OK, I need to say one thing first. Twenty innocent children died! It is horrifying and tragic. I cried. Seriously, this is fucked up! Twenty small children who still had their entire lives ahead of themselves. Innocent children that probably went to school with exuberance and excitement . Life had not jaded them into dreading school or faking being sick. They all probably still believed in Santa and tried to be extra good all week. They could never have imagined the horror that would befall their school that day. The kids that survived may well be scarred for life. They will need years of therapy.
Yes I thought about these kids.
What about the killer? I don’t care who the killer was. Nobody should know who he is, care what he suffered from or care how his body count stacks up with any other mass killing. Plain and simple, he should be forgotten. Instead, we should be remembering the victims.
– Madeleine F. Hsu, 6 yrs old.
– Catherine V. Hubbard, 6 yrs old.
– Chase Kowalski, 7 yrs old.
– Jesse Lewis, 6 yrs old.
– James Mattioli , 6 yrs old.
– Grace McDonnell, 7 yrs old.
– Charlotte Bacon, 6 yrs old.
– Daniel Barden, 7 yrs old.
– Olivia Engel, 6 yrs old.
– Josephine Gay, 7 yrs old.
– Ana M. Marquez-Greene, 6 yrs old.
– Dylan Hockley, 6 yrs old.
– Emilie Parker, 6 yrs old.
– Jack Pinto, 6 yrs old.
– Noah Pozner, 6 yrs old.
– Caroline Previdi, 6 yrs old.
– Jessica Rekos, 6 yrs old.
– Avielle Richman, 6 yrs old.
– Benjamin Wheeler, 6 yrs old.
– Allison N. Wyatt, 6 yrs old.
– Dawn Hochsprung, 47 yrs old.
– Rachel Davino, 29 yrs old.
– Mary Sherlach, 56 yrs old.
– Victoria Soto, 27 yrs old.
– Lauren Rousseau, 30 yrs old.
– Anne Marie Murphy, 52 yrs old.
Once the mourning and suffering has past, we should be addressing the issue. These people died because someone went into a school and killed them with three legally purchased guns. We should be outraged and we should be asking ourselves what is wrong with our society. We should be wondering whether our gun laws are right and we should be looking at how something like this could be prevented. While I thought about it and did my research, as I searched the web, watched the news, read articles and the various opinions of my friends on social networks I started to become stunned. I soon became outraged. What had throttled my imagination? Two things.
First, was the people who are pro gun trying to defend this situation with the same logic they always use. They started by immediately reacting with, “This isn’t the time to discuss the gun issue.” Part of me wants to agree with them. I waited four days before I wrote about it myself. But that is a defensive posture. I am sure everyone’s first reaction was how absolutely horrible the incident was. The sad truth is, many gun owners next thought was, “Oh no, the Liberals will be coming for our guns!” The same people who were saying this, are also the ones saying, “Guns don’t kill people!”
By that logic, we should throw out the Treaty on Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. Nukes don’t kill people either. There is no logical argument for assault weapons being owned by regular untrained civilians in the United States. Plain and simple. These arguments alone were bad enough, but soon, we had people saying we need MORE guns in schools. They argue that, if the teachers were armed than someone could have stopped the psycho from doing what he did. Seriously?
No, SERIOUSLY! What the fuck is wrong with people. First, most teachers are not the type of people to properly handle a firearm. Heck, most of them can’t even stop a fight in a school hallway. Then let us think about the logic behind putting guns right inside of a school. Now a crazy moron won’t have to kill his mother and steal her guns to slaughter a bunch of kids. He can just slip into the school and get them there. Having guns in a school is a bad idea.
They also try to use the fertilizer bomb Timothy McVeigh detonated as an argument that guns don’t need regulation because you don’t need a gun to kill people! WTF! Making a fertilizer bomb is not easy and takes a fair amount of research. To succeed at it probably requires military training like McVeigh had. Without that skill set, most people will probably fail or injure themselves before successfully injuring anyone else. Besides, this simple logic is basically the same as saying, “We don’t need to have speed limits for automotive safety because people can get killed by drowning while swimming. There are plenty of ways to die. Because we can’t prevent them all doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to prevent some of them.
The second thought is once again with the Christian faith. No I am not speaking of the Church that starts with a “W” because they are not worth anyone’s time. The “Church That Shall Not Be Named” is a group of unbelievably ignorant asshats that not only have no concept of Christianity, but they also have no business getting anyone’s attention. We should ignore them. They are insignificant, vile and do nothing to make this world better.
