Everyone is up in arms (pun intended) over gun control, almost completely polarized, because it’s such intensely emotional issue. Gun control might not seem puzzling to most people, but it is topics like this that people tend to obstreperously voice their opinions about, and inevitably this makes the problem worse. Sometimes we need to remind ourselves how harmful it is to disrespect other people’s values. By not listening and considering the other side’s values and beliefs with calmness and care, politicians increasingly contribute to the out-of-control rage we have going on in this country about gun violence and its solutions. They aren’t the only ones who need to calm down and think – we do too.
When we don’t think things through carefully enough, we can cause dangerous consequences. Case in point: The Journal News, which recently published the names and addresses of gun owners in two counties in New York. In the wake of the Sandy Hook school shooting, the paper thought the residents in these counties would like to know what type of guns their neighbors were keeping in their homes. Before reading the article, I hazarded a guess that it was intended to show people that even neighbors they thought they knew well might be harboring weapons designed for military use. Then I read the piece, and discovered it’s not just about what types of guns a person owns, but how many. What may have sparked the idea for the article wasn’t just Sandy Hook, however; it was the shooting of a woman on the street by a mentally-ill man who had “amassed a cache of weapons — including two unregistered handguns and a large amount of ammunition — without any neighbors knowing.”
If you were living in a quiet little suburban town in upstate New York, for example, and had your bucolic, provincial peace shattered by such a terrible event, you too might want to know what else the neighbors might be hiding other than affairs, drinking problems, strange cult followings, or boredom. You might think that not only is it possible your kids aren’t safe it at school, but you can’t even walk down the street without worrying about getting shot in the head. I mean, this isn’t 8 Mile, for crying out loud. I can see why the reporter or the staff of The Journal News came up with the idea, and in fact they printed a similar piece back in 2006, but I do not believe it was as detailed as their latest publication.
However, had the newspaper staff considered the idea further, they might have come up with the following objections to printing it:
- Some of those gun owners were retired police officials who had put criminals away. Said officers have the worry that some of these criminals would retaliate once they were released, and now those officials, who served the very public now publishing gun ownership information about them, were in even more peril of being hurt or killed by these criminals.
- Women with restraining orders against spouses, former spouses or boyfriends for domestic violence were now not only easier to locate, but said men targeting them and/or their children now knew they were armed and how, leaving them wide-open for attack using more dangerous weapons.
- Gun owners with expensive weapons, or those often sold as “hot” on the street, were now easy picking for burglars.
I confess I didn’t come up with these ideas; I heard them in an NPR interview this past Sunday. A reporter, who does not work for The Journal News, brought up the second amendment, which is a nice segue into the main reason for this blog post, which is the question: have you done your homework?
If you have, you will know exactly what the second amendment states about gun ownership, and I quote: “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.”
Here is what the second amendment does not say – that we the people have the right to bear military weaponry. It does not say we have the right to bear those huge ammo belts seen in Hollywood movies. Is this amendment open to interpretation? Perhaps. Some could say that in order to form a “well-regulated militia” civilian citizens would need military weapons and a large capacity of ammunition. But at the time the Constitution was written, the need for a militia was in existence to overthrow the British government; to expel it from this country. For those of you who believe it’s time to do that, surely you understand that having a machine gun isn’t going to help?
Many believe the Constitution absolutely is open to interpretation, which begs the question: is any kind of weapon what the framers had in mind? I personally doubt that because these weapons were not in existence at the time, nor were mass shootings like Columbine or Virginia Tech or Sandy Hook a part of their lives. This is not to say that the framers did not live in politically and racially-charged times. Indians massacred pioneers and vice-versa, for example. Some people might call that senseless violence, but it was very different in nature from some deranged person shooting into a crowd of people just because of sheer lunacy.
The next homework question is this: do you even know what Obama said in his initiatives? Good! Because I am going to list them for you below. Uh-huh – all 23. And by the way, at no point in this whole affair did he state he was proposing a plan that would keep Americans from buying the normal weapons they currently are allowed to purchase. So if that’s what you’re hearing, politely remind those around you to get their facts checked. Just because it’s a cutesy photo on Facebook doesn’t make it true!
- Issue a Presidential Memorandum to require federal agencies to make relevant data available to the federal background check system.
