Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Gun Control

Before I begin... I want to address a couple of things I've seen over and over on social networking sites and in the comments of many, many articles in the wake of the recent mass shootings in Oregon and Connecticut.

Guns don't kill people, people kill people.
This is true. It's also true that heroin doesn't inject itself into anyone's body, but we can't buy heroin at the local CrapMart or at a big old drug show down at the sale barn on a Saturday or (so far as we know) from an online store set up by the Mormon church.

If only the victims in Connecticut had been armed, this tragedy would have been prevented.
One victim was armed - heavily armed. The first one. The shooter's mother. She was killed with her own gun, in her own home and then it was her guns used to kill all of the other slain victims. That she was armed didn't save her life or prevent the tragedy. Quite the opposite. The killer planned what he did - he may have been nuts, but he wasn't stupid. His plan included an advantage for himself. At the school, even if every member of the faculty had been armed, the killer still had an advantage - he knew the attack was coming, he had weapons in hand ready to fire, he was wearing clothing designed to protect himself from bullets, he carried weapons that fired rapidly and did not require aiming or reloading to do their deadly job well. The faculty were tending to their jobs with no clue that anything bad was about to happen. They were attired in normal clothing. Their weapons would have been put away with safeties or locks on so the children couldn't accidentally get hold of them and harm themselves or their classmates. With the shooter's weapon requiring no pause to reload or to aim or to fire again, there was no window of time, however small, for a faculty member, armed or not, to have gained an advantage.

You can't get the guns out of the hands of criminals... they'll always find a way.
True. But, nobody's suggesting that we can. No law exists that effectively prevents everyone from breaking it. There is no substance or product banned that effectively prevents everyone from obtaining or manufacturing it. If a law had to be 100% effective to achieving its goal, we would have no laws and/or no jails/prisons.

...and that leads me to what I wanted to say, today.

As the discussion of gun control and whether it violates the 2nd amendment to ban or make it harder to legally possess a specific type of weapon heats up, please bear in mind that we already draw a line as to what "arms" are included in that right. The issue is not whether to draw a line where none exists, but whether to move the line, slightly.

Example: I don't have the right to own a nuclear weapon. If I so much as seek to obtain one or to purchase the components necessary to manufacture one, I will go to prison. I don't even have to succeed in obtaining anything at all. But, nuclear weapons are "arms." They simply happen to be arms on the other side of the line drawn in our legislation. (sidenote: Curiously, a few of those on the "anything should be legal for us to own" side will argue just as adamantly that we should dictate to other nations what arms their militaries are and are not allowed to possess.)

There is NO solution that will end ALL gun violence or take the most efficient killing machines out of the hands of criminals and terrorists. Everyone on the "let's make it harder for the worst of the worst to be obtained" side of the issue knows this. We are not suggesting that moving the line will forever end all gun violence & have us all huddled together in a planetary group hug singing kum bay yah in perfect harmony and buying the world a Coke.

The goal in moving the line or at least putting more steps in place to legally obtain rapid fire, large clip/magazine/drum automatic assault weapons is to slow down the nutjobs who appear to pose no serious mortal threat one day, but prove they've snapped in the worst possible way the next. The goal is simply to make it harder for those who snap to find, afford & obtain weapons that will put them at a steep advantage in any situation (including those where an entire school administration or theatre or mall staff is packing.)

If the gunman in CT would have had to stop to reload or if he'd had to fire his shots one at a time instead of in rapid fire bursts, someone might have been able to get an advantage in that small window of time... whether it was someone with a weapon they could get to in the turmoil or someone who wasn't armed with anything more than an adrenaline rush & instinct. It still creates only a "maybe" of a chance - but there was zero chance with the weaponry this gunman was carrying.

The criminals & terrorists haven't snapped. They are criminals and terrorists every day for decades of their lives and they have access to things the rest of us don't. They will always have time on their side to find ways to obtain or manufacture whatever they want. By contrast, the nutjobs who walk into schools or theatres or malls to open fire on large groups of innocents don't have that advantage. They go from being just fine or even "deeply troubled but not seriously planning to commit mass murder" to deciding to do these horrific things and then perpetrating them in a relatively short period of time. Their time frame for preparation is hours, days, even months of planning - usually alone & isolated or with a single partner & most of them have no more access to weapons and ammo than any sane law abiding citizen. If the guns aren't available on the legitimate market, SOME of them won't be able to find a way to obtain them at all. Will this stop them? No. But it will lead some of them to choose lesser weapons so there's at least some chance of a potential victim or a trained and armed security person gaining an advantage to prevent or stop the carnage.

Unlike criminals and terrorists, the nutjobs generally don't have decades of criminal/terrorist activity & access to networks/conduits that have been established over generations & often stretch across the globe. They have gun shows, CrapMart, legitimate internet dealers, pawn shops, sporting goods stores and Mommy's gun cabinet. That's why the bulk of the mass shootings over the last several years have involved LEGALLY obtained weapons, while the gang bangers & druglords who are caught are usually tried on illegal-weapons charges in addition to charges related to their other illegal activities. We can't stop all gun violence - but this one particular kind of violence... there are ways we can slow it down to give intended victims a CHANCE of gaining an advantage. ...And if we can slow them down, maybe we can put something in place to let us catch some of them in the planning stages BEFORE there's a heart breaking death toll... something similar to whatever they're doing that would get us caught and stopped before we obtained a nuclear device.