“Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.” – Dwight D. Eisenhower
At a recent role-playing game session we undertook a pen and paper adventure that takes place in modern-day United States. Our characters needed to procure guns for a mission so it fell to me as the lone American to explain to the rest of the group how we would do that. I talked about background checks, waiting periods and the gun show loophole as well as private sales. There was a brief moment of awed silence before my Norwegian friend put his hands to his face and said from behind them, “What the fuck is wrong with your country?”
I could only shrug.
It’s confusing to me and many others why guns are such a problem. And the reasons why are numerous. I mean, we have a gun-control supporter for president and a Democratic majority in the Senate. On the other hand the NRA is a powerful group and their lobbyists are if nothing else, effective. But they are outnumbered by millions of other people who probably don’t want their faces blown off.
What do they actually do anyway? Meetings must be so boring. “So, guns…pretty neat, right?”
There are also statistics like these which don’t just suggest, but actually prove that owning a gun doesn’t make you any safer. Women and children are more likely to be shot if there’s a gun in the home. People who carry guns are more likely to be shot and a higher gun ownership rate is directly related to more homicides and suicides.
Maybe part of the issue is that gun advocates avoid reading the data. Another part is the lack of focus of gun-control supporters. What part of their platform is most important? It’s a bit of an echo chamber at times, a bunch of people are calling for tighter restrictions but the nature of their demands can be quite vague. Which is part of why their argument is easily dismissed and lost in the shuffle. Gun ownership reform would actually necessitate several steps and to anyone on the fence it can seem overly complicated and perhaps more trouble than it’s worth.
Worth. There’s an important concept in this discussion. What is it worth to Americans that less people die?
Just watch The Wire already. I’m sick of reminding you.
Part of this discussion is difficult to have because if you’re playing the odds, young black males are more likely to be shot than anyone. Gang members and their victims usually aren’t NRA members and a lot of Americans who don’t live in those environments simply don’t care about what happens to people on the fringe.
When a Newtown, an Aurora or an Isla Vista happens though, it hits a nerve, doesn’t it? The attention to, and resultant anger over gun violence is disproportionately loud and white when you consider how many die on inner city streets every day.
Mass shootings are on the rise but they are, statistically-speaking, only a small part of the yearly gun death tally. But that’s not to downplay the total number of gun deaths per year which is both mind-boggling and unacceptable. Over eleven-thousand in 2010. Current trends indicate that between twenty-four and thirty gun homicides occur every day.
I would have said that cable news networks are something akin to the blind leading the blind but at least the blind get stuff done. I mean come on, CNN still hasn’t found that airplane.
Maybe shootings are over-reported? It certainly can reach a saturation point where you just can’t take anymore and it makes you feel numb. But that said, even though we know that news outlets choose salacious topics for the sake of higher ratings, shouldn’t the fact that we are inundated with reports of gun violence be enough to mobilize people into concerted action? I guess no, not really.
I come from Michigan where hunting is huge. But I don’t think hunters are the problem as not every hunter is a gun-nut and vice-versa. I also don’t think handguns are the problem. I think it’s the lacking background checks and prevalence of semi-automatic guns.
When the founding fathers wrote the Constitution they could not have known how guns would advance. They could not have predicted the accuracy, the power, or the rate of fire. Guns in the Revolutionary War couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn. (Okay, maybe they could if you were standing in the barn.) If you told the framers of the Constitution that more people would die from guns every year than American soldiers died in battle during the entire course of the American Revolution their wooden teeth would fall out of the powdered-wigged heads. They would think we were being invaded by the British again.
“I wish someone would just hurry up and invent the internet already, I’m freezing my teacakes off.”
For the staunchly pro-gun crowd to argue for an iron-clad Second Amendment and state that the will and intent of our forebears must be strictly adhered to is in contradiction to Thomas Jefferson’s views on law:
“I am certainly not an advocate for frequent and untried changes in laws and constitutions. I think moderate imperfections had better be borne with; because, when once known, we accommodate ourselves to them, and find practical means of correcting their ill effects. But I know also, that laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind. As that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, new truths disclosed, and manners and opinions change with the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also, and keep pace with the times. We might as well require a man to wear still the coat which fitted him when a boy, as civilized society to remain ever under the regimen of their barbarous ancestors.”
