There has been yet another mass shooting, something that now seems to occur on a monthly basis. Every time another tragedy like this occurs, gun advocates are the first to speak up about why we can’t possibly do anything to restrict the weaponization of our culture. Here’s what they will be saying and how I plan to respond:
Don’t Politicize This, Now Is Not the Time to Talk About Guns
So I suppose after Sandy hit the East Coast, it was not the time to talk about disaster preparedness, or FEMA’s response? Following the attack in Libya was it time to talk about terrorism?
This response, is the most pathetic and disgusting of all. Now is exactly the the right time to talk about guns, you only make this argument because you feel the momentum is currently not in your favor. Unfortunately, for you, there really is no time when pro-gun talk really is in favor when it comes to the general public.
Guns Don’t Kill People, People Kill People
Correct, but a pretty weak argument when it comes down to it. A pencil doesn’t write and a chisel does not carve without a person handling them. Every tool has a purpose for which it was designed. A pencil writes, a chisel carves, a gun kills.
The assertion is correct, people are the thing that kills, but assault weapons sure make it a hell of a lot easier. In the U.S. we see a shooting like this every few weeks or months. In Japan or England, for example, they almost never happen for one very simple reason, people there don’t have access to high-power, rapidly firing, military grade weapons with nearly endless supplies of cheap ammunition. There is, of course, the chance that someone in one of these countries may decide to jump through the hoops and find an assault rifle and the amount of ammunition we see in a domestic attack, but the process will be much much more difficult. If you are an American looking to rack up a huge human toll, you will find it quite easy and rather inexpensive.
Guns don’t do anything other than kill. Guns kill. That’s, sorta, the fucking point.
What’s an Assault Rifle? You Just Mean a Gun That is Scary Looking!!!
No I don’t mean a gun that is scary looking although they do tend to be, I mean an assault rifle. I get really tired of this argument, guns aren’t some overly complicated thing that only a certified NRA card carrying member can comprehend. They’re really quite simple, unfortunately people just can’t agree on a correct nomenclature.
Assault weapons: Even firearm enthusiasts have a hard time agreeing on what constitutes an assault weapon. Legal definitions vary state-to-state: Connecticut defines an assault weapon as “any selective-fire firearm capable of fully automatic, semi-automatic, or burst-fire at the option of the user.” In Denver we have an ordinance that bans the sale and possession of assault weapons, specifically firearms with “semiautomatic action” or that use detachable magazines with a capacity of 21 or more rounds. The now-expired Federal Assault Weapon Ban had very complex guidelines defining which firearms were considered assault weapons.
Clearly a better definition of what constitutes an assault weapon is needed. Assault weapons are not just “scary” looking guns, they are guns that are created with the sole purpose of maximizing the ability to kill human targets, a side-effect of which is that they tend to be scarier looking as they are associated, properly, with human death.
AR-15: The semi-automatic rifle Adam Lanza used was a AR-15, specifically a Bushmaster M4 Type Carbine, using several magazines with 30 rounds in each. The gun was acquired by his mother, Nancy Lanza, legally. Certain models of the AR-15 were previously banned by the federal law, but the law had a myriad of loopholes that allowed slightly modified versions of the gun to be sold legally.
In the Aurora shooting, James Holmes used an AR-15 which he had purchased legally from gun stores and ammunition that he had purchased on the Internet.
We Don’t Need Fewer Guns, We Need More Guns So That a Gun Toting Citizen Can Stop These Shooters Before a Full Response Can Arrive
This is always an interesting argument. We don’t need fewer guns, we need more so that everyone can protect themselves. The, “They won’t pull a gun on you if they think you might be carrying one yourself,” attitude.
If this were true wouldn’t we see it happen every now and then? Before the gun advocates jump down my throat there are some cases of defensive gun use incidents but the cases are, for the most part, rather unremarkable – scaring off a dude exposing himself by flashing a gun for example.
The underlying truth is that everyday citizens are not trained for these kinds high stress, highly dangerous situations. Even highly trained police officers like SWAT kill innocent bystanders. The idea that Joe Some-Dude-Packing is going to take out one of these shooters with his six-shooter while they have body armor and an assault rifle has no basis in reality and if anything will likely lead to further harm.
