The waters of America’s gun violence debacle run much deeper than its AR-15 problem to be sure. The bulk of the day-to-day butchery is shouldered with aplomb by the lowly handgun. Still, the AR-15’s use as an instrument of mass slaughter strikes a particularly offensive chord. We have a weapon here whose primary use is in the extermination of humans. Whose military value was recognized immediately despite initial shortcomings that would have buried lesser specimens. That prized value was, and to this day remains, its par excellence in dispatching battlefield undesirables. Quickly, smoothly, violently. While more than adept in a defensive capacity, the AR-15 unquestionably earns its keep coming in at you for the kill.
The National Rifle Association’s (NRA) attitude toward the AR-15 is one of unfettered access for all. This right being protected by the Second Amendment of the United States Constitution. No surprise there. Clearly though, the Second Amendment is open to interpretation. Civilians elsewise would wield all manner of hand grenades, mortars, rocket launchers and mines. The Second Amendment 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 journey from this statement to the abject bedlam of today highlights our ineptitude and failure as a nation to come to terms with this seemingly well intentioned piece of legislature.
If we are not interpreting the Second Amendment and are applying it simply as written, then there should be no restrictions on the keeping and bearing of arms at all. As much as we might delight in setting a TOW missile loose on that idiot neighbor of ours, it’s just not a possibility. It’s against the law. The one that we as a nation have decided is appropriate for the civilian possession of TOW missiles. Switched-on gun rights advocates will argue that what was really meant by “Arms” was the standard issue weaponry supplied to the average soldier. Muskets. And now the rifle. There is no concrete evidence to support this. Additionally, “Muskets” could have been used in lieu of “Arms” but was not. In any case, hand grenades are standard issue weaponry, which draws their point moot.
The concept that the Second Amendment has been infringed is important and should not be overlooked. Conservatives, the NRA and gun-toting Democrats all adopt “…shall not be infringed” as their rallying cry but the right to bear arms has already been infringed and will continue to be so. The reason is plain; some arms are so deadly no civil society would dare permit their free distribution.
The framers of the Constitution by all accounts were brilliant men. Leading thinkers of their time. They were not perfect however, as none of us are, and were fully capable of the flawed thinking that can beset any man. We should not forget that this enlightened group of men had no reservations with the institution of slavery, the displacement and appropriation of Native America, and the complete excision of women from any decision making process of consequence. A castigation of the framers is not what I mean to do here though, as I believe their original intent for the Second Amendment has been seized hostage. What we are left with is a coerced version, thrust upon us under duress.
Nonetheless, their conduct has freed me to cast, if not quite a doubting, then probing gaze at their intentions and legitimacy. Why should these men be trusted so fully? Yes, they have provided us with a powerful framework for governance but their reprehensible behavior and errors in moral judgement were of such an egregious nature that surely only the most naïve (or biased) among us would place absolute trust in their path.
We continue to see justification after justification after justification from gun extremists as to why access to guns is not the underlying issue of America’s gun violence. People kill, not guns. It’s just our nature. Damned Xbox. Immigrants. Schooling. Parenting. Church. Crime. Background checks. Bump stocks. It’s a sprawling, ever-expanding list and is indicative of people having their heads stuck in the sand over an issue. When you’re in that position it’s rarely your mouth that does the talking.
Then we have those who suggest we play whack-a-mole with the mentally ill. As we watch the bodies pile up when we miss. Most people don’t just wake up one morning mentally unstable. It can occur so gradually and intermittently that it becomes all but imperceptible. Until it’s not. This kind of scrutiny of those with mental health issues runs a great risk of further stigmatizing a condition that needs no help in that regard. We should be encouraging those in need to reach out without fear of reprisal or tarring. When we have a nation awash in guns coupled with a witch hunt-esque threat of labeling someone a lunatic for seeking treatment, the task becomes almost impossible.
