I shouldn’t have to write this essay. I should not have to write this essay! I SHOULD NOT HAVE TO WRITE THIS ESSAY!!
And yet here I am, throwing down my two cents in a rage over the issue of gun control in the United States. We live in a country where we are told that all are created equal. That all are endowed with certain unalienable rights, among these life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Yet time and again our country has been the victim of domestic terrorism at the hands of men with guns and nothing has ever happened to stop it. We need gun control. We need it now. By now you all know how this works, so here we go.
Doesn’t the Second Amendment protect my right to own guns?
No. No it does not. You might think that it does, but it absolutely does not. Here, let’s take a look at the actual text of the amendment.
A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.
Look at it. Read it very carefully. What words stand out to you? If you picked anything other than “well regulated militia” go back and look again. When the constitution was written the US relied on militias to fight the majority of our battles. The Revolutionary War was won by militias. These militias were well regulated, they had a clearly defined command structure and obeyed the rules of war and the laws set down by their government, they looked a lot like a professional army. The only real difference between the army and a militia was that a militia soldier had to provide his own gear and a soldier had his provided by the government. Also a soldier’s job was war, whereas militia members had other jobs they did to survive and responded to the call to arms in times of direst need. When the safety and security of the state was being threatened.
As of the 2017 DoD Budget Proposal there were 1,281,900 people serving in the active branches of the Armed Services and an additional 801,200 in the seven reserve components. That’s over 2 million volunteers ready and willing to take up the defense of the State. This is our well regulated militia. It’s not you, with you various personal firearms down at the shooting range. You are not well regulated. You have not been trained in the proper wartime use of those weapons. You should not have access to anything even closely resembling military hardware. You wanna have access to military weaponry? Join the military.
We also have to take into account that when this Amendment was written the standard gun of the day was the Brown Bess Musket. The Brown Bess was a 5 foot long, 10 pound, smooth bore, muzzle loading, flintlock musket. Each time you pulled the trigger you had to reload the gun. It could not hold more than one musket ball at a time. It had an average rate of fire of 1-3 rounds per minute. This was the gun we were talking about. A gun with an effective firing range of 50-100 yards.
There’s no comparison between modern guns and the Brown Bess Musket. The slowest semi-automatic weapon today can still fire as fast as you can pull the trigger. The AR-15, the semi-automatic rifle that has been the topic of much discussion over the past several years has a firing velocity of 3,200 feet per second. You can buy a 100 round drum magazine for an AR-15 without too much difficulty and for not a whole lot of money. The gun itself can be purchased for less than $1000. I highly doubt the men who wrote the Second Amendment were talking about a weapon capable of carrying 100 rounds and firing most of them in under a minute when they wrote it.
Well John, you really can’t know what the Founding Fathers meant.
Obviously. Neither can you. That being said, it really doesn’t matter what they meant when they wrote the Amendment. The fact is, the technology of 2018 is so vastly superior to the technology of 1776 that it would have appeared to be magic to them. The idea of a gun firing 1 million rounds per minute would have seemed impossible. So why are we allowing ourselves to be dictated to by archaic laws?
As societies advance, laws change. We have laws that govern how we are allowed to drive our cars. Something that didn’t even exist back in 1776. We have laws that dictate how we are allowed to fly. We have laws, values, and traditions that simply didn’t exist back in 1776. While some of the Founding Fathers were abolitionists, and some manumitted their slaves later in life, they would have never signed anything like the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Look, for all I know, the laws that the Founding Fathers wrote down represented the best wisdom of their time, but by any modern standard so much of it is unacceptable. So why do we care so much about leaving this part unchanged when we’ve changed so much?
Laws might change John, but the Constitution is sacrosanct.
That’s not even a little bit true. The Constitution was made to be amended. Hence it having Amendments. The 18th Amendment prohibited the sale or consumption of alcohol within the borders of the US starting in January of 1920. 13 years later in 1933 the 21st Amendment was ratified and canceled out the 18th. We just cancelled a whole Amendment because it was no longer serving the best interests of the American people. So why can’t we do that with the Second?
