In the issue of guns and mass killings in our country, everyone immediately lines up on their side of the argument. In this corner, we have gun control. In that corner we have violent media. In another corner we have mental illness. And over there is the bad parenting crowd. In the middle, we have gun owners and advocates who want their guns, no matter what. The arguing never changes and action never happens.
Let’s look at the big picture for a minute.
It’s all of these things.
ALL of them.
An effective solution must incorporate some of everything. Once we understand that, once we ACCEPT that, we can begin to take intelligent action.
With the Big Picture is established, we can begin to break it down. I have no real order to my list, certainly not order of importance. If all these things fit together, there’s no single thing that’s more important than the others. Let’s just discuss them.
Entertainment Industry: this is on you.
You own it. You profit from it. And every man and woman who has worked in a violent movie, written a violent script, drawn a violent graphic novel, created a violent video game: you walked with Nikolas Cruz onto that school ground and pulled the trigger with him.
You can’t get out of it. You are murderers.
Until you stop creating and selling blood and body counts, our society will never be able to solve this problem.
It is possible to create entertainment that has conflict and action (and a good story – remember those?) without body parts and gore, and without deaths numbering in the hundreds or thousands. You create rally cool explosions and ten-minute long car chases that destroy buildings and bridges, and you litter your fictional streets with dead bodies and blood.
We can see only so much of this before we are numb to it, and the dead cease to be people with lives and loves and hopes.
We can see only so much before it’s easy to walk into a school and litter the playground with real bodies.
There’s little doubt that mental illness plays a part in many mass shootings. At the very least, a shooter is a disturbed individual, and intervention, therapy or medication may have prevented violence. But this issue is part and parcel of our miserable health care system. It will be addressed by solving that problem. The thorny issues of how to spot the problems, how to report them, and when to act on them will begin to be answered once we make mental health a regular part of health care.
This issue is always thrown out by the people with perfect children. It almost doesn’t need to be talked about. But as someone who does NOT have perfect children (just darn good ones, but also one very troubled one) I suppose I can say a few things here.
Kids need guidance. They need to learn self-discipline. They need to face the consequences of their choices and actions. All of this happens differently at different ages and with different abilities. The goal is a human who can handle himself in a reasonably intelligent manner by the age of 18.
It’s true that some parents want to make everyone else responsible for their child’s mistakes. That’s just tiresome. If you’re one of those parents, trust me, everyone around you knows it. They are ridiculing you behind your back. I hope that thought embarrasses you. Now go make your kids do some chores and get their homework done.
“Bad parenting” is just a buzzword. The truly troubled individuals who are killing people were not always brought up by bad parents. They weren’t necessarily spoiled or neglected. They probably were not brought up by atheists either, despite all you folks who insist these things happen because we no longer pray in schools.
Something that would really help is better communities. We’ve become too individualistic, too self-reliant. How many of your neighbors do you know? How many of your friends are the parents of your children’s friends? How much time do your children spend doing interesting and constructive things with diverse groups that include people of all ages? Not just church services, and not just youth sports groups. How about picking up litter or building homes for the homeless, or making a trail in the wilds? Is there a community garden they can work in? Volunteer work in a nursing home or hospital, or maybe helping an elderly neighbor clean out gutters? And are you out there with them?
There is so much a community can do for its families. There is so much we NEED to be doing. This is a hugely neglected part of life in America, and we’re paying for it in the currency of lonely, bored children. I don’t mean that kids should never play or hang out with their friends. That needs to be done, too. But they are doing that. What they are not doing is being part of a community, and that’s largely because we, the adults, are not part of the community. We need to change that.
One last point: Did you read the section above on the Entertainment Industry? As parents, we can’t get away with just blaming them. We are responsible ourselves, to keep our kids from seeing bloody and violent movies and video games. I know this is hard, and even impossible, on some level. Kids will access them somewhere, somehow, no matter what we do. But by refusing to allow them, we can at least minimize exposure. And our kids will be more aware of the influence these things can have over them. Whether this helps or not, I don’t know, but the problem is so serious I think we must try.
And parents need all the help they can get, which must come from the community. I’m thinking of rating systems. They’re a joke at this point. Somehow, the movie rating “PG” has become a defacto “R,” with some of those movies containing more and more graphic violence. We’ve all become so used to violence in our entertainment, that we’re exposing our children to it at younger and younger ages. It’s time to demand that this stop.
Now, let’s discuss the elephant in the room.
If you are against restrictions and regulations of guns, you are the problem. You are responsible for every murder done with an assault, automatic, or semi-automatic weapon.
Now that I’ve really made you mad, let me talk about what sensible gun control can look like for civilian Americans:
- No assault, automatic, or semi-automatic weapons of any kind, ever. I think the standard should be one bullet per trigger pull. Any weapon that shoots more should be outlawed.
- One gun per person.
