Thought Catalog
February 26, 2013

The Bitter Pill Of Gun Control

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What is the issue?
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It has literally been since 9/11 that we’ve seen a news story that has shook us, as Americans, the way the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting did. Even months later, the thought of what those teachers and students went through – not to mention the parents and loved ones who lost so much that day – moves me to tears, and I know I’m not alone here. But sometimes I do feel alone in that the emotional charge of this issue doesn’t cloud my logic, and I’m not being opportunistic about it.

To start with, I want to disarm (figuratively) those who would attempt to dismiss what I’m writing here by making claims of bias, or by labeling me, so I’m going to give a short synopsis of who I am and what I believe:

I’m a former Republican who denounced my Party membership after the Republicans pushed for and passed the Patriot Act in 2001 and pushed for a war in Iraq, who had nothing to do with 9/11.

I’m an Independent who believes parties are, in large part, the problem in this country, but who donated $500 to the Obama campaign in 2008.

I’m a pragmatic idealist in that I have ideals but I don’t believe they apply to all situations.

I support universal healthcare, gay marriage, and abortion rights.

I’m a history buff, and my favorite subject is the Founding of this great country of ours.

I do not belong to the NRA, although I used to when I was a teenager, and I have no interest in joining again. Ever.

I’m a skeptic. About everything. All the time. Critical thinking is a way of life, and that’s how I try to live mine.

In addressing this issue, and attempting in my own small way to prevent it from happening again, we’re going to start at the beginning.

1776

The founding of our Republic has been subject to so much revisionist history over the years that sometimes, as a layman, it’s hard to really know what to believe. Both the political left and the political right are guilty of it, although the political right seems to be much better at it. They’d have you believe that Thomas Jefferson was a Christian, that the “Pledge of Allegiance” is in the Constitution, and that “In God We Trust” was on the very first United States currency, when none of that is even close to historical reality. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

But both sides of the aisle try and mold the Founders to fit into their own particular worldview, and both sides attempt to deify these men along with their often out-of-context or even completely falsified quotes. It’s simply narrow-minded self-interest, and the Founders are a perfect scapegoat, as they’ve all been dead for nearly 200 years, and as such cannot defend themselves.

In context, though, the truth is that the Founders wanted the people to remain armed. Not just armed, but informed as well. An armed, informed society is the safety net, they thought, to prevent the next King George from tyrannical rule over the people of this country. Although most people in today’s society seem to believe it “couldn’t happen here”, as the saying goes, those who don’t know history [or, in this case, dismiss it] are doomed to repeat it.

Although the primary reason for maintaining the right to bear arms was as a defense against a tyrannical government, that wasn’t the only reason. The truth is that in a world full of armed people, the unarmed are at the mercy of the armed. This is a universal truth, regardless of legislation or the types of arms. The Founders knew this. Most people today know this, too, even if many refuse to admit it.

Muskets

People often make the claim that the Founders were “talking about muskets” and had “no idea what firearms would eventually be capable of.” I believe if that were the case, they’d have said “muskets” instead of “arms”. Arms are anything you can use to arm yourself. Swords, guns, rakes, shovels, baseball bats… They never messed up the wording. They were extraordinarily deliberate about the wording they chose, right down to punctuation. Perhaps modern lawmakers scoff at this idea since many of them don’t even take the time to read the laws they’re elected, and paid, to vote on.

Which leads to the other popular argument against the 2nd Amendment, which is that the Founders intended that the Militia be armed. Again, they didn’t mess up the wording.

“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.”

If the Founders meant that the militia should be armed, they’d have said “the right of the militia to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” They didn’t. They said, “the people”. The Supreme Court has repeatedly upheld this point of view, including in District of Columbia vs. Heller in 2008.

What does all of this have to do with Sandy Hook? Well, it’s the main reason why we have 88.9 guns per 100 people in our country in the first place. With 315 million people, that’s about 280 million guns…

The NRA Isn’t Helping

Special-interest groups exist solely for their special interest. This seems like an obvious statement, but it’s one that people need to think about. If the Supreme Court came out and interpreted the 2nd Amendment to say that all guns should be legal, no matter what, this would be a bad thing for the National Rifle Association, because the NRA wouldn’t be able to scare people into thinking they need to be members of their club. And without the income from members, the entire NRA bureaucracy would fold. NRA employees would be out of work. It’s the same reason both the Democrats and Republicans keep going on and on about abortion, even though nothing can be done about it thanks to Roe v. Wade; they want to scare people who agree with the party position to go out and vote for them.

Knowing this, it’s no surprise that NRA chairman Wayne LaPierre (who makes in the ballpark of a million dollars per year from his position at the NRA) held a press conference that basically added fuel to the fire. The NRA should’ve just stayed quiet, because the NRA didn’t cause the Sandy Hook shooting. By holding a press conference, though, they looked defensive, and it did the opposite of what they intended. It’s like, out of the blue, telling your spouse you’re not cheating on them.

