Up in Arms

We are living in a very unique period in history. Ever since this country was formed we have had disagreements on just about everything. Politics, religion, economics, civil rights, The stones or the Beatles? I believe our founding fathers expected division on issues, even welcomed it and envisioned a future where two or more parties would bring forth ideas and propositions, debate on them, compromise, and at the end of the day reach an agreement and act in the best interest of the general population. They must be rolling in their collective graves at this point.

Today, after a week of silence, the NRA held a press conference. The gun control debate has been a hot button issue for many years now, but with this most recent tragedy at Sandy Hook in Newtown Connecticut, it seems to have reached something of a tipping point. Last Friday 20 beautiful, innocent children and 6 brave, selfless adults lost their lives when a man armed with several weapons, including a semi automatic assault rifle, forced his way into Sandy Hook Elementary and fired off over a hundred rounds. As per usual, and it’s sad and unacceptable that I am able to phrase it like that, when one of these tragedies strikes, the NRA lies low. Initially people are up in arms, no pun intended, and we see an outcry for stricter gun regulation. This lasts for a couple of weeks, and then we settle back into some sense of normalcy and the issue fades away. This time feels different though, and based off of the press conference, the NRA most certainly senses that. In the past the NRA was adamantly defended the right to bear arms, often to extreme levels and lengths. I had high hopes that perhaps today would be different, but that was not the case.

Before I go any further I want to take a moment to make my position on this inescapably clear. The closest thing I own to a weapon is my extensive collection of super-soakers and light sabers. I have the right to own a gun, I just choose not to exercise that right. Though I’m not a gun owner, I am absolutely in no way opposed to people owning them. Whatever your position is on this issue I think we can all agree that there are many legitimate and even rationale reasons for civilians owning a firearm. Some use them for hunting, or target shooting. Some own them for personal protection, both for themselves and for their families, and still some are just collectors who admire the craftsmanship in a firearm. I imagine that many owners probably fit into all of those categories.

My point is I am not one of those out there screaming for a ban on guns. That’s completely unrealistic, and I don’t think that would solve the gun violence problem anyhow. There are many sound minded and responsible people out there who own guns. I think we can also all agree that we would prefer firearms to be in the hands of those types of people. So the question is, how can we go about achieving that? What laws/regulations can we put into place to help make that happen? That’s what I’m all about. So do not mistake anything I say for the extreme rhetoric from some whom oppose guns altogether. Now something I do believe is that we absolutely do not need to have semi automatic assault weapons in the hands of any civilian. Unless deer start wearing body armor, we certainly don’t need them for hunting. I understand that some owners of these weapons just enjoy collecting and shooting them at the range, and that we would be in essence allowing the actions of some to infringe on owners’ hobbies and personal enjoyment. I’m sorry. Really I am. It sucks. But look, there are many times in our lives where we have to sacrifice something for the greater good or the good of someone else. If I was an owner of one these weapons and a piece of legislation was being proposed to prohibit my ownership of them in an effort to reduce violent crimes, I would hope that I would be alright with that. I’m sure I would be upset and even a little conflicted about it, but if this meant that there was even a chance of preventing tragedies like what happened last Friday from happening again, I would hope that I, and others, would get on board. I just don’t think that style of weapon with high-capacity clips are necessary. That’s what we should ask ourselves. What is necessary? Do we need an assault weapon capable of firing off hundreds of rounds for hunting, or self-protection? I think there are other options that work just fine.

Now if we were to ban assault weapons that would not mean that violence, or even mass shootings, would end all together and everything would be sweetness and light. I fully believe that those out there intending to do harm, will find a way. But guns are an easy way to do it. They’re super accessible, and don’t exactly take a rocket scientist to operate. And not everyone who commits these kinds of atrocities are plotting and scheming for months or years on how they’re going to do it. Many have mental issues that play a role in their eventual break from reality. When that break happens guns make for an extremely easy way for them to act on their fragmented and delusional state of mind. I firmly believe that if these weapons were not so readily available that we would see a drop in these types of shootings. And yes you can point to some statistics that show an increase in violent crimes coinciding with stricter gun laws, but if you look at the data on the majority of those statistics you will see that violent crimes were already rising before laws were put into place. So, I don’t think that’s really a strong or even valid point to make. The fact is we are far stricter and have more regulations around owning and operating a vehicle than we do a gun.

