Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Gun Laws in the Wake of the Sandy Hook Incident

Let me start off by saying that something like the shooting which occurred at Sandy Hook should have never happened in the first place and my heart goes out to the family and friends of all those impacted by such a heinous act of violence. Before you get too far along, I also want to make you as a reader acutely aware that I am a gun owner, that I have an active NRA membership, and own two similar guns, I'll go into more detail later, to those used in this recent attack.

I wasn't the least bit surprised by the knee-jerk reaction of the media(it's what they are good at after all)  nor was I least bit surprised to hear rumblings that the president was considering some sort of reform in the firearms space. After the string of shootings that have occurred, Sandy Hook, Aurora, Virginia Tech, Columbine, something must be broken with Second Amendment rights, how could there not be? There must be some blame to be laid somewhere, some change that will make gun violence a thing of the past. This can never happen again, not in America anyway.

When the Second Amendment was drafted and ratified, guns were significantly different than they are today. Rifles then were single shot and really only accurate out to 50 meters/yards or so. One shot and then you spend the next 30 seconds reloading the thing contrasted with today's assault rifles that can hit within a 5 inch circle at 500 meters/yards and fire 30 or more rounds in less than a minute (assumes an AR-15 with a decent shooter). I would make the argument that while the guns and destructive power have changed, that gun violence has remained relatively constant.

Back in the day, duels among gentlemen was a perfectly reasonable and legal occurrence. If you had a problem with some one tainting your honor, you went in the street with them and shot at each other - loser more than likely died but you got your point across. Modern America has a significantly different legal landscape where nearly any violence with any sort of weapon is considered a felony situation, do not pass go, do not collect $200. Within the modern legal landscape, the worst that you can really do is sue someone to prove that you're right, ouch that really hurt my wallet but my dog is still going to poop on your lawn every day.

As barbaric as it may sound, I feel that violence is an intricate part of humanity. Wars and power struggles have fueled entire economies as far back as Spartan times. Disagreements happen, struggles for resources across artificial lines in the sand, even something as simple as "you stole me wife" (the story of Troy) have been the subject of epic war tales and poems. As technology has evolved, the physical stature and stamina of an individual has played less and less a role on the field of war.

Technology, specifically guns, have leveled the playing field in the sense that no longer must you be an expert in multiple martial arts, expert swords man, and top physical condition to be influential in winning a fight. Do those things help? Certainly. But when you put a gun into the hands of a person, their lack physical stature, their lack of martial arts training, becomes irrelevant. The only thing relevant turns into the technology that they are grasping in their palms and between their fingers. Guns equalize otherwise disparate parties when it comes to violence and intimidation.

In almost every modern occurrence, except for maybe Aurora where the motive is not totally clear, the school shooters have shared two apparent themes: bullied by classmates for some childish reason (too smart, different, etc), lacking of physical stature compared to those stereotypically doing the bulling (athletes). I'm not going to attempt to understand the motives these people had in their execution of their specific attacks nor attempt to rationalize what happened. There are too many "what if" scenarios for that and we'll never know exactly what caused these people to act. What we do know is that guns enabled these individuals to lash out against their targets in a way where their physical stature and social status were no longer relevant, making them significantly more powerful than their targets - a power trip.

As an extreme example, let's remove guns from our equation all together. The pain and suffering and experiences the perpetrators of these mass school shootings would have been exactly the same. The only difference would be their ability to inflict what they see as an appropriate amount of pain/suffering or death on their intended targets. I have no doubt that these people would have resorted to violence and lashing out in some way even by removing guns from the equation. Bombs can be made from over the counter components, inflicting significantly more damage than any gun could ever do. Knives and swords are easily bought and sold. Heck even a baseball bat is no match for even the largest of individuals. Poison the food supply? The list goes on and on the more you think about it.

An easy argument that can be made is that the death counts in these shootings would have been very different if firearms were removed. Is that totally true? It's hard to say. A properly motivated individual, which all these people I would say can be classified as, would do anything to extract their revenge if not with guns by some other means. Think a pipe bomb in the cafeteria or hallway during class change would be any less devastating?

What I can say without any hesitation is that stricter gun controls would not prevent violence like this. In effect they are already criminals, just by planning out something like this, and should have no expectation of following the laws. Do you think that drug dealers honestly care that they are not legally carrying a concealed weapons permit for the pistol they have in their waist band? Or that fully automatic weapons are illegal to poses without a class 3 firearm license? Criminals and terrorists ignore the laws already, that sort of goes with the territory,  and the individuals that are impacted the most are the ones that follow the laws, your average citizen. Just to highlight another little known fact, these shootings have always occurred in places where it is illegal to even posses a firearm, that law seems to have worked out well for the victims.

The one thing that has stuck in my head from the time I was a boy, is something my dad said when I first was around guns. He basically said "Without you, your gun can do nothing wrong. You are responsible for where the barrel is pointed and only you are responsible for pulling the trigger. Make sure you know what your intentions are and what you are shooting at before you even think about removing the safety." That first part is what people forget about when talking about these shootings, that without the person pulling the trigger no one would have been injured. Without that person aiming the barrel and consciously pointing it at the victims no one would have been killed. I personally own two similar guns to those used in the Sandy Hook shooting, an AR-15 and a Glock 27 pistol - does me owning these two weapons mean that I'm more likely to incite violence? Heck, I've got more than 3,000 rounds for my AR-15, does that make me a menace to society? I'd say no, that's like saying every person who buys pseudoephedrine is using it to cook meth in their basements.

Maybe the problem with gun violence in America has nothing to do with the guns or the laws that regulate their ability to the general public? I get it, people are looking for a place to take out their fear. They see guns as the reason that events like these occur but I've never once heard of a person being shot or killed when there was not another person grasping the trigger. Maybe, just maybe, there was some event in one of these shooter's lives that you could have impacted, that you could have helped change their view on society, have them feel welcomed or not as different as they thought they were. One incident where you didn't step in to a stop a bully or as simple as asking someone how their day had went. Maybe a parent somewhere in one of their classes never had the "bully" talk with their own kid. Bullying has been in the news a lot lately, specifically related to suicides. These kids have no way to break out of their molds, they are the outcasts, the geeks, the people that are just a little different from everyone else that get the full attention of bullies. Maybe the attention should be put back onto the bullies themselves. Maybe, then things would change.