A Time for Reflection, Part II of III

Here is Part II of my three-part installment on the Newtown, CT shootings.  As I stated before, I see three very strong factors behind the current incident.  I’m not trying to minimize the complexity of this incident, or “place the blame” on any one thing, just outlining my own beliefs about three factors that may have made a difference.  Part I of the my blog post was about barriers to access for mental health treatment.  Part II is about gun ownership.

I haven’t heard anyone advocate for taking away everyone’s guns, yet I have never seen such vitriol and paranoia, in the mass or social media.  People are entrenched in a very contentious national argument right now, both sides are polarized, and I’m going to say what needs to be said:  We need to ban assault weapons.  Period.  Assault weapons are for one thing: killing as many as possible as quickly as possible.  And in this case, I believe that if assault weapons were illegal, this young man might not have gotten one.  Here is why I believe this:

It so happens that the weapons belonged to his mother, a gun enthusiast who purchased them legally.  He had tried to purchase a gun and was denied.  His mother was not a criminal, so if they were illegal, it is unlikely she would have them.  Like most of these mass shooters, he was a socially awkward, mentally disturbed person, not a hardened criminal with a network of gun-running associates.  While it is possible that if his mother hadn’t have had the guns, he would have gotten one, it’s not probable.  Yes, criminals will still have guns, and people will still do bad things… but there would be fewer of them available, and they would be harder to access, especially for a withdrawn, emotionally disturbed kid with few connections or friends.  

I’m sick to death of hearing, “guns don’t kill people, people kill people.”  Well, what do people use to kill people?  It’s easier to import guns in this country than it is to import bananas, yet people don’t kill people with bananas.  Shouldn’t it be at least as difficult to import guns?  No, guns don’t self-animate and shoot people.  But it’s equally hard for a madman (or woman) to kill dozens of innocent people in mere seconds WITHOUT a gun.  So yes, people kill people, but it’s pretty damn easy to kill lots of them, very quickly, from a distance, without getting sweaty or even getting blood on you, with a gun.  Makes it nice and convenient, doesn’t it.

Does anyone honestly believe that someone who walks into a crowd with, say a knife, is going to do the same amount of damage, in the same amount of time, as someone carrying an assault weapon?  Case in point:  the same day the Newtown shooting took place, a man in China entered a classroom with a knife and stabbed 22 schoolchildren.  As horrific as this is, NOBODY DIED.  I am told that in the Newtown shooting, the medical examiners used photos for parents to identify their children because viewing their grisly little bodies would be too traumatic.  Such is the damage done by a high-caliber assault weapon: it did more than kill them; it annihilated them.  How can we defend these weapons? 

I am all for people having guns to defend and feed their families.  I grew up shooting guns, and I support the Second Amendment.  But this was written at a time when assault weapons did not exist, when it took 15 seconds to reload the single shot muskets that were being used at that time.  I do not support the ownership of assault rifles.  I maintain that this shooting may well have been prevented if this young man had not had legal, easy access to a weapon of mass destruction.  And while he could have perhaps made an explosive or used another weapon, that would not have been as easy or convenient as grabbing a legal, readily available instrument of death. 

There is also a sad fascination with guns in our culture; they denote power and glory.  They are in all the video games, movies, etc.  How often do you see the hero “blow the bad guys away” with a knife, or a homemade explosive?  No, there he stands in all his glory, with his high-powered assault rifles.  When things get out of hand, we “bring in the big guns,” don’t we.  And what is cooler in our society than going out in a “blaze of glory?”  Guns are cool, just ask the NRA.  Oh never mind, they’re being a little quiet right now.

I’ve talked to several people with varying views on gun control.  I think I now understand the irrational rage and hostility people exhibit when anyone dares to suggest banning these dangerous assault weapons.  It’s FEAR.  That’s right, behind the mask of bravado, behind the Monday morning quarterbacking of “I carry a concealed weapon and could have stopped him,” behind the cries of, “Arm the teachers!!” is stone cold fear.  When I ask people why they think we need these weapons, they are scared to death… of government takeover, of zombies (no, I am not kidding), of deadly viruses (because we all know how handy a Bushmaster can be to blow away that pesky flu virus), of economic collapse and their homes being attacked, and the list goes on. 

These people are so taken in by the culture of fear which is stoked by the NRA, gun manufacturers, and the mainstream media outlets, that they have lost their common sense.  They are willing to scream with outrage about gun owner’s rights, yet these same people are silent about the rights of schoolchildren and teachers to return home alive each day.  I’m not saying they don’t care; they are just so consumed with fear that their priorities have been warped.

It is time for a serious conversation about an assault weapons ban, stricter regulations around gun ownership, such as training requirements, etc., and consequences for those who choose not to behave like responsible gun owners.  We owe it to the victims of last weeks shooting, and their families.  And this needs to be a conversation devoid of hysterics, false bravado, and paranoia.  We owe it to them to be adults and TALK.

This leads me to my next installment, while I will post tomorrow, about our culture of violence.  It is deeply enmeshed in our culture of fear, and greatly contributes to the misguided belief that our world is an unsafe place without an arsenal of assault weapons.

I have posted several posts on gun control on my Facebook page, which have set off a firestorm of arguments, rants, and personal attacks.  When I posted a link to an article that provided information about direct ways to help the shooting victims’ families and community last weekend, only one person “liked” it, nobody commented, and nobody shared it.  They were too busy fighting about gun owner’s rights.  Here’s the link, in case anyone is interested in learning more about how to actually help:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/14/connecticut-elementary-school-shooting-how-to-help_n_2302760.html

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Father's Day

I spent this last Father’s Day in silent, burning rage at my dad, and it’s taken me three months to sort it out enough to write.