Arguments about firearms are one of the topics that first got me started on this blog. Since that time there have been a few political scares, some terrible tragedies, and the cost of weapons and ammunition has gone up and down. There have been intelligent comments from both sides as well as a lot of bull.
I don’t want to seem callous in my discussion – after all, 12 people are no longer walking on this earth as a result of some idiot- but I am not going to focus as much on the recent tragedy. Whether or not he acted alone or under his own willpower doesn’t matter – he pulled the trigger. What I do want to address are several random points about the reporting and the politics that came as a result.
STOP PLACING BLAME
Since the time Obama took office, pointing fingers and placing blame has been en vogue. The shootings are not George Bush’s fault. Global Warming did not cause the shootings, nor did the Tea Party or Sarah Palin. They are not the fault of firearms manufacturers, online ammunition dealers, neuroscientists, college students, Batman fans, Warner Brothers, or even the guns themselves.
As random as they are, I expected blame to go to those places. What I didn’t expect was the disgusting finger pointing that the media did within 24 hours of the shooting. They were looking for edgy stories and could find none, so they started blaming parents for taking their babies to a midnight movie. Even my favorite local news show got in on the jab.
What a terrible way to add insult to injury! As a parent, I would be devastated if my child were shot and injured or shot and killed during a fun late-night movie that I brought them to. I’ve been called an awesome parent by more than a few people and I don’t always make my kids go to bed at 8pm – the night of the shooting we were out until 1am looking for wildlife in the desert and having a midnight picnic. Part of parenting is being able to bend the rules to enrich your kids’ lives.
There is nothing wrong with taking your kids to a midnight movie. Maybe the level of violence in the movie was inappropriate (I wouldn’t have taken them to it for that reason, regardless the time of day), but I also wouldn’t put my child in a pro-immorality sex ed class and a lot of parents do. Had these parents left their children with a babysitter, and had the house burned down, the headlines would be, “Why did these parents leave their children at home with a sitter at 12am?!” Parents wouldn’t win either way.
MEDIA SHOULD KEEP QUIET WHEN THEY DON’T KNOW WHAT THEY ARE TALKING ABOUT
At this point I am confused. I heard “AR-15”, “AK-47”, “AK-74”, “Assault Rifle,” “Automatic Rifle”, and a slew of other descriptions for the rifle. I heard “Two Glocks” and a “Shotgun” or “Remington 870.” I don’t even know what the shooter was carrying, and it doesn’t really matter – he killed innocent people. He could have had a Sears shotgun, a .22 Rifle and a couple Phoenix Arms handguns and it would have been the same outcome. From the news reports that seemed to have the most credibility, it seems the most damage was done with a shotgun and 00 Buckshot. Your grandpa probably has that in his closet.
I’ve read more than one story in the past week about how we need more “gun control” or questioning why anyone could own “weapons like these.”
The name “Assault Rifle” is ridiculous. To use that term is simply a scare tactic. Semi-automatic firearms come in all shapes and sizes. We usually say “Assault Rifle” when we see a black gun, a gun with a higher capacity magazine (something more than 5 rounds). yes, many of these weapons were originally designed for use in military and law enforcement. They are accurate, easy to use, easy to clean, and generally have no frills. They’re tools made to shoot accurately and efficiently. They are often made of materials that make them more lightweight. None are specifically made as an “assault” weapon. They are just as easily a “defense” weapon, a “sporting” weapon, and a “collector” weapon. People own them because they learned them in the military. they own them because they are classics – much like you might own a ‘57 Chevy or Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” album on vinyl. People want a piece of history.
When soldiers returning from WW2 returned home and the market was flooded with military rifles from that war, many people began hunting with them. Sporting events (for target shooting) began using these former military rifles. A lot of old-timers complained that these weapons were not meant for shooting deer. Over time these types of rifles and ammunition became accepted. The same thing is happening with AR and AK-style rifles and ammunition. It’s just like the introduction of JEEPs and HUMMERS into the civilian market. people mock it at first, then it becomes a “thing.” These “assault” rifles are a “thing” for gun enthusiasts. The argument that these rifles are “only good for one thing” is ignorant.
I read a blog earlier today by a guy who said these rifles are no good for home defense. Seriously? Any weapon is good for home defense, provided the user is trained with it. Most, if not all, of our military were trained on these rifles. They are probably better shots with them than with other firearms.
Banning a particular gun for its look is also ridiculous. I (and others) might believe that some of these guns shoot better than a typical 40-year old pawn shop rifle, but their ability to hit a target or be reloaded is only as good as the shooter. As a guitarist, I could play on a $5,000 Ibanez and it would sound sweet, but someone with little experience could pick it up and it would sound terrible. Guns are the same way – design and cost only goes so far. If these guns were banned, the shooter would have found something else to use. Timothy McVeigh used a truck filled with fertilizer and killed more. The Batman shooter obviously had some idea of how to use explosives. He would have found a way.
