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Opinion

America, home of the inept

SoVaNow.com / December 09, 2015
Dear Viewpoint:

Am I allowed to disagree with both sides of the “gun debate”?

I put quotations around that because there really is no debate. It’s a broken record, and we should all know how it goes; a tragedy clogs cable news, Twitter/Facebook feeds, and newspapers for the next 24-36 hours. Congressional Democrats and Republicans yammer and stutter about “politicizing”, and the same result is achieved, every single time:

Nothing.

It seems that none of us are capable of rational thoughts anymore when it comes to the things we’re passionate about. We collectively can’t solve anything. We go to whatever “news” channel reflects our ideologies, shut off our brains to an opposing thought, and take to social media to rant inflammatory and counterproductive rhetoric while citing some article from a blog called “www.ImRightYoureWrong.org” (not literally. It’s actually sites like InfoWars, Western Journalism, Breitbart, ThinkProgress, Mother Jones, etc.).

The fact of the matter is simple: both sides of this discussion have reached a point that is completely insane. “Pro-gun” and “anti-gun” are terms that should be flushed down the ideological toilet, and be replaced with logical and valid arguments. This is why I tend to fall smack in the middle when it comes to this issue.

Before going any further, I’d like anyone reading this to know that I am fully aware that talking about things such as this is equivalent to squirting lemon juice on a papercut; but discussing things with an objective viewpoint and a mind open to new ideas is something that’s hugely important — which according to Facebook and cable news is apparently too difficult in this 21st Century Internet-Age of (Mis)Information. So allow me to firstly explain my views, and secondly provide statistics. In doing so, hopefully I can throw a lasso to both sides of this issue and drag them kicking and screaming back to the middle. This writing will be lengthy, but such discussions are vital to produce results, no matter what the issue is. On that note, if there are statistics or facts that I am conveniently forgetting; or if anyone feels that there is another point to be made that I have not addressed or foreseen; or if I’m simply wrong, please say so by contacting me at the email address listed above. Unlike most, I actually enjoy these discussions, so input is welcome.

I’ve owned several firearms in the past. I recognize how people want and need to protect themselves, their property, and their families, and am well-aware that a rapid police response is not always the case when an emergency is encountered. That isn’t meant to be taken as placing blame on the police, by the way. If someone breaks into your home with the intent of harming you and/or others, it’s not the fault of the police for not getting there fast enough, it’s the fault of physics and not having the ability to instantly travel through spacetime. I’ve been trained and retrained in using weapons, as well — the military tends to think that knowing how to assemble, hold, and use a weapon is pretty important. I’m also not deluded enough to believe that snatching guns out of this world would fix anything at all. It would increase the chances of a crime being committed in front of witnesses — with a knife, for example — and decrease the chances of anyone intervening. Think about it — not many people are trained in how to fight and defend against someone with a weapon. Intervention without any sort of firearm would only increase the body count. A world without guns is a dream — and, to be completely blunt, a dumb one.

I’d like to present some statistics before presenting the other side of my views on guns. These statistics vary in sources, from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System to PEW (for those that are unaware, PEW is one of the foremost organizations you can go to for research studies and statistics. I encourage everyone to look at their material). I went out of my way to ensure that I did not get these numbers from any sort of partisan “think-tank”, or that have been cherry-picked by others to suit their own narrative.

According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, the United States has four times more gun violence than any other developed nation. Specifically, there are 29.7 cases of gun violence for every one million people here at home. Less than 5% of the world’s populace is made up of Americans, yet 42% of all the privately held firearms in the world are here at home. But “gun violence” is a loose term, and has a pretty wide range of subcategories. Mass shootings in this country get the attention of cable news and social media, but it’s nowhere close to the actual facts. Mass shootings only make up 1.5% of gun deaths. The bulk of them (not all) belong to two groups — 31% are homicides; and 63% are suicides. Most of these are done with handguns (I could not find a precise figure of handgun vs. assault weapon deaths, at least none that were current. If anyone knows what they are or where to find them, please let me know).

According to the PEW Research Center, most people in this country support some sort of measure to at least TRY and put a dent in this train. 85 % support background checks for private sales or sales at gun shows; 80% wouldn’t mind seeing people with mental illnesses prevented from acquiring a firearm; 67% (notice how these numbers are slowly decreasing as you get government more involved? I’ll try and get back to this point in a bit) wouldn’t mind gun sales stored and tracked in a federal database; and 55% support some limitations of assault-style weapons.

