Let’s talk. No, I mean really talk. We have a problem with guns and I think it’s time we got things out in the open and took some sensible measures to address it.
I’ll start. I’ll lay out some ideas for discussion and then give details why I think that way so that you understand where I am coming from.
Then it’s your turn. I hope you will participate because…well…I love you and I want us all to get back to being normal again. Can we give that a try?
Here are my thoughts on a 7 step program to recovery.
- Look at the patchwork of laws that exist across the country, rationalize those down to a smaller set of sensible, workable, laws. Then enforce those laws completely.
- We need to study the causes of the gun violence and use that information based on actual science to inform the work of #1
- We need to take a good, hard, look at what is covered under the second amendment. Anything not covered – see #1
- We need to make access to medical care a right for all citizens. I think this also needs to be part of #1
- We need to get guns out of schools.
- We need to start talking to each other instead of shouting from the sidelines.
- We need to say a big “Thank You!” to the kids from Parkland who have shown amazing strength both following the events and the personal attacks hurled at them afterward. They are kids – Stop it!
OK…take a breath. I’m sure you have a lot of questions and I will try to answer them here. Then, if you need more, well see #6. I’m happy to discuss, but I will not respond to being yelled at, called names, etc.
Let’s go one by one.
#1 – Rationalize laws
I’m not a gun expert, nor a lawyer. But one thing I am certain about is that adding more laws on top of existing laws isn’t likely to solve the issue.
Most laws on the books are already:
- Confusing and contradictory
- Inconsistently enforced
I understand why the pro-gun people say that after a mass shooting is a bad time to talk about it because when people are hurting is a terrible time to write new laws.
But it is the perfect time to talk about it and get the ball rolling on some meaningful change. But, that change has to start with understanding the problem first and that takes time.
Which leads me nicely on to…
#2 Study the causes of gun violence in America
We need to take a good hard look at the root causes of gun violence and then see what we can do about it. This needs to be actual science. You know, the proper peer-reviewed type of work that we used to do before people started believing their Twitter feed and stopped thinking for themselves.
We can’t expect to fix a problem if we don’t know what is the underlying issue.
Once we have those facts we can start to take a good hard look at ourselves and start making meaningful changes.
#3 Look at what is covered under the second amendment
I’m OK with people owning guns. Really. But I do think that we need to take a look at some of the types of guns and their capabilities.
If the second amendment really was to enable the people to resist the government then we should be loading up with tanks and rocket launchers, because your rifle isn’t going to do much against a fully armed Apache helicopter.
I don’t think personal tank ownership is a good idea though because, well, where would we put them all? And who would move them when street cleaning rules are in effect?
Based on the above I personally don’t believe that “weapons of war” should be covered, and that extends to assault rifle type guns. I see very few situations where people need to have a high powered, semi-automatic rifle with a 30 round magazine. So, let’s go through a few use cases
- Home defense
A good friend of mine is very pro-gun, ex-military and highly trained. His view is that the best gun for home defense is a pump action shotgun. His reasoning was simple.
- They look evil
- The sound of one of those being cocked is enough to send most sensible people running for the hills
- People that are under stress and scared are terrible shots. A shotgun doesn’t need to be aimed accurately – just point and shoot and you’re going to get them with some of it
- If you need a 30 round magazine for hunting then perhaps you might be better spending time to develop your skills.
- Target shooting
- My experience of these things is that they are generally more about accuracy, and that takes time. So is it really a big inconvenience to have to reload slowly? It might actually help.
- They look bad-ass and are fun
- Yes, they do. And I bet they are a ton of fun to fire. Maybe there’s a place where you can go to rent them, fire off some rounds, and then leave them locked up in that place?
- But, we have to recognize that these things are open to abuse. The safety of kids in schools and people in theaters trumps your fun I’m afraid.
- Zombie hoards
- If you really are worried about that then perhaps you have a reason to own an assault rifle. Or perhaps that leads on to…
#4 Making access to quality medical care a right for all citizens.
If owning a gun is a right then surely this is just as much of a right. In part, because it might provide some much-needed help to those people suffering from mental illness that might otherwise do harm with guns, either to themselves or other people.
If you think that medical care should only be available to the rich then you and I have nothing more to discuss.
