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Gun Control in America

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mental health and background checks

Scrambling for a smokescreen the gun and gun rights community have latched onto the solution of improving background checks as well as looking to improve overall access to mental health services.  And of course we support both of these improvements.  However to use these as a substitute for greater gun control is a weak and ineffectual solution.

The ideal that we can establish the mental health and stability of millions of American's and assess the likelihood that they would not abuse the arms that they bear is absurd.  People snap, people become angry, people have hidden desires and ideas that we cannot anticipate.  Perhaps we will weed out the most obvious high risk people, but the rest will be full of secrets that we cannot predict.

Furthermore, the idea that we can then rely on those millions to never once let their gun fall into the wrong hands is just as absurd.  For every gun out there in the right hands, there are numerous wrong hands that that gun can fall into.  

I have several friends who own guns and I believe that they fall into the category of the type of person who can be completely trusted with a gun (more than many law enforcement people who I know).  I also believe that they have the integrity to keep those guns from the wrong hands.  But it is just statistically impossible that all gun owners are like them.  And in fact, it isn't until something hits the news, that we get examples of wrong people who ended up legally owning guns.

 

Legal Rights (to bear arms) versus human rights

America was an absolute pioneer in putting rights of its citizens into its charters, a response to our opposition to control by English rule.  We established absolute freedoms to exercise our rights to speak and express ourselves, to worship our God(s) as we choose, and to have a say in who runs our country.  But at the time that these charters were written there was a context for insuring that people could be safe in their own homes from hostile natives, wild animals and crazy neighbors - not to mention, British soldiers.   It was as practical to have a gun as it was to have a horse and an outhouse.

But in today's world, where you need neither a horse nor an outhouse, is carrying a gun still an inalienable right?    Legally speaking, and with many exceptions, it is in the US.  Yet looking at this legal right, one must draw a distinction between this legal right and what the world might view as true human rights.

True human rights, of course are also not universally agreed upon, and laws vary around the world.  But already we have seen the world agree on one universal right, which is the right to be protected from chemical weapons.  Even nations that disagree on most things, have all agreed that no person, no matter how horrible they are, should be gassed to death.  I'm thrilled that we all agree on this point.  This can be viewed as a human right, not just a legal one.   While the world does not agree on most human rights, westernized nations do agree on at least some variation of rights such as the right to marry and have a family (albeit much disagreement on these rights as applied to gay and lesbian), the right to have some degree of free speech and the right to be free from harm and oppression.

A gun is basically a tool, and for many it is a sporting good.   We know for a fact that not all tools are legal.  Certain types of weapons can only be used by the militia, certain types of explosives can only be used by authorized personnel, say in mining or building infrastructure.  Do we have an inalienable right to carry tools?  No, not really.  The gun was simply a necessary tool at an earlier point in our history, like one might carry a cell phone today or consider a car to be an absolute necessity.  Aside from sport rifles, the main argument for handguns is personal protection  And while I do believe that being able to protect oneself should be an absolute right, I don't agree that guns are the only way, nor are they the best ways.  Modern technology has given us a plethora of ways to stop an intruder or attacker, that don't involve ballistics.  One who is truly just interested in protecting themselves, without a particular proclivity towards firearms might just choose a stun gun or pepper spray, over a gun. 

sending a strong message

Traditionally, the GOP has taken up the Second Amendment cause and as a result has received the endorsement of the NRA.  But certain democratic representatives have also been gun rights advocates and the NRA has given them support as well.

The public needs to send a strong message to their representatives, that they will always be supported if they support tougher gun laws.  Those who simply want to hunt or protect themselves, should have only the necessary tools to do that, and no gun which exceeds those needs should be out there available for public sale.

The time is right now to substantially reduce the number of guns in the United States and to prevent the production of new guns, other than those used by law enforcement or for legitimate hunting or sport.

Now is the time for the families of Newtown to grieve.  The rest of America, can take action right away and start the ball rolling, not just in oppositions to assault weapons but to the vast majority of deadly guns.

Gun control:  now is the time

I have friends who have and carry guns, and I respect their right to do this lawfully.  Sometimes in fact, I am comforted being in their homes, knowing that they possess the ability to defend it, should it be invaded.

