It’s interesting to see how people react in different ways to tragedy. I don’t think anyone will disagree with me when I say that Sandy Hook was a tragedy of unthinkable proportions. It takes a special kind of monster to gun down five-year-olds, and there’s nothing quite so heartbreaking than thinking of families losing their precious little ones right before the holidays. We the American people are sickened, and everyone is asking, “How can we keep this from ever happening again?”.
Judging by my Facebook news feed, it sounds like most people in my circle of “friends” have decided that the answer lies in any combination of stricter gun control, wider access to guns, denying rights to the mentally ill, access to mental health care, requiring prayer in schools, vilification of single moms, and/or pushing our president out of an airplane mid-flight. Many of these stances leave me shaking my head in confusion, sadness, and disgust.
Can we talk about gun control for a minute? Now, I don’t know the first thing about guns, I freely admit this. Everything I know about guns is what I’ve gleaned from being the daughter, sister, wife, and friend of gun enthusiasts, and watching my brothers playing GoldenEye 007 after school for more hours than I care to admit. As far as I can tell, one side thinks there should be stricter gun control, and that civilians either shouldn’t be allowed to have guns, or shouldn’t be allowed to have certain types of guns/ammunition, or that only certain civilians should be allowed to have guns. The other side thinks most law-abiding civilians have the right to have as many of whatever kind of guns they want, and that this is necessary for these civilians to protect themselves from the other civilians that also possess all this weaponry, and also for hunting, target practice, and so they can post pictures of themselves on Facebook holding big guns and looking all badass. Each side cannot understand the other side, and thinks they’re terribly stupid and dangerous. Ridiculous assertions and troubling comparisons emerge, harsh words are exchanged, feelings are hurt, people are blocked/de-friended, it’s all very disheartening. It’s why I have largely remained quiet on the topic altogether. It’s just become too much though, and I can’t be silent anymore.
Firstly, yes, we have our second amendment right to bear arms. I dearly treasure my constitutional rights, and am quite sensitive to have my rights taken away, whether it’s the right to vote, the right to marry whoever I darn well please regardless of chromosomes, the right to get paid the same amount for the same work regardless of those same chromosomes, the right to decide when I want to start a family, and the right to decide with my doctor and not my employer what medications I want to take… anyone who has read my blog knows I’m quite passionate about rights. Fairness is paramount, equality is my battle cry. I love rights.
Here’s what I understand about the second amendment. It was written and adopted in completely different time. It was intended to allow for the formation of a militia in times of war, to facilitate protection from invasion, and allow for rebellion against unjust leadership. It was also a time in which the people would be arming themselves with rather inefficient weaponry that would basically allow them to kill one person/animal at a time. I cannot imagine that our founding fathers intended this amendment to protect the rights of any and all citizens to own weapons capable of killing dozens of people in seconds, simply because they could, and they thought those weapons were cooler than any number of less potentially catastrophic weapons that would just a easily (and often times more easily) protect them in the instance of home invasion, or take down that deer for dinner. Now, I realize that the supreme court has decided that the right to bear arms should not only apply in the instance of forming militia, but should also apply to those interested in self defense, and I respect that, I just want to point out that the original intention of this amendment was not to allow all people to own whatever and as many guns as they want just because they want to.
Now, I’m sure they exist, but I haven’t heard anyone on the pro-gun control side saying nobody should be allowed to have guns ever. What I’m hearing is that some people shouldn’t have guns (criminals, those found mentally unstable with violent tendencies, etc.), an that certain kinds of guns shouldn’t be owned by civilians (assault rifles, automatic/semi-automatic weapons etc.). This all sounds very logical, though potentially problematic. For example, do the mentally ill give up their rights simply because they have the potential to be violent, even if they have yet to commit any crimes? Don’t all of us have the potential to experience a trauma or injury or certain situation that could drive us to do things outside the realm of reason?
The anti gun-control side is asserting that we have the constitutional right to have these guns, and that they are indeed necessary for protection in these dangerous times. Valid point. They assert that criminals will still get whatever guns they want, and we need to be able to protect ourselves from these people. Also, quite valid. They assert that cars are more deadly than guns, but to this I can’t help but point out that you have to take a class and pass a test to drive a car, and you have to have a medical exam to drive a big rig, so doesn’t that particular comparison actually support gun control? Whatever, moving on. They assert that this is America, and they have the right own and do whatever they darn well please, and guns are cool and we should get to have them. That, to me, is a childish argument, and just because I think it would be cool to have a polar bear as a pet doesn’t mean I should be allowed to have one, as there are potential consequences that need to be considered that affect the safety of those around me who didn’t get to decide whether or not an aggressive wild animal lives next door. I mean, as long as we’re drawing comparisons. And another thing, I know that criminals will find a way to get their hands on guns whether it’s illegal or not, but is the answer to that really to not make them illegal? I mean, murderers and thieves will kill and steal whether it’s illegal or not, meth heads will still make meth, tax evaders will still evade taxes, drunk drivers will still drive drunk, whether we make these actions against the law or don’t. How can the logic of “criminals will still get guns regardless of gun legislation, so what’s the point of gun legislation” lead to anything but anarchy? Color me confused.
I guess it comes down to this: We do have certain rights in America, and we need to protect those rights. However, we don’t have the right to do whatever we want, damn the consequences, and that’s why we have laws that don’t allow us to take other people’s stuff, kill people we don’t like, etc. We have to find a balance between “Nobody should have guns!” and “Anyone should have whatever guns they want!”. What troubles me is how many arguments I’m seeing online that go to very real extremes. Taking away your right to have certain kinds of guns does not take away your right to have all guns, and will not necessarily lead to taking away your right to have all guns. Laws don’t really work that way. Just because we told people they’re not allowed to kill each other for no reason, doesn’t mean people eventually lost the right to defend themselves from people threatening their lives. I’m not sure why you think that regulating guns lead to them being outlawed altogether, and that the only way to ensure that doesn’t happen is to not regulate gun ownership at all. That kind of extremist “logic” is just plain confusing. It’s like the people who think legalizing gay marriage will lead to legalizing bestiality. What? Because giving women the right to vote directly lead to giving dogs the right to vote? But I digress.
I guess I just wish I saw some balance, some compromise, some consideration of both sides, instead of this reactionary, judgmental, paranoid extremism. Not all gun owners are uneducated, vigilante maniacs. Not all people calling for gun control regulations are bleeding heart fascist hippies trying to take all your rights away. Both sides make very valid points, though these are sometimes hidden in all the fear mongering and name calling. I don’t pretend to have all the answers, but this I know: the only way we will ever make progress as a nation is if we stop screaming at each other and start listening and working together. Compromise isn’t necessarily bad, and gun control or lack thereof is not the only thing that will save us from another Sandy Hook (though mandating prayer in schools certainly isn’t the answer either, but that’s a blog for another day).
And now, I have to admit, that this tirade has gone on long enough. My heart hurts for all those precious children, and in all my frustration with the bickering and extreme views on my Facebook news feed, I fear I will lose sight of what started this whole fight. I don’t want to let the memory of those innocent lives get lost in all the politics. So here I stop.