I’ll never forget the first time I heard that saying: Guns don’t kill people, people do. It was from my Uncle Connell. At a party for Super Bowl XXX, I asked why he always had his gun on him. He was a park police officer and he said responsible gun ownership is what a part of the job is about and an attainable goal for average citizens. I believed him.
But I don’t have that kind faith in Americans any more.
In the days since tragedy hit suburban Connecticut, the failures in logic, reasoning and compassion have been so staggering that I’ve genuinely lost sleep thinking about whether or not raising children in this country is something I want to do.
The Second Amendment is outdated, perversely interpreted and fashioned after an antiquated mind-set. The scariest part is that the alarmist bunker mentality that organizations like the National Rifle Association advocate have absolutely nothing to do with freedom or American values.
The people who are responsible for the disturbing amount of hand cannons in this country do not care about your family. They do not care about your rights. And they certainly do not care about the value of life. They care about money. The only rights this nation’s powerful gun lobby are supporting are those that allow companies to freely exploit the reasonable fears and concerns of law-abiding citizens for the sake of violent profits.
I recently talked to D.C. Council member Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6), who said he’s frustrated about the current state of firearm affairs. He thought back to the 2010 drive-by shootings in Congress Heights, in which five assailants were convicted of killing three people and injuring more in an attack that involved a modified assault weapon.
“It wasn’t an AK-47, but was essentially the same kind of gun that was used, and the damage, what it does to a human, maybe that’s appropriate on a battlefield, but I don’t see how it’s something that’s tolerable in a civilized society,” Wells said. “The idea that you have a right to battlefield firepower is one area that we need to look at and restrict.”
I am not advocating that banning assault rifles is a quick fix. It’s step one in a multi-step process that will require lifetimes of work to get Americans to move away from this notion that guns would need to be pried away from their cold, dead hands. Unraveling the culture of violence in the United States begins with letting people and children understand that guns kill people, are dangerous and are to be avoided by nonprofessionals. It’s not a perfect solution. It’s a process toward educating a more peaceful nation.
The shootings at Sandy Hook unmasked complicated issues we have become all too familiar with. In addition, there needs to be access to better mental health care across the board in this country.
But the colossal failure of logic that is the “criminals don’t obey laws anyway” argument makes me want to scream. It’s frighteningly myopic nonsense.
Until we can decouple this concept that freedom and owning as many powerful guns as we want are inextricably linked, we’ll be willingly putting ourselves at risk. And for what? As Mark Follman of Mother Jones magazine recently pointed out, as the number of guns has increased in this country, so have the number of mass shootings. Yes, it’s a complicated issue, but it has to make you wonder where we’re headed as a society.
“[O]ne striking pattern in the data is this: In not a single case was the killing stopped by a civilian using a gun,” Follman writes. “Moreover, we found that the rate of mass shootings has increased in recent years — at a time when America has been flooded with millions of additional firearms and a barrage of new laws has made it easier than ever to carry them in public.”
The final scene in the 1995 film “Friday” involved Ice Cube’s character, Craig, fighting off the neighborhood bully. He pulls out a gun to confront him. While the neighborhood watches, his father pleads with him to take a different path. Craig has a flashback to a conversation the two had.
“When I was growing up, this was all the protection we needed,” his father says holding up his fists. “You win some, you lose some. But you live — you live to fight another day. Now, you think you’re a man with that gun in your hand, don’t you?”
“I’m a man without it,” Craig replies.
What are we without our guns? Are we cowards to the criminals who will inevitably overcome our neighborhoods with scores of black market weapons? No. As it stands, we are cowards to those who are forced to grow up with the reality that we refused to do anything for posterity about the scourge of gun violence due to asinine greed.
Or as some know it, the American way.
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