But the reality is that publicly available guns, can, do and will end up in the hands of those who will not use them properly.  3,385 children were killed in 1999 because of gun accidents, according to a study by the University of Michigan.   One third of those were suicides.  Bowling for Columbine, a documentary by the rather infamous Michael Moore, compared gun violence in America to towns just over the border.  Moore was mocked and marginalized by right wing media, for his liberal stance on most issues, but still made a substantial impact not so much on his detractors, but on those who may have not weighed in heavily on the subject matter.

no way, nra:  a response to the nra response to newtown

The NRA's long anticipated but poorly received response to the shooting in Newtown, and the increase in school shooting violence was to place an armed officer in every school in America.  According to Wayne LaPierre, the groups Executive VP,   “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun."

Well, so lets start with a tempered response to this:  I think that temporarily, we are probably going to consider doing this.  The majority of parents simply can't put a price on having some peace of mind right now.  Using officer rotations on a monthly basis, in school law enforcement can have some benefits.  They can be teaching DARE programs and other types of classes, ranging from law enforcement introductions to High School students, down to conflict resolution with elementary kids.  This is not a bad idea, but it skirts the problem of guns in America and in the long run, it escalates the armament of America's schools, rather than de-arming, which must be the final goal.

However, there are other ways to stop a "bad guy with a gun", and this includes pepper spray, tasers, and even a well timed fire extinguisher.  The response to guns with more guns, moves us in the wrong direction and in fact is not really the affair of the NRA anyway.  Whether or not we put officers in our schools, doesn't rely on endorsement of the NRA.  What does rely on endorsement of the NRA are definitive steps to reduce the availability of weapons in America, including both the guns and the ammunition.

why gun control has been a hard fight

The opposition to gun control stems from the Second Amendment, which was initially developed because the United States was a new nation, fighting both the British Crown forces as well as the natives of the territories that they were occupying.  As such, the military was assembled from civilians and in order to assemble any such group, tha

the right to bear arms

Opposition to gun control is rooted in the second amendment which states:

A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed. 

The amendment was created because in the early days of our nation, there was no formal army but instead the militia was made up of civilians who had to be armed to protect themselves, both from the British Crown forces and any hostility from local native populations.  Additionally, as in any pioneering society, guns were needed to hunt and to protect oneself from wild animals.

Nevertheless, the amendment does not avoid the reason for its existence, but clearly states that the purpose for the right is to have a militia.  It is only in interpretation, that the right to bear arms has been extended to one's own "militia" at home, in their right to protect their homestead.  The interpretation, in my personal opinion, is now outdated but this is a long ago lost cause, because the lobby for gun privileges is one of the most powerful lobbies in our nation.

The NRA with 4.3 million members (according to its website) commands a powerful voice in congress, disputing, debunking and rationalizing the right of Americans to carry guns, some of which have no purpose for hunting and would not seem to be needed for self defense.  Their key argument of course, is that guns don't kill people - people kill people, a catch all excuse to deflect blame away from the guns themselves.  Here are some examples though, of some weapons that you don't have the right to bear --

    

The Bill of Rights does not explicitly mention guns at all, no less assault weapons and machine guns.  In fact, it does not even mention hand-guns, begging the question of whether the right to bear arms might not even need to extend to guns of any type. 

So must technology exists today to protect people in a non-lethal way.   From pepper spray, to taser guns to rubber bullets, America needs to start courageously reconsidering whether we need to have any kind of gun at all, other than sport rifles.

Controlling the trigger, not the finger

You can control how many triggers there are out there, how much harm one of them can do and how easily they can get into the wrong hands.  Harder, is to control every finger that finds its way onto a trigger.  While the majority of gun owners are upstanding citizens, the fact remains that a percentage of those who buy guns, do not have innocent intentions.  People who originally obtain guns for self protection get angry, get wronged, go crazy or have other people in their homes who become so and trying to weed out who might someday use a gun to hurt others, just isn't possible.

Guns get into children's hands, they are used for suicides, domestic violence, drug deals and mass shootings.  A simple handgun can take care of even the most well prepared home intruder,, and to be honest, so can pepper spray or a fire extinguisher.  And certainly, for those who live in more rural areas, a hunting rifle can do so without firing off enough rounds to cause a massacre.

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