I don’t typically get overtly political on my pop culture centered blog, but this moment in time has woke something up in me. I just can’t be complacent and silent any longer.
Here’s the deal. This is not going away. Things have to change. And we have to stop using mental health as a diversion from talking about gun control. This issue encompasses both.
Gun control does not mean taking away everybody’s guns. It involves creating a system that prohibits weapons of war from being purchased by civilians and vetting people to determine who is mentally ill and/or unfit to own a gun. Banning the AR-15 is a great start, the first on a list of weapons of war that is sure to grow. There is no legitimate reason for a civilian to own and walk around with this gun. It serves no purpose in hunting unless you like your deer tenderized into oblivion. Regarding sports shooting, AR-15s could be kept under lock and key at target ranges and rented out under supervision on the premises, only to be locked back up once the rental had concluded.
If you retort that the Second Amendment gives you the right to own an AR-15 you might want to revisit the late conservative Justice Antonin Scalia’s remarks on the case of District of Columbia v. Heller:
“Like most rights, the right secured by the Second Amendment is not unlimited…” It is “… not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose.”
“Nothing in our opinion should be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms.”
“We also recognize another important limitation on the right to keep and carry arms. Miller (an earlier case) said, as we have explained, that the sorts of weapons protected were those “in common use at the time.” We think that limitation is fairly supported by the historical tradition of prohibiting the carrying of ‘dangerous and unusual weapons.’”
My speech is not unlimited. I’m sure you’ve heard the “yelling fire in a crowded theater” scenario. If I make direct threats against an individual or organization, I can be brought in by the police for an investigation. The same applies to weapons of war. I cannot legally own a tank or grenade launcher or a nuclear bomb. I should not be able to legally own AR-15s and guns of the same category.
Do you argue that you need such weapons because of crime? The Pew Research Center rightly reports that crime in the United States is at record lows, though it varies by geographic region. The overall data shows it as continuing to decrease. Population density and economic conditions are the most significant factors in crime variance throughout the nation, so if you legitimately wanted to see less crime then I would expect you would support economic policies that focused on low-income communities? (http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2018/01/30/5-facts-about-crime-in-the-u-s/)
I also find conservatives hypocrisy on police to be stunning. During the impetus of the Black Lives Matter movement I was always seeing people on the opposing side spouting the inane slogan of “Blue Lives Matter,” going on and on about the great honor of the police, how much they loved cops. This week the same people have flipped the script and can’t trash talk police more. They have swallowed the NRA talking points, the intent of which was to throw the conversation off of meaningful gun control legislation and try to shift the blame. The Broward County Sheriff’s Office does have blood on their hands, but so does the NRA for aggressively fighting against gun control legislation that could have prevented this.
The debate no longer belongs to the NRA. They were so used to trotting out the same press releases, but they didn’t count on the courageous survivors of the Stoneman Douglas shooting. They underestimated the power of angry, intelligent, motivated young people. I did too. These kids have inspired me, have instilled hope in me I haven’t felt in years. I feel ashamed that I never had this sort of courage, but I vow I will do everything I can to not let those kids down.
What are reasonable gun control laws?
Often brought up by anti-gun control advocates as a model of some sort, when you start to research you find the country is incredibly restrictive with its gun regulations. All citizens serve two years in the Israeli Army where only those who can pass mental examinations get to use firearms, and then just under certain conditions. Private citizens can own guns but must be licensed, pass an extensive background check (mental health, physical health, criminal record), provide in writing a genuine reason for needing to own this gun, and pass a weapons-training course before you are able to purchase anything. 40% of applications a year are rejected.
To keep your license current, you must pass a shooting course every three years and a psychological examination every six. Once a gun has been purchased, the owner must prove to authorities that the gun is stored in a safe area under lock and key. If you give self-defense for your reason for purchase, then you are allowed only one handgun. If your gun is stolen due to negligence you are held liable and can serve time in prison as a result. By completing this process, you also wave your rights to confidentiality and authorities will run your name through criminal and psychiatric databases periodically. If your name comes up your license is revoked, and your guns are seized.
Japan has a process near identical to Israel, yet even more restrictive. As a result, gun deaths in Japan average 10 or less annually.
There is a broad hunting culture in Norway, so it is not strange to see guns in a person’s home. However, the work they had to do to get that gun is extensive. You must give your intent (hunting, sports shooting, self-defense is NOT a choice).