You just want to take away all of our guns.
Well shit, you caught me. Yup, I want to take away all of your guns. BECAUSE THEY’RE BEING USED TO KILL CHILDREN. I don’t know how to make you care about other people, but for some reason you don’t. You care more about your guns than you care about the people being killed by those guns. Now if we go off of the federal definition of a mass killing, “four or more people (excluding the perpetrator) being killed in a single event”, the US has only has about 150 mass shootings since 1967. If we broaden that definition to include any incident where multiple people were shot by the same perpetrator regardless of if they died or not we are met with a much higher number.
1,642 over the past 1,870 days.
That count only goes back to January 1, 2013. The US leads the world in mass shootings. We lead the world in that category. There’s an article by The Onion that they repost after each shooting in the US.
Australia hasn’t had a mass shooting since 1996.
Why do you think that is? Do you think it’s just because Americans are more violent by nature? Or do you think it’s because Australia has passed strict gun control laws and the US hasn’t? 3% of American adults own 133 million guns. That’s about half of the guns in the hands of private citizens in the US. 265 million guns in the US as of September 2016. I’d bet anything that those numbers are even higher today. Why do we need so many guns?
And they’re so easy to get!
In Florida there’s a 3 day wait period on a handgun purchase, but to buy an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle? No wait period at all. Just avoid being a felon and pass a basic background check. It’ll only take you a few minutes to walk out of the store with a weapon capable of killing dozens of people, and you only need to be 18 to do that.
5 of the 6 deadliest mass shootings in the past 6 years in the US have used an AR-15 style gun. They’re light, easy to carry and fire, and they have a limited recoil. Plus, you’ll remember how easy it is to purchase a 100 round drum magazine. Well the standard AR-15 magazine only holds 30 bullets. So that’s a lot better I guess.
So what did Australia do to prevent a mass shooting since 1996? Australia has some very strict laws regarding civilian handgun and long gun ownership. They banned civilian ownership of rapid firing long guns. That’s anything that is semi-automatic or pump action. Those guns that are the easiest to kill people with over long distances. Britain has passed laws banning hand gun ownership following their first ever school shooting in 1996. The US has had 290 school shootings since 2013. It’s time to change our guns laws.
Even if you ban guns, people are still gonna kill each other. A knife is plenty deadly.
You know when you say that you sound like an idiot right?
Australia has had a declining number of gun deaths since their gun control laws were passed, and yes an increasing number of knife deaths. So what? When you pull the trigger on an AR-15 the bullet travels at 3,200 feet/second. The speed of sound is 1125.33 f/s. That means that the AR-15’s .223 caliber bullet is traveling at about 2.5 times the speed of sound when it leaves the barrel of the gun. Find me a knife that can do that, and then do it 29 more times in under a minute, and I’ll stop thinking that you’re an idiot.
From a purely technical standpoint it’s simple to take a life. Almost anything can do it. A knife can kill someone. A car can kill someone. A baseball bat can kill someone. Do you know what the difference between a car, knife, bat, and gun are?
A knife is a multi purposed tool. It can be used to open a box, cut an apple, scale a fish, and any number of other tasks. Yes, it can be used to kill someone, but it has other functions. A car is used to transport you from one point to another much faster than walking. Yes, it can be used to kill someone, but it was designed for transportation. A baseball bat is used for playing baseball. Yes, it can be used to kill someone, but it was designed with recreation in mind. Guns though, guns were designed to kill.
That is their only function. They make killing as easy as it can possibly be. Oh sure, you can shoot someone in a nonlethal fashion, but you better be damn good or damn lucky. Far more often than not, when you shoot someone, you intend to kill them. The gun, alone of all the potentially lethal items the average citizen can obtain, is designed purely to kill something. Handguns doubly so. You don’t hunt with a pistol. They were designed to be easy to carry and maneuver so that shooting people would be easier in tight quarters.
