Gun violence has escalated and become more frequent in the United States. Mass shooting incidents in particular, could occur anywhere across the nation these days. It seems that every time this kind of massive shooting occurs, it only gets more and more heinous, especially when it involves young children. At the same time, we have become so desensitized as well in a culture and society that is filled with guns and violence.
In a matter of couple of days, we have witnessed two mass shootings only a day or two days apart, in different parts of the country. In the latest incident in Connecticut on December 14, 2012, it involved an estimated 27 deaths, which included 18(another source said 20) elementary school children. Elementary school children! America is outraged and saddened by these senseless killings.
The debate about gun control has not been given the kind of attention that the Congress has been giving to fiscal cliff or debt ceiling negotiation. In the days when financial and fiscal concerns dominate the news and the political realm, talks on gun control have become virtually none-existent.
Don’t get me wrong, as if the pro-gun right-wing people are condoning such despicable violence. No, they aren’t. Quite the contrary, they argue that this is precisely the reason that we need more guns! We need guns to protect ourselves against such violence, they say.
I can see the point of their argument, and yet this line of argument is deeply flawed and impractical.
First of all, a pro-gun culture has made access to guns easy in the United States. We understand that there are certain restrictions. For examples, those with criminal history or mental illness would be banned from owning guns. But, still, we have to admit that owning a gun is a relatively easy thing in the United States. And after all, the United States constitution affords us the right to bear arms, although certainly not in the absolute sense as we have discussed.
Then, there comes the argument that criminals would have guns no matter what, they can purchase and possess guns illegally and pose harms to law-abiding citizens. We do not argue about that point, for it is true in the case of organized crimes and career criminals. However, for most of these mass shootings that we have witnessed since the Columbine High School shooting of the late 1990s, how many of them are in fact committed by quote-unquote “Criminals?!” Many of the shooters are people whom we would consider as unnoticeable, ordinary people, with no criminal histories! Their guns were purchased legally or taken from a family member who own these guys legally, as in the case of the Connecticut shooting.
Then, thirdly, how do you defend ourselves against such deranged people who ordinarily would not seem to be harmful at all? The pro-gun activists say, we need to arm ourselves for incidents like this! This is the point where their pro-gun argument starts to fall apart. For:
- First, it is impractical, if not insane, that we each arm ourselves with a gun of some sort. It is simply not doable. Can you imagine the kind of society we live in if we each carry a gun daily? If we reach the point that we each feels the need to arm ourselves with a gun as we go about doing our daily businesses, this would be a paranoid and chaotic society. Can you imagine that in University campuses, each college student has a gun under his belt or his/her bag? This is not safe, this is scary! How about High Schools, Junior High Schools, Elementary schools? Do we arm our elementary school children each with a gun! By no means is this doable, ethical, workable or practical. This would be absurd! What about bars, parks, work places? We have seen gun violence in these places as well, some at a massive scale. Should we then each carry a gun? Would this solve the problem?
- Secondly, the “more guns is more safe” argument falls apart because owning more guns would not reduce violence, it only begets more violence. When without a gun, deranged individuals at best could only resort to fist fights or knives to inflict harms on others. With a fire weapon, the story is entirely different. In terms of the severity of damage that can be inflicted on people, in countries where privately owned guns are banned, when ordinary people get into physical disputes, the worst damage people can do is not at all comparable to the kind of human damage that people in a pro-gun culture society can do. Attacks on schoolchildren are not something that happens in the United States only. It also happened in China and other parts of the world too. But those armed with only knives can only do so much damage to human lives when compared to someone who owns a gun in the United States that can easily shoot and kill 10, 20, 30 or more people without being subdued until the police show up. Deranged individual with a mere knife can be much more easily subdued than an individual with a gun.
- Thirdly, we have to understand that the argument for arming ourselves with guns to fend off deranged individuals, is first due to the fact that we live in a gun-filled society. Had we not lived in such a gun-culture society, had we not have the kind of prevalence of gun ownership, we would not have this kind of pro-gun argument to start with.
We have to understand that the kind of gun violence we are talking about here is not related to gangs or career criminals. Containing these criminal individuals would be the job of the police and law enforcement personnel. America has a crime problem, especially in the past few decades, no doubt about that. It only means that the police have some stepping-up to do in terms of containing crimes. Allowing citizens to carry guns to defend themselves is a passive tactic, and should never be intended as an active role for citizens to play. It is the job of the police, and they need to do it better. A pro-gun culture in the United States where gun is easily accessible not only does not reduce crime, it promotes guns ownership and violence, and that contributes in part to the problem of crimes in the United States.
However, organized crimes is not we are talking about here. We are talking about ordinary citizens with no criminal history resorting to violence for one reason or another. These individuals shoot to kill, not one or two, but on a massive scale. 20 young children dead! This is enough. In movie theaters, in schools, in supermarkets, in places where we supposed to feel safe, we are now victims. And the people who committed these heinous acts? Seemingly ordinary people with no criminal history.
I understand that this is not an easy issue to tackle. After all, we still have a legal problem. The U.S. constitution grants people in U.S. jurisdiction the right to bear arms. When we read the constitution, we must read it in the right historical context. We are no longer living in the same society and age that framers of the Constitution had lived. Perhaps, guns were a necessity during those times, but it is debatable it is still the case today. Very few of the developed countries allow guns and very few of them have the kind of gun violence problem we have here in the United States, and they are not less safe than we are.
There are much more I can talk about, but I will simply stop here. The public-policy problem before us at the root, is prevalence of gun ownership that made access to guns way too easy. I am just hoping that there would be a day, when a deranged person is out to harm someone(s), to vent his anger on innocent people and children, he can no longer do that with a gun to kill massively. And when he tries to harm with his fist and/or knives, he would be subdued quickly and more easily.
The gun-control discussion has been stalled for long. It’s time for the politicians on the Hill and in the White House to start addressing this problem seriously.