On top of that, they attempted to shift blame to violent video games and movies. Call Of Duty: Black Ops 2 sold 11 million copies in the first week of its release. If that made people want to kill other people, in a country with 280 million firearms, we would have all been shot by now. To the contrary, a recent study by the University of Texas showed that for every 10-percent increase in violent video-game sales, crime in that area actually dropped by 1 percent. So not only was the press conference bad politics, it was full of false ideas.

Special-interest groups are nearly universally bad. There are only two reasons for lobbyists to exist: To push through bad ideas, or to counter other lobbyists who are attempting to push through bad ideas. Good ideas don’t need lobbyists.

More Laws Will Fix It!

As we dive further into this issue, trying to figure out how to prevent innocent people – and especially innocent children, as that does hit all of us harder when it’s children who are victimized – we run into the political divide. Even saying it’s a “political divide” doesn’t quite seem accurate. It sounds trivial. This is a philosophical and ideological divide.

Immediately after the shooting, many people (mainly on the political left) were immediately blaming guns. And here’s the divide, as blaming guns for the actions of a person wielding them is like blaming the car if you’re hit by a drunk driver. And interestingly enough, guns are the only thing that are treated this way in our society. We have statistics for homicides, and then statistics on “firearm homicides”. It’s the only weapon that is singled out like this, and for the record, anything purposely used to kill someone is a weapon.

Starting from a position where you believe the tool is the problem, it’s understandable that banning this tool is the first thing the left is trying to do. And it’s the worst thing to do, especially in the way they’re attempting to do it.

President Obama named our VP, Joe Biden, to chair a commission to look into the issue of gun control, which considering his history on the issue is a bit like nominating a vegan to overlook the cattle industry. Biden said, in April of 2012, on “Face the Nation” that, “The bulk of the people who are shot with a weapon – other than these drug gangs taking on one another – end up being shot with their own weapon.”This stat he’s citing, in a conversation about self-defense, includes suicides, which make up the bulk of all gun deaths in the USA. The CDC shows that, in 2009, 18,735 people committed suicide with firearms, while 11,493 people were murdered with firearms. Biden was either deliberately misleading in that interview, or he just doesn’t know any different. Either way, he’s not the person to report unbiased information on gun control back to President Obama. Perhaps a historically pro-gun liberal such as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid would’ve been a better choice for a balanced position on the issue, if indeed that’s what Obama is searching for.

And then we have the new Assault Weapons Ban that Senator Dianne Feinstein is proposing, which will ban the sale, transfer, importation and manufacturing of “military-style assault weapons” (which is more a visual definition, rather than a functional one), along with high-capacity magazines (more than 10 rounds). However, guns and magazines owned prior to the passage of this ban (which will not pass regardless, thanks to a Republican-majority House of Representatives) would remain legal to own.

In other words, we leave all of the millions of assault weapons and high-capacity magazines out there, but we have a law now that makes us feel safer. It makes us feel as if the government is attempting to curtail these mass shootings. But this law would’ve done nothing to prevent the Sandy Hook shooting, as those firearms would’ve been grandfathered in as well, and statistics have shown that the previous incarnation of an “assault weapons ban” – the 1994 Federal Assault Weapons Ban – “did not reveal any clear impact on gun violence,” according to a 2004 study by the National Research Council. That ban was extraordinarily similar to this new one.

Feinstein should be aware of these facts, yet she’s pushing for this ineffective ban anyway, which means she’s being an opportunist. She’s trying to make political hay while the sun shines, likely knowing full-well that she is doing nothing to prevent the next mass shooting.

Or maybe she’s just a hammer (legislator) and all she knows how to do is hammer things (pass laws).

On December 21st, CNN aired an interview between Anderson Cooper and Democratic congressman elect Chris Murphy, of Connecticut, during which Murphy said, “The solution is to make sure these weapons don’t exist in the first place.” Too late, Mr. Murphy. This type of magical thinking doesn’t help anyone, and it may actually make things worse. Especially when the proposed legislation does literally nothing about the guns already owned by the public.

Bitter Pill

The Democrats have to make a choice between pragmatism and idealism. They’ve done it before, but seemingly at exactly the wrong times. When pushing for healthcare reform in 2010, for example, they let the Republicans bully them with threats of filibuster, and then the Democrats were so pragmatic about passing a bill that they apparently forgot to include almost anything in the bill that would make it worth passing in the first place – namely either universal healthcare or, at minimum, the “public option”. But that didn’t stop them from touting the passage of this “reform” at every opportunity in the following elections.

Now, they have a very real choice that can either help or hurt the next children at the next school targeted by the next mentally ill gunman: Push for idealistic, meaningless laws that do nothing to address the 280,000,000 guns already on the streets; or put their ideals aside, accept that they lost the “gun control fight” decades, if not centuries, ago, and help the next intended victims by letting go of the mythical “gun free zone” mentality and helping to arm more “good guys” to stand in defense of otherwise defenseless people. Or, at minimum, let the Republicans do it, and stay out of their way.

