The times we find ourselves in with mass shootings and an excess of gun violence did not take a few days, weeks or months to evolve. It has slowly gathered speed as we became more urban and more culturally diverse.
The 2nd amendment that was added to the U.S. Constitution was not out of fear of home invasion by criminal elements as much as it was to arm local militias in the defense of our country should another foreign power like Great Britain attempt to over run our nascent nation in the late 18th century. Those living on the frontiers also needed a means of protecting themselves from marauding attacks from native Americans who were becoming threatened by western European expansion in their homeland. This notion has been lost on many gun zealots over the last few decades thanks in large part to a shift in leadership at the National Rifle Association (NRA) in the late 1970’s. But this is only one aspect of the problem that now threatens security in our homes and neighborhoods unlike any other time.
There will always be those on opposite ends of the gun issue that won’t agree to compromise but it is essential that we understand that there at least 4 distinct components to this mass shooting epidemic that exists at rates in no other place on this planet except the U.S. These are things that reasonable people can agree on and work together to achieve without fear of losing any fundamental rights. The difficult part will be to get them to coalesce in rapid order to achieve a state of sanity, inhibiting future slaughters of innocents at the hands of people emotional imbalanced for reasons that differ from shooter to shooter.
Though my politics tend to lean liberal I have learned over time that my conservative friends are not hostile about achieving common goals and need to be listened too rather than ignored completely. I myself after all was raised by a conservative set of values as a Catholic growing up in Texas.
John Wayne was a childhood hero of mine. I used to enjoy the musical version of the Lord’s Prayer that led off each morning in school. Homosexuality was an abhorrent behavior to me and as a white male I didn’t find segregation abnormal. I hunted on occasions but never owned a firearm. I believed in heaven, hell and the God of all creation and was diligently conscience that my guardian angel (I named him Raphael) was always looking over my shoulder at all times.
But the fact that my world was a tightly closed circle to things I later discovered didn’t pose the threat I thought they did was bound to come crumbling down once I became an adult, traveled and met diverse people with a different upbringing. There was no social media as I was growing up and only 3 television networks provided the news for the entire nation. We trusted our government leaders pretty much and seldom questioned authority. Drugs were a decade away in my earliest youth though smoking cigarettes was cool as was experimenting with alcohol.
Time allows us to grow and develop and in so doing we come face to face with our ingrained beliefs and are forced to change in light of new experiences, albeit grudgingly, or resist in large measure so all we had come to know is not totally lost. It is this condition we experience early that allows to us expand our often simple but sometimes harsh and inexplicable view of the world.
We can choose one of two roads. Dig in your heels and resist nearly all manifestations of change or slowly give way to a world that breaks down the protective barriers we were raised with. We all become Tevye at some point of our maturity. One way leads us to go beyond all that we held near and dear – a fearful prospect for many. The other intensifies those traditions as it blocks out and even vilifies the realities of that different world.
It is these two worlds that have now collided and created the social and political gridlock we face today. One that sadly prevents us from addressing serious issues that grow more alarming each hour, day, and month that we ignore them. The anger that both sides hold towards each other seems righteous to each and may even seem immoral at the thought of any compromise. The ultimate result if this divide continues is that we begin to diminish from the strong society it has taken us a few centuries to evolve from to one that consumes itself with the sort of chaos that has led other great nations to be swallowed up by the rising powers of their time.
I would like to take the time here then to address the serious issue of gun violence that is so prevalent across our nation and one that is now likely to kill more people than auto accidents.
Oodles of guns in a land of lax gun laws
So what are the 4 distinct components to the mass shooting epidemic in this country. I will try to lay them out in a series of articles that hopefully will touch on all aspects of this issue and does so in fair way that incorporates the 2 world views that keep us from coming together as one.
The first of these components is how easy it has become over the last 20 to 30 years for people of almost any age and background to purchase a firearm. This became extremely troubling to me after reading an article that explains why the episodes of gun violence have steadily risen over the years
There really are people out there that are dangerous and that don’t have criminal records yet own a firearm that can damage parts of the human anatomy more quickly and seriously than other tools of death. Findings published in the journal, Behavioral Sciences and the Law back in April of 2015, found that a large number of individuals in the United States self-report patterns of impulsive angry behavior and also possess firearms at home (8.9%) or carry guns outside the home (1.5%)
The U.S. population is currently over 327 million people. 1.5% of people walking around outside with a gun and who have anger management issues is roughly 5 million people. Common sense tells us we need to worry less about their 2nd amendment rights and more on their capacity to violate someone else’s primary right to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness.
With all the emphasis many people put on right to life it should concern us that there are those among us who are not mentally stable enough to rationalize issues where when pushed beyond a certain limit they may unthinkably pull out that gun that a state law has allowed them to carry in the public and end an argument they are not willing to settle amiably. Such reactions happen in a flash before it becomes clear to them that they have gone too far.
Though it is tragic that many children are accidentally killed from a firearm in the home, most shootings are not accidents. And when many of these deaths by gun occur by people who should never have been legally allowed to carry a gun in public, you would think that gun advocates who proclaim that “Guns don’t kill people; people kill people” would want to make sure that certain people are not allowed to tote a firearm outside their home or even inside it rather than to defend the nebulous argument of protecting their 2nd amendment rights. Creating protections that limit easy access to firearms is not a violation of so-called law-abiding people to own a gun to defend their family. It is a sane response to regulate a lethal weapon to ensure our right to life is not misplaced with the NRA and the gun industry’s belief that the 2nd amendment is inviolate.
I mentioned earlier that guns are slowly superseding auto accidents deaths. This is a result of society and the auto industry taking action to make automobiles more safer. The same can’t be said with guns. Roughly the same period that cars and trucks became safer, guns became more lethal and more abundant through a barrage of lax gun laws supported by the gun industry and their main lobbyist, the NRA.
Not surprisingly states with weak gun violence prevention laws and higher rates of gun ownership have the highest overall gun death rates in the nation, according to a Violence Policy Center (VPC) analysis released in January of 2016 from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. –
Gun control measures alone though, like ending the sale of “assault style” weapons, are not sufficient to end the insanity even as guns are becoming one of the leading causes of death for American children. That’s why it will take other measures that coincide with limiting easy access to guns to reduce the mayhem of mass shootings. I will discuss these other measures in subsequent articles