And yes more people are killed per year from vehicles, than guns. The difference though is that a car is not designed to take life away, where as that is a gun’s primary purpose. Whether that life be a human or an animal, that is why it exists. I know it can be part of a collection, or used for target practice, but you’re not practicing shooting targets just to get better at shooting targets (save for those who really are competitive shooters). You’re improving your skill with a weapon in the event that one day you might have to use it for what it is primarily designed to do. Take life away. I’m 29 and my driver’s license expires in 2016. I will be 32, and I will have to go to the DMV to be issued a new license if I wish to continue driving a car. Would it not then be reasonable to have similar regulation for firearms? Many times you don’t even need a license to own a gun. Surely, we can make some improvements.

So to sum up in general my position on this issue, I’m all for the 2nd amendment, I don’t believe we need assault weapons, and I think we need to seriously revise our current policies and regulations on gun ownership.

Now back to the NRA. As I said, I was not surprised by their response. (And I’m going continue to use the word “they” as the men who spoke, spoke on behalf of the millions of the NRA’s members, and if you’re a member and you weren’t happy with the way you were being represented, I suggest and encourage you to speak out) They took a hard-lined aggressive stance and immediately went on the defense, playing the victim. THEY ARE NOT THE VICTIM HERE. The VICTIMS are being buried this weekend. The NRA had an opportunity. They are a group that holds a great deal of political and social power. For better or worse, they are very influential. But instead of showing even the slightest hint of a willingness to compromise and cooperate, they went rogue. They immediately started pointing fingers at everyone except themselves. Anytime that a person or organization absolves themselves of all responsibility, you can be sure that they actually have a great deal of responsibility and know it, and know that they are vulnerable and in fact fear their own vulnerability. It’s this very fear that continues to hinder the NRA and prevents them from being part of a meaningful and productive debate on the issue of gun control. This is a time for self-reflection. It’s a time for each and every one of us to examine our lives, and what we are doing (good and bad), and ask our selves “Are we satisfied?” “Can we do better?” Apparently this memo didn’t hit the desks at the NRA headquarters. Feeling like scapegoats, they immediately went to their own go-to scapegoats, the media, movies, music and video games.

Now, I work in TV and Film and I will be the first one to agree that it plays a role. Films and TV shows glorify and even romanticize violence, and they do have a big impact on young minds. I can testify to this personally as I still catch my self from time to time waving my hand at red traffic lights in a futile attempt to turn them to green with “the force”. I also enjoy “violent” video games. Halo 4 is consuming my life light now. In playing this game I get medals and awards that have names like “Killing Spree” and “Killtacular”. The difference with me is that I have not yet caught my self going on real rampages. I can separate fantasy from reality. There are some who cannot, or at least not as easily, and I’m certain that these types of media would have a bigger impact on those types of people.

I also agree that the news media plays a role. Our 24 hour news networks give too much attention to the perpetrators of these atrocities. I read an article on CNN that said that the tragedy at Sandy Hook will “rank” as the 2nd worst school shooting in the United States.”Rank?” Is this some sort of competition? We showcase these people and I believe the level attention we give them has the capability to “inspire” another disturbed person out there to commit their own act of chaos. Not to mention what it does for spawning direct copy cats. I think it’s important to report the news, but we should be focused more on the victims and not their killers.

Now you see this is how I and the NRA differ. I fully admit that everything that they pointed out does indeed play a role. But the NRA weren’t even willing to entertain the notion that they may play a part in tragedies like this just as much as all of the other things that they were so quick to point out. This shows that they are very narrow-minded and tend to only see things from their point of view. It’s very difficult to have a productive conversation with anyone who refuses to see things from any point of view other than their own. In addition to their unwillingness to work together, they directly contradicted their own points. About midway through the conference they said that there was only one way to achieve safety in our schools, and that was to have armed guards in every single school in America. Then towards the end of the conference they said that they realize there is not a “one size fits all” solution. Am I missing something?

Now first of all, there are about 250,00 schools in America. That’s including early education, grade schools, high schools, day cares, tech schools, colleges and other learning institutions. I assume by armed guards the NRA is not referring to mall security cops with flashlights and mace. The type of guard(s) needed to stand against someone with semi auto weapons are the armed to the teeth variety. The guards with semi auto or full auto weapons themselves, body armor and so on. And one guard isn’t going to be enough. Realistically there would need to be at least or two or three guards present to provide actual security. Maybe even more for larger schools. In actuality many schools already have guards, and even their own police. Virginia Tech is a good example. There are many armed officers there, and yet tragedy still occurred. So I don’t think having “good guys with guns” as they put it, in every school is a viable solution. I do think having armed officers and security personnel at higher risk and larger institutions can certainly be part of the equation though. Now schools aren’t the only place where we and our kids go. What about movie theaters? Shopping malls? Gas stations? Grocery stores? We all go to them, and they are every bit as vulnerable to an attack. Shall we then have armed guards there too? Should we just live in a militarized state with Martial Law? The NRA is so concerned with protecting freedoms, and yet it seems to me that the policies that they would enact would make us far less free, not to mention less safe. Do we really want “good guys with guns” every where we go? There are other solutions, but they are so blinded by their fear that they can’t see them. What’s more, it is an irrational fear, and irrational people with guns scare me. These guys are clearly intelligent so I just don’t see how they can genuinely believe that their way of life is really being threatened and that government men are going to come knocking on their doors and take their guns away. That’s not going to happen, and they know it’s not going to happen.

