, she beat it into everyone’s heads that Anthony was guilty, guilty, guilty. In a strange twist, one might be able to blame Grace for Anthony getting off, since her sensationalizing and popularizing of the case could very well be what brought the good defense lawyers on Anthony’s side.

But another problem that people might not consider caused by the media uproar and attention is the prejudgment. I’m not really talking about the quick judgment in this case, in which we condemn before we know for sure and cry out for action before justice, like with Paterno. Rather, I’m talking about people keeping up with the case deciding how the case should end up. They let the case go through the court systems, but they go in with a verdict in mind.

That’s problematic for our justice system, which will often call upon an impartial jury. Jurors that already have their minds made up are usually discarded, deemed not able to reach a verdict the way they should. If a case becomes too popularized, the details revealed too soon, the court’s options are limited in choice, making the juror pool smaller. It certainly doesn’t help in the prosecution of a criminal, and it makes jurors less likely to listen to the evidence as presented.

The media has pretty much completely messed up on how they handled the Martin case. Some in the media have behaved worse than others. Hopefully, justice can still be reached. But I’ve already seen the effects it’s had on average people. I’ve even seen people turn on Martin’s mother for suggesting this was an accident. People have already closed off their minds. (For the record, I think she’s right. It probably was an accident, to an extent. I don’t think Zimmerman hunted Martin down and murdered him maliciously. I think Zimmerman made a series of severely bad decisions that culminated in a confrontation wherein he shot Martin, possibly during a struggle, but I have doubts he did it with the full knowledge that Martin was unarmed and not a threat. But that is still a crime, even if it was completely accidental. And he should still be brought to justice for it.)

It’s unfortunate. And it’s something the media needs to fix itself on. Before any more damage is had in any other cases.

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