A Moderate View on Guns
I want to talk about guns again. I’ve talked about them twice before. The responses to those posts were mostly positive. I feel a need to talk about them again. It’s been several days since the shootings in Orlando, so you may be sick of this topic by now. That’s okay. I’m writing this for myself as much as I’m writing it for anyone else, to try and work through my emotions around this latest event. If you want to skip this entry, I don’t blame you.
I don’t consider myself a Republican or a Democrat. I lean more left than I did when I was younger. My conservative friends and family probably see me as a liberal. I’m certainly able to find lots of areas of agreement with my liberal friends. But one area that I’ve always been more right leaning is guns. I’ve always been uncomfortable with the idea of taking away American’s guns, or infringing on the Second Amendment.
It is important to me that we avoid emotional responses on this issue. Knee-jerk reactions are not usually powered by intellect and sweet wisdom. That’s the kind of reaction that led to us fighting in Iraq. It’s the kind of reaction that led to the Patriot Act, and Guantanamo Bay. Smart people can get caught up in that kind of reaction, and then regret it later.
We are reeling from the worst mass shooting in American history. Okay, well, it’s not actually the worst in history. But it’s the worst in recent memory. It was perpetrated by a man that had previously been under Federal suspicion. He used an AR-15, bought legally. He claimed alignment with ISIS.
There is so much right there. Terrorism. Assault rifles. The ability to purchase a gun, even when on a No Fly list.
After recovering from the initial shock, we were inundated with second guessing. Liberals cried out about the guns. Conservatives clutched to their guns, saying it’s all about terrorism. Both sides started fighting and name calling, and no actual communication took place, because it’s all emotions, grandstanding, and fear.
If someone had been armed in the club when the shooting began, would it have made a difference? Conservatives say yes. Liberals say no.
If he hadn’t been able to purchase the gun, the tragedy would have been avoided, right? Maybe. That seems to be the main argument for tighter gun restrictions. But the Boston Marathon bombing didn’t involve a gun. I don’t think Ted Kacynski used guns. If Omar Mateen had been scoping out the club weeks before the attack, who’s to say that he wouldn’t have tried something that didn’t involve bullets?
My initial reaction, after the sadness for the loss of innocent lives, is to side with the conservatives. But we’ve had so many mass shootings. A call to make a change is not an emotional reaction. It is the reasonable thing to do.
At the risk of upsetting the quasi-religious reverence given to the Second Amendment, let’s look at what it means to restrict guns in the US. Already, you can’t just have any gun you want. I’m not talking about nuclear missiles or weapons of mass destruction. I’m talking about the kind of weapon you might think was used in Orlando. To quote:
NFA weapons are weapons that are heavily restricted at a federal level by the National Firearms Act of 1934 and the Firearm Owners Protection Act of 1986. These include automatic firearms (such as machine guns), short-barreled shotguns, and short-barreled rifles. Some states and localities place additional restrictions on such weapons.
So, we know that there are already some restrictions on what constitutes a legal firearms. That makes me think that the conversation about greater restrictions is going to go one of two ways.
- Tighter restrictions on the kinds of guns people can purchase legally
- Tighter restrictions on the kinds of people that can purchase guns
If we further restrict the types of guns people can own, we’re talking about eliminating semi-automatic weapons. People could then legally own bolt action rifles and single-action revolvers, right? Or will we go further? It wouldn’t take much before it starts sounding a bit like what was done in Australia. They broke out guns into several categories. I think the AR-15 would be a Category D, which can only be owned by government officials. Handguns are Category H, and in addition to having a justification for owning one (such as being a security guard), there’s a 6 month probationary period, as well as other restrictions.
I don’t think that’s going to go over very well in the red states. It might be a hard pill to swallow in many of the blue ones, too.
Let’s shift back to restrictions on who can purchase a gun. I don’t think anyone disagrees with the notion that suspected terrorists shouldn’t be able to buy guns. But… how do we determine if someone is a suspected terrorist? What criteria do we use?
We’re still struggling with racial biases and prejudices in our law enforcement and at different levels of our government. One of our candidates for President speaks with alarming frequency in tones of racism. How do we keep racism (and potentially fascism) from becoming a part of the process that determines if a person can own a gun or not?
Someone should ask Trump if an American citizen born and bred in the United States, that just happens to be a Muslim, should own a gun. I wonder what his answer would be, and how he’d play it out against the backdrop of the Second Amendment.
This whole conversation about guns in the US is one of those issues that requires thought and care. Unfortunately, it’s instead filled with name calling and rhetoric.
What do I think? How would I change the system to make it better?
I’d start small. I’d start with putting the restrictions on people, and I’d try to make the restrictions as reasonable as possible. If you’re on a No Fly list, you can’t buy a gun. Then I’d go a step further and make sure that there are provisions for getting off the No Fly list, so that innocent people finding themselves on such a list have a way of getting removed.
Maybe I’d also make the waiting period based on the results of the background check. If you’ve been on a No Fly list, or you were recently the subject of a restraining order, or you had run into some other legal troubles, your waiting period is measured in months rather than days. People can still get guns if they’re under some suspicion, but they can’t get them in a hurry and rush off to do mayhem.
I don’t think those are unreasonable changes. It’s an incremental change that would have addressed the situation in Orlando. Or at least, it would have meant that Omar Mateen would have had to use something other than a gun.
I think that’s the way that we’re going to make things better in the US. It’s through incremental change, with conversation and compromise, rather than shouting and mule-headed grandstanding.