Those who defend the NRA may argue that I am singling them out. That’s completely untrue. I’ve agreed that gun violence is a puzzle with many pieces, but being an organization with a significant amount of members and power, they are one of the larger pieces. They are influential, and for better or worse, they hold a great deal of sway. It begs the question then, if they are so powerful, why are they so fearful? Or is their whole organization built around and created out of fear? I know I’m generalizing. Just like any organization out there, not everyone thinks as their leaders do. Plenty of NRA members have spoken in out in favor of reviewing and improving gun control measures. I wish those types of people were running the NRA.

So where do we go from here? I don’t have an answer. I do know that as long as both sides of this debate continue to be unwilling to listen and cooperate, we will remain in gridlock. It’s going to take an uprising of logical, rationale, cooperative and fed up people to make things change. We can’t just have a regular ole uprising to get this done. Nothing will be achieved with an “us VS them” mentality. We have to listen, empathize, and compromise. Until we do that, I don’t think we will see any progress on this, or many other issues. Still, we must try. We must do something. We cannot let the lives lost in Newtown and countless other communities across the country be in vain any longer. We cannot change the cards we are dealt, we only control how we play the hand. This tragedy can be a catalyst for good. I believe that, and I will be doing what I can to make it so.

The NRA said that we waited a week to speak, out of respect for the families affected by this tragedy. That’s very nice, but I can almost certainly guarantee that if you were to ask any of the families if they feel respected after yesterday, they would probably say no. If you really want to show respect, lay aside the rhetoric and the obtuse accusations. Be receptive, honest, and rationale. We all agree that less dead kids would be a good thing. We have different ideas of how to go about achieving that. So lets come together, share those ideas, debate them vigorously, but let’s not vilify each other and resort to sensationalism and tired rhetoric. Let’s get something done. We can’t stop it all together, but that does justify standing idly by and doing nothing. Are we satisfied? Can we do better?

Or maybe we can just bring God and Jesus back into our schools and they can fix everything up.

~ by glennikin on December 22, 2012.