LAWS AND MORE LAWS
Semi-Automatic rifles and handguns are not against the law in most states. Most states do have requirements for hunting and concealed carry licenses. All states require a background check (which can be made in a 5 minute phone call to the BATF) before selling handguns and “Assault” rifles, and if the buyer has no mental health issues, domestic violence, drug or felonies on record they are cleared to purchase the firearm. Other firearms and accessories, such as fully-automatic “Machine guns” and suppressors (“silencers”) require a deeper check, an expensive firearms stamp, and loss of some personal liberties (you agree to let the government come into your home at any time, you register your weapons, and you tell them when and where they will be used). Other devices, like CS (tear gas) grenades are simply not available to the public. They are used by military and law enforcement, and that’s it.
Our firearms are more heavily regulated than our car sales – which is silly, considering which kill more Americans each year. You don’t have to have a background check or special training to possess or use a motor vehicle, only to use it on public roads. Drawing from the firearms-to-guns comparison, a ban on “assault rifles” (black guns) is like requiring a ban on black cars. It serves no special purpose other than to criminalize aesthetics.
THE DANGER OF GUNS
Arguments inevitably go back to “guns just aren’t safe.” That’s true – they are tools to kill. Guns are inanimate objects, however. There are numerous graphics being passed along on social media sites that remind us that “rocks were the first assault weapon", “guns don’t kill people, people kill people”, or that certain nations have more or less violence due to their anti or pro gun stances.
One demographic that always cracks me up when they decry gun ownership are the pit bull lovers. I have to remind them that when I am not holding my gun, it will not decide to run across the yard and fatally maul or disfigure an innocent child or neighbor woman. Dangerous animals pose a greater threat in homes and neighborhoods than firearms because they are unpredictable and they are animate.
Guns are dangerous though. Kids shoot each other, people commit suicide, and maniacs go on shooting sprees. How do we decrease the danger they pose?
Education – Educate children and adults that guns are not toys. they are tools and they will kill. Spend more time demonstrating the reality of firearms and firearm safety and less time watching inaccurate Hollywood depictions of firearms or indulging in the gratuitous misuse of them in video games. Studies (and experience) have shown that children who are educated about guns and familiarized with guns lose their curiosity and guns lose their allure.
Redirection – Since guns are inanimate objects which have legitimate use, the target should not be firearms or ammunition, but the mentally ill and criminals who use firearms in the commission of their crimes. Current gun laws penalize law-abiding citizens while doing nothing to address criminals.
THE CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHT
Our Constitutional right to bear arms is mocked by liberals and those of other nations who see it as the old-fashioned ensign of crazed mountain-men militia types. They forget that the first few Constitutional amendments were meant to protect us from enemies foreign and domestic, including (but not limited to) our own government.
The protections of free speech and right to assemble, for example, were not written into the Constitution to preserve the right to display pornography publicly. These protections were emplaced to provide outlets for those who wished to raise claims of injustice against the government, to warn their neighbors, and to be heard.
In the amendment immediately following it, we are given the right to have our own army to protect the country from foreign invasion and preserve our freedom, as well as the right for individual citizens to possess arms. What would individual citizens need arms for if we already have a military? Those who wrote the Constitution and its amendments knew that government can get out of hand. As in all other parts of the document, this is another power given to the citizens to keep their own government in check.
It is tragic that persons in other nations mock this right. Most of these other nations have, at one time in their history, been subject to a singular ruler who murdered his own people and took their property by force. These rulers were the kings of distant history as well as the modern monsters like Hitler, Stalin, Saddam and others. Whether or not we can envision our own government coming to this point is irrelevant; once this right is taken away it will come to that point.
The idea that anyone could have to raise arms against their own government is creepy, uncomfortable, and smacks of terrorism in our modern world, but it has happened before in our own history, and the forefathers wanted to ensure we would have the means to preserve the nation if it happened again.
It doesn’t take much to view the statistics on crime and their relationship to gun ownership. Look up “Gun control laws in the United States”, pick the three or four states with the strongest anti-gun laws, and then go to the U.S. Department of justice’s page to view the last year and prior year’s crime figures. Without exception you will find that the states with the most violent crimes are the states that make it hardest for their citizens to own firearms.
You’ll want to point at the batman shootings and comment about how one man killed twelve others in Colorado, a state without such tight restrictions, but compare that to Chicago, a single city in one state that has some of the toughest gun-control laws in the country: at the time of the Batman Massacre Chicago had already had over 200 shooting deaths related to gang violence. Colorado’s numbers, including the twelve in Aurora, are well below that. Gun control favors criminals, who don’t care whether or not it is illegal to carry. It only disarms the innocent.
It isn’t difficult to see why crime is lower in gun-toting states, but qualitative surveys of inmates have told us what we should already know: Criminals don’t want to get shot. They prefer to commit crime in areas where they are less likely to have the victim draw a gun.
Our prayers are with the families who were affected by this terrible tragedy. We hope they will be shielded from the politicizing of their loved one’s deaths.