The idea also leads us down a path of further distrust and fear of our fellow-man. Do you really want to live in a world were humanity acts not out of care for their fellow-man but out of distrust and fear that anyone they interact with might brandish a weapon against them? Do we have such a trust issue in this country that the only comfort available to us is the chance to kill? Scary precedents indeed. I for one am not of the opinion that an arms race among U.S. citizens, akin to the nuclear proliferation of the Cold War, is an answer to reducing violence. The idea that adding tools of violence will reduce violence is quite simply asinine.
I see the wheels turning, which is why this leads directly into the next argument:
Criminals Will Always Find Ways to Get Assault Weapons, So Citizens Need Them to Protect Themselves
One, I will repeat I don’t think an arms race between citizens is the answer to ending violence.
Two, one thing becomes abundantly clear when you look at these shootings. In almost every case the gun and ammunition were attained legally. If the gun was not attained legally, where do you think it came from in the first place? It certainly didn’t fall out of the sky. So, where do criminals get all these guns? They steal them from other people who have legally (and usually unnecessarily) purchased them.
What happens to the dude that has six assault weapons sitting around his home for home invasion protection when he isn’t and his home gets robbed? Nothing, but six assault weapons that were previously owned legally enter the black market. Legal guns get stolen or sold onto the black market illegally. Constrict the legal market and the black market will constrict in response.
The point of gun laws is not to snap our collective legal finger and make every gun on the market disappear. It’s to make these weapons and ammunition harder for criminals to get. Most of these gunman are mentally disturbed and have a hard time following through with their plans as is, increase the work required to execute the plan and fewer will succeed.
Obviously, we will never rid ourselves of violence. The goal is to reduce violence as much as possible.
Criminal X Used Weapon X Too Kill X People, Are You Going to Take X Away Too?
The old, “Timothy McVeigh killed 168 people with a fertilizer based home-made bomb are you going to take fertilizer away too?,” argument.
Actually, after McVeigh killed all those people with an ammonium nitrate bomb, this may blow your mind, we regulated the ammonium nitrate. You can’t buy it without registering with the Department of Homeland Security and being screened through a terrorist database, among other regulations.
It is a false argument to begin with though. Fertilizer has a use in our society, we need it to grow food. Baseball bats are used in baseball. Knives are used for cutting rope, cleaning an animal, etc… and in most places the ones made for killing people are illegal or highly regulated.
Why are assault weapons necessary?
If You Take Away Guns More Violence and Death Will Occur
The American Prospect ran an , in which it said,
… according to a study in the New England Journal of Medicine, during the nine years after the District of Columbia enacted a handgun ban, D.C. saw gun-related homicides fall 25 percent compared with contiguous areas in Maryland and Virginia. International comparisons yield similar results. One study found that stringent gun control works, while modest regulation does not.
The data concerning gun control is complex and controversial, but the bottom line in every piece of literature I could find is this:
Whatever significantly reduces the number of guns in general circulation whether through culture or regulation reduces homicides.
Other measures such as waiting periods, required training for gun owners, and enhanced sentences for criminals have no discernible effect.
Foreign comparisons can be helpful, though obvious cultural discrepancies must be noted. Japan had 2 gun-related murders in 2006, the U.S. 12,000, and the U.S. has a gun-related murder rate 20 times most developed nations. The U.S. has 10 times the average rate among high GDP nations.
A study on the effects of Australia’s 1996 gun law reforms, following the massacre in Tasmania that killed 35, concluded that:
Australia’s 1996 gun law reforms were followed by more than a decade free of fatal mass shootings, and accelerated declines in firearm deaths, particularly suicides. Total homicide rates followed the same pattern. Removing large numbers of rapid-firing firearms from civilians may be an effective way of reducing mass shootings, firearm homicides and firearm suicides.
We Don’t Need More Laws, Just Enforce The Laws We Have
Ok, then stop pushing your NRA lobbyists down our throats to degrade the laws we do have. Our current gun laws are riddled with loopholes, allowing people to build arsenals of military-grade weapons with very few restrictions.
Just this morning Michigan Governor Rick Snyder vetoed a state bill that would have allowed adults to carry guns into schools, a bill that likely would have exceed in the absence of recent events. It is a great example of gun activists lobbying for degradation of gun laws and a truly disgusting one at that. Nothing sets a better example for children than gun toting parents roaming the school hallway.
The Constitution Gives Me The Right To Have Guns
When it comes to the Constitution we first need to go through a brief history lesson. Conservatives are generally into the whole preserving the Constitution thing right?
