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The Problem With The Gun Control Debate

It’s so predictable that it is almost not worth the effort it takes to anticipate it and that takes no effort at all anymore.

Another shooting rampage – another endless debate about guns as if all we have to do is restrict guns or ban them outright and all our problems will be solved. As usual, both sides in the debate have rushed to the extreme edges of their positions and left any rational discussion, of children at risk, far behind.

Personally, I don’t see any reason why someone should own a semi-automatic assault rifle. If you’re a hunter with a shotgun or traditional hunting rifle, you’ve already got the deer and even a well-trained flock of ducks pretty much out gunned. I don’t have an issue with guns used for hunting but I think that if you need an assault rifle to take on Bambi, you probably need to consider another sport because you’re clearly not very good at this one.

Using semi-automatic weapons to go hunting is like throwing a grenade into the lake to stun the fish, so they’ll float to the surface, when you go fishing.

I don’t see the need for people to walk around town with a .357 magnum or a 9mm Glock under their armpit either. Even Wyatt Earp thought carrying guns within city limits was excessive when he banned them in Dodge City and Tombstone. It wasn’t because he was anti-gun; it was because he understood that sometimes, when a gun was handy, it helped to escalate violence rather than prevent it.

We saw that with the shooting of Trayvon Martin. Irrespective of whether or not the shooting was a tragic accident, the simple reality is that George Zimmerman might have reacted differently that night if he had not been carrying a gun and nobody would be dead even if events had still led to a physical altercation.

The thinking seems to be that if everyone has a gun then nobody would dare shoot at anyone else or if they did, we could shoot them back and kill them. Killing seems to be the preferred response to addressing violence these days.

How about, if nobody was carrying a gun in the city, nobody would be able to shoot at anyone and we leave catching the bad guys to the police like we used to?

There seems to be this thinking that every-day people who arm themselves will be able to react with cool and speed when threatened. Considering how effectively most people react when they are threatened verbally, I don’t have much confidence that simply giving everyone a gun will increase IQs or turn anyone into Steven Segal although after suffering through a couple of his movies that may not be a bad thing.

Too many accidents happen with unintended consequences. Even Vice-president Dick Cheney shot a friend in the face while they were quail hunting and that takes some doing when you’re standing in a straight line beside each other.

I don’t think it is necessary to ban guns nor do I think it’s particularly helpful to refocus the cause of tragedies like what happened in Newtown last Friday on guns rather than on what puts our children at risk in the first place.

The discussion has divided into the usual polarized extremes and it is my concern that the same superficial solutions will be offered up rather than digging down and addressing the underlying causes of these rampages.

The proposed sollutions get so unrealistic that there are even suggestions that arming teachers will make our children safer which takes my breath away. How can anyone possibly think that turning our elementary schools into potential shooting galleries will do anything other than increase the risk to children?

I saw one talking head on the television yesterday who said that if only the principal had an M4 locked away in a cupboard, she could have gone into the hallway and taken out the shooter thereby saving her life and the lives of everyone else as well. You’ll note he didn’t suggest just a rifle or even a standard handgun – he suggested a semi-automatic assault weapon.

It takes a special kind of stupid to think like that.

First, I doubt that there are many teachers who chose teaching as a profession so that they could take combat training.

m4_2

Current issue – Colt M4 Carbine Assault Rifle – the perfect teacher’s aide

Then there is the issue of whether or not the principal would have taken the gun with her when she first went to investigate. If she hadn’t, nothing would be any different from what happened. If she had, the assumption seems to be that she would have been as quick and responsive as Rambo, calmly scooting out into the hall and ripping off a couple of quick shots dead centre to take out the shooter.

This is real life, not the movies. In all probability she would have been frightened, maybe got off a shot which might have missed, entering a classroom and striking a child or a teacher while the shooter who was fairly well prepared took her out.

Perhaps a couple of teachers might have emerged from the other end of the hall at the same time and started firing so that bullets would now be flying left and right. Isn’t that a charming thought for an elementary school?

What if there had been more than one shooter as there was in Columbine? How much gunplay is too much before we come to our senses and admit that maybe this wasn’t one of our better ideas? How long will it be before someone suggests that maybe we should also arm students?