And don’t kid yourself that “those people” have adequate medical coverage already through social programs. If they did, people wouldn’t spend vast amounts of their income on medical care, and it would not be the #1 source of bankruptcies in America today.
#5 Get guns out of schools
We often hear that “the thing that will stop a bad person with a gun, is a good person with a gun”. Frankly, as we have seen in Parkland, that isn’t the case. And arming the teachers is a terrible idea for the following reasons:
- We can’t seem to adequately provide school supplies and training for the job teachers already do. How are we supposed to fund the training and equipment for this?
- School security is not the job they had in mind when they choose that career path.
- What do you think is going to happen if a SWAT team shows up to an active shooter situation and sees a bunch of people running around with guns in their hands? It’s just going to add to the confusion.
Put yourself in their shoes. If your company came to you and said “Hey Mr. Lawyer/Dr./Chef. I know you’re pretty busy anyway but would you mind adding building security to your list of tasks? It won’t take much, but if there’s an active shooter situation – would you mind grabbing your gun and shooting it out with them? Thanks awfully.”
I know some of with visions of grandeur might think that’s pretty cool. But I also bet that at least 50% of those would wet their pants in a real situation.
Bringing more guns into schools is (IMHO) going to increase the number of killings in school, not decrease it. Sure, it might stop a mass shooting but I worry we will instead replace that with a steady stream of 1 or 2 deaths across the country that adds up to more deaths overall.
#6 We need to start talking to each other instead of shouting from the sidelines
The Internet is a wonderful, and scary, thing. It tends to amplify whatever we are doing so if we are shouting at each other, it just leads to more shouting.
It also creates filter bubbles that reinforce existing views to the point where people think anyone with a different point of view is just an idiot – and that is on both sides.
So, let’s debate things openly. Preferably in person! Yes, I know that is scary for the keyboard warriors but I think if we all sat down with a nice cup of joe I bet we would find that we are closer than we think.
We all love our children. We all want a peaceful and safe world to live in. Let’s start there and then we can debate the best way to achieve that.
Speaking of children…
#7 We need to say a big “Thank You!” to the kids from Parkland.
The kids in Parkland have been through a horror that none of us should ever have to experience. They have taken that and, in just a few days, turned it into a movement that has moved the needle further than ever before. They are to be applauded, supported and thanked. Frankly, they have shown us what is possible. Whether you like it or not, they have taken a stand for what they believe in and that, my friends, is the most American thing you can do.
And, for those who have drunk the cool aid that they are “crisis actors”. Please go and do some actual fact-checking from a reputable source before you share that post in your news feed.
Well, that was a lot. Thanks for sticking with me.
Yes, I’m willing to concede I might not have it all right. But I’m open to debating it and even learning a thing or two. So feel free to leave a comment.
Want to meet for a coffee to discuss it? I’m OK with that too – let’s figure out where and when. I’m willing to learn and open my mind to new ideas…are you?
8 responses to “America. Can we talk about the gun thing?”
As a teacher, I agree wholeheartedly that we need to do something to change the epidemic we find ourselves in. Giving teachers guns is going to make the problem worse and you’re right: guns are not what I signed on for. I’m not a security guard and asking me to add that to my already full plate is about as unfair as it can get. When you look at teaching as a whole, it is a peaceful profession. Teachers are loud and opinionated and we are activists, but at the end of the day we are peace keepers. We teach tolerance, cooperation, cohabitation and coping mechanisms.
Giving us the responsibility of guns is also giving us the responsibility of teaching gun safety, the liability of accidental gun fire in schools, and trusting that no child will ever be able to get ahold of that gun and no teacher will ever snap and use that gun. The likelihood that neither of those scenarios will happen is slim. Guns are not the answer to gun violence and that some people believe it is is astounding to me.
I’m proud of those kids from Parkland, because they have decided that we need to stand up and take action and they refuse to take no for an answer. We need more people like them. We need to have less excuses and more solutions. I agree that it’s not just an issue of gun laws, we need more access to mental healthcare. As teachers we need resources to help our students who are struggling. We need more psychological support for our students. A gun will not help me; a qualified, full time psychological support staff and access to mental health resources will help me. Smaller class sizes, community support, monetary support, and parental support will help me. A gun will make coming to work harder and more stressful. This is not what teaching is about and this is not, nor should it ever be, a part of my job description.
