Friday, December 14, 2012

Sandy Hook Elementary School, Newtown, Connecticut

The first time I fired a gun was when I was about nine years old. Since then, I’ve not only shot guns on many occasions (indoor ranges, outdoor ranges, etc.) but I’ve seen many films that feature guns therein. I’ve seen a lot of television that discuss and/or involve guns and shooting, some of which are fiction and some of which are simply discussion about the use of guns on some level.

What happened today in Connecticut doesn’t change my feeling about guns or gun control or the Second Amendment. It makes me wonder, however, what we’re doing as a society that leads people to do this – in schools, in movie theaters, shopping malls, and in other public places. If guns were outlawed, would this type of thing occur in different ways? Would these disturbed individuals who would otherwise choose to shoot defenseless people – children less than ten years old – would they find other means to kill? Or is it a visceral thrill of sorts to use a gun to take the lives of innocents? I don’t pretend to know the answers to these questions, and I don’t care at all about the individual(s) who carry out these mass death sentences, culminating with their own deaths. I don’t think there is any way we can understand it. However, with each incident, people clamor for gun control, and that bothers me.

It doesn’t bother me because I’m a gun nut, or because I own 57 handguns and want to own more someday. It doesn’t bother me because I’m in favor of fucked-up human beings killing children and defenseless, innocent people. It doesn’t bother me because I am in favor of individuals’ rights over the government’s responsibility to protect its citizenry. And it doesn’t bother me because I like reading about these episodes during the holiday season; children – younger than ten years old – being killed simply because they’re in school…the entire thing makes me simultaneously weep, sick to my stomach and gives me the urge to find the body of the person who perpetrated this repulsive act and set the corpse on fire.

None of these things will change the fact that nearly 30 people died today that shouldn’t have. And moreover, no argument for gun control or an extended, stronger second amendment persuades me that these types of incidents would stop if we were all prohibited from purchasing and owning guns.
I’m not in favor of the United States returning to frontier justice and every person carrying his/her own personal weapon. The notion that some women don’t feel safe unless they have a rape whistle and/or pepper spray bothers me. And short of us firebombing and destroying the entirety of Detroit and other decrepit cities, there are and always will be parts of this country that are far less safe than they should.

Unfortunately, something that Ted Nugent – admittedly, one of the least tolerable voices and most unabashedly irritating people who I’ve heard sound off on this topic – made a lot of sense. He said – in response to Bob Costas reacting over the murder-suicide involving the Kansas City Chiefs over the past several weeks – that the cure to obesity wasn’t to outlaw knives and forks. And by that he meant the tool isn’t the problem, it’s the person operating the tool.

While we’ve all – at one time or another, and likely more than once – heard, “Guns don’t kill people. People kill people.” This statement is both true and false. True, guns are made to kill. However, I’ve fired guns on many occasions and I’ve never killed anyone. I know a dozen or more people who have similarly fired guns on multiple occasions and never killed anyone. So there is a balance – not all people who use and espouse the use of guns are killers. Some guns aren’t bad – to wit, the entire argument for retaining the Second Amendment is to ensure we can protect ourselves from enemies – both foreign and domestic, which latter category includes the government as well as third parties.
Seems that our biggest concern these days is the third parties – at least that seems true if you’re in Illinois, Oregon, or Connecticut.

The fact is I’m all for the wrong people being blocked from owning guns, but much like cars, there’s very little we as a society can do to prevent the wrong people from obtaining them. With drivers, we make sure each person takes a physical operator’s exam and a written exam prior to being granted the privilege of driving. It’s likely we should consider making people pass similar types of exams in order to procure a handgun, and repeat the process each year or be forced to surrender their weapons. Second Amendment purists might balk, but me, being a member of the NRA after completing competitions, can’t see these types of incidents perpetuate without some sort of change. I can’t foresee this nation surrendering its right to bear arms – nor do I believe we should – but at the same time, every time someone suggests – after a repulsive incident like the one we witnessed today – that we need more gun control, I don’t even bother asking him/her what would have happened if one of the people in that building in Illinois or in Oregon or in Connecticut – or in Columbine, Colorado – had a handgun. These incidents are not firefights; they’re mass murders. Because the victims are trapped without being able to defend themselves. Perhaps that’s part of why these incidents are so completely disturbing. Of course, today’s incident – involving children – would have been equally disgusting had there been a gas leak that took 30 peoples’ lives. But these incidents are – on some level – preventable. When we blame guns for what happened today and in other parts of the country, we’re only partially right. Who could have known this individual from Connecticut was going to perform these sick, deplorable acts? Maybe his family – maybe. So why was he walking around? How did he obtain these weapons? Who failed to see his behavior changing?

None of that particularly matters now – until the next of these incidents occurs. However, the next time it does, and the next time the invariable reaction is “We should really outlaw guns” – we should ask ourselves what happens when/if this happens. Will people who are sick and depraved enough to kill innocents – children, unarmed people, etc. – going to be deterred by gun control? Is it really that difficult to obtain a gun illegally in this country? Today’s incident occurred 90 miles from New York, a city in which I live and can obtain an illegal handgun for, maybe, $250. Maybe less. So let’s ban all guns and make it so the only people who really can obtain guns are people who want to do so illegally so they do illegal things with them: kidnap, rob, mug, murder.

I’m sorry that today, like so many incidents like it, occurred – and I am sad beyond belief knowing these children were taken from us by something so terrible and stupid and tragic and repulsive. And I hope – one day – that we finally realize that people who live in fear of guns and believe they can be controlled need to wake up and embrace weapons for protection and to minimize and stop these incidents. I hate the fact we’ve become that society where we need to arm ourselves, but short of decrying these incidents and shedding tears after they occur, I personally have seen and heard enough stories involving the misuse of weapons to know that fearing something is not the answer. The answer is to face it and find a way to beat it.

Put another way, if someone in that school today was armed, how many people might have been saved?

Let’s focus on that question – and its elusive answer – along with the inevitable call for gun control and the outlawing of weapons.

And let’s hope we find an alternative than the status quo; one thing on which we all agree – that’s not working.

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