- Address unnecessary legal barriers, particularly relating to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, that may prevent states from making information available to the background check system.
- Improve incentives for states to share information with the background check system.
- Direct the Attorney General to review categories of individuals prohibited from having a gun to make sure dangerous people are not slipping through the cracks.
- Propose rulemaking to give law enforcement the ability to run a full background check on an individual before returning a seized gun.
- Publish a letter from ATF to federally licensed gun dealers providing guidance on how to run background checks for private sellers.
- Launch a national safe and responsible gun ownership campaign.
- Review safety standards for gun locks and gun safes (Consumer Product Safety Commission).
- Issue a Presidential Memorandum to require federal law enforcement to trace guns recovered in criminal investigations.
- Release a DOJ report analyzing information on lost and stolen guns and make it widely available to law enforcement.
- Nominate an ATF director.
- Provide law enforcement, first responders, and school officials with proper training for active shooter situations.
- Maximize enforcement efforts to prevent gun violence and prosecute gun crime.
- Issue a Presidential Memorandum directing the Centers for Disease Control to research the causes and prevention of gun violence.
- Direct the Attorney General to issue a report on the availability and most effective use of new gun safety technologies and challenge the private sector to develop innovative technologies.
- Clarify that the Affordable Care Act does not prohibit doctors asking their patients about guns in their homes.
- Release a letter to health care providers clarifying that no federal law prohibits them from reporting threats of violence to law enforcement authorities.
- Provide incentives for schools to hire school resource officers.
- Develop model emergency response plans for schools, houses of worship and institutions of higher education.
- Release a letter to state health officials clarifying the scope of mental health services that Medicaid plans must cover.
- Finalize regulations clarifying essential health benefits and parity requirements within ACA exchanges.
- Commit to finalizing mental health parity regulations.
- Launch a national dialogue led by Secretaries Sebelius and Duncan on mental health.
These initiatives were found on pbs.org and included the following: “The president also proposed universal background checks, a ban on military type assault rifles, a ten round limit for ammunition magazines and eliminating armor piercing bullets. It’s up to Congress to act on these measures.”
So you can keep your Glock-9, your rifle, your shotgun – but you would be banned from purchasing an Ak-47. This seems like extreme…common sense to me! After all, why would a civilian American citizen need an assault rifle and unlimited ammunition rounds? No one I have asked has been able to give me an answer except to say that they don’t like their “rights” being taken away. Some people are appalled by Obama’s restrictions but have no desire to buy a gun.
I think the reason many Americans – barring those who plan on taking down the federal government in a suicidal stand-off, holed up in some mountain cabin – have heated feelings towards what the President did because they believe that he erred in his method. To them, I ask the following question: why would he have done this if he had enough support from Congress to pass his plan? If the only reason you’re against what he did is because of how he did it, then ask yourself yet another question: does the end justify the means? If it helps keep mentally-ill people from showering a crowd of children with bullets, ending their beautiful lives, can you honestly say it isn’t worth it? Of course not. If it prevents people who don’t need machine guns from buying them and hosing down someone for no reason, why is it not worth it?
There is one other reason some Americans are against Obama’s initiatives, which is that they don’t want “big brother” having even more control over their information. The NRA, I believe, is also of this opinion. Again, though, if it saves lives, it seems advantageous. However, being one of those Americans who resents government control over so much of our lives, I can understand their position. The truth is, in my opinion, that this is yet another classic example of choosing the lesser of two evils.
In fact, an ABC News poll shows that most Americans support the President on this one. Which begs my last question: how should the American public, the President, and Congress handle this? I propose by using the democratic principals this country was founded on. How? By Congress voting what their constituents want, in a transparent way. The winners win and the losers lose. However, in the meantime, how it is handled, at least by the President and Congress, is not tricky at all: simply listen to each other with respect. Don’t shout at each other. Don’t threaten or make demands. Just publicly get your points across. Pick someone from each party to address Congress, as well as the President, and give all three the same amount of time in which to speak. Do not let Congress members or the President fire off heated, intense epithets in front of cameras or in print. Grow up. Because this is an issue that needs to be settled, and Americans deserve to be safer than we are. And then let the American public decide.
In fact, I may be on to something. How nice it would be if American officials could behave like this about all the issues that come up. What would this country look like if most (because I am not deliriously naive) Americans behaved this way as well?What do you think?