I haven’t really posted much on gun control because it’s an issue to which I see no immediate solution on the horizon. The politics isn’t there, there’s too much money in the lobbies, and our culture in general doesn’t seem to be interested in gun control. However, in light of yesterday’s shooting at UC Santa Barbara, I thought I’d take the time to finally offer my two cents. Before continuing, let’s get something straight right off the bat: gun control does not mean gun abolition. What gun control is about is limiting gun violence. So let’s now examine some of the logic behind anti-gun control arguments.
1. The legal precedent. First and foremost, let’s start with the constitution, because that’s what anti-gun control advocates always fall back to. The second amendment does have a purpose. Or rather it did have a purpose. For the record, this is what the second amendment says:
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.
People often ignore the first part of the second amendment and focus on the second part, “the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed,” and interpret that to mean it’s perfectly reasonable to own whatever weapon they want for their personal protection. To me, though, it seems pretty clear that when you put both halves of the amendment together, that the idea of keeping and bearing arms specifically applies to militias. Given the history of our nation’s birth and the authors of the constitution, it also seems pretty clear that the purpose of the second amendment was to ensure that people have the firepower to keep the government in check in case it becomes tyrannical, a la European powers at the time.
Fast-forward to the modern day. Does this amendment still make sense? Well for one thing the firepower of the average citizen is grossly and woefully underwhelming when compared to that of the US government. Does anyone really think that a group of Hillbillies with assault rifles is any match for the tanks and rpg’s of the US army? Do you really think that some guy with a 9 mm is going to stop a drone from bombing him? All of the guns in the world won’t protect you from biological or chemical warfare. The idea of owning firearms to protect yourself from the government is archaic and quaint at best. It makes no sense in this century, and barring some kind of apocalyptic disaster that destroys the infrastructure of society, it probably never will again. But we can take the absurdity of the second amendment further.
The second amendment makes no mention of what kinds of arms you can or cannot own. It doesn’t even specifically mention “firearms.” Well, why doesn’t every citizen then own a flame thrower and hand grenades? Why isn’t that legal? Why doesn’t every house in the neighborhood have a Howitzer mounted to the roof? Because it’s totally insane and unreasonable to give John Q Public the power to kill mass amounts of people completely at will is why.
2. This is really a mental health problem. Ah yes, this old cop-out. Well first and foremost, duh. Mentally stable people don’t run into malls and schools and start killing random people. The problem with using this scapegoat to advocate against gun control is two fold. First, I don’t foresee the mental health problem in this country getting better anytime soon. Healthcare with regard to mental health in this country has been on a rapid decline since the 1970’s and it ain’t gettin’ any better. Think of how hard it is to make ANY sort of meaningful healthcare reform and how defunct congress is. Do you really think that congress is going to magically join hands and pass comprehensive mental healthcare reform tomorrow? Next year? Next decade? I don’t.
But there’s a much larger problem with using the mental health argument in anti-gun control debates, and it’s this: it’s impossible to determine who will eventually have a breakdown or suffer mental health issues. Anti-gun control advocates make it sound so easy! “Well obviously we just won’t sell guns to crazy people.” That’s all swell and nice, but tell me this: how do you know who’s crazy? Every time you walk down a crowded street you pass by people who are depressed, bipolar, drug users, etc. Can you visually tell them apart from everyone else? No, you can’t. Talking to them in conversation you probably can’t either, because most of these people learn to cope with or hide their behavior, or they’re on medications. But what happens if that person loses their job and can’t afford their meds anymore? What happens when there’s an environmental stressor that pushes them over the edge? It’s impossible to predict these things.
What’s more, this applies to perfectly normal and healthy people, too. Barring very few exceptions, most people with mental health issues don’t come out of the womb with them, they develop them over time. Again, how would you predict this? A perfectly healthy, normal man can buy a gun and tens years later his wife cheats on him. He loses his job and his house. His child dies in a drunk driving accident. Life is random and unpredictable and affects people in random and unpredictable ways. And random and unpredictable people with firearms is when shit goes south real fast.