Thank you for the response.
I think you touched on something I only glossed over, but access to mental health care and support of people that are struggling is, I suspect, a key part of avoiding a reoccurrence.
The kids from Parkland give me hope for the future.
I think that mental healthcare is a major part of dealing with this issue and the younger the child is, the better they will be as an adult. Kids spend most of their time at school and that is where they need to be supported the most. At this time, it is hard to get a child into a councilors office, even at school, if they do not have the right insurance. I honestly believe we, as a society, need to make mental health services more accessible, a major priority and less taboo. We need to talk about the importance of mental health. We need to teach our children that it is okay to talk about it and seek help. That seeking help is a sign of strength. Our leaders need to realize that too. We’ve spent so much time since the Parkland Shooting arguing over gun laws, that we’ve pushed mental health to the side once again. Unless of course someone who loves guns is defending their right to bare arms. Once gun laws come into play then it is solely the fault of the mental health industry. Either way you look at it, something needs to be done.
Va Stae Delegate Niock Frietas capture my feelings on this debate quite eloquently. He also explains why we will not yield to efforts to infringe on our constitutional riights. https://youtu.be/KqqJKChKRzI
Thanks for the comment.
I have seen that video before and there is a lot there that I agree with. I totally agree with him that an open and honest debate starts with facts and that no debate can be had without respect on both sides.
But when you lead with “we will not yield to efforts to infringe on our constitutional rights.” it doesn’t sound as though you are ready to have a debate yet.
Let me ask a question. Forget the debate at this time. What if a bi-partisan group agreed to fund a proper scientific study, with results open to all, on the causes of gun violence. Would you be willing to support such a study?
I have been having some great debates with different people and one theme that comes up often is that we don’t have a “gun” problem, we have a “violence” problem that is made worse when guns are involved. Maybe we will find that the source of the problem is something like violent games, or how we are now teaching and deciplining our children today. Or maybe we discover that by a small change we can reduce fatalities not to zero but by 75%. Wouldn’t that be worth a small concession?
Here’s an article that I think (I could be wrong) we can both agree with
Let me know what you think.
Good article, especially from the NY Times… but you’re absolutely right, I’m not willing to debate. There is no trust. (Not you personally). I have no objection to a study, but being quite cynical on this issue, I’m quite sure the results will be twisted and contorted by both sides to suit their respective agendas. I will simply keep quiet and make sure that my vote is counted at each and every election.
I do it get. Trust is in seriously short supply these days. Was it always this bad?
Of course, your vote is one way to do it, but it’s a bit of a blunt instrument as this one thing has to cover a multitude of sins. The pendulum tends to swing back and forth. I would prefer we picked each of the thorny issues one by one to allow some focus and a truly lasting solution, but I do understand the concerns.
Thanks for the feedback!
In all the information and discussion that I’ve heard and read about gun control, I’ve never seen anything that alludes to confusion about existing gun regulation legislation between states, so I’m not even sure where this comes from. If there are problems, I can’t see them being significant with regards to the most significant issues in the debate.
The origins of the second amendment are very clear. It was not an accidental stroke of the pen that included the qualification of a “well regulated militia”. The Constitution is written to be as concise and as simple as possible so that it is as unambiguous as possible. If those words were not instrumental in the phrasing of the amendment, they would not have been included. More words equals more confusion. It would simply have been stated as “The right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” if that was the intent.
At the time the second amendment was ratified (1789), there was no significant US standing army, so the State militias were the only protection of the UNITED states against any aggressors and given that the American Revolution had ended only 6 years prior, this was a very relevant concern. Bear in mind that it was mandatory that any able-bodied men between the ages of 18 and 46, be signed up to a State militia for the purposes of protecting the States and the Union.
At the time, there was a general concern that having a standing army in times of peace was a threat to the sovereignty of the States and, in its infancy, the freshly minted Union wanted to exercise caution regarding the States, so as not to overreach or undermine public confidence. These days that same caution is exercised by prohibiting the military from being involved in domestic affairs – which is why Trump’s decision to send the military to the border to deal with a non-existent threat is particularly galling.
