After my recent Newspaper Days blog post when I talked about buying classic cars and guns that people came to my newspaper offices to advertise for sale, I have had several conversations with readers about the whole gun thing and gun violence. Some feel that we need to ban all private firearms ownership or ban the so-called “assault weapons.” Others say our founding fathers guaranteed us the right to keep and bear arms in the Constitution. Then again, those same founding fathers only wanted white male property owners to have the right to vote and believed slavery was acceptable, so there’s that.
My friend Cindy Kingma asked me what I thought the answer was, and I told her I honestly don’t know but I wish I did. Let me preface what I am about to say by acknowledging that I am a lifelong gun owner and a former gun shop owner. Let me also add that while I believe every law abiding citizen of this country should have the right to possess a firearm, I also believe there are a hell of a lot of them that have no business with one. Or even a sharp pair of scissors.
I believe in sensible gun control, including background checks, not allowing people convicted of violent felonies and those convicted of domestic abuse to possess firearms, and red flag laws that give authorities the power to remove guns from somebody who poses a true threat to themselves or others. But note that I said true threat. The problem with laws like these is determining who gets to decide if somebody is a true threat.
But along with that, we have to understand that the problem really isn’t guns. Guns have been a part of America since the Mayflower. I can hear people saying, “But you can’t mow down a classroom full of kids with a muzzleloading rifle.” Before the 1968 additions to the National Firearms Act, you could go down to your local hardware store and purchase a fully automatic Thompson submachine gun or order one through the mail. I remember the one my dad kept in a closet and another that an uncle owned. They are as deadly as today’s AR-15s, if not more so. So why didn’t we have mass shootings back in the good old days when there were so many fully automatic weapons around?
Given our long history, mass shootings are a fairly recent phenomenon. Nobody did things like that when I was in high school, which seems like a long time ago but really wasn’t.
I do believe that part of the problem is our culture. When I was in Army basic training right after high school, we were taught to kill, kill, kill! The enemy was not a person with a family he loved and who loved him. He wasn’t a human being. He was a target. In eight weeks, we were desensitized to the point where killing was not something deplorable. It was our duty, and we were damn sure going to do our duty. Many were eager to do it. For most, that quickly changed when it actually happened.
I believe that TV, movies, and video games, along with social media, have now done the same thing. I forget the number of on-screen deaths an average teenager is exposed to in a given month or year, but it is sky high. They mow down a hundred zombies on screen and see blood and gore splattered all over and love it. Slasher movies emphasize the same thing. I think that the same desensitization I was exposed to as a teenage Army recruit is a large part of what is happening today. Killing somebody isn’t real, it’s just a thrill, a game.
I also think that the lack of a core family unit is a contributing factor. Either the parents are not there because one or the other has left, or they are dysfunctional, or they are working two jobs each to pay the rent and put food on the table. So their kids are left to fend for themselves and don’t grow up with a strong set of moral values. Nobody is there to tell them to put down that nasty game and turn that disgusting movie off. But there was somebody there when I was growing up, back when mass shootings were unheard of. There has to be a connection to that.
And let’s not continue to ignore bullying. We’re too nice or too afraid to call out bullies. Some school officials try, but I know more than a few who are overworked, underpaid, burned out, and don’t have the energy to deal with parents who can be as big a bully as their children. Many times that’s where the kids learned it. Then a bully decides to take it a crazy step forward, or a bullied outcast who wants revenge on the whole damn world does something terrible, and we shake our collective heads and ask ourselves how nobody saw it coming.
Something else we have ignored for far too long is mental illness. Our government needs to step up to the plate and provide real treatment for those suffering from psychiatric problems. Yes, it is expensive, but what is the cost we pay by doing nothing? I remember hearing somebody once telling a friend about a neighbor who was obviously unbalanced, “Stay away from him, he’s crazy.” No, get him some help, so he is not a danger to himself or anyone else.
But what about those darned guns? A total ban and confiscation of all firearms in the county would never work. Remember, heroin is illegal too, but you can buy it in every city and town across the nation if you know who to ask. There are millions of guns out there, and it is literally impossible to make them all go away. But what if you could?
As I have told more than one person, if you truly think taking every gun away from everyone will make you safe, tell your wife and daughters to spend 24 hours in a maximum-security prison. After all, the convicts are not allowed to have any kind of weapons. How safe do you think they would be?
Be sure to enter our latest Free Drawing. This week’s prize is an audiobook of Big Lake Blizzard, the fourth book in my Big Lake mystery series. To enter, click on this Free Drawing link or the tab at the top of this page and enter your name (first and last) in the comments section at the bottom of that page (not this one). Only one entry per person per drawing please, and you must enter with your real name. To prevent spam or multiple entries, the names of cartoon or movie characters are not allowed. The winner will be drawn Sunday evening. Note: Due to the high shipping cost of printed books and Amazon restrictions on e-books to foreign countries, only entries with U.S. addresses and e-mail addresses are allowed.
Thought For The Day – When life gives you mold, make penicillin.