There are no mass shootings at gun shows, and obviously if guns were the problem, this wouldn’t be true. Mass shootings happen where guns aren’t allowed nearly 100% of the time. These mass shooters don’t want a fight, they want a body count. They want victims. “Gun Free Zones” are the perfect place to make this happen, and they know it.

We can say things like, “We shouldn’t have to have armed guards for us to be safe.” And people do say these things. And yeah, that certainly would be nice. But that doesn’t make it true. The statement alone doesn’t mean that we don’t have to have armed guards for us to be safe. Wishing and hoping for an unachievable ideal helps nobody. You can’t unopen Pandora’s Box. Now that it’s open, we can pass legislation saying that it shouldn’t have been opened, or we can do something that will actually help people.

The Solution

Here’s where that pill gets really bitter for the anti-gun crowd: The most logical solution is armed staff at schools. Before you freak out at the thought, hear me out.

First off, if you want to know if teachers and staff can be trusted with firearms, think about the heroism the teachers showed at Sandy Hook. That erased any doubt I had about this idea. Those teachers would have given their lives – and, tragically, some did – to save those children. I think the overwhelming majority of teachers feel as those teachers did. However, I also think that any of the staff members who were killed would’ve preferred, at that moment, to be armed. Because when you’re staring down a deranged gunman, the only chance you have is to be armed. As always, the unarmed are at the mercy of the armed, but the armed are not. The armed have a fighting chance.

What I’m advocating here is a voluntary, legal path to arming teachers and staff. This path to legal armament should include: Extensive background checks, along the lines of what potential police officers go through, and thorough firearms training.

In addition, these staff members would have to carry concealed, and only the principal should know which staff members are armed. No students, no teachers, or anyone else should know which teachers, if any, may be armed.

Armed, uniformed security on campus is unrealistic as a means of defense for situations like Sandy Hook because, first of all, schools are underfunded already, and secondly because, in the event that something like this happens again, the uniformed security simply becomes the first victim. The gunman (or gunmen) will take out the security person first, knowing that’s what they need to do in order to victimize everyone else.

And since no one will know which teachers or staff members are armed, or how many of them there are, or even if there are any armed staff members on campus, this by itself could be enough of a deterrent that the next would-be gunman will avoid schools altogether.

But in the event of another attack, hopefully the children and staff will no longer be defenseless.

And for those who don’t trust teachers, under these criteria, to be armed, I question why you trust these people watching over and teaching your children in the first place.

Justification For Ineffective Laws

I’m confident that this is the only realistic answer to mass shootings at schools. It’s cheap, it’s easy, and it’s voluntary. It doesn’t create a whole new bureaucracy or new, unenforceable laws. It doesn’t force teachers to be police officers, as it’s entirely volunteer-based. But it protects our children. It defends the defenseless.

And if the Feinstein law, or one like it, passes, how do you justify limiting the number of rounds a would-be heroic school teacher can carry in the event of a mass shooting at their school? What’s the point in saying they only have 10 attempts at shooting the assailant if they can have 13 or 15? What is achieved with this law in reality?

In a country of 280 million guns, if guns were the problem, we’d all be dead by now. I believe most people are good. And if you believe, like me, that most people are good, then how do you justify limiting the firepower of good people, especially when you consider that criminals don’t care how many bullets they’re legally allowed to have in their stolen, black-market, unlicensed firearm?

The modern left has failed to recognize the actual source of the problem because they’re blinded by their disdain for firearms. And if you don’t recognize the source of a problem, how can you fix it?

Basic problem-solving works like this:

  1. Identify a problem: “Mass shootings are a problem.”
  2. Analyze the problem: “What has changed that has led to the emergence of this problem?”
  3. Formulate possible solutions: “How do we address what has changed to make things like they were prior to the emergence of this problem?”
  4. Evaluate these possible solutions: “How does this solution address the change that led to this problem?”
  5. Choose a solution: “Based on what I’ve learned, which solution works best?”

There have always been a lot of guns in this country. According to the same 2004 study by the National Research Council that I referenced earlier, in 1990, four years prior to the 1994 Federal Assault Weapons Ban, there were 85.3 guns per 100 people in the USA. By 1999, there were 92.5 per 100 people. Today, according to the Small Arms Survey, there are 88.9 guns per 100 people in the USA. But the mass school shootings really started with Columbine in 1999 – during the Federal Assault Weapons Ban, which lasted from 1994 until 2004. So, the answer to step #2, as outlined above, is not “There are now too many guns.” That being said, if you make a law to curtail gun ownership, you are not addressing the reason for these shootings, and logic dictates that shootings will keep happening.

The left’s “solution” on this issue simply handicaps the good guys and does nothing to even shrink the number of “assault weapons” in the country.

Guns aren’t biodegradable. They aren’t going anywhere. But there’s no reason to let our unwillingness to acknowledge this inarguable fact deter us from protecting innocent people – especially children – from those who would do them harm. TC mark