This post will zoom in on common NRA and Republican tactics employed to avoid meaningful action and dialogue.
This was the infamous quote used by NRA's executive vice president Wayne LaPierre when addressing the horrific Newtown Sandy Hook shooting that claimed the lives 20 innocent children.
This rationale is used by devout gun owners who believe that mass shootings can be prevented if the victims were properly armed, or if more citizens with guns are present in such a grave dilemma.
This begs some questions:
How many citizens rose to the occasion and sought vigilante justice by standing up to Adam Lanza when he shot up Sandy Hook Middle School?
Or hunted down Dylann Roof when he killed nine African-Americans in a Charlestown church?
Or defiantly defended Umpqua Community College, Columbine or Virginia Tech?
Or bravely confronted the dark underbelly of domestic terrorism as the Wisconsin Sikh Temple was massacred or when three University of North Carolina muslim students were fatally shot?
Slate reports that instances of armed citizens preventing a mass shooting do exist, but such occurrences are rare.
Additionally, this would leave communities entirely dependent on the good will and bravery of a random passerby daring to place themselves in danger in order to save the lives of people they have no connection with.
Police have even commented that open carry laws make protecting their communities a more daunting challenge, leading to confusion and misinformation during a 911 call.
After the Sandy Hook shooting, Rep. Louis Gohmert called for every state to enact concealed-carry laws, citing that crime rate in states with such policy have experienced a plunge in crime rate.
While factually correct, the same can be said for states with tough gun laws, meaning this relationship is coincidental, not causational.
Of course, the NRA wants to push this narrative onto people as a scare-tactic to purchase more guns.
The NRA was once a grassroots organization who formerly advocated for gun control when its primary source of income came from membership fees.
Business Insider reported in 2013, since 2005 the gun manufacturing industry and its corporate allies have hijacked the NRA through donations between $20 million and $52.6 million through the NRA Ring of Freedom sponsor program.
Donors include firearm companies like Midway USA, Springfield Armory Inc, Pierce Bullet Seal Target Systems, and Beretta USA Corporation. Other supporters from the gun industry include Cabala's, Sturm Rugar & Co, and Smith & Wesson.
The article states, "There are two reasons for the industry support for the NRA. The first is that the organization develops and maintains a market for their products. The second, less direct function, is to absorb criticism in the event of PR crises for the gun industry."
This explains the incongruence of LaPierre's distant gun control stance in 1999, when he called for gun-free school, versus his more recent calls for the proliferation of gun ownership.
"Today's NRA is a virtual subsidiary of the gun industry," said Josh Sugarmann, executive director of the Violence Policy Center. "While the NRA portrays itself as protecting the 'freedom' of individual gun owners, it's actually working to protect the freedom of the gun industry to manufacture and sell virtually any weapon or accessory."
Essentially, taking self-protection advice from a NRA lobbyist, who's driven by profit motives fueled by gun sales, is like allowing Ronald McDonald to convince you that a diet of Big Macs is the cornerstone of weight loss nutrition.
8. "We Need More Mental Health Funding"
Our current gun debate hones in on grisly mass shootings, but the CDC reports that 60 percent of gun deaths are caused by suicide.
Vox's Dylan Matthews explains this is actually one of the most compelling reasons for reducing access to guns, since an abundance of research shows greater access to guns dramatically increases the risk of suicide.
The New England Journal of Medicine released a report that shows states with high gun ownership has the highest rates of suicide.
Additionally, Vox reports that guns allow people to kill themselves more easily, providing those with a bleak, tenuous hope of a happy life a quick and painless escape.
"Time is really key to preventing suicide in a suicidal person," Harkavy-Friedman said. "First, the crisis won't last, so it will seem less dire and less hopeless with time. Second, it opens the opportunity for someone to help or for the suicidal person to reach out to someone to help. That's why limiting access to lethal means is so powerful."
She added, "[I]f we keep the method of suicide away from a person when they consider it, in that moment they will not switch to another method. It doesn't mean they never will. But in that moment, their thinking is very inflexible and rigid. So it's not like they say, 'Oh, this isn't going to work. I'm going to try something else.' They generally can't adjust their thinking, and they don't switch methods."
