I’ve spent the last couple of days throwing around my share of heated words on Facebook and Twitter. Some of it has been diplomatic; most of it hasn’t. Mostly, I’ve grown impatient with the Left’s diplomacy. I feel that the United States has been pushed so far to the Right by extremists that the Left has been pulled to the middle. This forces the Left to lead with diplomacy and compromise right out of the gate instead of starting negotiations based on ideology (as conservatives do) and then working their way to the compromise. I could give examples of this all day (the healthcare debate is a great example), but that argument is for another time.
I am dealing specifically with the Connecticut massacre, U.S. killing sprees, and gun control here; I will keep my arguments relevant to those issues.
I will begin by making some concessions, so the gun lovers don’t get all riled up before they finish reading:
* I realize there are other issues tied into these mass murders, most notably mental health. Gun control alone is not the solution.
* Liberals do not want to take your guns away. No one is coming after your hunting rifles or hand guns.
* I realize there is a 2nd Amendment to the US Constitution that gives you the right to “bear arms,” and personally believe that it pertains to a right to own guns and is not just about joining a militia.
* Most importantly, I used to be quite right-wing on this issue. Despite being liberal on almost every other issue imaginable, I used to be very pro-gun. It was the only holdover from my embarrassing Libertarian phase, which I usually don’t like to acknowledge, but mention now because it is relevant. I know the arguments. I’ve made them myself. After Columbine, you could have heard me making the same statements the gun advocates are making now: “Guns aren’t the problem. Guns don’t kill people, people do. Arming more people would be the solution.”
But after Columbine, there was the day trader in Atlanta, then there was Virginia Tech, then Fort Hood, then Tucson, AZ, then Aurora, CO. There were a bunch of mall shootings as well (a couple in my former home of Portland, OR). There were so many, I can’t name them all now, but check this out if you want to see the grizzly timeline. And now there is Newtown, Connecticut.
At a certain point, the easy availability of massively deadly semi-automatics and assault weapons has to be called into question. That has to be a part of the discussion, even for people who generally oppose gun control. Those who absolutely refuse to even debate the issue, will state the following:
1) The 2nd Amendment guarantees my right to own weapons.
“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.”
I am going to go beyond most gun-control advocates here; usually they emphasize that this amendment deals only with the formation of militias. While I agree with that, I also can’t deny that the “right to keep and bear arms” does give private citizens the right to own firearms.
See? I admitted that. I’m not some pinko commie liberal who thinks guns should be confiscated. I realize that people have the right to hunt and to protect themselves and their families. But it also should be taken into consideration that there was no such thing as a semi-automatic assault rifle when the constitution was written. There were also no tanks, rocket launchers, or nuclear weapons. So–if the extreme logic of gun owners is to be fully applied here–why can’t private citizens buy tanks, rocket launchers, or nuclear weapons? Hmmm?
The answer anyone reasonable can come up with is that the Constitution and the Amendments must be seen as a living document. Its principles have to be applied to modern day issues that the founding fathers may not have been able to foresee. This is one of those issues. No one would argue that private citizens should be able to make or own bombs or other weapons of mass destruction. So why should they be able to own assault weapons?
2) The government is big and scary and I must be able to protect myself from it when things go all 1984 on me.
The government went all 1984 a long time ago. After 9-11, most Americans had zero problem giving up many of their rights under the Bush II administration’s Patriot Act. The government obtained the right to arrest and detain people for almost no reason, torture citizens, listen in and record private phone calls, etc. The US military has the ability to pinpoint people by satellites from space.
If Big Brother wanted to come after you, he would. Your stash of guns in the closet are not going to stop anything.
3) Guns don’t kill people, people kill people (otherwise known as the “Let’s ban matches because an arsonist could use it to start a fire or ban cars because drunk drivers kill people” excuse).
Fine. Mostly correct. People do kill people. There are crazy whacked-out weirdos everywhere you look. Without getting into the mental illness issue (I will bring that up later), I think anyone can agree that violent nasty people are everywhere regardless of what kind of gun laws are in place. These people have their pick of countless murder instruments at their disposal, so “banning guns” wouldn’t stop them from wreaking havoc. Right?
Not exactly. First of all, the “anything can be a murder weapon” argument ignores that all of these other items have other uses. Knives are used for preparing food, matches are used to start fires for warmth and for cooking, cars are used to transport people for a variety of reasons, axes are used to chop wood, etc. Guns have one purpose and one purpose only: to kill. Even when used to hunt or protect, the end result of a gun is killing or seriously wounding something. That is a gun’s only purpose.
