For what it’s worth, I’m adding my voice to the gun control debate. From when I first shot a rifle at the gun range in the basement of Mississauga’s Thomas Kennedy High School I’ve enjoyed shooting rifles. I affirm the right of hunters and recreational target shooters to own guns. I also seek to understand the Second Amendment within its original context rather than the twisted recasting that has current sway.
After yesterday’s drivel from NRA’s Wayne Lapierre, I cannot remain silent. He has drawn me into expressing my views to my elected officials. Some gun advocates say that this is not the time to discuss such issues. When would be the time? Two months later following another shooting? Six months later? There is bound to be another shooting that would be used to justify the “now is not the time” posture. The “now is not the time” statement is commonly made after shootings. Yet I remain perplexed why many of the same people don’t refrain from speaking out and taking action doing similar when people are killed by drunk drivers, or underage drinking parties, or major accidents with loss of life occur at poorly designed intersections, or when mass transit safety is a concern following an accident, or with regard to abortion, in rare cases of voter fraud, etc. They would never accept, “now is not the time” argument on these type of issues. Many of those who advocate “respectful silence during a time of grief” after a shooting are the first to call for action and push for redress to limit its recurrence. I don’t see any reason to treat Second Amendment rights under different rules than other issues.
The NRA’s reasoning is flawed, and we would never accept such flawed reasoning on any other issue. Nonetheless, it is accepted widely and embraced because it taps into our own fears and paranoia, both national and individual. Therefore, we want to accept such reasons to justify gun ownership. If I understand LaPierre’s reasoning, it runs this way…gun ownership provides the foundation to keep America free. Furthermore, America is a dangerous country, so much so that all its citizens must be armed to protect themselves from each other; if more citizens were armed, gun crime would decrease as people would be afraid to use guns illicitly; and as gun free zones schools are particularly vulnerable because they invite people to take guns there and to use them against helpless victims.
The NRA argues that government legislation should not prevent law-abiding citizens from buying whatever guns they want. I have two problems with this argument. First, it opens the door wide open to enabling criminals and the emotional unstable to buy guns too. Just as we do by locking our doors and by having keys to start our cars limit theft, having some gun purchase barriers/qualifications helps limit the opportunity and the frequency of criminals and the unstable securing guns. Second, it also overlooks that a good number of those who have used a gun in suicide, to commit homicide and even many of these mass shootings that catch our attention, were law-abiding citizens up until the moment they pulled the trigger.
What Lapierre is proposing for arming schools with armed officers is exactly what Columbine High School had when the shootings occurred there. In fact, that school had two armed police officers on duty at the moment of the shooting. The shooters knew their school had armed officers, but that knowledge did not instill any fear in them. The shootings still took place. The mall in Washington state had armed security, yet the shootings still occurred. The shooter in the Sandy Hook had guns in his home, which were owned by his mother. Instead of her guns protecting her, as the NRA argues should have been the case, they were used against her.
When the shooter of President Ronald Regan drew out his weapon, he knew there would be a multitude of Secret Service agents and local police officers with weapons ready to be used. The shooter who attempted to shoot President Ford faced the same and she knew it. Robert Kennedy had similar protection. Yet in all three cases, did all that well armed protection deter the shooters? Evidently, the armed protection was not a deterrent, which argues against LaPierre’s reasoning. Also arguing against Lapierre’s reasoning is the Fort Hood shooting, a place where thousands of people were well armed, and still unable to prevent a tragedy.
More Americans have guns in their homes than at any other time than in over a hundred years. According to LaPierre’s reasoning, gun crime should be decreasing. We should be at our lowest point. Have the number of gun crimes decreased? No, they have not; in fact, they have increased. The severity of the shootings higher than it was in the 70s and 80s when large gun clips were not available to the general public.
Switzerland and Israel are two countries with trained civilian military who, until recent years, took their military arms home. Both countries were experiencing unaccepted levels of accidental shootings, domestic homicides and suicide. After they changed their policies regarding military guns in home, the rates of such instances in all three types of gun activity dramatically decreased.