The original intent and Supreme Court findings are very important when discussing the 2nd amendment. There were originally, two versions of the 2nd Amendment both worded the same but with different capitalization and punctuation.
The 1st Version as passed by the 1791 Congress and written by William Lambert. This version appears in the National Archives:
“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.”
The 2nd Version which is the one that went to the states for ratification and was authenticated by Thomas Jefferson:
“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.”
It is, of course, important to recognize that both versions talk of a “well regulated militia”. Note the word “regulated”. The concept of a militia was a “citizen soldier,” as in a farmer, carpenter, etc… like the Minutemen during the Revolutionary War, who could be called on and be able to provide their own firearm in the case of war time. The U.S. was young and couldn’t provide a standing army so they had a militia of working men, with weapons, on the ready.
This concept of “citizen soldier” would by most akin in modern times to the National Guard — a military service of trained men and women who work and live among us but are ready to fight for their country when necessary.
The militia idea is often expressed under much different terms by gun activists, not as a militia of men prepared to fight alongside a standing army but as a hedge-against-tyranny. Their fear is not that our freely elected democracy will be overthrown by some foreign force; but rather, that our freely elected democracy will itself turn despotic. When you start down this path you start to garner the real truth; paranoia, conspiracy theories, illuminati and in general a dislike that the will of the people and the collective decision via voting is not in agreement with their opinion as an individual.
I will admit that recent events, from the Patriot Act to Citizen’s United and the general sense that we are transitioning to a government of the people, if you have enough money to get want you want, is concerning. But, I don’t think an assault weapon is the answer to these problems nor do I think it will do you much good.
Underlying this argument is the ever-present slippery slope idea that a government that can take away your AR-15 will come next for your deer rifle, then your right to free speech, religion, etc. But, we all know slippery slope arguments are stupid and have no place in debate.
Unfortunately, gun activists also ignore the fact that a government with the power to protect itself from foreign adversaries, in many cases multiple at the same time, in a world as dangerous as ours, will also possess the means to protect itself from internal ones. The disparity in this power is exponentially greater now than it was at the time of the 2nd amendment’s drafting. The idea of a band of armed citizens taking on the U.S. military is not simply delusional, it is truly laughable. There is simply no possibility of violently over-throwing a government gone bad in this day and age. The handheld assault weapons we’re discussing here would be of little avail against drones and cruise missiles. If the government wanted to stop a coup, it could do it.
Unless we expand the scope of the 2nd Amendment to include private ownership of Patriot missiles and the like, your best defense is not to increase the size of your gun collection but rather to remain fully engaged in the political process.
Gun advocates seem to think that the right to bear arms is the only constitutional right that is virtually without limit. Your right to practice your religion does not involve a right to human sacrifice. Your right to free speech allows you to be prosecuted for incitement, conspiracy or libel. Every right is subject to limitation when it begins to threaten others.
The Supreme Court in 2008 and 2010 clarified the 2nd Amendment and said that it protects an individual’s right to own a firearm, unconnected to service in a militia and to use that arm for traditionally lawful purposes — hunting, self-defense. The “militia” idea has been modified and re-interpreted to state that an individual has a right to own a firearm with a very important disclaimer of “lawful” purpose. According to the Constitution, that firearm must still be “well regulated”. So while you can own firearm the government does have a right to control aspects of how and what you can acquire.
Guns Are a Part of American Culture
Many things are a part of American culture, at one time smoking cigarettes was very much a part of American culture, things change. Slavery was a part of American culture of a couple hundred years, culture tells us nothing about whether something is good or bad.
This argument also, although not said directly, often includes the idea that having movie theaters and schools full of kids periodically shot up is just a price we should be willing to pay for the right to gun ownership. Rather, it might be more accurate to say this is the price others should be willing to pay.
This is the underlying truth behind these arguments. 30,000 Americans are killed every year with guns, for gun advocates, that’s unfortunate but a price they are, apparently, willing to pay. I am not, willing to pay these tolls for a class of weapons that has no justifiable use.
Citizens Don’t Want More Gun Control
Actually, the facts tend to disagree. The public is in favor of much more restrictive gun laws. Significant majorities want to see the assault weapons ban reinstated, mandatory licensing and training for all gun owners, significant waiting periods for purchases, and host of other restrictions (more details here).
Interestingly, often, gun owners themselves support more restrictions than we now have.
What Do We Do?
It is time for us to all have a very difficult conversation. Do we want stricter gun control in general as a population? Probably.