Gun Violence: Caused by bad humans, not bad policies

Gun Violence: Caused by bad humans, not bad policies

After the horrific tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary, it was extremely difficult to contemplate politics for several days. Personally, few events iStopping Gun Violencen history have had such an emotion impact on me. Anger, frustration, sadness and anxiousness are all things I remember feeling. One thing was clear to me, though: this event would bring out a political response rivaled only by such large scale occurrences as 9/11, Hurricane Katrina, and the War in Iraq. So far, I’ve been correct.

Let’s start by examining the circumstances behind Sandy Hook and the other mass shootings which have caught our attention. First, we now know the gunman involved obtained his weapons of violence through illegal means, by stealing them. We also know he tried and failed to purchase a weapon days earlier at a sports store, in which case the law actually worked. The gunman didn’t want to wait for a background check by the store and he gave up.

Next, some of the weapons used in the massacre were 9mm handguns, a common weapon owned by literally millions of average Americans. Many own the weapon for self-defense and keep it safely in their homes. Others use them for gang violence and also illegally obtained them.

While I don’t blame “the media” for incidents like this one (because that moves responsibility away from the criminal), the culture of acceptable violence we find ourselves in should be challenged. Movies, TV and video games all make murder and violence completely acceptable, even for the youngest (who easily obtain the content despite age warnings). Yes, it is a parenting problem, but parents need reminding that the human brain is extremely impressionable during childhood – particularly adolescence.

The point? You can’t make laws to stop people that break laws.

Despite efforts to get rid of violent gun users by getting rid of guns, we live in a nation where tens of millions of firearms can be found everywhere. We must look at all 300 million Americans as either law-abiding or criminals. Only one side of this equation can be seriously controlled by government efforts to rid society of firearms, and it isn’t the criminals. Banning firearms for law-abiders just lowers the ratio of their gun ownership to ownership by the criminals. In some respects and some situations, good guys with guns act as a check on bad guys with guns. The examples are countless. Rural and suburban homes are far often less targets of break-ins for fear there may be a gun owner inside. Police and military wield guns to impose fear on those contemplating a violation of civil order. Like the death penalty (for another column), guns act as a deterrent.

That said, I do not agree with the NRA’s position of placing armed officers in each and every school as a response to a handful of incidents that appear to be a greater wave of violence (thanks to heavy and unprecedented media coverage). School is a place of safety and community, something every student deserves. This can be achieved through other means, I hope.

Like all of you, I still ask myself, “what do we do, then?”

The answer is not one answer but a myriad of messages and policies to hopefully shape a discourse towards ending the occurrence and severity of horrific scenes like that in Connecticut.

First, every firearm law on the books across local, state and federal jurisdictions needs to be examined for effectiveness and enforcement. This isn’t the first time in America we’ve thought about making new laws, so let’s look at those in the past that didn’t work and those already in place that aren’t enforced. There are many. An assault weapons ban in the 1990’s from Congress was ineffective at best and wasn’t renewed for various reasons. This review should also include symbolic and unnecessary rules such as DC’s ban on certain types of ammunition magazines. Hasn’t the unsuccessful war on drugs taught us that banning something doesn’t make it go away?

Next, let’s ask the media to stop glorifying the names and faces of school shooters like this one (purposefully not named) and others simply because they are out of the ordinary. In the time it takes you to read this article, several people will have been killed or injured by violence in our cities using firearms. You won’t know the names of the shooters and you shouldn’t be able to remember the names of mass murderers, either. Let’s stop making a hero out of these mentally-deranged individuals and call them out for what they are: cowards, small, insecure, and attention-seeking. When someone at a baseball game goes streaking across the field, it is media policy not to cover or even speak to the incident. Can we cover violence without glory? Let’s try.

Further, we ought to work harder to verify who has guns when they’re sold and when they’re discovered in routine police stops. If someone has a gun that shouldn’t, the punishment should be harsh and unforgiving. This protects the rights even further of those owning guns for lawful purposes – a constitutional right under the 2nd Amendment. Despite the Left’s absolute disregard for the U.S. Constitution in recent years, this right to bear arms is clear and unwavering.

We need to examine who we’re blaming when tragedies like this occur. If we blame the weapons used by criminals, what message does that send? Many don’t realize that half-way around the world around 20 children in China were also murdered by a deranged adult on the same day as Sandy Hook – only with a knife. On the day of Sandy Hook, an average of 118 Americans were killed unnecessarily in automobile accidents and didn’t come home to their families. Whether it’s a firearm, knife, car, chemicals, alcohol or simply bare hands, blame the actor, not the tool.

We need to work harder at detecting and treating those individuals more prone to violence due to mental instability. Similar to our culture change after 9/11, becoming more vigilant of the out-of-the-ordinary among us will be critical. These mass murderers are the suicide bombers of our generation. They have no regard for the law or their own well-being. It will take a cultural shift that identifies their insecurity and illness and resilience among all of us to overcome this recurring pattern.

Blame on the NRA following such events is completely unwarranted. The NRA exists to defend the rights of lawful gun owners and sportsmen and to promote gun safety for all. Since the early 1990’s accidental deaths by guns have plummeted, thanks in part to millions spent by the NRA on safety programs. They exist to defend gun owners just like unions exist to defend bloated government bureaucracies. They will continue to do so and shouldn’t be expected to “compromise” on liberal non-sense. Call your Congressman for that.

Don’t get me wrong. I still stand for reasonable gun laws that work to take guns out of the hands of those who shouldn’t have them. When law enforcement realized a small change in Sudafed availability at grocery stores could control the flow of Methamphetamines, most citizens didn’t see their daily lives ruined. When every airline passenger was forced to take their shoes off to fly after one man abused his right to fly, many understood. But in five, ten or twenty years, will we look back and wonder why we let a slow tyranny adulterate our idea of a free society? When do rights become privileges and privileges become null and void?

I, too, asked myself on the day of the massacre, “Why do people need weapons like this?” But this line of arguments only leads to the conclusion that humans cannot reason nor think for themselves. We can. We aren’t animals or robots or zombies and we make our own decisions. In the midst of the bandwagon of regulatory ideas that will surely roll through town in the coming months, at least some of us need to keep believing that personal responsibility should and will triumph.

Above all, every one of us needs to recognize that evil exists in this sometimes comfortable life we live. Some things are so unexplainable and unconscionable that they need only fall under the category of pure evil. While it feels painful in this particular point in time, all of human history has seen evil and will see it long after we’re all gone. In the world of constant visual and social media, we need to do our best not to give these thrill-seekers what they want: recognition.