Mental health care is indeed a crisis that needs urgent attention in the U.S. Nearly one in five Americans suffer from a mental illness each year, and high costs are often a barrier to receiving treatment.
As 79 percent of mass shootings can be attributed to a history of mental illness, Republican politicians are absolutely correct in stating that this needs to be a top priority in addressing America's health crisis, but it should be one of many solutions.
But this becomes problematic, because "mental illness" has become a common tactic employed by Republicans to dodge substantive gun law reform, as depicted by John Oliver.
9. "Using Mass Shootings to Talk About Shootings Is Pushing a Political Agenda."
Talking policy in the aftermath of a horrific shooting, where emotions are highly volatile is inopportune, as we are left to grieve and deal with the shock of a horrific tragedy.
But this violence occurs so frequently, refusing to talk about guns in our society too soon after a mass shooting will be too late after the next one unfolds.
Over the course of his tenure as President, President Obama's passionate pleas for gun reform have slowly eroded into a jaded acceptance of the inevitable visceral opposition to his proposals. Regardless, he is met with vicious disdain from gun enthusiasts and Republicans alike for "political pandering."
Republicans' refusal to talk about gun violence under the guise of empty platitudes, including their "thoughts and prayers," is another form of politicizing the issue.
They're using the grieving process to justify governmental inaction in dealing with this issue.
This seems to make sense, as the NRA bankrolls many of their campaigns.
Additionally, they use the lurid portrayal potential of gun control legislation to fearmonger Americans into buying more guns, both to protect their rights and to guard themselves from the horrors of another shooting.
Comedian Larry Willmore dissects this strategy on his Nightly Show, as our national mourning is used to divert attention toward gun reform and push their agenda of boosting gun sales and deflecting any substantial legislative change that can curb gun violence.
Labelling someone seeking a discussion regarding reforming our gun laws as a political opportunist is just an easy way to vilify someone who is deeply concerned about the rising rates of mass shootings in America.
Ideally, America would have an opportunity to talk about dealing with gun violence at a time of tranquility, but if this is our course of action, we will be waiting for that moment for quite some time, as America has averaged one mass shooting per day since 2013, and during Obama's second term, a Sunday-to-Saturday calendar week has not passed without a mass shooting incident
Curbing gun violence is a complex issue, as it crosses mental health, socio-economic, poverty, educational and geographic boundaries.
This requires a collective effort in our communities and cooperation on a state and federal level - as gun violence in New York City or Chicago is vastly different than Wyoming or Vermont.
Each state and municipality should have a deep reflection on how to properly deal with this scourge that reflects their specific needs.
Igniting a level-headed, sensible discussion does not mean the federal government is going to take all our guns. Prohibition has been an abject failure for drugs and alcohol - since guns have become a staple of our society, this policy may likely falter as well.
Although gun control remains a hotly contested debate, it doesn't mean criminal and mental background checks, addressing mental health and poverty, increased security in schools and offices, and closing gun show and "strawman" purchase loopholes aren't feasible.
But it starts with a debate outside of these cliche, regurgitated arguments that not only blatantly defy reality and empirical research, but also stall us in an endless, perpetual cycle of bloodshed and frustration.
With all the senseless chaos Americans have endured this past year, reasonable debate has been drowned out by the white noise of loudmouth pundits, corporate-owned politicians and repeated gun shots.
As the Umpqua Community College shooting unfolded, I watched the news coverage on CNN with a man who survived the Aurora movie theater shooting.
He stared at me with the glimmering look of reoccurring fear in his eyes and his raspy tone described his life of uncertainty and constant fear of another spontaneous shooting at a seemingly unsuspecting location.
He said he will never know when another senseless gunman will pull out a weapon and open fire on people innocently trying to live out their daily lives. This resonating, deep-seeded panic has drastically altered the way he conducts himself.
We must ask ourselves, is this the type of country we want to live in?
One that resolves disputes in a contest of who has the most powerful guns that fire rounds the fastest?
One that turns every conflict into a Mexican standoff, where our sense of security is defined by the size of our gun rack?
One where every citizen has a eerie, lurking awareness that their lives can be expunged at any moment and any location by the trigger pull of an emotionally volatile person seeking to vent their grievances?
If we want to successively balance our 2nd Amendment rights and reduce mass shootings, this involves a serious disarming of our current means of debate.