Photo above by Elvert Barnes via Flickr
Military Grade Guns. Control or Ignore? Protest against or Fight for. An attempt versus a non-attempt to regulate the most lethal, yet publicly available weapon in this country’s arsenal. Why is this such an issue today, and how do we mitigate it?
First, U.S. citizens need to acknowledge that people are dying. And not all of them in some unpreventable “series of unfortunate events.” People are killing people. And guns, just happen to be the weapon of choice for many of them. In 2014 over 10,900 people were killed due to gun violence – and though gun lobbyists are thrilled that these are the lowest numbers the country has seen since 2000, gun control advocates are outraged that their pursuit to minimize these stats are being rejected at every turn.
One of the largest concerns regarding gun control today is President Barack Obama’s 2016 package of executive actions. The proposal has been depicted as an attempt to take away the guns and rights of all who hold the Second Amendment dear. As a result of this new legislation, right-wing lobbyists have questioned Obama’s tactics to go beyond Congress for change. In response Obama has stated that two United States Senators (Republican and Democrat gun owners) wrote “a common-sense compromise bill that would have required virtually everyone who buys a gun to get a background check. Ninety percent of Americans supported that idea. Ninety percent of Democrats in the Senate voted for that idea. But it failed because 90 percent of Republicans in the Senate voted against that idea.”
True to form, republicans and gun lobbyists alike are combating the President’s regulation laws yet again. And doing so by using the all encompassing excuse of “what’s the point?”
Obama responds to this notion with the passion, understanding and grievance of any American concerned about the unnatural death of its citizens. “Each time this comes up, we are fed the excuse that common-sense reforms like background checks might not have stopped the last massacre, or the one before that, or the one before that, so why bother trying. I reject that thinking,” Obama said.
And he should. The thought that we can’t stop all the killings so we shouldn’t even try to, is absurd. And to take it a step further by turning the other cheek, and instead “celebrate that we’re good people, and 99.9 percent of us are never going to kill anyone,” as Taya kyle, wife of “American Sniper” Chris Kyle suggested – we are consciously debilitating our nation’s right to change.
The fact is that globally, stricter gun control laws have proved to reduce annual fatalities due to gun violence. Israel, where teenagers are practically drafted into military training at the same time American teens are learning how to drive, have a gun homicide rate of 1.04 (2011) per 100,000 people. Australia natives have a gun death rate of 0.16 (2013) and the U.K. has a gun death rate of 0.06 (2011). Meanwhile Japan has managed to keep their gun homicide rate at a staggering 0.0 per 100,000 people. Obama has been scrutinized for showing support to these countries’ gun reforms, and accused of wanting to imitate such laws – which would ultimately result in the “taking of our guns!” However, one can hardly blame the man for applauding their efforts when in comparison, the U.S. (less than 5% of the world population) owns 35-50% of the world’s civilian owned handguns, and account for a rate 3.43 (2014) gun deaths per 100,000 people.
Though the gun law methods of other developed nations have been supported by our President, they are not being imitated. Rather the executive actions are calling for more thorough background checks, fewer opportunity for illicit loopholes and a $500 million proposal to expand mental health care – seeing as mental illness is the leading cause of gun deaths. Legislation such as this supports gun owners interest in background checks, as well as mental health initiatives much like the one proposed by Republican Congressman Tim Murphy, for instance. But instead, the proposal is looked upon as ploy to kill the Second Amendment.
Gun lobbyists are enraptured with the fact that gun homicide rates have dropped increasingly in the U.S. since our 7.0 rate in 1993, therefore there need be no additional gun laws implemented. However, if one were to look closer into why the numbers had fallen so drastically since the early 1990’s, one (or at least I) could assume that it was due to the federal prohibition on assault weapons, military-style .50 caliber rifles, handguns, and large-capacity ammunition magazines implemented between 1994 and 2004. Right around the time the gun homicide rate declined further and faster than it ever did before. Consequently, Congress allowed the restrictions to expire, and so the rate has ceased its rapid decline and began to level out, declining a bit year by year.
In all, the gun homicide rate dropped by nearly half between 1993 and 2000, giving gun lobbyists the ammunition they need to claim that restrictions are no longer necessary, but it seems odd that none have mentioned that the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 might have been the reason for the decline.
Laws and legislation, have made changes in history, not time and intentions. So the fact that the Acts put in place to regulate the Second Amendment are being overlooked, while its’ results are being highlighted to defend the right to dismiss those very laws, are bewildering! It in fact begs the question, what are we fighting for?
The right to bear arms or the right to look the other way? There is not one bit of evidence that the proposed 2016 legislation is a means to take away lawfully owned firearms. So what is it?
To be clear, guns are not harmless. They are weapons meant to kill or destroy. Whether the target is a dot centered on a poster, a bear in the woods, a teen in a hoodie or a child in a classroom. Guns are not meant to leave its target the way it was. They are meant to dismantle whatever or whomever is within its aim.
So what are we fighting for? The right to bear arms so that homeowners can feel safer. Victims of violence can feel stronger. Huntsmen can feel superior. (Because, no one is trying to take away the guns of these individuals. I, for one, understand and support the right to bare arms while supporting the proposal to regulate them).
Or are we fighting for the right to destroy and look away? So parents can continue to walk past empty bedrooms. Teachers can continue to teach empty classrooms. And “public” bible studies can continue to take place behind locked doors.
The American people are simply fighting for help, and for life.
The sooner gun lobbyists realize that fact – the sooner they realize that these regulations don’t affect their rights – the sooner they realize that Obama’s executive actions have nothing to do with them and everything to do with the true victims and villains of gun violence – the sooner we can all go home and find something worth fighting about.