I am talking about the Christians that are out there preaching a pro gun movement. What is the Biblical teachings regarding violence? What does the Holy Scripture teach us about murder? Do you think Christ would be an NRA member? Much like the earlier discussed church, to a lesser degree, Pro Gun Christians seem to be confused.
I am not talking about hunting. I don’t think God or the Bible has an objection to people using guns for the purpose of feeding yourself and others. With that being said, there is no logical conclusion to being a Christian and having any belief that, shooting someone is the right thing to do. Regardless of the horrible things they may do, Jesus did not, and would not condone violence as a solution to violence. What Christ would probably do, (again, this is me making a deduction from his teachings, not speaking for him) is cry and have empathy for the deaths of the children, make sure every possible care and aid was given to the grieving family and friends, then advocate better mental healthcare programs to help people deal with whatever they were suffering from before they became an unspeakable monster. He would find a way to prevent the violence and encourage peaceful solutions.
The second unchristian like action that I saw was the shirt that was sprawled all across the internet.
If you believe in a God that is powerless to defend those children because we don’t make prayer mandatory in schools, your God is weak! If you believe in a God that would allow those children to die because we don’t force prayer in schools than your God is an asshole that does not deserve worship. End of subject. We didn’t ban prayer. Anyone can pray whenever they want. We just didn’t make it a mandatory act. We didn’t take God from school, we just made him a choice. The same choice that was offered to Adam & Eve. The same choice that was offered to Jesus when tempted by Satan. The choice to choose God or to not choose God. Forcing faith on people does not get them to Heaven.
Listen, I am not trying to attack your faith, I am trying to point out that many of you apparently do not understand your faith. Read the Bible. Live it. Don’t use it as a crutch to allow you to stay more self righteous than everyone else. And don’t tell me that Christ wants teachers to force prayer in school while carrying a Bushmaster AR-15 Rifle over her shoulder.
OK. (Deep breath!) I am done.
As for the overall issues of Gun Control, I was going to write something long and thought out. A good friend and brilliant person, however, beat me to it. He also did a far better job than I ever could. So, with Matt’s permission, I will share it with you.
It’s been long enough that I think I can at least feel that I’m not being disrespectful in discussing gun regulation. I’ve had a few people ask for my opinion in the last few days. Some of you may already know my general feelings on the matter, since I wrote a fairly long paper and an op-ed in our University paper on the subject. Both of those were written almost five years ago now, and sadly nothing has changed in the last half of a decade.
Like a lot of my political views, my opinion on gun control is fairly nuanced. Some of you have probably been out to the range shooting with me. You probably know that I have owned a gun in the past, and that I have plans to purchase a gun in the near future. You may even know that I am a pretty good shot and that I am damned proud of it. You may know that as an Eagle Scout I was most proud of my archery, rifle, and shotgun merit badges. Some of you also may also know that I, along with some people very close to me, avoided the Trolley Square shooting by a handful of hours. Largely because of this, my enjoyment of firearms does not cloud my judgment when it comes to the fact that we, as a nation, have a serious gun control problem.
– Do we REALLY have a gun problem?
First, let’s get some perspective. In my lifetime (30 years), there have been over 60 mass murders carried out with firearms in the U.S. This figure does not include gang violence, robberies, or individual murders. These are just lone gunman type events where a single individual (or in the case of Columbine and Westside, a pair of individuals) who took the lives of at least four people. That’s over two shootings a year for every year I’ve been on this planet. Those shootings account for over one-thousand casualties. The shooters used a combination of 142 guns, over seventy percent of which were obtained legally.
I think that would qualify as a problem by anyone’s definition.
– Would more guns help?
One of the biggest arguments in favor of guns, and one that comes up specifically after a shooting, is that a more heavily armed populace results in lower crime rates. This is kind of a mixed statistic, so I’ll address a few different points here.
Statistically, a higher gun carry rate in the U.S. tends towards a decrease in non-violent crimes. That’s kind of an obvious one, and doesn’t bear a lot of discussion. So on that side, gun proponents are correct. The flip-side to that argument is that over the past 30 years, gun ownership has outpaced population growth, yet we have seen an increase in the number of spree and mass shootings. Outside of the scope of this discussion is also that gun ownership in America is statistically linked to escalation from spousal abuse to spousal murder, increases in suicide rates (by a factor of 4x), and an increase in general gun related injuries and deaths (by a factor of 3x).