You’ve heard the expression “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people.” Well that’s just wrong. Guns kill people, that’s all they do. You can say that guns help defend our troops overseas, and you’re right, but they do that by killing the other guys.
Going back to the idea of cars. Owning and operating a car requires a number of things. I’m speaking specifically about my home state of NJ, but I imagine that the requirements are largely the same across the US. To own and operate a motor vehicle in NJ you have to be a certain age (17 yo for a provisional licence and 18 for a full). You have to take both a written and a practical exam, you have to insure the car and register it with your state. You have to maintain it and get it routinely inspected. There are monthly insurance costs that will go up if you get into any kind of motor vehicle accident or are demonstrated to be driving poorly. All this for a transit tool. You’d think that owning a gun would take even more work, but getting permission to purchase a gun in my home state of NJ is pretty simple.
- Pick up an STS-33, the application for your Firearms Purchaser Identification Card and fill it out
- You’ll also need a valid government issued ID
- 2-3 references who will be asked about your mental health, you’ll likely want to call them ahead of time so they don’t get an unexpected call from the police.
- $60 for fingerprinting (If you’re a teacher like me you’ve been fingerprinted already)
- Fill out a Consent for Mental Health Records Search form
- Photocopy your driver’s licence and social security card to leave with the police
- Bring all your necessary paperwork and forms of ID to the station and $60
- Get fingerprinted (if you haven’t been already)
- Wait for your paperwork to be processed.
- Legally they have to get back to you within 30 days
- Although they might not if they don’t feel like it.
- Legally they have to get back to you within 30 days
And that’s it. It’s really pretty simple. That’s all you need to do to be able to purchase a firearm in the state of NJ. NJ, which is ranked 49 out of 51 for worst state in the Union (they include D.C.) for gun owners by Guns and Ammo .com Arizona (as of 2015), is called the best state for gun owners because it allows in some cases permit-less open carry of firearms.
NJ is very strict in that regard. Still, your access to firearms is disturbingly easy, even in the less gun friendly states. But why do we need so many guns? It’s the job of the armed services to fight our enemies both foreign and domestic. It’s the job of the police to protect and serve (we won’t get into the problems with the police in this essay). Both of those professions need access to some type of weaponry. Although most of Britain’s police officers don’t carry firearms, so there’s something to be said for that, cultural differences aside. Why does the average citizen need to have access to a gun. To a tool whose only function is killing?
Well, only a good guy with a gun can stop a bad guy with a gun.
Well yeah, of course. They’re called the police, the national guard, soldiers, FBI agents, the Secret Service, SWAT, or any of the other various highly trained people who protect us.
Oh… wait, you meant Joe Q. Citizen… didn’t you?
That’s not how this works. That’s not how any of this works. You might feel safer walking around with your gun. Thinking that if an active shooter pops up you’ll be ready, but you scare the average American. Soldiers go through thousands of hours of training to learn how to use their weapons effectively. Thousands of hours. Even army veterans don’t believe in the “good guy with a gun” myth. Because they know the amount of work that they put in to be able to kill human beings effectively. To engage in a firefight and not make a dumb panicky mistake or just piss their pants. They know their guns inside and out and I’ll bet all the money in my pockets that you just don’t. You don’t have the discipline or training to be effective in an active shooter situation.
According to Daniel Webster, the Director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research at the Bloomberg School of Public Health, more guns cause more shootings. The more situations that have guns in them, the more situations that are lethal for people involved. That’s what the latest research shows. More guns = more bodies.
So why can’t we do anything about it?
There are a number of reasons. It’s partly because America has a rose colored glass hard on for the “Old West”. We love the idea of strapping on our six shooters, rounding up a posse and rustling some bandits. Hell, I’m a bleeding heart liberal intelligentsia and even I’ve had daydreams about being a gunfighter in the Old West.
