Monday, December 17, 2012

Taking One For The Team

In the aftermath of the shooting in Newtown, Conn., along with the shootings in Aurora and Oregon, the topic of gun control has once again raised its weary head.  Gun owners (with some reason), and gun dealers (with a lot less reason), feel defensive and maybe a bit angry.  After all, they didn't shoot any kids!  And, in some earnestness they are making the same kinds of arguments as before - all sorts of weapons can lead to death; there's no particular reason to single out guns, etc.  All of these arguments have been made before, but mass killings are continuing on a record pace.

The shooter in Newtown drove to Sandy Hook, shot his way through the school doors, killed six school administrators and teachers, and then began a rampage through the school, killing 20 first graders.  When the police arrived, he shot himself in the head.  He did all of this, alone, within four minutes.  And the reason he was able to inflict such carnage in such a short time was because he was armed with guns with high capacity magazines.  If he had a knife, he would never have gotten through the door.  If he had a bomb, he might have been able to enter the school, but, of course, explosives are illegal.  No, instead he had guns that did exactly what they are supposed to do - enable the user to hunt down and kill lots of people very quickly.  And that's a problem.

So to my friends who are gun owners, I have this to say - you're going to have to take one for the team. I know it sucks, I know that taking one for the team may even be of questionable legality (2nd Amendment and all), but simply put, this can't continue.  Now, if we had good mental health care, we might be able to take of the problem without taking away guns, but we don't (at least not until Obamacare goes into full swing).  Going the other way, and arming everyone is also a bad idea - in stress situations, normal people tend to be bad shots (without training).

That leaves us with banning guns. When Australia had a  rash of mass shootings, it banned assault weapons and hasn't had an incident since.  Now, this didn't help other types of homicides, necessarily, but it wouldn't.  Again we're trying to prevent a very specific type of homicide (which, by the way, a terrorist organization could easily employ), we are looking at a very specific type of weapon.

At the same time, I can appreciate that owning a firearm, particularly a military-style assault weapon, is pretty badass.  I can also appreciate that shooting off a couple hundred rounds is a great way to blow off steam, feel empowered and whatnot.  With that in mind, I'd go with the following compromise - you can own an assault weapon, but you have to leave it at the firing range.  Sorry, but these weapons are too dangerous in the wrong hands.  Also keep in mind that when it comes to suicidal behaviors (as these mass shootings are clearly), even slight inconveniences make all the difference (look at the section on suicide).  There are other, broader gun control measures, like licensing gun owners in a manner similar to drivers, and requiring that gun owners be insured, but this is a good first step.

So, what constitutes an assault weapon?  The devil is in the details, of course.  My guess would be a semi-automatic firearm with a magazine capacity of more than 10 bullets, but I'm not a gun person, and can be persuaded one way or the other.  That leaves shotguns (good for hunting and home protection), hunting rifles (hunting, obviously), and many handguns.  All of which, you can use for your out-of-the-firing-range needs.

Oh, and for those of you who think you need guns to keep away the government, keep this in mind - the government has tanks, helicopters, jets, and heavy artillery.  Soldiers wear armor that can protect them from an AK-47 fired at point blank range, and if that wasn't enough, there are unmanned drones that can kill.  If you decide to fight the United States, a country which spends more on military armaments than the rest of the world COMBINED, your assault rifle will not help you.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Oh My God. . .

The title here is not meant in its usual, profane/blasphemous way, that marks my profanity-ridden website (one I should really update more often).  Rather, this title is part of the prayer I've been saying in my head since the early morning:

Oh my God, please let this news be true.  Please let it be a hoax.  Don't let those children die, don't let the survivors live scarred lives. Please. . .

Of course, the news is real.  Over twenty people have died, many of them children.  An entire classroom is still unaccounted for.  To the families of all of those who have died, I am sincerely heartbroken for your loss.  But, of course, I will be fine in a few hours or a few days; my life will go one.  I will not pretend to understand your loss, and your pain.  Just know that there are plenty of people like me who, for this moment, feel for you, even 3,000 miles away.

But I am 3,000 miles away, and like so many others, my mind turns on how to prevent such things from happening again.  Because it has happened, over and over and over again.  And it is human nature, indeed the very essence of humanity itself, to try and figure out how to fix things.  Our ancestors used to be subject to fatal attacks by animals, so we built fires and shelters and weapons to protect ourselves.  We don't just throw up our hands and say there is nothing to be done.

Is gun control the answer?  Maybe.  While it is true that "guns don't kill people," some guns allow people to kill lots of other people very, very quickly.  In fact, that's the actual purpose of a fair number of guns.  Sure, there are other purposes for guns, but the whole basis for their existence, their whole purpose, is to make killing easier.  Compare this shooting with the crazy guy in China who stabbed a bunch of kids.  It should not be at all shocking that someone occasionally uses them for this very purpose.

Now, of course, the 2nd Amendment, which traditionally has not applied to states, just the Federal government, stands in the way, somewhat.  But the interpretation that the 2nd Amendment prevents any form of gun control is simply absurd.  There is no right under the Constitution that is an absolute right.  No one can shout "Fire" in a crowded movie theater, human sacrifice is outlawed, and the police can search you and your home without a warrant under certain circumstances.  There must be something we can do.

With that said, gun control is not the only issue at play here.  There is also a mental health issue. To shoot up a school where the oldest kid is at most ten, is beyond my comprehension.  It does appear that these massacres are perpetrated by suicidal men looking to go out in a blaze of "glory."  So while we think about limiting the access to firearms, we should also try to insure that the mentally ill are receiving treatment.

What we can't do is simply throw up our hands and say that nothing can be done.  We owe it to ourselves and to the fallen to do more than that.