- A license is required before a purchase can be made. In order to acquire this license a person must:
- Be at least 25 years of age
- Pass extended background check with NO license going to anyone convicted of a felony, battery, assault, domestic violence, stalking, threatening, mentally ill… I’m sure there are more, and also nuances among some of the ones I’ve listed.
- Show proof of completion of an approved, official training course in the laws pertaining to guns, and in the handling, shooting, storage, and safety of guns. The course should also include enough first aid to handle accidents.
- Show proof of insurance that covers loss, theft, damage to property, and injury/death to animals that were not being hunted for food, or injury/death to humans.
- If your gun is lost or stolen, you cannot replace it.
- A second gun can be bought only upon surrender of the first gun for recycling or reuse.
- Renew license every three years by passing a new test of your knowledge and shooting ability.
Beyond this, we must all follow rules and restrictions for the use of guns. Just like we can’t drive a car anywhere or any way we like, we can’t use guns indiscriminately. For example, no guns allowed in public places. They should be restricted to hunting situations or shooting ranges. Ammunition should also be highly restricted – perhaps no more than five per year in the home. But you cannot shoot your gun in the home or on your property, unless it’s in self-defense. You must take the gun to a shooting range to practice.
And – this is vitally important – guns can only be purchased at retailers licensed to sell guns. No gun shows, no private sales.
I’ll admit this is all draconian. You’re throwing up your hands and saying there’s no point in having a gun at all under these conditions. Which, frankly, is exactly what I think. That’s my bias, I’m afraid. I don’t understand why you want one or what you want to do with it. Maybe that’s something someone can explain to me.
I know, I know – you want it for self-defense. But in a practical sense, that just doesn’t add up for me. If you are going to safely have a gun in your house, you have to keep it locked away from children, and have the ammunition stored separately. If someone is threatening you or your family, how are you going to have time to get all that together? But if you don’t store it like this, your family lives in constant danger of accidental shootings. Not to mention, it’s very easy for a crook to find your gun and use it against you.
So what’s the point of having it? Honestly, I don’t get it. So, I’m standing by my list.
There is one more very important step to consider before we’re done.
Putting all these regulations and restrictions in place would be a wonderful start. But it’s only the beginning. The hard work must still be done: finding and confiscating the plethora of guns that are everywhere in our society.
We have to register all the guns that are currently in circulation. And most importantly, we must remove any assault-style, automatic, or semi-automatic gun, and the ammunition they use.
THAT is going to take some work. It will require a national effort that reaches into every city, town, and hamlet. It’s an undertaking fraught with opportunities for danger or corruption., Where do we put the guns we gather up? How do we make sure they are not sold to arms dealers, foreign or domestic? Or stolen by the same? How and where do we safely store and destroy the ammunition?
I refuse to believe it’s too hard to do. We need to roll up our sleeves and do it anyway.
An important first step will be to declare a moratorium on the manufacture and sale of any new guns or ammunition. Don’t whine that this will put people out of a job. Businesses lay off people for far less important reasons. I don’t know if anyone has ever counted, but I am certain that there are more guns and bullets on this planet than will ever be needed.
If you insist on a strong military, then gather everything up and give it to them. They might actually have the infrastructure to handle the influx. And they are the only organization in our country that needs these things.
Once we’ve stopped (or at least, paused) the influx of new guns and ammunition, we start gathering what’s out there. If you already own guns, you have to register them. You have to surrender outlawed types. And no, we aren’t paying you for them. You spent your money on something you had no need for, and that was drastically dangerous to everyone in the country – that’s on you. The taxpayers are already paying for the damage that’s been done, and now we’re paying to destroy them. We’re not giving you money, too.
If you have lots of guns and bullets, and a law is passed to restrict the number you can have, you’ll have to surrender the extras.
Anything you keep, you will have to pay to register and insure – each one separately. You will have to pass a test, written and practical – to obtain a license to keep them. If you can’t afford to do this, then surrender the guns and ammo.
Marlene, you’re nuts.
Yes, I know this is not likely to be implemented. There are too many people who don’t take the danger seriously enough, or who just don’t care. But America has become a war zone, and as an American, I think that’s intolerable. It’s one thing if a foreign enemy attacks us relentlessly and we are fighting a real war in our country. But we’ve done this to ourselves and that is completely ridiculous. This is a drastic situation and it requires drastic action.
Gun owners and advocates, I’m begging you: take this seriously. Look at what our country has become. Our children – kindergarten through high school – go to school and practice how to hide in a closet and not make a sound for fifteen minutes. People go to the movies or shopping, or out to eat, and keep looking over their shoulders, pushing worry and fear into their guts, knowing that at any moment, a hail of bullets could shatter everything in their lives.
No reason. No warning.
Knowing that it probably won’t happen, doesn’t help the fear and anxiety go away. We live with it now, every minute of our lives. Our children live with it. And many, many innocent Americans have paid the ultimate price.
Gun owners and advocates, I’m asking you: is this the country you want? Don’t you think it could or should be different? Why won’t you help us?