Is The “American” Too Stupid To Handle The Responsibility of Guns?

HeyCongress

The United States, in its creation and its development, is one of the most brilliant experiments that has occurred in human history. Instead of a homogenous society such as many Asian nations or one of tribal dominance such as those that are found in Africa, the United States of America was a true attempt at something that many would feel is impossible:  incorporating different people, different ideologies and different cultures into a “melting pot” where the end goal is an amalgam of the world’s best into a new creature…an “American” (I must say at this point I’ve never liked the term “American” – when that term is used, I immediately wonder “North, South or Central?” How about “citizen of the United States?”). While the list of success stories from the 200-plus years of the existence of the United States of America – and another 150 years or so of settlement into this earthen laboratory – are some of the greatest in mankind’s history, there are some areas where the nation has fallen short.

One of those areas has become painfully evident as details have come out over the past few days. Last Thursday a white male walked into a community college in Oregon and, with no provocation or apparent motive, gunned down nine classmates and instructors and wounded another seven people. In the more than 72 hours since the last echo of gunshots filtered across the Oregon landscape, we’ve dredged up the old tapes of the previous arguments over past mass shooting situations rather than advancing any significant solutions for changing the climate.

The “Usual Suspects” have divided along their prescribed lines, with one side stating that further laws on guns are a necessity to prevent this from happening again. The other side states that it is their “God given right” to have weapons, as many as they want, and any move to take them away is roughly akin to an attack against the very fabric of life itself. The potential reality, however, is that this new creature we’ve created – the “American” – is too fucking stupid to handle the responsibility of guns.

In looking at it from the “law of the land” – the U. S. Constitution – there would appear to be nothing that could be done, but that would be inaccurate. The Second Amendment – “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.” – was put into the Bill of Rights for the essential purpose of having each state providing its own Army – its “Militia” – for the defense of the individual State and for the purpose of providing a standing Army for the federal government. The people who would make up that “Militia” would be the citizens of the state, who would need weaponry to be able to fight in battle (not to mention that they already had these weapons for providing food for their families).

Fast forward to the 21st century and the theory of the state-run “Militia” has run its course. The federal government has the responsibility for the national defense, accepting volunteers from its citizenry, thus the theory that a person may have to join a “Militia” to defend their state or country is an antiquated one (no more so than blacks and women don’t have the right to vote, for example…that was also in the Constitution at one time). Since hunting has now also become a leisure activity for virtually everybody rather than a survival one, sane people would naturally examine the point of weapons in today’s society.

Secondly, let’s look at the situation from the evolution of weapons. In the 18th century, the weapon of choice for many in the Colonies was a musket, which took anywhere from two to five minutes to load up with a single shot. The weapon’s effective range was about 50 meters (roughly 164 feet), meaning you had to virtually be right beside your target before you squeezed the trigger (in those days, ammunition was expensive and not to be wasted). It was also fairly easy to see when you had your musket with you; at 60 inches (five feet), there wasn’t anywhere on your body to conceal the weapon.

Once again, let’s rocket through history to today. Weapons such as the AR-15 – which was the predecessor to the military usage M-16 – have become popular for ownership by civilians for their ease of use as well as their power. That weapon can be converted to be able to fire fully automatic, meaning it can spew rounds out at the rate of hundreds per minute (remember the musket was a shot every two to five minutes) and has an effective target range of 500 meters or more (in the hands of a military person or someone well trained on the weapon). Even a .45 automatic handgun can pop out rounds at around one per second (60) and has an effective range of about 100 meters, if the shooter is quick with the trigger and reloading the weapon. And this isn’t even introducing a weapon such as the M-60, a weapon with the range of 1200 meters and up to 2000 meters in a trained sniper’s hands. When comparing the two situations, any logically minded person might entertain the option, at the minimum, that the Second Amendment WASN’T written with today’s sophisticated weaponry in mind.

US Stupidity

Finally, let’s take a look at the general stupidity of those that own weapons today. In September the state of Georgia, who for some unexplainable reason allow for weapons to be carried in bars, was greeted with a shootout in a bar when several people whipped out their weapons just before 3AM in the morning. Three people were found shot there and seven others, looking to avoid police, took themselves to the hospital. Only the stupidity of not being able to aim a weapon properly prevented a significant loss of life in this instance.

Typing the search phrase “child finds gun and shoots” into Google returns over five MILLION results on the subject. Looking up “person cleaning gun shoots” returns over EIGHT MILLION hits, including a North Carolina father who shot his 10-year old son to death while wiping down his shotgun in 2013. Last year a Las Vegas gun instructor handed an Uzi to a nine-year old girl on a gun range. The girl, unable to properly control the weapon, killed the instructor immediately as she struggled with its power. These and other stories continually demonstrate the stupidity of the “American” to simply maintain their weapons safely, keep them out of the hands of those who might not know what to do with them or even momentarily pause to think if something this dangerous should be done at all.

