Mad at the World, the Case for Reasonable Gun Control and Against Politically Correct Dodges, Deflections and Distractions
Houston we have a problem. We speak of nothing less than gun violence in America, a serious public health, safety and policy predicament. The latest cringe worthy incident occurred in Roanoke, Virginia when during a live broadcast, Vester Lee Flanagan, a disgruntled former local TV news reporter shot and killed a reporter and cameraman. Not only was the incident broadcast in real-time over the public airwaves, but before taking his own life, the gunman posted the atrocity on Facebook.
We realize the legitimate need for self-defense. The world is indeed a dangerous place and at times a firearm is essential. Where there exist a high rate of home break-ins, a gun in the home is mandatory and a friend’s mother was recently saved from an armed assailant by a bystander who was also armed. But where gun violence is concerned America is trending in the wrong direction.
According to the “Small Arms Survey 2007: Guns and the City”, the US has less than 5% of the world population. Yet, we have the highest rate of gun ownership – an average of 88 per 100 people. This is almost one gun per person, including those who cannot and should not possess a firearm such as infants and the infirm. The number two country, Yemen, has significantly fewer firearms in the hands of its citizens – 54.8 per 100 people.
As to the rate of firearm related murders, the U.S. logs in at 28, with a rate of 2.97 per 100,000 people. Honduras, El Salvador and Jamaica lead the pack. Puerto Rico tops the world for firearms murders as a percentage of all homicides – 94.8%, followed by Sierra Leone in Africa and Saint Kitts and Nevis in the Caribbean. http://www.smallarmssurvey.org/publications/by-type/yearbook/small-arms-survey-2007.html.
Still, every day, approximately 94 Americans die of gun violence. And every 60 days some horrific mass shooting occurs, a time gap that appears to be shrinking. No where in the industrialized, developed world does this level of gun violence and mass shootings occur. No where. Sadly, rather than honestly deal with the problem, we engage in politically correct dodges, distractions and deflections.
One such dodge is the “how dare you attack the Constitution” argument followed closely by the “you are taking away my gun rights” assertion. However, reasonable gun restrictions are no more an unconstitutional attack on the right to bear arms than any other constitutional limitation. Freedom of religion will not support human or animal sacrifices in the practice thereof. And arguably the most important constitutional right, i.e., freedom of speech has any number of exceptions including obscenity, child pornography, speech harmful to children, fighting words and true threats, defamation, false advertising and other time, manner and place restrictions.
Yet another deflection is the argument that it is inappropriate to discuss gun control immediately after a mass shooting and that doing so constitutes the calculated exploitation of a tragedy for political gain. Of course, those who advance this position fail to advise when it is appropriate to discuss gun control. Nor do they so limit themselves, offering their take on the issue whenever they please. And ironically, as to the constitutional right to free speech, they impose upon others the same time, manner and place restrictions they find so objectionable.
Another deflection is a standard that is applied only to the issue of gun control. It is the requirement of perfection, that in order to be valid, gun restrictions must prevent all gun related abuse. But no law can compel absolute compliance, no matter how well crafted or diligently enforced. Consider for example eliminating criminal prohibitions against rape, domestic violence, murder or driving while intoxicated because despite our best effort, these offenses still occur.
The “guns don’t kill people, people kill people” mantra is still another politically correct deflection. While it is certainly true that guns require a human operator, guns do indeed kill people in the same way that a sword or a biological weapon kills people. And the very purpose of any firearm is to inflict damage upon someone or something, even if used in self-defense, hunting or target shooting. Imagine arguing that bombs don’t kill people. People kill people.
But perhaps the most effective distraction is to change the subject from unchecked gun violence to mental illness. While mental illness is certainly a problem, America has no monopoly on those with emotionally or psychological problems. And while some gun-toting mass murderers have a history of mental illness many others do not.
One such individual was Vester Lee Flanagan. He was instead a walking encyclopedia of grievances, a self identified victim with daddy issues and a man filed with a homicidal rage that had been building for years. www.msn.com/en-us/news/us/a-life-of-listing-grievances-and-then-a-final-homicidal.
More importantly, there is a crucial distinction between having a mental illness and a heart filled with rage; a material difference between a psychologically defect that requires professional treatment and being mad at the world for any number of reasons.
This is where the rubber of unchecked gun possession meets the road. This is where the political correctness of the gun rights lobby has serious public policy and public health implications.
We have all been wronged at some point in our lives. We all harbor deep-seated, long-standing grievances. And we are all pissed off about something, whether it is a love gone wrong, the loss of a job, business failure, uncomfortable demographic/societal upheavals, or the end of a dream. In short we are all sick in one way or another. We are all products of pain.
As such, we cannot have a society that makes it easy to lash out at others with deadly consequences; to shoot immigrants because we are upset about illegal immigration, to blast Muslims because of what happens in the Middle East, to blow up a clinic or kill a medical provider because we are morally opposed to abortion, to slay a same sex couple because we despise homosexuality, to gun down someone because we do not feel sufficiently respected or to punish another because we cannot handle the disappointments that life inevitably brings.
This is why the politically correct more guns approach is so wrong-headed; so contrary to sound public policy. We cannot shoot our way out of this problem. There are simply too many of us who are mad at the world and there is always some huckster, some demagogue willing to fan this smoldering resentment.
Until we deal effectively with our collective rage and hostility, mass shootings will continue to occur. Consequently, more guns is no more a solution to gun violence in America than a glass of water is to a drowning man.
Leo Barron Hicks, Founder and CEO
Blackacre Policy Forum