I hate to break it to you, but the “Wild West” wasn’t so wild. It was surprisingly peaceful. Our perception of the excessive violence in the frontier of America comes from genocidal policies the US government initiated against Native Americans in the “Indian Wars”. Now I’m just a lowly Genocide Studies Scholar, so maybe my opinion doesn’t mean much, but that’s not an era of our history you want to glorify.
That’s not the only issue though. Here are some figures for you. According to Gallup Polls, as of 2017, the majority of Americans favor stricter gun control laws. So why don’t we have them? The Gun Lobby has more money than you do. Thanks to two Supreme Court cases:
- Citizens United v. Federal Elections Comission
- Speechnow.org v. Federal Elections Comisison
These cases, when combined, allow individuals, unions, and corporations to donate unlimited money to Political Action Committees (PACs). Forming so called Super PACs. Now PACs can’t donate straight to candidates for the purposes of election, but they can donate unlimited money toward supporting or opposing legislation. Money which can be, and is used to quash any substantive gun reform.
Of the list of the Top 10 Senators who have taken PAC money from the NRA, the lowest dollar amount is $2,861,047 to Bill Cassidy of Lousiana. The highest amount goes to John McCain from Arizona to the tune of $7,740,521. Both of these men, and indeed every member of the Senate on this Top 10 list made statements to the press expressing their deepest sympathies for the victims of the Las Vegas shooting this past October. They did this and then did nothing to stop access to the weapons that caused the deadliest mass shooting in the history of our country. So why can’t we actually make any substantive gun reform? The NRA has more money than you, and they have the support of the Republican party. On the list of the Top 100 Politicians Who Have Received Money From the NRA, 95 are Republicans. Right now the Republicans control the House, they control the Senate, they control the White House. We won’t see gun control reform with them in office.
In fact, we might see the opposite. According to an article written in the Miami New Times on February 15, 2018. Florida state legislators were planning to vote on a provision that would allow even laxer background searches of potential gun owners and would even allow incomplete background check forms to be turned in for concealed carry permits, among other issues. Less than 24 hours after a 19 year old with an AR-15 killed 17 people inside Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Florida was planning to make it easier for such a horrendous tragedy to happen again.
Now is not the time to be talking about gun reform.
I here this a lot from politicians, pundits, and lobbyists following mass shootings. Now’s not the time to talk about gun control reform. People have just died. Considering the prolific nature of mass shootings in this country, it’ll never be the right time. So let’s make the right time right now. While we’re here. People have died and I think that they would prefer that we use their deaths as a rallying cry to try and ensure that such a tragedy never happens again. I think they would rather that, than that we sit idly by and offer our thoughts and prayers to the families and victims. All due respect to your prayers, but I’ll take legislative change on the nature of gun control in our country. Now is the time. Talk about it. Please.
The Second Amendment is meant to protect citizens from the tyranny of their own government.
This is another point I hear a lot from Defenders of the Second. The right to keep and bear arms is meant to protect citizens from their own government. I can see where they’re coming from. When the Second was written we had just come from a war where we had been forced to overthrow our colonial oppressors and so it was necessary for each man to have a firearm and know its use. In fact, it was law for a while that each man between the ages of 18 and 45 have and know the use of a musket. It made sense at the time.
Today though? You live in a democratic republic. You live in a world where, nominally, the government works for you. You get to elect your representatives. It’s not a perfect system, and like any system it is able to be abused, but if you’re so illogically fearful that you’re worried about having to go to war with your government I’d first like to remind you of something. The US Armed Forces is made up of roughly 2 million of the best trained soldiers in the world. They have access to weaponry far beyond what you have access to. Body armor, grenades, missiles, fighter and bomber jets, tanks and more.
Honestly, do you really think that you and your AR-15 are gonna be able to do anything about all that? I’m not trying to scare or threaten you, but it’s gotten far beyond the point where you stand a chance. I don’t like a lot of what my government is doing right now. We live in a scary time, but the Armed Forces aren’t made up of brainwashed psychopaths. They’re made up of dedicated people who believe in the freedoms that our country is supposed to uphold. They don’t stop believing in the values their parents instilled in them just because they join the Army. They don’t cease being able to think critically. They are your well regulated militia. They are the safeguard against the tyranny of your own government, if that’s what you’re afraid of.
