Last week’s Plain Speaking on guns column examined several mistruths that the National Rifle Association and its followers would love for us all to believe, as well as several common sense arguments that illustrate the drastic need for gun reform laws in the United States.
This week’s column is a continuation of that discussion, which I believe encompasses some of the most perplexing and pressing topics of our time.
More NRA fallacies
Another popular but false piece of NRA propaganda is that armed citizens with concealed carry permits serve as a preventative against “bad guys” who might use guns to harm innocent people.
NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre once remarked: “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.”
I wish with all my heart that was the case, and in some instances rightful gun-owners do in fact repel attacks from bad guys. But Colorado is a concealed-carry state, after all, yet it has still gained national attention for enduring more than its fair share of high-profile mass shootings over the course of several decades.
What gives? Where are all the knights in shining armor with concealed-carry permits when the shooting starts? We sure could have used their help at Columbine High School, the movie theater in Aurora, or most recently, in Boulder.
Of course, some bad guys also possess concealed carry permits, which is another problem altogether.
I’d personally be much more surprised if a concealed gun carrier helped to prevent a mass shooting than if one of them didn’t. After all, an average guy with a concealed carry permit generally has neither the inclination nor the firepower to successfully confront a mass shooter wielding an assault rifle equipped with a clip that holds 20 or more rounds.
Depite NRA messaging to the contrary, more gun-toting Americans don’t equate to a safer society. All too often, those same guns that the NRA claims make us safer are actually used to slaughter us en masse.
Stick with me here: Even if a good guy with a gun shoots a bad guy with a gun, which LaPierre seems to believe is an ideal scenario, only the symptom of the real problem has been addressed. The symptom is a bad guy with a gun. The problem is that the bad guy had possession of the gun to begin with, and that’s what needs to be addressed.
Bad guys will continue to have guns until we address the problem, rather than the symptom. Until then, if you’ll pardon the phrase, we’re essentially putting band-aids on bullet wounds.
If not with guns …
I often hear the pro-gun rights argument that people will always find a way to kill one another, whether they use guns or not. As it stands now, however, there is no need for alternative means of killing one another because guns are getting the job done with astonishing efficiently.
According to www.pewresearch.org, three-quarters of all U.S. murders in 2017 – 14,542 out of 19,510 – involved a firearm. According to Wikipedia, nearly one-third of the world’s public mass shootings between 1966 and 2012 (90 of 292 incidents) occurred in the United States.
That same source states: “Several possible factors may work together to create a fertile environment for mass murder in the United States. Most commonly suggested is more accessibility and ownership of guns. The U.S. has the highest per-capita gun ownership in the world with 120.5 firearms per 100 people; the second highest is Yemen with 52.8 firearms per 100 people.”
Would those in the minority on the issue of gun reform actually argue that strangulations, stabbings or fistfights have the capacity to kill more than 14,000 Americans annually, as guns do? Would they argue that the staggering number of homicides in the United States would look about the same, even if we didn’t have the highest per capita gun ownership in the world?
The answer is yes, and they do so every time there is a mass shooting like the one that occurred recently in Boulder. Without exception, they minimize the role that guns and gun ownership play in such tragedies and refuse to even broach the topic of gun reform or increased oversight of any kind.
Some also claim that assault rifles are really no more dangerous than other, more traditional guns. If that is true, why do mass shooters so often prefer automatic or semi-automatic assault weapons over all the other options at their disposal?
Guns over life
What event or events might alter the opinions of gun advocates who believe that compromising at all on gun reform equates to selling out or giving up their guns altogether? That is difficult to answer, considering that the previously mentioned mass shootings and gun violence statistics have not been enough.
There is also the hypothetical question as to whether NRA-ers would feel differently if their wives, husbands, daughters or sons were gunned down in cold blood by a fellow gun proponent who’s temper got the best of him on a given day at the local supermarket.
Would they still assert that the shooter’s right to bear military-grade weapons trumps the loss of their loved one? In other words, if staunch gun rights advocates found themselves in the shoes of a Sandy Hook parent, would they still walk and talk the same way?