Israel discovered that when a soldier had a gun in the home and became depressed, that the gun was too available to be used in a moment of depression and heightened emotions. Removing the gun allowed time for the heightened emotions to diminish and moments of depression to work themselves out. Is gun availability in the home a factor behind law enforcement being the highest profession for suicide by gun? It’s a question that needs attention.
Part of me pities Lapierre for having such a negative feeling about the society in which he lives and works. Imagine living in such fear, believing that your society is so dangerous that you must be heavily armed at work, as you drive around your community, as you shop, as you travel, as you go out to restaurants and entertainment venues and as you live in your home. I cannot imagine living with such fear. I could not work in an office where I felt I needed to have a weapon at hand, because I did not think highly about my workmates and had a gun just in case they started shooting and I had to be willing to kill some of them. The same applies to how I view my neighbors or who will be with me tomorrow morning in church. I live and work in the neighborhood in which he works, travels and lives. The NRA headquarters is just two hundred yards from my home and I have never had a fear walking and driving in the community. But alas he has such fear. Then I remind myself that LaPierre is a paid mouthpiece, albeit a highly paid one, for the gun manufacturers and dealers who underwrite the bulk of the NRA budget and much of LaPierre’s salary. He is paid by gun manufacturers and dealers to spin a story to help protect their business and pump gun sales.
I think it is a sad commentary that an organization is advocating that every school become an armed camp. In a time when schools are cutting teaching positions due to budgetary constraints, it is being argued, implicitly, that more teaching positions should be eliminated so armed police officers can patrol school hallways and guard school doors. I do not want my children, or future grandchildren, stepping off school buses and having to walk past guards carrying military grade rifles; I don’t want students to be compelled to pass through metal detectors as they enter their school, nor do I want them to see their teachers standing before them with guns on their hips. What a horrible message to send to them day after day, year after year. What a horrible message to send about a free democratic society, that they are no safer in the community than children in conflict torn countries.
As an aside, the NRA boasts about its membership numbers, which have, sadly, increased since the Newtown massacre. I look at such boasting with askance. If you own a gun and wish to go to a gun range, you are likely going to have to join the NRA as a condition of using the range. Like the closed union shops with union membership required to work at the plant, NRA membership is required to practice with your gun at gun ranges, and though the majority of NRA members hold that registration, background checks and clip limits are reasonable protections, the NRA uses their dues to advance views that many of their members do not support. Yet, while conservatives decree the unions for having closed shops, no one word of protest is heard about the NRA requirement to use a gun range…a most interesting inconsistency that suggests that when it comes to the gun industry in America, it is allowed operate by a different set of laws.
To hold that the gun is the foundation is our democracy is a most unfortunate commentary on the nature and fragility of American democracy. History continues to teach us that armed, biased local militias and thugs stifle democracy, not enhance it. Further, does this not imply that countries that have gun control laws are not true democracies? The Canadians, Japanese, British, French, Germans, Swiss, Italians, Austrians, Dutch, Danes, Norwegians, Swedes, Fins, Australians, all vigorous democracies with gun control, would disagree with such a position. The ballot and free speech, not guns, are the true foundations of democracy. American democracy is well and strong, it is no so fragile that it needs a gun to protect it!
I favor reasonable registration of all firearms, background checks, limits on the type of guns and clip sizes available to civilians, and mandatory firearms safety certifications. Would such laws eliminate all gun violence? No, and to think otherwise would be delusional. Do car registrations, required annual safety inspections and safety standards, driver licenses and licensing standards eliminate all accidents? No, but accidents rate would be much higher with poorly trained (or untrained) drivers. And vehicle safety standards help remove unsafe cars from the road, thereby make driving our roads a much safer experience for all. The same things apply for gun use and regulation.
At the top I noted that I enjoyed target shooting. It is a sport I would like to enjoy again, but, unfortunately, to do so functionally requires that I be a member of the NRA. THAT I will not do, for I repudiate that organization’s irresponsible policies, as well as its warped views of my neighbors, workmates, and society in general. Unlike Wayne LaPierre, I choose to respect rather than fear my fellow humans.