Proponents of carry laws will argue that we just don’t have /quite/ enough guns yet or that they aren’t /quite/ readily available enough. Just get a few more guns on the streets and the statistics will turn around. Frankly, it’s an argument based on hero fantasy, but there are no numbers to back it up. Everyone wants to believe that if they were there and properly armed, they could defuse the situation. But there’s no data. No statistic. Not even many good examples. The last time an armed civilian stopped a mass shooting was over a decade ago. More recent attempts include Brendan McKown, whose attempt to stop a mass shooting resulted in getting himself shot, and Mark Wilson, a firearms instructor who was shot dead by the assailant. The only recent success story was the 2002 Appalachian School of Law shooting, where several students intervened. However, those students were all current or former law enforcement officers, not civilians, and the killer had already spent all of his ammunition.
– What about countries with high rates of gun ownership?
Unfortunately, there aren’t any countries with gun ownership rates nearly as high as our own so it is hard to make the comparison. In America, we have almost 90 guns per 100 people. Obviously, this is due largely to multiple gun ownership as less than 40% of Americans actually own guns. The next closest first world country has just over half of that level of gun ownership.
Nonetheless, many proponents will point to Switzerland, which has about 45 guns per 100 residents, as an example of a place where gun ownership rates are high and that as a result their crime stats are very low. And that is all true. It also misses a critical component of Swiss gun culture: at age 20 all men undergo military training and are considered a part of the militia’s reserves until they are 30 (and they may retain their service rifle after they leave the service). As part of this process, they receive ten years ongoing psychological and physical evaluations, as well as training and safety instructions. In almost all cases, gun ownership is limited to a single army-issued personal firearm. Militia members were issued a limited supply of ammo (50 rounds) that was regularly inspected by military personnel for unauthorized use until 2007. Now they no longer keep ammo in their homes and instead it can be issued only in the armory. So yes. High rates of ownership. Very different circumstances.
Recently, there have been arguments made in favor of Israel’s very open gun policy. I am somewhat surprised to hear that Israel is a model for how to run a peaceful nation, but even if we give the argument some merit, it doesn’t weigh out. While many Israelis own firearms, they are limited to owning only a single pistol. They are given extensive physical and mental evaluations. And they can only purchase 50 rounds of ammunition a year. Also, gun ownership is restricted to individuals who attained captain’s rank or higher during their two years mandatory service, though that restriction is lifted for people living in the West Bank.
So yes, the Swiss and Israelis own a lot of guns. But the circumstances are different. Both countries require compulsory service as a condition of gun ownership, which includes mental screening and extensive safety training. And both nations limit gun ownership to a single weapon in most cases.
– What about the Second Amendment?
If you’re actually asking this, then the Second Amendment doesn’t mean what you think it does. Or at least, not entirely. I know, I was surprised, too. In school, we were all taught that the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, part of what is known as the Bill of Rights, is the so-called “Right to Bear Arms”. We are told that this means that U.S. citizens have the undeniable right to own a gun. The problem is, that’s only kind of true.
To really understand the Second Amendment requires context. The Second Amendment is the U.S. extension of a similar provision in the English Bill of Rights. This portion of the English Bill of Rights was written in response to the king of England forcibly disarming the Protestants in England and its purpose was to keep the power of regulation in the hands of Parliament. It is unclear who the founder intended to regulate gun ownership, but both the Second Amendment and the English Bill of Rights do mention regulation specifically (or in the case of the English Bill of Rights- “such as are allowed by law”). The purpose of the English Bill of Rights, and subsequently the Second Amendment, is not to grant every citizen a gun. Rather, it is a requirement that gun ownership be freely available to all within the confines of the law.
There are also arguments that the right to bear arms is specifically linked to service in a militia, though the Supreme Court ruled against that in 2008. Regardless, it is interesting to note that at least one draft of the amendment read, “A well regulated militia, being the best security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms for the common defence, shall not be infringed.”
So, in conclusion, I believe that the Second Amendment does grant U.S. citizens the right to bear arms, but I also believes that it grants Congress the power to regulate gun ownership.
– Isn’t it a mental health issue?
Guns don’t kill people. People kill people.
That’s the line, right? And it’s true. No one is suggesting that guns are walking off on their own and committing these atrocities. But this is, frankly, an imbecilic argument.
“Bombs don’t kill people. People kill people. So why aren’t we letting North Korea have nukes.” See how stupid it sounds?
Yes, mental health is a component. Yes, some people want to cause great harm regardless of what instrument they use to do it. But why make it easy for them? I believe that improving our mental health system is an important issue, and something that desperately needs to be addressed. But I don’t believe that the two are mutually exclusive, and I believe that gun regulation is the “low hanging fruit” that can be immediately addressed with little cost or effort.
– Do gun laws really work?
This is an area where we actually do have a few good case studies.