3. The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun. Well, yes, if I’m unarmed and my attacker is packing heat, I’m screwed unless he’s the worst shot in the world. There’s a reason why people refer to guns as equalizers. But, similar to the mental health argument, how do you tell a good guy from a bad one? If someone walks into the restaurant I’m eating at with a gun strapped to their hip, how the hell am I supposed to know whether they intend to shoot the place up or whether they’re just waiting to stop some madman who just might enter the restaurant? I don’t. If someone walked into a restaurant where you and your family were eating with an assault rifle and said, “Don’t worry! I’m not crazy! I’m just carrying this in case I have to defend you all!” would you just believe them without question? Would there be any doubt in your mind at all as to their intention? I’d certainly have my reservations about it.
4. Even if you restrict or take away guns, crazy people will still find a way to try to kill you. No argument from me here, that’s definitely true. However, I don’t know about all of you, but personally I’d rather fight someone who had a knife than someone who had a gun. I feel like my odds of survival would be a lot better. Remember that kid who stabbed 20 people in his school? How many of those kids died? Oh that’s right, none of them. How different do you think that attack would have been if he’d had a gun instead of knives?
5. Gun control restricts my freedom. Here we go again with the freedom arguments. These are, in my opinion, the weakest of all the pro-gun arguments. Why? Because basically this argument is that the rights of some people matter more than the rights of others, which seems to me to be the least American argument someone could make. Anyone who talks about “freedom” in the gun control debate is more or less saying, my right to own and carry a weapon is more important than you’re right to live or be somewhere without them. Seems pretty subjective to me. Do people not have the right to not be around weapons? Doesn’t seem like an unreasonable request, considering that firearms considerably up the ante when it comes to your odds of being killed. What’s at all unreasonable about not wanting to be around strangers with guns? And what’s more, why should people die who don’t have to just to support your “right?”
Alright, now that we’ve gotten those things out of the way, let’s clear a few things up. First, despite the arguments I’ve just made, I am NOT anti-gun. Obviously the police should have guns. Obviously guns can be used for self-defense by perfectly rational and reasonable people. Obviously people who hunt need to use firearms. I have no problem with guns themselves. In fact, I own several myself. What I am for is gun control.
“Gun control” means a lot of different things to different people, so let me explain what it means to me. It does not mean taking away all guns. For the reasons I went over in the above paragraph, guns do serve a purpose. What I am in support of is guns being sold only by licensed dealers. I’m also for more thorough and extensive background checks. I’m for closing loopholes at gun shows and expos that let people walk out of places with a firearm without so much as a cursory background check. I’m for the assault weapons ban. You don’t need an M-16 to fend off a prowler or burglar, sorry. I’m for banning extended clips. Again, you don’t need 50 shots to fend off a prowler or burglar. I’m for restrictions on ammunition. Again, I don’t really see why it’s necessary to have 2000 rounds if all you’re worried about it someone breaking into your home (if you’re worried at all about home invasion, I don’t see why you wouldn’t opt for the best home defense weapon, a shotgun. Skip the Uzi, Rambo, and go for the more practical weapon). I’m for getting gun lobbyists out of congress. I’m for tracking who buys firearms.
At the end of the day, all I would ask is that everyone in this country use a little logic and common sense in their approach to firearms. That’s it. This debate doesn’t have to be black and white and it doesn’t have to be so polarizing. The only options in this debate ARE NOT “no guns at all, ever” or “all the guns for everyone.” That dichotomy is hyperbolic and frankly stupid, and as most polls show not at all how the average American views the subject. There are only about 4 million members in the NRA, yet they dictate all gun control policy in this country. The way the current gun control debate is framed is way out of proportion to how the general public feels. But as usual in any argument, the squeakiest wheel gets the most grease. It doesn’t have to be that way, though. There are solutions and compromises to be had here. We just need all of the rational Americans to enter the discussion.