Mass shootings and gun rights have been in the news and the court of public opinion for quite a while now, but it seems like the arguments surrounding these events have really heated up recently.
People I normally like (on both sides of the issue) turn into raving assholes whenever the question of America and guns comes up. I tend to play Devil’s advocate a lot, and to also try to look at any issue from as many angles as possible, so I tend to draw a lot of fire (clever gun funny there) from people on both sides.
Many of my passionately anti-gun friends seem to think that the only solution to violence in America is a total ban on all firearms. Meanwhile, people I know that like guns for one reason or another seem to loathe any suggestion that maybe there are some problems with gun culture that should be dealt with.
Like most controversial issues, the people on the farthest extremes are not likely to change their minds no matter how persuasive the argument, or how compelling the evidence given. They’re extremists, whether they want to cop to it or not. The dude living in a concrete bunker with 200 guns and 10,000 rounds of ammo is not going to change his mind about his need for all of those guns. He’s already invested too much of his life to a rather extreme lifestyle.
The anti-gun person, who thinks the good ‘ol U.S. Of A can and should adopt a total gun ban as soon as possible, regardless of the millions of guns already out there, is not going to be swayed by evidence that gun violence as a whole is actually declining in this country. They also have invested too much emotion into their position.
It’s a sad bit of human nature, but we tend to distrust anyone and anything that is different than ourselves and our own experience.
Me? I have mixed feelings on guns and their place in this country. Guns are as much a part of the culture of the USA as muscle cars and baseball. The history of the gun is inextricable from the history of this country.
I grew up around guns, but no one in my family was the stereotypical “gun nut.” I lived on a farm for a few years, and a rifle under my mom’s bed was just another tool, and one us kids never touched. We didn’t hunt, so that wasn’t part of my background, although I had friends that did. Weirdly enough, I don’t remember guns being as divisive an issue as they seem to be now.
Mass shootings certainly aren’t new. You can still see a few bullet holes from Charles Whitman’s psychopathic 1966 U.T. Tower rampage on the buildings along Guadalupe Street here in Austin, if you know where to look. And mass shootings in America weren’t new even then. School shootings weren’t either.
So why does it seem like these mass shootings are occurring more and more often?
The Washington Post and other researching entities have found that there’s been no major increase in the frequency of mass shootings since 1980 or so. So what’s happening?
This is just my opinion, but I think there are several factors at play here. The population keeps increasing, we have almost instant media coverage, and with the Internet people on all sides of the issue can howl endlessly at one another. It gives the appearance that these events take place more and more often, when in fact they are probably just more widely reported and given more media attention than was possible in earlier generations.
That doesn’t mean that mass shootings shouldn’t be an issue that we as a country try to address, but it does help to have some perspective.
The thing is, the right to bear arms is enshrined in our Constitution, and it’s not going anywhere soon. The Supreme Court has pretty consistently supported the interpretation of that Second Amendment as meaning that a person has the right to own guns and defend themselves with them.
The hardcore gun people are not going to give up that right simply because a lot of people don’t like the fact that they can own them. They’re not likely to give up that right simply because others think it would make society a safer environment for all. Many of the gun rights people equate being allowed to keep guns as FREEDOM (in all caps), and any infringement on those rights is seen as a draconian overstep of the government’s power. Quite a few of them extend this opinion to the point of thinking that they could somehow keep the government at bay in case it veered towards totalitarianism.
This is of course absurd, as a handful of clowns armed with AR15’s could be almost instantly vaporized by the might of the U.S. Military.
It seems to me that there are plenty of people with stupid ideas and faulty logic on both sides of the issue, and more concentrated towards both extremes.
But guns aren’t going anywhere in this country. They’re just not. Unless they can be magically “poofed” away in a cloud of “never existed”, there are so many guns in circulation already that it would probably be hundreds of years before they were all discovered and rendered inoperable. Also, guns are old technology. Most people with simple tools could probably build one if they wanted to.
There’s also vastly different attitudes towards guns depending on location. People living in rural environments tend to have a different view of guns compared to folks living in densely populated cities.
People tend to simplifying views and vilify people that live differently than themselves. The old stereotypes of evil southern rednecks and out of touch liberal pussies isn’t accurate, but it sure gives both sides of this debate people to hate on. Viewing people as cartoon characters accomplishes nothing.
So what CAN change?
I honestly don’t know. Attempts at making the laws stricter seem to consistently fail, so I don’t see that working. I think the root of the problem isn’t so much the guns themselves, but problems and attitudes within our culture.
I think it’s odd that so many people equate freedom with their right to own guns. Not because I don’t think they shouldn’t have that right, but because freedom conditional on having a gun doesn’t seem that free to me. My own brother was an avid gun collector, and seemed to harbor a mild case of that sort of “Come and take it” mentality. He died at home alone of natural causes. All those guns did nothing to help save his life or freedom.
Why are so many people so paranoid?
Sure, there are times when a person’s paranoia is justified, but if I had to own an arsenal just to feel safe or secure, I sure wouldn’t feel too good about that.
For the record, I DO own a few guns, including the scary “assault rifles” that the anti-gun folks focus so much attention on (“assault rifles” are used in a tiny percentage of crimes, compared to handguns, but seem to get the most attention), but I don’t go through my daily life in fear of…I don’t know…criminals?
I just think that living like that wouldn’t be much of a life.
But we’re also bombarded with violent movies and video games these days. I happen to like those things. I wish someone would invent a modern video game where the player is a clown driving around in a van murdering people, but that hasn’t come out yet.
I can separate myself from the fantasy violence, and I don’t look at that stuff as a reflection of reality. You’ll never see me arguing for censorship of any kind. Ever. But it probably wouldn’t be a bad thing for society if more people could step away, and realize that Grand Theft Auto isn’t a realistic depiction of inner city life. At least violent media probably shouldn’t be routinely enjoyed by little kids.
I just don’t feel like it’s all that likely that I’ll be attacked by some random criminal at this point in my life. If I was, I’m pretty sure it would happen so fast I wouldn’t be able to react anyway.
That wouldn’t stop me from carrying a gun if I thought it necessary, I just think the fantasy of repelling an attack is a lot more unrealistic than a lot of people think.
Another part of the problem is that guns are cool in this culture. I don’t know how many young guys I’ve known that immediately went out to buy a hand gun as soon as they were old enough. Not because they “needed” one, but they wanted one because of the cool factor.
And that’s pretty dumb when you think about it.
So perhaps, if the perception that guns aren’t all that cool was to grow, we’d see a lot less in the hands of people that probably shouldn’t have them. I don’t know.
What I do know is that this issue isn’t going away. Both extremes should probably relax a little, and at least try to understand each other a bit more. In the cases of people that have been personally affected by gun violence, or who have used a gun to thwart an attack, neither side will ever give an inch. But there are a lot of people that might be open to some sort of compromise if they could just listen to each other without all the screaming.
I think the country would be a better place if fewer people chose to own guns, and we treated criminals that used them more harshly. That’s my opinion, not something I wish to impose on everyone.