Monday, July 23, 2012

I'm Sick of Guns

I don't write about guns often, if ever. Honestly, it's not something that I think about very much. But with the recent events in Colorado, I can't get it off my mind. I'm just so upset and I'm pretty sure I can no longer ignore what's going on.

Gun control used to be one of the liberal issues I focused on the least. My dad was a hunter and responsible gun owner when I was growing up. I heard phrases like "Guns don't kill people, people kill people" and I thought they made sense. But my opinions on gun control have evolved over time, and I think I'm more certain now than ever that we have a serious problem in this nation. I'm not alone in being concerned about this. More and more evidence is supporting my fears.

Katie at Feministing shared this infographic earlier today:

And as she wrote,
The Brady Campaign against Gun Violence explores the relationship between women and gun violence. “U.S. women’s firearm death rate is 12 times higher than the combined rate of 22 other populous, high-income countries.” You can sign the Brady Campaign’s petition to Congress here.
Mayors Against Illegal Guns documents that 34 Americans are killed everyday with guns. You can sign their petition to Congress calling for background checks here.
...abused women are five times more likely to be killed if their partner has a gun.
When you're staring the statistics in the face, it's a pretty horrifying look at what exactly we have going on. The depth of the violence. The culture of guns. It seems undeniable, that our relationship with guns is playing a role in crimes and the deaths of good people. It's right there in black and white. Who couldn't see it? But in fact, some conservative politicians prefer to blame the victims of the violence for their own misfortune. Furthermore, they're also blaming gun control its self. Russell Pearce, a former AZ state senator, is one such politician. As Alternet reported, Pearce came under scrutiny for blaming the victims for their own situation. He wrote on his Facebook: "Where were the men of flight 93???? Someone should have stopped this man...All that was needed is one Courages/Brave man prepared mentally or otherwise to stop this it could have been done." [sic for all of that]

So, you see, the real problem here is that no man stepped up to stop the shooter? ARE YOU KIDDING ME? (And I'm not even going to touch the heavily implied sexism.) Pearce tried to clarify what he meant with an equally ignorant statement:
All I did was lament that so many people should be left disarmed and vulnerable by anti-gun rules that try to create a sense of safety by posting a sign that says ‘No Guns’, when the only real effect is to disarm everyone who could have saved lives.
And there it is. You see, we're being told the solution is more guns, despite insurmountable evidence which ties the accessibility of guns with those very crimes in the first place. I realize that it takes a certain kind of person to turn guns on a crowd and that the simple existence of a handgun alone doesn't result in death. But at what point are we just going to admit that the American love of guns, combined with our extremely violent culture is creating desperate person after desperate person who feel that spraying bullets at a crowd is something that they should do? (And that's to say nothing of the extremely poor support system for people with mental illnesses and the stigmatization of asking for help.)

The New Yorker has a piece up by Adam Gopnik which everyone should check out. Here's an excerpt:
The truth is made worse by the reality that no one—really no one—anywhere on the political spectrum has the courage to speak out about the madness of unleashed guns and what they do to American life. That includes the President, whose consoling message managed to avoid the issue of why these killings take place. Of course, we don’t know, and perhaps never will, what exactly “made him” do what he did; but we know how he did it. Those who fight for the right of every...criminal to have as many people-killing weapons as they want share moral responsibility for what happened last night—as they will when it happens again. And it will happen again.
He's right. It will happen again. How can we keep going through this cycle? How many times can someone unleash bullets on a gathering of people and we sit back and mourn, but then move on without taking a critical look at our laws? We're moving on without taking a critical look at our culture. We're moving on and pretending that there is nothing that anyone could have done. We're moving on without learning from our mistakes. We're moving on calling it a "tragedy" as if these things are inevitable.

Hurricanes are inevitable tragedies. This was a mass killing and it is just one of many. Columbine, Fort Hood, Gabby Giffords' speech, Luby's, Virginia Tech, UT Austin--it spans decades and across the country.

How many more do we need? We can and should hold the suspect, James Holmes, responsible. But I hope through the process we realize that we can no longer treat such shooters as strange, remarkable, stand alone cases. No, we've got to take a look at the systemic nature of what is occurring and start to change both our laws and our collective relationship with guns and violence.

I realize that stricter gun control laws alone cannot prevent all violent incidents, but, for the love of God, can't we at least try something? I can't help but think that if our founders saw what the second amendment was being used to justify in our modern world, they would be deeply disgusted with us. 


  1. Well, America is a deeply patriotic and traditional country, which doesn't make this any easier. After all, using any document that is hundred of years old to try to formulate laws for today can only result in failure - be it the bible or the constitution.

    1. Huh, I wrote America here but critized it in the Boy Scouts... I meant the USA, of course.

  2. To be honest, I feel like mass shootings ARE inevitable. They occur even in countries with very strict gun laws, and have probably occurred (although more infrequently) with some regularity since the invention of the device. Perhaps more people have gotten into it as modern firearms make killing sprees far more accessible to the average citizen- but that's the natural progression of a machine. Its development continues and it becomes more efficient. The same can be said of modern medicine. In a sense, it allows people with less training than a doctor to go on a 'healing spree' so to speak. Not that anyone ever does that. The point is that, as in the addage, the weapon is not to blame for the destruction-- it is in fact the person who wields it. How many times in the middle ages did highwaymen go on a 'stabbing spree'? I'm sure there are plenty of incidents. In some parts of Europe, people who wanted to die without committing suicide would kill children in order to be hanged.

    At the end of the day, law or no law, if someone wants a firearm to go on a shooting spree with, they will acquire one and do so. Whether they purchase it at a store, in a dark inner-city alley, or simply make it at home with materials purchased at a hardware store (A simple feat, I might add) they will invariably find a way to commit their violent act. That is human nature at its very base. It had been an ugly part of society for thousands of years, and it shows no evidence of going away soon.

    I challenge you to take all the guns in the world and destroy them in your mind. In your fictional universe where no firearm exists, honestly ask yourself how long it will be before one man turns on another over money? Before a woman poisons her husband? Before any person kills any other person or a large number of people?

    I suspect that the answer is simply, "Moments."

    1. The stats just don't support your theories. Is violence deeply evident throughout human history? SURE. But if you compare the US to countries with much stricter gun laws, our incidents of mass shootings and gun violence are off the charts by comparison. I mean take a look at that info graphic above. Are you reading the same thing as me?!

      I simply don't believe in throwing up my hands and saying "OH WELL PEOPLE ARE EVIL SO HAVE ALL THE GUNS YOU WANT!"

      Do you know how much harder it is to kill dozens of people in moments with a knife over a high power automatic weapon? In the case of the knife, a crowd actually stands a chance at overtaking and subduing the attacker. With a sniper rifle? Ha.


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