Christ in Heaven! Even the police are smart enough not to use their guns when there are innocents in harm’s way.

There are many legitimate reasons for responsible people to own guns ranging from hunting to use by ranchers and farmers in protecting their livestock; gun collectors to competitive target shooting. But no civilized society needs military-grade weapons on its streets. Even personal protection is a reasonable reason to own a firearm provided we don’t allow it to delude us into believing we’re Billy the Kid and go looking for trouble.

Perhaps a better idea regarding guns is to standardize gun registration. There are already restrictions in place but they vary from state to state. Gun shows are not bound by any of the restrictions that govern gun stores so anyone wingnut who can’t legally purchase a gun in a store can easily pick up a baker’s dozen at the gun show of his choice with no problem whatsoever.

An over-proliferation of guns is  a problem but it is not ‘‘the’ problem.

Guns seem to be a weapon of choice in the  United States but eliminating guns doesn’t end the killing sprees. Those who would kill the innocent simply turn to other methods and we’ve seen that around the world. Bombings have occurred in the Middle East, Asia, Europe, North and South America.

There are too many ways for psychopaths and sociopaths to make a name for themselves by killing the innocent and we can’t defend against them all simply by banning everything.

There have been mass killings using truck bombs (Oklahoma City), airplanes (9/11, the Pentagon), gas (Tokyo subway), poison (the Tylenol scare), car bombs (Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Syria, Israel), regular bombs (London subway) and the truly psychotic – suicide bombers. The IRA used both guns and bombs in Norther Ireland with deadly consequences.

Until we start to recognize and address that the root cause of these mass killings is the promulgation of a culture of violence and death, it won’t matter how much gun control we put in place.

Life, quite simply, has become cheap especially lives other than our own.

Toy assault rifles for kids – the perfect gift to teach them the value of life

We need to stop celebrating violence and encouraging the belief that the best way to reduce violence is by escalating it. We need to stop sensationalizing killers like Adam Lanza, Luca Magnotta and Charles Whitman both online and in the mainstream media.

We need to stop treating tragedies like Sandy Hook and Columbine like entertainment television and put an end to the morbid reality tv that news coverage has become.

Giving our kids video games that trivialize killing and death cheapens their respect for life. But above all else, we need to start taking responsibility for teaching our children the value of life. Teaching them how to greet violence with violence does the opposite and leads to a culture of fear, violence, death and alienation.

Too many in our societies feel disenfranchised and those who suffer from severe mental illness can become delusional in their sense of being disconnected from reality and from the rest of us.

We are polarized, divided and unrelenting in our paranoia and see everything and everyone as a potential threat, including our own governments. Too many prefer to arm themselves for possible future conflict rather than working with others in the community to overcome the issues that might give rise to that conflict. It’s as if many prefer the idea that ‘the end’ is nigh rather than promoting a belief that we can achieve what we want if we stand together.

We have no time or patience to sit down and objectively analyze what we are doing to ourselves and the risk at which we place our families but we have all the time in the world to live through it over and over and over again.

By all means, we should have a rational discussion about guns and their role in our society but to do so in the belief that it is all that’s necessary to prevent tragedies like Columbine and Sandy Hook, as some do,  is simply delusional.

There is a need to get control of the sale and misuse of firearms just as there is an equal and urgent need to address runaway mental health issues. But above all else, we need to start understanding the culture of death that makes life cheap in our societies and move away from the encouragement of violence as the best solution to a problem. We need to focus on what alienates so many from the rest of us and to address the real social issues of poverty, greed and inequality that are a breeding ground for crime and social unrest.

In the end, we need to accept that evil exists and you can’t combat it by shooting at it and you won’t overcome it by pretending that it can be eliminated by restricting or taking away one of the instruments used by sociopaths, delusional psychopaths and the truly evil.

By focusing on the gun control issue instead of the broader issues that cause some to go on these terrible rampages, we overlook the root causes of them and consequently we never begin to even consider effective solutions. Broadening our focus coupled with a little common sense and good will on all sides of the discussion would go a long way to achieving the safer communities for our children and our families we all seem to want.

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