We should note that the Constitution was not written on stone tablets handed down under some sort of divine provenance and it is therefore not inviolate. Not only was it written in very different times but, in this case, it has led itself into ambiguous interpretation. Ideally, it should be either be repealed (my preference) or amended to make it unambiguous for current times and finish this debate once and for all.
That’s a very steep hill to climb and it’s not going to happen any time soon (if ever), but it should be kept out there as a long term objective.
The idea that the States need to defend themselves against the Federal government is ludicrous in modern times and, really, it was questionable from the moment the Union came into being (although more understandable). It’s an anathema to the notion of the Union. It’s funny that the people who fear this eventuality, are the same people that chant “USA” the loudest while flying the Stars & Stripes (and possibly the Confederate flag). These days, the real wing-nuts, imagine directly defending themselves against the Feds or banding into militias to do so.
It’s is interesting to note that the hated Federal government has a total of 4 million employees, half of which are armed forces, but State and local government have 19 million!
So, what do we do in the meantime? Well, there is plurality on many of the gun control issues and don’t even need to be debated. It is only really the NRA lobby (with its 4 or 5 million membership) that prevents many of these from being legislated: full background checks, build a national database for gun sales & registration, close the gun-show loophole, bar purchase and remove weapons from those deemed to be mentally unsound, outlaw bump-stocks, outlaw large magazines, ban assault/military style weapons. Most of this could go through in short order if it weren’t for the NRA but an assault weapons ban would be more contentious.
Gun advocates argue about the definition of an assault weapon saying that it’s not clear what an assault weapon is – this is trivial, we can figure that out in the legislation, let’s call them “weapons of mass casualty” and figure out how to classify them.
We had an assault weapons ban in 1994 for 10 years and it worked very well. The same template can easily be updated or modified. Law enforcement loved it and if you support Law enforcement – like most people say they do – you should love it too.
I saw a video on Youtube which posited that an assault weapon ban was stupid because shotguns are way more dangerous – hardly a logical nor a comforting argument! In the video, it showed a modified shotgun that could be fired at a rate of 90 shells a minute. Aside from the fact that the cartridges are way larger and less ammunition can be carried, it’s still an extremely dangerous weapon and the modification should be included in the new assault weapons ban (even though, such a weapon has never been used in a mass shooting).
As far as debate over gun control is concerned, it’s clear that it’s over. The lines have been drawn and there’s nothing new to say. Yes, it’s preferable to negotiate, but there must be an appetite for finding common ground for this to work. If there is unambiguously no common ground on some fundamental issues, then further debate will not achieve anything.
Having said that, most of the issues listed here could be legislated in short order if it weren’t for the NRA and the politicians who are beholden to them. If that NRA hold can be broken, good progress can be made. For the remaining issues, we take it to the mat and fight it out through the legislative process. That’s democracy.
Most of us would prefer to exercise our right to live over the purported right of a few to possess insanely powerful weapons for personal gratification, feelings of machismo, protection against the Federal government and the idea that they need them to protect their homes and families.
Out of all gun deaths, there is a relatively small percentage where guns were used for personal protection e.g home invasion or in self-defense and even fewer where a powerful assault weapon was used.
You only have to watch the news to see that many instances of self-defense are questionable or unwarranted. There are plenty of macho trigger-happy characters out there who are already infused with hatred and are champing at the bit for an opportunity to shoot some “lowlife”. How many of these shootings are really justified over simply calling the cops? Very few. Personal guns are way more likely to be involved in a suicide, an accident, a family altercation or to be stolen than to be used in a bona fide life-or-death situation.
Gun-owners often think of themselves as knights in shining armor fiercely defending their families against a tide of evil. But the reality is rather different and at a societal level, guns cause way more carnage and damage than they prevent.
1994 Assault weapons ban:
Gun injury and death stats. The numbers are a little hard to absorb because they are not mutually exclusive. If you drill down on home invasions, you quickly come across things like a home-owner shooting an unarmed 15 year-old or a crime of passion that happened to involve a home break-in and so on. It’s a murky category.
Why is gun violence in America different to the rest of the world (guns)…and btw, 50% of all guns are owned by 3% of the population.
Semantic discussion of the second amendment: