As I’ve previously stated, my blog was never intended to be a political soapbox. But there are occasions when I feel the need to speak out, and pretty much practice what I preach. This is one of those times. As always, thanks for stopping by.
This past week the news media bristled with the announcement of another tragedy here in the U.S.––another mass murder at a public school, which made the incident even worse. Teenage students killed before they had the opportunity to choose a direction in life and possibly make a difference in society. Parents left grieving from their loss, with only memories and the unthinkable realization that they’d outlived their children. And the big question on everyone’s mind: WHY? Why do these shootings keep happening? What are we doing wrong?
The first straw to grasp at is guns and gun laws. Because guns were used at most mass killings in recent years, that must mean we need stricter gun laws. Because assault rifles were the popular weapon of choice, all assault rifles must be banned.
Really? Does anyone truly believe those two notions will put an end to gun violence?
Although guns and gun laws continue to be a highly sensitive matter, please, indulge me for a moment and think about this issue.
Several countries and communities have set up buyback programs that allow gun owners to relinquish their pistols, rifles, and shotguns for cash or some form of compensation. The weapons turned in are then to be permanently destroyed. The belief is that many guns involved in violent crimes were illegally obtained via break-ins to homes and automobiles. If thieves knew that the likelihood of finding a gun in someone’s home or car is far less, break-ins will be reduced, as well as the number of gun-related crimes. The promise of $100 to $200 cash in St. Louis resulted in a tremendous response. Unfortunately, many of those weapons received were rust-tainted relics, not what the police and sponsors had anticipated. The other problem with these kinds of programs is that only law-abiding, responsible citizens––or folks wanting to dispose of their junk––will participate. The criminals and the few mentally unstable people will hang on to their guns. Avid sportsmen will keep theirs, too. So, who will remain armed? Law enforcement and military personnel, avid sportsmen, and the criminals that the buyback program was supposed to help eliminate.
And what about stricter gun laws? In most states, background investigations are part of the new gun purchasing ritual. I’m definitely in favor of background checks and believe they might be made stricter or, perhaps, merely better enforced in some areas. But even background investigations will not weed-out all would-be assassins. When necessary, mentally unstable folks are often quite good at disguising their condition and are capable of passing background checks without a hitch. Just because someone is unstable does not mean they are not intelligent or that they have criminal or medical records that would raise a red flag. As a result, background investigations deny gun permits to a relatively small number of people. On the other hand, even a small success rate is better than none.
Anti-gun advocates blame the National Rifle Association for padding politicians’ pockets and doing their best to delay any form of gun control. In my estimation, padding politicians’ pockets to sway their loyalty should be banned regardless of the cause. What happened to ‘We the People’? Isn’t Congress supposed to work for the American citizens, not big business? In that respect I’m not enamored with the NRA. On the other hand, what about the support that the NRA provides for legal gun owners?
Then, of course, there’s the Second Amendment issue. When asked about this well-known law of the land, most Americans will reply that the Second Amendment guarantees all U.S. citizens the right to bear arms. When the amendment was written, most everyone possessed several guns in their household. Rifles and pistols were not only a means of individual and national defense, but also tools to help put food on the table. Beginning in the twentieth century, however, the Second Amendment has been the subject of numerous debates, some taken as high as the Supreme Court. Although challenge persists regarding the wording “well-regulated” and “militia” written in to the amendment, rather than launch into another deliberation on the subject, I’ll base my opinion on what I’ve read and observed on the news and stick with the everyman position on gun ownership. Still, I have to ask, why should anyone other than law enforcement and the military need a semi-automatic rifle?
All that said, whether pro or con on the gun issue, I believe people need to seriously consider two questions. Are guns the real problem or merely a scapegoat? Is society overlooking a more relevant issue?
Physical evidence leaves no doubt that guns are dangerous––deadly. But so are cars, trucks, and motorcycles. Thousands of people die from motor vehicle accidents every year, yet no one is screaming to ban automobiles. True, auto manufacturers have had to comply with stricter safety regulations, which have increased the percentage of survivors from potentially fatal accidents. But heightened safety standards do not create better drivers. High-tech additions such as auto-braking and lane change avoidance merely make folks more complacent behind the wheel. Improved safety standards didn’t prevent terrorists from driving rental trucks into crowds of innocent people, either. Has anyone lobbied for background checks toward rental vehicles?
So, where does the problem lie?
From my experience working with the public, our current society reflects a very poor comprehension of respect and responsibility. I believe people need to examine society and concede that the root cause behind much of the violent crime in this country and around the world starts at home. As parents, we need to teach our children about respect and responsibility at an early age and then follow through by setting the example with our own actions. Technology also plays a role as more and more kids today isolate themselves with their personal electronics and social media. But it’s not just the kids. How many hours a day do we adults hover over our smartphones and contribute to a disjointed family life? Then there’s the problem with too many parents viewing teachers in public schools as babysitters rather than educators. (And one parent is too many) Unfortunately, our overall mindset has evolved into a ME not WE attitude. We’ve lost empathy toward one another and love to blame everyone else for our problems and actions rather than accept responsibility for them. And ya know what, that ain’t right.
If we truly want to protect our children and one another, and greatly reduce gun violence, we all have to first accept personal responsibility and then commit to working together to achieve the desired results. Tossing that task toward Congress is not the entire answer, merely a part of it. And if folks believe the current Congress is incapable of making the necessary changes, then they must do their part by exercising another Constitutional right––vote. We Americans need to elect officials whom we believe will work on not only ours but the nation’s behalf to produce a safer and more cooperative environment.
**Authors footnote: Guns have been in my family for generations. Many families I know share that position. My grandfather was a sportsman and hunted regularly. My father was a marksman and won national championships. I’ve hunted and gone target shooting numerous times. Before I was allowed to touch a gun, however, I was taught respect and responsibility––respect and responsibility toward operating the weapon and toward all people. It made a difference.