Furthermore, the “crazy people are everywhere and guns won’t stop them” approach ignores that guns make things much, much worse once the mentally ill/violent decide to go on a rampage. On 15, December, in China, a man attacked a group of 22 elementary students. The lack of a gun certainly didn’t stop him.
His weapon was a knife, though. And all of those children are still alive.
4) Gun control laws only take guns away from law-abiding citizens! Criminals would still have guns!
The purpose of this argument is to conjure images of organized crime and gangs, which do typically involve illegal firearms. I won’t even get into the race issue being hinted at here (when most Americans think of gangs, they tend to think Black/Latino), but is organized crime and gang activity really behind any of these mass shootings? The fact is, most of these shootings are committed by privileged white men. These are not gang members or serial criminals going out on shooting sprees. These are formerly law-abiding citizens buying guns easily and legally.
I must insist that the formerly-law-abiding-citizen-but-potential-mass-murderer with no prior issues with the law would indeed have a much harder time obtaining assault weapons were they made illegal. Tighter restrictions would considerably lessen the impact of these crimes.
Oh yeah, and let’s remember that even when criminals use stolen guns, they usually steal them from law-abiding citizens. So where would they steal the guns if the law abiding citizens didn’t have/couldn’t get them in the first place?
5) Drugs are illegal and people still have access to them! Making guns illegal just wouldn’t work!
Um, all right then. Let’s just do away with all laws then, right? By this logic, only criminal types are going to do drugs. Only criminal types are going to drink and drive. So why do we even have drug laws? Why are there drinking and driving laws? Just abolish those laws, because only the criminal type is going to violate the rule anyway!
Would many people actually advocate legalizing all drugs and eliminating drinking and driving laws?
We have drug laws and drinking and driving laws specifically because they do indeed cut down on the volume of people engaging in those behaviors. Likewise, banning assault weapons would indeed cut down on the number of would-be criminals and mass murders.
6) I just feel more secure and protected owing a gun!
The truth is, gun owners are much more likely to hurt and kill loved ones accidentally than they are to use it to protect themselves from an attacker or intruder. It is more likely that a gun will be fired by accident than be fired in self-defense. And even when used in self-defense, evidence suggests that owning a gun actually increases the chance that a victim will be killed.
Also, where are all the examples of times when acts of mass violence were stopped by someone with a gun? Gun laws are pretty lax in the US–just how the NRA likes it. And it has already been established that crazy violent people are all over the place. So why have there been no news stories of any brave citizens or off-duty policemen stopping a violent attack because they happened to be packing heat?
I am aware most pro-gun types will insist gun control laws are the very reason no such example exists. They will insist that more guns = more protection. They will insist that the violence in Connecticut would have been averted had someone just had a gun to stop the killer.
The problem is, his first victim–his mother–was indeed packing heat. Quite a bit of heat. Not only did owning weapons not protect her in any way, her legally purchased weapons were the very same guns used in the massacre.
7) Other issues cause these massacres and must be discussed.
Fair enough. I agree. I personally think healthcare in the US is a disgrace to the developed world. It is clear that the Connecticut shooter (and many of the murderers in the other mentioned killing sprees) was mentally ill. How many violent crimes could be prevented if their perpetrators were given the medical care they need? The US has made basic medical care practically inaccessible to a large percentage of its population, and mental health/psychiatry isn’t even available to most people with actual medical insurance.
What is interesting is that–if I were to make a Venn diagram of “Gun Control Opponents” and “Socialized Medicine Opponents,”–the diagrams would overlap almost completely. We don’t want to provide the mental healthcare necessary to prevent many of these tragedies, but then we don’t want to take our share of responsibility when they occur.
America’s violent culture in general is also to blame (video games, movies, and a lot of music glorifies violence). American television places a heavy taboo on nude body parts and four letter words, yet doesn’t seem to have a problem with showing massive amounts of explosions, gun fights, or dead bodies. I could cite any episode of Law & Order or CSI as an example. And that’s just network TV; I won’t even get started on cable.
Of course, much of the culture of violence is perpetuated by the ownership of guns themselves. So possession of guns must still be discussed.
Those who advocate gun control are not asking for an all-out ban on guns. I am not advocating a ban on handguns or hunting rifles, which can arguably be used for self-defense or hunting and are protected by the 2nd amendment. I am talking about assault weapons, which have only one purpose: to kill massive amounts of people in an instant without having to reload. There is no reason for a private individual to own those, any more than there is a reason for a private citizen to own a nuclear weapon.
So the gun control advocates have already compromised. Pro-gun types must be willing to bring something to the table now. Refusing to budge is no longer acceptable. How many times does this have to happen before something changes?