We don’t really need gun control, it’s really about mentally ill people.
First of all, stop stigmatizing people who have mental health issues. I’ve got a few myself. My issues are minor as far as these things go. I haven’t been on any medication since I was 17 (not that there is anything wrong with medication), but I’m hardly a poster child for mental health.
And anyway, you’re falsely correlating mental health issues with mass shootings in an effort to move the goal post. Well I’m not gonna let you.
According to a New York Times article, “In an analysis of 235 mass killings, many of which were carried out with firearms, 22 percent of the perpetrators could be considered mentally ill.”
According to experts contacted for the above article, while barring the sale of guns to people deemed dangerous by mental health professionals could help prevent gun violence, other measures like banning assault weapons and barring sale to convicted violent criminals would be more effective.
In the days following many mass shootings there are a lot articles linking the causes of the shooting to suspected mental health issues of the shooter. We already saw above how that link is false, prejudiced, and is damaging to people with mental health issues who are not all being painted with the same brush as the mass shooter. Cause once we say that the shooter had mental health issues we stop looking for the reasons behind their violence. We think that it had to have been caused by the , often false, mental health issues.
What these same people refuse to talk about is how so many of these mass shooters are white. In a statistical analysis done by Statista, all of the mass shootings (using the federal definition) between 1982 and 2017 were looked at and then broken down by racial make up. Of the 95 mass shootings in that time, 54 of them were committed by white men.
What do so many of these men have in common?
A history of violence against their romantic partners. The shooter in Sutherland Springs, Texas last year, as well as the shooters in Las Vegas, Orlando, and San Bernadino all had histories of domestic abuse.
Here are five statistics that show the link between domestic violence and mass shooting (using the federal definition).
- 54% of mass shooters killed an intimate partner or family member.
- About 4.5 million American women have reported being threatened by a partner with a gun
- Nearly half of women killed in the US are killed by an intimate partner
- Homicide is the fifth leading cause of death for women in the US
- Women in the US are 16 times more likely to be killed by a gun than women in other developed nations.
All of that goes to show that we need to stop stigmatizing mental health issues in the US and we need to take victims of domestic abuse or sexual assault more seriously. So many mass shooters are also domestic abusers (and white men), and while a convicted domestic abuser is supposed to be banned from obtaining a firearm under federal law, there are many enormous loopholes that allow them to legally obtain firearms anyway.
The system is broken and guns are a huge reason why. Research shows that the presence of a gun in any given situation makes it more likely for people to be killed by said gun. Any gun, held by any person, makes it more likely that a gun will kill someone, and yet we are told time and again that more guns will fix our problems. It’s not even like these mass shootings are being committed by people who purchased their guns from the back of a car in a dark alley. More than 80% of guns used in mass shootings are bought legally.
In the end it comes down to one simple reason.
Children are dying.
I shouldn’t have to give you another reason that we need stricter gun control.
I tried to keep this as civil and professional as I could. I tried to be unbiased and let the research speak for itself. I can say with absolute certainty that I failed to remain unbiased, and I don’t see a problem with that. This is an issue that people should be angry about. I did my best to address the points that I hear most often in a gun control debate. I gave my honest and professional perspective on the issues and laid out the necessity for gun control reform and the necessity for taking the victims of domestic abuse and sexual assault more seriously. Of the necessity for ending the stigma against mental health issues in our country.
I don’t know exactly what effective American gun control would look like. I don’t have solutions. I can’t write policy. I’m not even sure if I’ll convince anyone, but I did what I could to lay it all out there in a way that would be easy to understand. If all I do is contribute to the continuation of the gun control debate it’ll be… well it won’t be enough, but it’ll be what it is.