First, my apologies to anyone who was looking for Episode #7 of my Pokémon FireRed Nuzlocke journal, which has been pushed back to tomorrow. Today, however, I need to put my “New England Patriot” hat back on for a moment and get some things off of my chest.
(WARNING: Political rant incoming!)
As you’ve probably heard by now, two people were killed and eleven were injured yesterday at a Madden tournament in Jacksonville, Florida, when a defeated contestant opened fire with a handgun. The shooter later turned the gun on himself, and their motive remains unclear at this time. What is clear, however, is that this incident, combined with the 2017 shooting at the Route 91 Harvest Music Festival in Las Vegas, means that gun violence has officially intruded onto everything this blog covers and holds dear. While I make a point to avoid political discussions on this blog, as of yesterday I no longer have that luxury. America, it’s time we had a talk about guns.
The main thing I think we can all agree on is that our current situation is unacceptable:
- In 2017 and 2018, we’ve seen 580 incidents that fit the definition of a “mass shooting” so far. In comparison, as of today 2017 and 2018 only contain 604 total days (365 +239).
- Five of the ten deadliest mass shooting in America have occurred since 2015: Route 91 in Vegas, the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, the Sutherland Springs church shooting in Texas, the Parkland school shooting in Florida, and the San Bernadino attack in California. A sixth (the Newtown elementary school shooting in Connecticut) occurred in 2012.
- When compared to its European counterparts, the United States seems to be the only one where these sorts of events occur consistently.
The bottom line is that we definitely have a problem. The question now is what we do to address it. This, unfortunately, is where the issue turns into a political football.
Essentially, the positions of the two major political parties on these issues boil down to the following points:
|Democrats (platform)||Republicans (platform)|
|Expand/Strengthen background checks for gun purchases, and close loopholes in existing laws||Protect/Uphold the 2nd Amendment, which covers “the right of the people to keep and bear arms.”|
|Repeal liability protections for gun sellers and manufacturers||Oppose lawsuits against gun manufacturers and the “illegal harassment” of gun dealers|
|Get “weapons of war” (assault rifles, large-capacity magazines) off the streets (there’s no mention of banning them here, but that’s what it boils down to)||Opposing laws that place restrictions of magazine sizes or “ban the sale of the most popular and common modern rifle” (i.e., the AR-15)|
|Oppose attempts to weaken ATF’s ability to revoke licenses from non-compliant gun dealers||Support firearm reciprocity laws that make states honor gun permits issued by other states
|Empower the CDC “to study gun violence as a public health issue”||Oppose firearm registration at the federal level, ammunition registering, and the restoration of President Clinton’s assault weapons ban|
|“[E]nsure guns do not fall into the hands of terrorists, intimate partner abusers, other violent criminals, and those with severe mental health issues” (kind of vague)||“[O]ppose any effort to deprive individuals of their right to keep and bear arms without due process of law” (also kind of vague)|
To overly simplify things, Democrats don’t want you to walk around with any gun at all, while Republicans don’t care if you walk around decked out like Duke Nukem. I’m also surprised by the fact that the GOP never mentions “mental health” as part of their gun platform, given how often they cite it as the reason people commit these sorts of acts.
While I generally tend to lean leftward on issues like this, I’m doubly annoyed by the GOP’s position here because it reeks of inertia and do-nothingism. They’re essentially saying that the status quo is just fine, and that they’re okay with people committing mass shootings so long as nobody’s right to bear arms is infringed. The truth is that what’s going on is not okay, and instead of sitting on our hands and watching the nation burn, we need to do something in order to make things better.
Here’s what I think:
- I think assault rifles and large-capacity magazines have no place in a peaceful society, and they should be banned. (However, I don’t support a complete ban on guns. Not yet, at least.)
- I think anyone that wants to own a gun should attend a comprehensive safety course and be subject to a comprehensive background check and mental-health screening, which better ensures that gun operators are both fit and able to use them properly. In fact, I’d be willing to take a page from Japan’s book and require that gun owners repeat these tests every few years.
- I think we need rigorous national standards for gun ownership requirements. I believe this makes sense from a bipartisan perspective, as it means a) that we know that any gun owner in America went through the same process to get it, and b) it makes firearm reciprocity laws simpler, as states no longer have to deal with competing standards.
- I think we should treat gun violence as a public health issue, and look deeper into the reasons why people commit these atrocities. I don’t think people just wake up one day and decide to kill indiscriminately, and instead feel that these acts are often the end result of untreated underlying issues. We need to get a sense of what these issues are, and see what sorts of countermeasures are most effective.
In the interest of fairness, let’s try to address some of the common counterpoints to this logic:
- “What about hunting?” It’s true that there are a lot of sportsmen in America who use guns in a responsible manner (heck, I’m related to a bunch of them). That’s why I think the guns that should remain available should be geared towards hunting, and have limited ammunition carrying capacity. Frankly, if it takes you more than three shots at a time to kill a deer, you need to get the heck out of the woods and learn how to aim.
- “Guns don’t kill people; people kill people.” Perhaps, but automatic, high-capacity guns make it way too easy for people to kill people. Getting weapons like these off the streets would make it a lot harder for people to commit mass murder, and help limit the casualty numbers when something like this happens.
- “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.” Maybe, but I want “good guy with a gun” to mean “a highly-trained member of a security or law-enforcement organization.” Random vigilantes with little experience are too likely to fall into the trap of “when you have a hammer, everything looks like a nail” and use their weapons unnecessarily.
- “Computers do bad things too. Why aren’t we banning them?” It’s true that computers have been used for many nefarious purposes, such as exploit development and deployment. The difference to me is that computers also come with a wide-range of non-nefarious uses: communication, research, data analysis, the creation of art and music, and so on and so forth. The only purpose I see with guns is to damage/destroy whatever they’re aimed at, and while they still have some legitimate uses, there need to be limitations placed on their destructive power.
- “But the 2nd Amendment says…” I know what the 2nd amendment says, but at some point, I believe the right to live peacefully and safely overrides the right to possess unlimited firepower. There are guns that still deserve a place in American society, but AR-15s and other automatic weapons are not those guns.
I realize that not everyone will agree with what I’ve said, but after all the problems we’ve had with gun violence recently, the time for closing our eyes and ignoring the problem is past. We need to have a serious, constructive discussion about the role of firearms in American society, and the best place to start (regardless of which side of the debate you fall on) is to let your elected representative know how you feel, and vote for the candidate that most closely represents your feelings this November.
It’s time for a change, America. What that change winds up being, I leave to you.