The gun fanatics can be shot down quickly. “The only counter for a bad guy…” yeah…yeah…yeah. How many times has that “good guy” taken down the baddie? On the grounds of that community college in Oregon were several people with concealed/carry permits and at least one person who was actively carrying. What did they do to stop the situation? In such a situation, the objective is to head for cover, not open up like it’s the fucking Wild West and escalate a situation beyond what it is. The Virginia Tech shooting was done on campus in the midst of plenty of University police and security…the shooter stopped his rampage when he committed suicide. I don’t see these “good guys” civilians jumping up and, even if they could, their own personal logic and training would probably prevent them from taking action and making a situation worse.

“It’s a right…”yeah…yeah…yeah. It was previously a “right” for women not to vote, that slaves were 3/5 of a person (so much for that “all created equal” stuff), that you couldn’t drink, etc. Rights are critical to keeping society free, sure. Rights aren’t set in stone, however; recognize the end of slavery, women’s suffrage, civil rights and the end of Prohibition. Besides, if Donald Trump can debate the legality of the 14th Amendment, maybe it’s time we started to take a look at all of them in our current society.

“I’m protecting against the tyrant Obama and the New World Order…” yeah…yeah…yeah. You’re part of the problem, bub, and shouldn’t be holding a weapon if you believe in a conspiracy theory like that (the “New World Order” or Illuminati is pretty lame if it has been in existence for well over 600-700 years and hasn’t TAKEN OVER ANYTHING). Put down the weapon, step away from it slowly and pick up your tinfoil hat and binky to suck to help keep you calm. (Funny how we never heard about these armed “Militias” wanting to take down President Bush, isn’t it? Perhaps that’s a question for another time…)

The stupidity of “Americans” regarding weapons will continue until there is some change to the mentality. There are fewer restrictions on guns than there are on an automobiles; while admittedly not a right, driving an auto requires an age requirement, insurance, licensing, training on the vehicle (we just don’t allow anyone to jump into a gasoline tanker truck without the proper training) and, if they don’t abide by the rules, then people are punished both financially and with their very freedom. Why can’t the same thing be done regarding our love affair with guns? If your too stupid to be able to handle them responsibly, then you don’t need to have them at all.

I won’t go through the litany of civilized nations that have come up with the answer to the questions we United States citizens face regarding the gun issue. If we continue to let the stupid rule the issue, however, we are doomed to continual tragedy. If we cannot get this system under control, then we will continue to see (to paraphrase a Jimmy Buffett song about ignoring problems around you) “a river of blood pouring out from a wound that will not heal.”

Why Do We Keep Repeating Ourselves When It Comes To Gun Violence?

It’s been a couple of days since the tragic shooting of WDBJ-TV Roanoke, VA, reporter Alison Parker and her cameraman, Adam Ward (and the life-threatening injury to Vicki Gardner, a member of the Chamber of Commerce that they were interviewing), live during the broadcast of the station’s morning show by a deranged former co-worker of the duo. Over the past couple of days, there has once again been the hand-wringing that comes about following one of these inexplicable shootings that seem to happen like clockwork in the United States. When these periods of mourning occur, there is also a renewed “effort” (if you want to call it that) to enact sensible gun regulation; in the Roanoke case, it is Parker’s father that has led the call this time. There’s also that dreadful feeling that, like many other times before and for much worse cases, nothing at all will be done about the situation.

The problem is, in the past couple of instances, the current laws and any tougher restrictions may not have done any good.

In the Roanoke case the shooter, former reporter Vester Flanagan (we will not respect him by using his on-air name) legally purchased not just one but two Glock semi-automatic pistols, one that he would eventually use in the shooting of Parker, Ward and Gardner. Flanagan passed through the background check, no bells went off and he walked out (there is no waiting period for gun purchases in Virginia) of a licensed gun dealer’s shop in Virginia with his weapons after paying for them.

This situation also applies to the horrific tragedy that is the Charleston, SC church shooting. The person responsible for that, 21-year old Dylan Roof, also was able to pass a background check (later found to be faulty) to be able to obtain the weaponry that he used to gun down the nine churchgoers in cold blood. Even the Sandy Hook tragedy was done by a shooter, Adam Lanza, whose mother legally bought him the weapons he had (and would use on her and 26 others) in 2012.

Add in Virginia Tech, Aurora, Chattanooga and many other cases and you see that the United States has way too many instances of mass shootings on its soil (this is just in the past decade and not even a comprehensive list). To be able to correct this problem, there are several issues that have to be considered here and implementation of all are necessary if we are to get the usage of guns in horrendous crimes under control.

A 2013 Pew Research Center survey states that slightly more than one-third of U. S. citizens own or live with someone who owns a weapon. With the population of the U. S. around 320 million, that means there are over 100 million people who own at least one weapon. For arguments sake, let’s cut that number to around 50 million gun owners, counting for duplication in a husband and wife household at the minimum. That’s a scary number to see, especially when you consider “at least one” in the ownership realm.

The reason I say “at least one” is that it is also estimated that there are anywhere from 270 to 310 million weapons in the United States, nearly enough to outfit each man, woman and child in the U. S. with a weapon whether they like it or not. That number of guns available in itself is far too many and needs to be examined in its own right. But through implementation of some common sense ideas, many of the problematic issues regarding weapons can be corrected; it’s going to take some time, however, perhaps decades.

