“Guns don’t kill people, people kill people.”
The oft heard saying, almost a slogan, repeated by Americans who fear the loss of our 2nd amendment, the right to bear arms.
Whenever someone breaks out a gun and shoots several people in a short amount of time, a mass killing, the same debate starts up. Gun control, or no gun control. There are a lot of different arguments for both sides, and both sides are very convinced that their way is right.
Those that support no gun control, or no more gun control, talk about the 2nd amendment. They say that taking guns away from honest, responsible Americans won’t keep guns out of the hands of criminals. That it’s better for honest, responsible people to have guns, so they can defend themselves. That the 2nd amendment ensures their right to own the same types of weapons that might be used against them.
On the other side, those that support stricter gun control laws say that stricter laws will keep guns out of the hands of criminals, or would be criminals. They say that average citizens, even honest responsible ones, don’t need fully automatic assault rifles. If no one can have them, then criminals and would be criminals can’t get them. That more guns in the hands of untrained citizens will only cause shooting situations to be worse, with more bullets and even more innocent bystanders getting hit.
One side cites examples where gun-toting citizens saved the day in a potentially life ending situation involving an armed assailant.
The other side brings up studies that show there is less gun violence in states where the gun laws are stricter. (Though the report I saw did say that this was not necessarily because of the stricter gun laws, just a correlation between two statistics.)
However, based on what I’ve heard, there are things going on in this most recent mass killing in Newtown CT that don’t add up with arguments from either side:
First, Connecticut has fairly strict gun laws, compared to the rest of the country. But the shooter killed his mother, and took her guns, bypassing any laws or restrictions having to do with the purchase or ownership of guns.
Second, many children were saved by heroes that didn’t have guns. At least one of those heroes lost her life in the act of saving the children in her care.
Alright people, here’s the thing. Guns don’t kill people, people kill people. True. But, at the same time, guns don’t save people, people save people.
Guns are tools. Tools make it easier to do something. Think about cutting down a tree. Which would you rather use – your hands, a stone axe, a steel axe, a saw, a chainsaw. Or how about one those massive machines you sit in and drive around that grabs trees, cuts them, and lays them down nice and neat wherever you want. Tools allow people to do more of whatever it is they are doing, with less effort, and often less risk.
Guns are tools, made to make the act of killing easier and less risky. Using guns allows people who would otherwise be cowards to puff themselves up and feel invincible, like they can take on the world. It puts distance between the person with the gun and the horror of murder, or at least they think it does.
With some people, violence comes easily, and they will use whatever they have to be violent with. Other people aren’t as naturally violent. It takes more to set them off, they tend to plan it out more. Some people would be too scared to lash out at all with such violence if they didn’t have guns. Guns makes it easier for all types to hurt more people when they decide to become violent.
But just having a gun doesn’t make you invincible, and when it comes down to it, I doubt guns really do much to separate you from the violence and horror. Having a gun doesn’t turn an honest and responsible citizen into a hero. Even if they go to firing ranges and shoot at paper targets with perfect aim doesn’t mean they’ll react well when someone is shooting at them. If they panic, who knows how they’ll react? They might freeze up and do nothing, or run away. They may draw their gun, and not be able to fire on another living human being, even if that person is shooting at them or others. Or, they may start firing, but forget in their panic to aim carefully. Or at all. Even if they remember to aim, they may not think to look at who or what is behind the person they are shooting at, in case they miss or their bullet goes right through their intended target and keeps going. Also if the police respond to a shooting call, and arrive to find two or more people with guns out and bullets flying, the would-be hero might end up shot by police, thinking they were a criminal instead of a concerned citizen.
So who’s right? Do we get rid of the 2nd amendment and ban guns so no one has them? Or do we hand out guns like candy so everyone can defend themselves?
Ok, so that’s taking both sides to the extreme, and I hope no one really wants to go that far in either direction. But the question still stands. Stricter gun control laws, or not.
What about creating gun laws that are strict where they should be strict, but still allow for the 2nd amendment, for citizens to own and bear arms?
And then there are those that want to blame something or someone for the tragedy. They say it’s because of music, or movies, or video games, or bullying, or the parents, or the school system, or society, or whatever.
“If we ban violent video games, tragedies like this won’t happen anymore!”
Please. Nothing like this is ever caused by just one thing. People are complicated. People learn about the world and how to react to it in different ways, and everyone reacts to everything in their own, personal way. People choose to do the things they do, and usually for more than just one reason. There are as many reasons for being violent as there are people.
Even if we know why one person committed atrocious acts of violence, that doesn’t mean we can project those motives to others. Well, we can, and we will, but we will be wrong, at least in part.
Not everyone that listens to heavy metal, or plays first person shooter video games, or grows up in a terrible neighborhood with gangs and drugs and an even worse school system is destined to become a violent person. And the person that actually did the violent act is and should be responsible for their actions, regardless of whether they listened to Marilyn Manson or Johann Sebastian Bach. Whether they grew up in the slums of some city with a terrible school system, or grew up in a prestigious neighborhood and graduated from Harvard.
Now some people will come out and say “What about the mentally ill? How can they be responsible for their actions if they don’t understand the consequences of their actions?”
The issue of mental illness is a tricky one, and a valid one. Personally, I feel that if someone has the mental capacity to pick up an automatic assault weapon, load it, pack extra ammunition, travel to and enter some pre-determined location with said weapon, and open fire on any number of random, innocent victims, then they have the ability to learn that they shouldn’t do such things.
The problem is that all too often, people do not learn reasonable, non-violent ways of dealing with things that they don’t like, either because they are not taught them, or because they’re not paying attention, or they refuse to believe or try out what they are taught, and they don’t figure it out on their own.
And this holds true whether they have any sort of mental illness or not.
There are no easy answers. There are no simple solutions. There are a lot of variables and possibilities and scenarios. But that doesn’t mean we can’t do anything. Just because it looks like we can’t please everyone doesn’t mean we throw our hands in the air and give up.
And while we do need to look at our gun laws to make sure they are at least somewhat effective, and make sure we are enforcing them, this isn’t just about gun laws. It’s about family. It’s about community. It’s about education. It’s about support. It’s about people learning how to deal with things they don’t like in a constructive way. And I’m not talking about screaming into a pillow, though that might help some people, at least a little bit. I’m talking about conversations with family, friends, or therapists if need be. Art. Writing. Acting. Sports. Working with animals. Whatever it is that will allow a person to take their emotions and frustrations and work them out in a way that betters themselves, hopefully others, and ultimately, the world.