And oddly enough, some politicians and the NRA think more guns would solve the problem. (Reminder: I pointed out earlier in this post that higher gun ownership equates to a higher gun fatality rate.) There is a thought, a very-dumb-not-good-at-all thought, that we should arm teachers. Right. Is it just me or is that pants-crappingly insane? Let’s arm overworked, under-appreciated, underpaid people who work with children. Sarcasm noted?
My point being that humans are flawed. We are dumb, we are passionate, men with boners do stupid things, you name it. Trained professionals still accidentally shoot themselves all the time. Some people forget to lock up the house before they leave so how can you expect a gun owner to remember to lock the gun cabinet?
Us humans are not always as great as we hope we are.
Guns, on the other hand, are perfect. If maintained properly and used effectively, they kill things pretty much all the time. The notion that guns aren’t the problem seems willfully ignorant to me.
Some gun advocates say a gun is not a weapon, it’s a tool. Well, I’d say that I teach children and that’s the silliest thing I’ve heard in a while. Guns were invented as weapons. The Chinese made them so that they could shoot other people that they didn’t like. It was later appropriated to hunting but it started off as a weapon and still is, by definition, a weapon. Sure, you can kill people with tools, but you can’t build a house or even a spice rack with a gun. Therefor, it’s not a tool.
You know what? Screw it. If someone can provide video proof of themselves constructing a spice rack with a gun I’ll eat my hat.
A weird little thing I’ve heard is that guns aren’t the problem, violence is. Well, for starters, “What?” And my follow-up, “Huh!?” There seems to be a general disconnect there that ignores that guns are a shortcut to violence when our basest desires cannot be resisted. And that the violence that stems from gun use is more likely to be fatal and harder to prevent. So to that logic I can only say, “(sound of blowing raspberries.)”
We are exposed to media that romanticizes guns. In video games, guns solve problems. However, I don’t think that video games are the issue. Of developed nations the U.S. leads the way in the rate of gun deaths per year and other developed nations have the same access to television, toys, books, movies, and yes, video games, that we do. In fact, in Japan where video game ownership is higher, the gun death rate is so low that by comparison it’s as if no one is ever shot in Japan. You are 147 times more likely to be shot to death in the U.S. than Japan.
Ultra-violent entertainment is even more commonplace in Japan than in the States. For example, here’s a promo pic from the Japanese manga/anime Fist of the North Star. This is about the only picture you can find of Fist of the North Star that won’t erode your soul. Oh, Japan. You wily devils.
What’s the difference then? Gun laws. They have super-strict background checks in Japan and the low gun death tally shows it. Their laws help weed out people who are unstable and potentially violent from having guns.
We don’t actually have that. We have criminal background checks which aren’t required in private sales or at gun shows and are based only on convictions, not a psychiatric report or even an interview.
We need new laws so what about the lawmakers? Well, here’s the biggest obstacle of all: Members of Congress spend half their terms worried about re-election which is why precious little ever gets done and why their approval rating is in the crapper. I think that installing term limits would end that, but do I think it would ever happen? Hrrrm…not bloody likely.
An atypically productive session of Congress unravels at the appearance of a sunbeam.
Gun ownership is popular in many states and more and more guns are being made every year which means more jobs which gun makers threaten to take to another state if the local elected official starts talking about gun control. So I kind of understand why the buckle so early and often. Politicians are not entirely chicken shit. But they’re not not entirely chicken shit.
Guns provide the illusion of power. The sense of control. But statistics show that the introduction of more guns equals more death and more chaos. In Australia when a mass shooting occurred the conservative government in office passed sweeping gun control laws and there hasn’t been a mass shooting since. Several politicians were eventually voted out of office due to the backlash from their pro-gun constituencies but they seem to bear no regrets because they were doing their job in making the country safer. That sort of plain logic doesn’t compute to American politicians.
Personally, I’m in no rush to move back to a country with a government whose politicians think that their jobs are so much more important than protecting the citizenry that they won’t even write a law. I’m content to just watch from afar for now.