First off is a suitable waiting period before someone can obtain any type of firearm:  rifle, pistol, shotgun or a variety of other weaponry. In some cases, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) performs the background checks on potential gun owners, in others it is the individual State Bureaus of Investigation; both should be utilized, the state’s investigation first and the FBI as a double-check. There should be a 10-day waiting period in which to give the proper authorities ample time to review a person’s background and, if there is no result from the responsible investigative bureau, then the sale is rejected. To implement this change, however, you can’t continually cut funding from the proper authorities to do their jobs properly.

Second is better recording and sharing of mental health records. There should be a national registry for those suffering from mental health issues that flag them, in particular for law enforcement groups when they are looking over pretty much anything they do. Wouldn’t a police officer like to know that the person sitting in the vehicle ahead of them might have a history of mental health issues and therefore might handle a situation differently? The same holds true when they are reviewing someone’s application for a weapon, especially if the applicant’s mental health issues are only recorded in another state.

Now I am sure that someone is going to say that this is an “invasion of privacy” or a violation of doctor/patient privilege. Unfortunately, when you’ve reached the point that your particular affliction is causing issues with law enforcement, you do lose some privacy considerations. Don’t take it too far, however; someone has to have demonstrated previously an incident, either on the job or with law enforcement, to show just cause for being placed on such a registry, not someone who has been simply treated for issues that affect their abilities to function in normal life. Even with this caveat thrown into the mix, the Roanoke situation may still have happened, however.

Finally, there has to be some recognition from the political sphere that this is a significant problem in the United States and pay it real attention rather than hiding behind the skirts of several usual suspects.

For the Democrats, we already have enough gun restrictions on the books. There are going to be shootings on a RARE occasion, even with all the gun laws in the U. S. implemented to the fullest. Banning high capacity magazines and automatic weapons isn’t the answer, a better one would be to regulate their usage and allow for their ownership by the populace. Continuing to push for deeper and deeper restrictions or bans beyond what already exist only infringe on a lawful individual’s rights, not the criminal who actually committed the crime.

For the Republicans, it is time to take the pacifier that the National Rifle Association sticks in your mouth after each mass shooting out, get out from behind the U. S. Constitution and allow for some more regulation on guns. The NRA leadership (rumor has it the base membership of the organization doesn’t have a problem with some additional regulation, especially in banning sales at gun shows and more extensive background checks) has shown repeatedly that it isn’t about defending the right of U. S. citizens to own weapons. With that leadership in particular (and the same can be said for plenty of other groups), it is more of a political stance to get the proper person into a seat in Congress or state legislatures across the country to be able to manipulate them at will.

The Second Amendment in the Bill of Rights to the U. S. Constitution does provide for the right of the citizenry to own weapons and it is an important amendment to defend. However, it doesn’t provide for someone to own an arsenal that sometimes outpaces even law enforcement (no matter how good you are, you can only shoot two weapons at a time). Add in to that equation the issue of when the Second Amendment was written. At that time, it took even the best musket shooter anywhere from two to three minutes to reload their weapon and said weapon was only accurate to about 100 yards for the best marksman. Today, when you can spray 600 rounds per minute – with accuracy from 300 to 500 yards – from an Uzi by an untrained person, perhaps it’s time to reconsider the Second Amendment’s intent.

Additional regulation doesn’t have to be draconian, it can be as simple as banning gun show sales (hey, if you really want that weapon, go to the store and go through the process) or waiting a few extra days to get a particular weapon in your hand. What about liability insurance on gun owners to hold them personally responsible for the ownership and usage of their weapons? We do more for cars and their ownership than what we do when it comes to weapons.

It is particularly shocking when those whose livelihood once were dependent on the world of weapons are actually asking for more regulations on weapons.

One year ago in Nevada, gun range instructor Charles Vacca was the unfortunate victim of a gun range incident that resulted in his death. The perpetrator? A nine year old girl who legally could fire the weapon, an Uzi submachine gun, but logically shouldn’t have been allowed to even put it in her hand. The six children of Vacca are now advocates for new guns laws that would prohibit people under the age of 16 from shooting certain semiautomatic weapons like those as powerful as the Uzi, an instance of gun control that make completely logical sense.

The real issue that needs to be addressed, however, is the mentality of the citizens of the United States. It would take several generations to change the mindset of how guns are used in the U. S., to get it beyond its “Wild West” romantic nostalgia or its inner city “equalizer” role. We as a people need to start looking at guns as something that, like many things in life, in the wrong hands can be fatal and how can we attempt to make it a bit safer (let’s be honest, there is no such thing as “perfectly safe”). The rest of the civilized world seems to have learned that using guns as a method of solving conflict isn’t the way to go, why can’t U. S. citizens?

Implementing the measures above – and all of them need to be done, not a piecemeal approach that minces around the subject – would be an outstanding start. After that work is done, we can then sit back and review to see if there is anything else that needs to be done.