In 1996, after a mass shooting left 35 dead and 23 wounded, Australia pushed into effect a massive gun control program. The heart of the program was a buyback of semi-automatic rifles and shotguns which took about one-fifth of the guns out of circulation. They also began prohibiting private sales, required individual registrations, and required that licenses cite a “legitimate reason” (self-defense was not deemed a legitimate reason in Australia). In the years since, homicides by firearms dropped by over 50 percent. Rates of suicide by gun dropped over 60 percent. Robberies involving firearms dropped, and general home invasion/breaking and entering rates were unaffected. Australia went from averaging over one mass shooting a year, to none. Let me repeat that, since it bears repetition. There has not been a single mass shooting in Australia since they enacted common sense gun legislation.
The more hotly debated case is Britain. There are studies that claim that crime in Britain has skyrocketed since the 1997 ban on handguns. This data is, however, misleading. It uses two different data sets to make the case. Using the British Crime Survey, which has reported crime in a consistent manner since before the gun ban, violent crime has dropped significantly since 1997. More tellingly, they have had only a single mass-shooting since the law was passed (a recent British perspective on gun control can be found here: http://www.economist.com/blogs/lexington/2012/12/gun-control).
– But criminals will still get guns!
Yes. Some might. People still speed, but speed limits have saved thousands of lives since they were implemented. No law will stop violent crime completely, and to be truthful, that isn’t the purpose. The purpose of well crafted regulations is to make the life of a criminal more difficult, to help identify criminals before they have a chance to act, and to punish offenders who are caught.
Also, it’s worth pointing out that “illegal guns” is kind of a misnomer. Every gun starts it’s life as a legal gun. There aren’t little “illegal gun factories” churning out guns for criminals. “Illegal gun” just means that somewhere along the way the gun was stolen or sold in a private transaction. So yes. Criminals will still get guns. But proper gun control laws will mean fewer guns in the hands of fewer criminals with more chances for those people to be caught before they harm an innocent.
– Wait, didn’t you say that you like guns?
I sure do. But it is possible to be in favor of gun ownership as well as supporting responsible gun control measures. In fact, I would argue that for many, the two go hand in hand.
– So what would I do?
The first, and most important, thing is that I think that some basic gun regulation needs to be done at the Federal level. For enforcement reasons, gun laws are only as strong as the weakest state, and this is an issue too important to leave in the hands of West Virginia. The most important part of any federal gun law is ease of enforcement. So that said, here are the laws that I would support:
Gun ownership should require both a permit (for the owner) and a registration (for each individual firearm).
Permits should require a psychological evaluation, a safety training course, and be restricted to 18+ year olds. The safety training course should include the importance of keeping guns locked in your homes, to prevent theft and to keep them out of the hands of children or other unlicensed persons.
Criminal background checks should be required on gun owners and gun shop employees.
People on the terrorist watch list should be prohibited from acquiring guns.
Gun owners should be required to register each gun that they own, and registrations should be renewed each year and at each sale.
Gun owners should be legally required to report the theft of a gun within 24 hours.
Carry permits should require additional training, membership in a state or municiple sponsored crime prevention organization, and annual psychological evaluation. Active duty and retired law enforcement officers and military should be exempt from the first two requirements, but should still require annual psychological evaluation.
Perpetrators of violent misdemeanors or domestic violence should not be permitted to purchase a gun, and any guns they currently own should be impounded for no less than 3 months.
Purchase of bullets should be tracked. No one should be permitted to have more than 50 bullets in their residence. Anyone who purchases over 50 bullets in a given year should be subject to inspection by authorities, with additional inspections for subsequent purchase thresholds. Bullets purchased and fired at a range would be exempt from this “tally”.
Significant tax on the sale of bullets, to pay for any of the above legislation. Again, bullets fired at a range would be exempt from this tax.
– But none of that would have stopped Adam Lanza!?
That’s true. It may not have. But it would have stopped the Aurora shooter. It likely would have stopped the Virginia Tech shooter. It may have caught a few others along the way.
The point of gun legislation isn’t to stop any one specific killer. The point is to lower the number of incidents and make these types of tragedies less frequent and less gruesome. The point is to make it more difficult for the criminals and the crazies. The point is to cause people to recognize that guns are not toys. Guns weren’t invented for funsies. They are weapons, and their purpose is to kill. They have legitimate uses, sure, and target shooting can even be recreational, but at the end of the day there is a lack of respect for what a gun really is.
– So that’s it?
That’s all from me. I know a lot of people think we need to get every gun off of the street. Or ban assault weapons. Or something equally drastic. I think we can start with some common sense laws and evaluate it from there. We don’t need to fix all of the world’s problems today, and realistically we can’t, but at the very least we need to make a start in the right direction.
By Matthew Myers