The pressure on the United States to reduce gun violence is mounting. With the Parkland massacre we are finally seeing the country starting to coalesce around a unified, grass-roots gun control movement. How far we take it is up to us. We have become cannibals for the sake of an ideology. We see other advanced nations with a fraction of the carnage we endure. Can we even consider ourselves advanced? It’s a legitimate question. We are lectured about the price of freedom, yet others are free without the human sacrifice Americans make in freedom’s name. American gun violence is an abstraction to most. Until the gun claps and the bullets touch. The gun death murder rate stands at 10,000 plus yearly. Add suicides, the figure triples. The magnitude of this atrocity is jaw-dropping. It must be confronted.
We live in a society, stoked by the NRA, that celebrates the chaos with slogans like, “The only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is with a good guy with a gun”. If it comes to that, we’ve failed. If I’m up against an armed enemy my first order business is determining how they’re getting their weapons. My second order of business is stopping them from getting those weapons. Conservatives and the gun-toting crowd have romanticized violence and death. They don’t want it to stop because they’re empowered by its savagery. It fits their image of what it means to be heroic and brave. A man among men. It’s a mental defect.
What can we do to end this madness? Plenty. Let’s first elect officials who have the moral courage and acumen to tackle the issue with a fully-throated frontal assault. We must use our current momentum to get officials elected to Congress who will act. It will not be easy. Many conservatives feel the need to arm themselves in the event the country takes an unfavorable turn to them demographically. As the United States grows less Caucasian the more threatened and paranoid conservative gun owners will become. They will resist any gun restrictions citing their right to oppose a government they feel is “tyrannical”. It’s code for “too unlike me”. At this point you’re not dealing with rational beings. You’re dealing with fanatics. This is an obstacle but this obstacle must be met head on. Only elected officials of great integrity and skill will withstand the onslaught.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) must be allowed to study gun violence in America and make appropriate recommendations. The Dickey Amendment—the law which prevents this—must be repealed. The only way this can occur is to elect officials who are willing overturn it. Republicans fear what the CDC will unearth. Repeal the Dickey Amendment and give us the facts. Americans must be confronted with irrefutable evidence that what is taking place is not normal and is preventable. Letting the CDC do its work will go a long way toward making this happen.
Aggressively confiscate illegal guns. Illegally obtained guns account for the lion’s share of the gun violence in America. A policy of aggressive confiscation on a national level must be implemented. Gun advocates often employ the good guy vs. bad guy reference when talking guns. It’s all gibberish. They not only do nothing to stem the flow of guns to criminals, they actively encourage it. In many places you’d be harder pressed buying a bottle of whiskey than you would an assault rifle. No identification, no questions, cash only. It’s an open-air bazaar for murderers’ and gun runners. Fully backed by the NRA. This lunacy must stop. We must also prohibit the equally absurd and counter-productive reselling of police confiscated guns. I sit in disbelief as I type this one, but type it I must. The practice has to end.
America has vast technological resources that can and should be drafted into the fight. Silicon Valley surely can give us something bold in the area of gun control. Ballistics wise, guns have progressed enormously but they are still quite primitive weapons, easily transferable and hard to track. This has a massive negative impact on gun violence. Information technology applied to weapons could change this. I may be tumbling into the realm of science fiction, but I truly believe if our best and brightest set to work on the issue of gun violence something revelatory would emerge. This could be our best hope. If we could somehow fuse information and weaponry technology couldn’t we please both camps? People who want to own guns at any cost to life and those who insist that ownership not come with that deplorable cost.
If we as a nation want to continue privately owning guns, we must drastically reduce the amount of death that comes with it. The status quo is not acceptable. We cannot sit idle while Wayne LaPierre and the rest of his kind Taliban us into dystopia. We must be free from this fundamentalist overlording. They are not patriots and they do not have the country’s best interest in mind. America has the potential for greatness but until we reject an America that encourages, indulges and profits from the moral abomination that is gun violence, its immense promise will remain just that. Promise.