What baffles me about gun violence in America is that many people still believe it has nothing to do with guns. They won't allow the facts to confuse them. Security has been beefed up in schools, background checks have tightened, mental health awareness is on the rise, but there's still no drop in violence... In fact "the rate of school shootings is statistically unchanged since the mid- to late-1990s." Hmmm.
As comedian John Oliver points out: "We had one failed attempt at a shoe bomb and now everyone takes off their shoes at the airport; thirty one school shootings after Columbine, and nothing has changed in the regulation of guns."
Why? There are social, cultural, and mental health reasons to be sure, but the gun lobby is a big part of the equation. And they put up what seems to be a compelling argument (and a lot of cash) to uphold the status quo.
Here's what they believe: if we can enforce better background checks and prevent people with a history of mental illness from getting their hands on guns, everything will be groovy. This is not about guns they say, it's about the people who use them, and why punish millions of law abiding citizens because of a few rotten apples? In fact the millions of good guys with guns need to defend themselves against the crazy few.
The basic fallacy with this argument is this: people's mental states can change. A happy upbeat teenager can become a miserable unhappy adult. In other words, just because someone never went on a rampage or committed a violent act yesterday doesn't mean he or she won't do it tomorrow. Almost everyone is capable of doing something irrational and crazy if pushed to the limit, or under the "right" circumstances. Just ask the educated and civilized citizens of Nazi Germany who were complicit in killing six million Jews because they thought it was ok.
My point: "Good" people do crazy things all the time -- not just "weirdos." In fact, we tend to call people weird or insane only after they commit a heinous crime. Before that moment, they were just another law abiding citizen with the inalienable right to carry a machine gun.
Background checks will therefore not prevent gun violence because anyone can have a mental breakdown and do something destructive. The only question is what weapon will they have access to -- a semi automatic or a Swiss army knife?
To say that guns are not part of the issue is like saying that cigarettes have no relation to lung cancer. It's absurd. Of course guns are the issue!
Now let's talk about freedom, the freedom and infallible right of every American to bear arms. This too is a contentious point.
So I ask you this: Are we freer as a society when we worry that our neighbour or classmate might pull out a rifle and mow us down? Is freedom found in metal detectors and security pat downs in high schools and colleges that are starting to resemble penitentiaries? And does freedom ring from the worried faces of parents who are reluctant to send their kids to the shopping mall or kindergarten, because some kook with a gun had a bad day? I think not.
I would take the freedom that comes with an untroubled mind over the tyranny that someone who didn't get laid, or hates his mother, or is having a mood swing might go on a rampage and kill half a dozen people. I'll give up my liberty to bear arms for that kind of freedom any day.
As to the second amendment, many Americans will point to the constitution and the sacred right to bear arms. It's a fundamental freedom -- an American tradition carried out for generations. But guess what? The constitution was written 250 years ago at a time there was no government agency to keep the peace and protect civilians. It therefore made perfect sense to allow people to form their own militias to defend themselves because nobody else was going to do it. That was back in 1788. Today, there's an organization called "the police" and "the army" who are trained to keep the peace in our communities and borders.
The Bible, for example, was written two thousand years ago when polygamy and slavery were permitted. Does that mean we should accept slavery? Of course not. We've long amended that part of the Bible that is inconsistent with our age and the values we hold dear. And if we can bend and amend our understanding and interpretation of the Bible (God's law) then surely we can change the laws made by our fellow men if these do not serve us at the present time.
As a particular Jesus Christ once said: 'Man was not made to serve the law, the law was made to serve man.' This applies to the constitution.
Yes freedom is precious and it needs to be protected. But when it violates other people's freedoms like the right to live, and the right to live in peace (not paranoia), then we need to consider which freedom takes precedent.
It's time to ban automatic weapons and the ability of any Joe or Jane to walk into the store and pick up a gun.
It's time to end this ridiculousness and say, "Not One More!"
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