I admittedly don’t know the answer to that question, either, but I’m guessing most any Sandy Hook parent could shed some light on the topic. After losing their seven-year-olds to a Bushmaster XM-15 series AR-15 style semi-automatic rifle, are they passionately clamoring to their elected officials for unfettered gun rights for all Americans? Probably not.
What is the NRA response to the recent mass shooting in Boulder, for example? Do they feel badly for the victims while still maintaining that the shooter had every right to own the Ruger AR-556 pistol he bought six days prior to the incident?
The vast majority of Americans have heard it all before and they aren’t buying it anymore. They want their sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, wives and husbands back. They are tired of the same old justifications from unwavering gun advocates, and they are sickened by the lack of human compassion reflected in those self-serving arguments. I am too.
The Second Amendment
Finally, there is the sacred argument that the Second Amendment secures the rights of all Americans to bear arms by stating: “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.”
Citing these words written in 1791 as a means of justifying civilian ownership of automatic assault rifles is a proverbial shot in the dark that entirely misses or misinterprets the spirit of the Second Amendment as it was written.
As is stated in www.constitutioncenter.org: “Much has changed since 1791. The traditional militia fell into desuetude, and state-based militia organizations were eventually incorporated into the federal military structure. The nation’s military establishment has become enormously more powerful than eighteenth century armies. We still hear political rhetoric about federal tyranny, but most Americans do not fear the nation’s armed forces and virtually no one thinks that an armed populace could defeat those forces in battle. Furthermore, eighteenth century civilians routinely kept at home the very same weapons they would need if called to serve in the militia, while modern soldiers are equipped with weapons that differ significantly from those generally thought appropriate for civilian uses. Civilians no longer expect to use their household weapons for militia duty …”
So on one hand, we have the antiquated words found in the Second Amendment. On the other hand, we have the lifeless bodies randomly dispersed throughout the Boulder King Soopers shopping aisles after yet another mass shooting. Which should take precedence over the other? Which moves you more?
The constitution and its amendments is a living, breathing document that has been altered and amended as needed for almost two-and-a-half centuries. When laws and language in the Constitution become outdated or are no longer practical, they are routinely altered to meet the needs of the day. Why should the antiquated Second Amendment be any different?
The Second Amendment, no matter how it is interpreted, cannot possibly justify the continual loss of life we endure to gun violence. We shall also never forget the horrific destruction that high-powered assault weapons have reaped upon so many innocent Americans. We couldn’t forget if we tried, especially when mass shootings are reported in gruesome detail almost every single day by national and local news sources.
I don’t pretend to have all the answers, and the subject of gun violence and gun control in this country is fraught with perilous details and practical pitfalls. But to hold the Second Amendment up as justification for the gun-related carnage that occurs daily across this country is a slap in the face to all that is reasonable, and to humanity as a whole.
Weighing our rights
If the task before us is to weigh the right to own an assault rifle against the lives of those lost to them, then I could not be happier to be an advocate of gun reform. For me it is an easy decision, even if it requires some sacrifice or compromise on my part as a gun owner.
Those in the minority can stack their guns and ammunition to the ceiling and beyond if it pleases them. It is their right to care only about themselves, and to ignore or minimize the death, destruction and pain caused by gun violence.
It is even their right to fantasize about the government coming to take their guns, and how they would skillfully defend against the imagined attackers with their vast assortment of personally owned weapons. Paranoia, self-induced fear and willful ignorance are serious impediments to our collective progress, and even to our lives in the case of guns and gun control, but not illegal last I checked.
Like it or not, however, common sense gun reform will eventually become a reality. Our long, dark and embarrassing history of gun violence in this country demands change, and historians will record that change as a welcomed and long overdue event when it finally occurs.
So let’s keep our guns. Let’s hunt. Let’s shoot for sport, and above all, let’s protect our homes, property and loved ones. But let’s also embark upon an honest, united and compassionate discussion about how gun violence and the use of automatic assault weapons can be curtailed in this country.
The countless victims of gun violence in this nation, in our state, and within our own communities, deserve that courtesy.