2 Responses to “Up in Arms”

  1. Glenn… let me start off by saying I am a big supporter of the 2nd amendment. I have read almost all your posts and your blog on this issue and you are one of the most modest people writing on this issue. But the fact of the matter is that banning “assault rifles” is not the answer. It is too late for the United States on this issue. The weapons on the ban list are a part of history and too many exist in the nation. But I do believe something needs to be done. This ban list is ridiculous. I own some of the guns on the list. They are registered in my name and they are put away to keep them out of the wrong hands. They should be in a gun safe, I just have not purchased one yet. If I sell a gun, I transfer the registration to the new owners name. That is the law. Some people do not follow this law but true gun collectors and enthusiasts do. I’m not saying I have a reason to own assault weapons. I do not hunt with them but I enjoy them. They are a hobby. If they would ban these weapons, I believe it would cause more issues and worse crimes rates.
    The gun ban should not make assault weapons out of reach but instead they should make a stronger system. Just like you said, with your license, why not make it that I have to prove I still have the gun in my possession. If they would put a law in place so I have to take all my guns to get checked by a gun smith (check the serial number and to make sure it was not altered to go full auto or 3 rd burst). I believe that would cut down on people owning them. It would be a pain in the ass, but if you want the gun that bad you would do it. As for the high capacity mags, I own 30 rd clips. Do I need them? No. I do enjoy them but I could get the same enjoyment out of a 10 rd mag. That should be the max. California and New Jersey have this law in effect now.
    I understand how every person is feeling about the issue but the wound is still too fresh to rush something that could be a huge mistake. I am deeply sorry for the loss that all the families are going through and my heart goes out to everyone of them. Glenn, as you know I have a niece around the same age. I can’t even think if she was one of the innocent children and I lost her. If she was, I would still believe what I believe. A gun is just a piece of steel until there is someone holding it. I understand that he used an assault rifle, but if he was armed with a 12ga shot gun, used for hunting, he could of done the same damage if not more. 12ga rounds have around 200 bb’s that come out instead of a slug.
    When I started writing this, I’m not sure what i was trying to accomplish but there needs to be a middle point in all this. One thing I would propose is a check out system. If they would make a set timeline and have you turn in all your assault weapons to a gun shop. Then you could get them when you wanted to use them, but you have to sign them out and return them when your done and just see what it would solve. I think you would see nothing would change. You would still have guns in the wrong hands and they will always find a way to get them. We can’t even stop drugs getting in to ruin whole communities.
    I don’t want to have people think I’m going to pull out the obvious and say knives will kill more people than guns or anything like. That’s a weak argument. Another thing that does not help solve this issue is video games and movies. I love to play xbox when i have time. I play first person shooters but when i play online it’s 8 year old kids playing a mature rated game. You have to be 17 to buy but the parents nowadays will buy their kids anything to make them happy. A video game is no way to learn about a gun. When you shot someone, they don’t “respond” and come back at you. When I was 8, I hunted but before I did, I learned about gun safety and all the laws. I remember, in the middle of the day, we had a raccoon in the back yard foaming at the mouth and we had live stock at the time. My Dad and I got a 410 shot gun to get get rid of it. When I took the shot, my dad tore into me asking if I knew what I just did. I replied, I shot it. I was wrong he said, I took it’s life. It is dead. He told me that’s what guns do, they take life. He’s right, if that’s what you use it for, it does. My dad has always had guns and everyone in my house knew how to use them and what they did. We, as Americans, have lost that hand-me down lessons that are vital and what happened is an example. I do not know if anyone taught these “gunmen” that have rocked the nation. In these tragic events, I’m guessing they were not.
    I am a firm believer that history repeats itself and gun control laws have harmed a nation when put into effect. It’s no secret that the United States is not very well liked around the world and we have people planning to hurt us. If we ban these guns and make them non existent to the people that obey the laws and something does happen, we have to take up arms and defend against a threat. There would be no chance . An ar-15 (one of the guns on the list) can shoot 900+ yards accurately and we would be left with shot guns that can shoot 75 yards. I’m not lying when I say this movement scares me. I don’t believe it is the right solution. I know we share different views on this and I more than likely did not change your opinion on the subject at hand. I just wanted you to see what I see as a gun enthusiast. Thank you for taking the time to read this and hearing me out on my views. Have a Merry Christmas.

    • Steve,

      Thanks for taking the time to read I know it was a lengthy post. Also thank you for the very well thought out comment. Let me address a couple of points.

      First, on the issue of the assault weapon ban. Your reason for not supporting it is coming from the right place. You just truly don’t think that will solve the problem, and not so much that you just don’t want your gun taken away from you. I’m glad that you agree that high capacity clips are unnecessary. We have some common ground there for sure, as well as re-evaluating and strengthening our existing laws. I still believe that banning assault weapons (difficult as that may me to implement and it may take years before we really see the effects) would be a good thing. But I understand and respect where you’re coming from on the issue.

      I also agree that right now everyone’s emotions are running high on this and usually the best decisions aren’t made in a heightened emotional state. In moving forward on this issue we need to make good level headed decisions.

      On the issue of video games, I did write that I think they play a role.

      I take issue with gun laws harming the nation. I think that’s a little too broad and general of a statement. Perhaps it is more of how they were structured and implemented. To say that gun laws make us less safe is to imply what we have now works just fine and we both agree that it doesn’t.

      Now as far as your theoretical “Red Dawn” scenario is concerned, I think that’s a little far fetched, and maybe even influenced from the video games you mentioned, as well as movies. Not since the revolutionary war has an invading force stepped on our lands. In fact, the closest thing we’ve had to an invasion would be the attack on Pearl Harbor, and that was more of air raid than an actual invasion. Armed civilians could do nothing against that type of an attack. Today our biggest threat for attack now lies in radical and extremist groups, like those who took down the twin towers. Again, armed civilians could not have done anything in that situation.

      This country is massive and is separated from the rest of the world by two massive oceans. There is not an army in existence today, friend or foe, that could realistically invade this country and establish any sort of meaningful foothold. A more likely scenario for an attack would be a person or group obtaining a small nuclear device and desolating an entire city. Again armed civilians would do nothing to help that situation. So that part of your rationale for owning these types of weapons seems a little unjustified and far fetched. It would be just as reasonable then to say that we should own assault weapons in case we are invaded by aliens or had to deal with a zombie outbreak. As cool as Hollywood makes this scenario look like (in actuality it would be terrifying) I think we both know, neither of those things is going to happen either. Besides, we both know that the aliens would have shields.

      Again, I thank you for contributing some reasonable and logical points. We need to have more of this type of discussion. I wish reasonable minds like yours were heading things up at the NRA.

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