Let me go ahead and call out one possible counter-argument that I always receive: “Laws aren’t going to stop violence. If a criminal wants a gun, they’ll get it.” Allow me to address that right now and get it out of the way by saying this: You don’t say!

No one — nobody in a position to make any changes, not the President, not me, not any majority capable of making a decision — is suggesting or saying anything to contradict that. None. Anyone who does think that gun violence would magically stop in this way is either a liar or a fool. President Obama has never even attempted to make a policy based on that — believe me, I checked. And I looked very hard for a long time to find it.

I believe I have the right to obtain a firearm if I choose to do so. It’s unquestionable to me, however, that there should be some requirements and safeguards. There are those in this country that should not assume the responsibility of having a firearm. Many of the shootings you see in the news — as well as the suicides and homicides that you don’t see — are certainly committed by someone who doesn’t have a normal functioning mind.

There are individuals in the areas surrounding my hometown that do take the initiative to train people who have firearms and ensure that gun safety is foremost in every gun-owner’s mind, and I have a huge amount of respect for them. I won’t put any of their names in my writing because I did not ask for permission to do so, but they know who they are, and they should be applauded for taking this action. I would, however, like to see legislation in Virginia passed to somehow implement this as a requirement. This should be treated as any other field. For example, I work in technology. Certifications in networking, cyber security, etc. need to be renewed every so often. This should be the case for firearm use as well.

I share the outrage many have over the political muscle that the National Rifle Association has. The conservative wing of local, state and federal government are being held hostage by this group, much like the left is being held hostage by groups that supposedly work in the best interests of teachers and kids in public schools. Whenever any government official of any political party even whispers “Hey, you know, I think maybe we should talk about these stats here”, the door is kicked down, and in walks the NRA screaming “SECOND AMENDMENT! Heh!” and scampering off after writing a check.

There’s one other issue that certainly plays a factor in Americans’ reservations for the federal government to get involved: the federal government itself. I lightly tapped a finger on this issue when citing the numbers I found. It’s an understandable position to have — and it’s a good position to have. The best explanation came from — believe it or not — Bernie Sanders, a self-proclaimed “Democratic Socialist” (whatever this week’s definition of that is). What he said was actually spot-on: People in Chicago aren’t using guns for the same reasons that people in Vermont are. So perhaps this in fact is an issue that states are better suited for. After all, we know our state better than Washington does, right? So maybe we owe it to ourselves to do something. And if/when something occurs that requires information at the Federal level, we can say “Well, here’s what we KNOW about our people.” Sharing information is definitely something that I encourage representatives like Congressman Hurt to look into.

In sum, it’s these two things that should be addressed if we really want any meaningful results and productive discussions — state legislation, and us having the spine to shove our palms into the NRA’s face. What if each state said “Sure, the Second Amendment is a precious right, and the best way to protect it is to be sure that we know who is buying and selling privately, and we figure out which mental illnesses could be considered dangerous for operating and owning a firearm.”? Once this question is asked, I’m sure we would hear the sound you hear in cartoons of some dude or dudette running as fast as he/she can in the distance towards you, getting ready to spout off redundant hot-aired nonsense about rights that have no basis in reality.

Here is an important point though: when that happens (and it’s certainly going to happen), we collectively need to cut them off by saying “Shut. Up. That’s enough. I don’t want just anyone to waltz in willy-nilly and buy a gun with no questions asked. I’m protecting my Second Amendment right by making sure some random person isn’t trying sneak around to smoke all of us in a store or something.” And when they attempt to respond or retaliate, just say “No. We’ve tried to do this your way. You’re wrong. Just stand there in your wrongness and accept it, and help us figure it out.” The NRA needs to either adapt to the 21st Century like the rest of us have and change their leadership, or they need to just be shut down.

I have little to no faith that anything meaningful will come of it though. We’ve become a nation of partisan bickering and entrenchment. Let this actually sink in for a moment: we’re at the point now where if a person of a certain ideology presented facts to someone of an opposing ideology, that someone would simply cover their ears, close their eyes and scream “I’m not listening, I’m not listening! Alalalalalalalaaaa!” while children look up at us and wonder where the adults are. It’s imperative that we all remember that we’re fully grown members of a SUPPOSEDLY intelligent species. If we don’t do this, the number of supporters on the far-left fringes will only increase. And in time, the Second Amendment will be undone. When that happens, and we’re looking around stunned and flabbergasted wondering why and how it happened, we just need to look in the mirror and point. We’re sure to ask what we did that caused this, and the answer is the same as the result I stated at the beginning.

Nothing.

Josh Lambert, South Hill



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