If you apply for the hunting license, you must complete a 30-hour, 9 session course on safety and pass a multiple choice written examination. The permit must be renewed annually and only after the local police precinct issues the applicant, a receipt may they go to purchase a gun. Sport shooters have a quicker licensing process but more requirements before buying the gun. They must attend 15 meetings of a local sports shooting club over the course of six months where constant safety refreshers are done. They must pass another written examination, and the course instructor at the gun club submits it to the local police. In either instance, if the application is rejected the applicant is given a reason and has the chance to appeal.
Guns in civilians homes must abide by strict safety laws. The firearm must be locked in an approved gun safe. Police can announce a home visit 48 hours in advance and only inspect the gun safe. Ammunition purchases are limited and monitored. When traveling with the gun, it must be concealed and unloaded and NOT on the person. Gun deaths in Norway are on the decline and below 70 a year.
In 1996, the Port Arthur Massacre changed everything. A gunman opened fire with a Colt AR-15 SP1 at a cafe and murdered 35, injuring an additional 18. Australian lawmakers had reached a breaking point. Quickly legislation was taken up. Semi-automatics and other weapons of war were outright banned, a mandatory buyback program was rolled out. Similar laws to previously mentioned countries were rolled out, and the citizens of Australia followed the rules because they wanted things to change. As a result, there have been ZERO mass shootings on the continent since 1996. Shootings have been attempted since of course, but because the shooters did not have access to weapons of war the most significant body count has been TWO! Think if they had had an AR-15. Well, we don’t need to think because what could have happened is what does occur in the United States multiple times a year. In 2014, gun deaths in Australia numbered 24.
What are the stats on gun deaths in the United States?
Gun deaths for 2017 in the United States were 15,549. 732 children under the age of 11 were killed by guns in 2017, the number is 3,232 for teens. 344 deaths were just the result of mass shootings for that year. 606 were murder-suicides. Only 2,030 deaths were logged as self-defense and an almost equal number, 2,015, were accidental gun deaths. (https://twitter.com/GunDeaths/status/950491352420179968/photo/1)
In 2018, there have already been over 2,000 gun deaths. 500 children have died by guns this year. 250 accidental deaths. I have had enough this is unacceptable. Guns are to easy to get, and people have zero requirements to store them safely or learn to use them correctly.
Stoneman Douglas had a “Good Guy with a Gun.” His name was Scot Peterson, and he was a police officer for over thirty years. When he became aware of the shooting, his decision was to hide out by his car. On the one hand, he is a coward. On the other, can you blame him? AR-15 cuts through flesh like a knife through hot butter. It also shows that you could have a thousand guns counter the shooter’s arsenal, but it gives zero guarantees that the “bad guy” will be stopped.
On Thursday, in Utah (which allows teachers to open carry in schools with a special license), a teacher using the bathroom shot herself in the leg. I love my colleagues but so many of them are notorious for losing their car keys and cell phones, many of them struggle to operate the primary technology in the school. Handing out guns to teachers before doing the million and one things that should be done is the most asinine idea I have ever heard. The Fort Hood Massacre of 2009 took place in a venue full of good guys with guns. 13 people were shot to death and 30 more injured. The presence of a firearm does NOT lead to prevention of deaths and in fact, increases the likelihood of a fatality.
For people who want to be honest about the mental health angle of the conversation, then we would need to talk about funding. My school’s counselor has a ratio of 1:810. This is unfair to her and to the students. The growing expectations of teachers to fill every possible role has grown to an absurd degree. We are expected to be social workers, social-emotional counselors, nurses, surrogate parents, disciplinarians, provider of supplies due to slashed budgets, the list goes on. Oh yes, we also have to teach them. I have already written an unsigned/undated letter of resignation if moronic legislation allowing teachers to carry guns in my state passes. I have given 12 years of my life to working in public schools, but I cannot endure such a threat being place in my building. The likelihood that this will come into law in near impossible though because the compensation required for teachers to receive danger/hazard pay would nearly triple the cost of education. And if there is one thing America hates doing it is funding its schools.
Yesterday my mom shocked. She is a late 50s Christian Conservative who typically votes without fail for the Republican candidate in most elections. She asked in passing if I was going to the March for Lives on March 24th in Nashville. I was honestly shocked because she said she and my step-father would be going. I had thought about it previously but was undecided. At that moment I knew I had to go. If my mother had seen through the bullshit of the NRA’s gun lobbyist propaganda, then I had no choice. I will march too. I hope that wherever you are if there is a march in your community you attend. The kids of Stoneman Douglas are going to save this world.