Gun Control: Is Reasonable Discussion Possible?
I support the second amendment, and, with it, the right of the people to own guns. However, when it comes to discussions about reasonable gun control with fanatics, you might get the impression that I want to take away guns from all "law abiding citizens" so only outlaws have guns.
We have reached the point in America that mass shootings are more common than days. The answer to this according to the NRA, and its inane groupie-like supporters, is "we need more guns." Facts and statistics do not seem to faze them, and I wonder if it is even possible for me to have a reasonable discussion on the topic of gun control despite supporting the second amendment and the right of the people to bear arms. I can only imagine what it might be like to have a reasonable discussion if I were to favor the elimination of weapons!
I consider myself reasonable, as I’m sure most people consider themselves to be. Why, then, do inane NRA supporters (as opposed to reasonable second amendment supporters) have so much venom when discussing limitations on the types of weapons available, expanding background checks on gun purchases, and flaws in the logic for arugments they put forth? I simply do not know the answer, but it seems to eliminate any chance for reasonable discussion on the topic of gun control.
Limitations on the Types of Weapons
There was a law preventing people from owning assault weapons that ran from 1994 to 2004. It was not overturned. There was a sunset clause in the 1994 law, and it was not renewed. This was in large part due to the NRA influencing legislators with donations to those who would not support continuation of the law, and threats to support opposing candidates to any legislator who proposed or supported renewing the law.
It’s a glamorous thought that the NRA is an organization that weilds its power to uphold the common citizen’s right to own weaponry, but it is more accurate these days to consider the NRA as merely lobbyists for gun manufacturers - and outspoken lobbyists at that.
If assault weapons were banned, it would not set a precedent. Those types of arms would merely be on the list of types of arms that are already banned from being owned by the common person, such as bazookas, grenades, and nuclear bombs. It is fairly easy to get an ardent NRA supporter to confess that those weapons are rightfully banned from ownership, but the assault weapon gets a different response from them. Even though assault weapons are not the weapon of choice for the purpose of personal defense, and are the best weapons available to mount an offensive attack, they somehow are gilded as necessary for the common person to own by the fanatics.
Even limitations on the types of ammunition and the size of magazines is met with the inane argument that one who supports those limitations is really trying to take guns away from the common person, and reasonable discussion on the topic is thus halted.
Expansion of Background Checks
It seems any discussion about expanding background checks to include private sales of weapons, and to include mental health records checks, is most commonly countered with an argument that "they will still be able to get guns." I suppose the logic behind it is "if it won’t stop people from getting the guns illegally, why make it illegal?"
No law against something prevents it from happening. Murder still occurs despite laws against it. Rape still occurs despite laws against it. Speeding still occurs despite laws against it. The purpose for the law is to give society the ability to punish someone who violates the law - period. If it were against the law to sell a gun in a private sale without a background check, the law abiding citizen would run that background check. If they did not run the background check, not only could they not claim the status of "law abiding citizen," they also would be subject to criminal punishment for not abiding by the law if caught.
Opposing expansion of background checks to include mental health records seems even more illogical to me. I agree with the thought that "guns don’t kill people; people kill people." To me, though, that strengthens the argument that we should try to identify those people who are most likely to kill other people, and try to prevent them from getting the tool that enables them to kill most easily. To argue that they will only kill by some other means has the integrity of the argument Archie Bunker put forth: "would you feel better if they pushed them out of a window?" Yes, we should feel better if the murderer were forced to push his or her victim out of a window rather than to shoot them with a legally purchased weapon when we can identify the sociopathy in that person!
If expanding background checks to include mental health records and private sales is an attempt to take away your guns, then you either have a low opinion of yourself or there is legitimate reason to take away your guns. We can then continue to allow the sales of guns to law abiding citizens who can pass a background check.
Flaws in the Logic of Arguments
One of the most common arguments perpetrated by the NRA, and its rabid fanatics, is that mass murderers are not deterred by things like "no guns zones." That argument is absolutely true, and it has proven to be true time and time again. However, they do, at times, take it to an illogical point by citing the many school shootings that have taken place as if an armed teacher or student would necessarily be able to stop an armed intruder.
There was a tragic shooting at a Community College in Umpqua, Oregon in 2015 in which several people died. Oregon law specifically prohibits these types of schools from being no guns zones, and there were legally armed students on campus. It did not prevent the massacre. Armed students said they could not assist because they were in the wrong place, and that they feared being mistakenly identified by law enforcement as a perpetrator.
Another flawed argument is that the best way to stop a bad guy with a gun is for there to be a good guy with a gun. There are many examples of legally armed citizens stopping would-be killers that can be put forth to support this argument. What the argument lacks, however, is that it may be better to augment it by trying to prevent the bad guy from getting a gun, and for there to be good guys with guns if one of those bad guys slips through the cracks.
The most glamorous flawed argument is that the second amendment was written for people to fight the government if necessary. Now I don’t want to be a killjoy, but this just simply will not work.
First of all, the government has a military with such advanced weaponry that your assault rifle with a fifty round magazine would have the effect of a pea shooter. If it were so inclined, the military could seek you out in the cover of darkness and strike you down before you even knew you were in its sights. In fact, the only entity in the world that could possibly overthrow the United States government is the United States military, so you and your pea shooters might as well stand down on that argument.
Secondly, if enough people were to organize sufficiently to have any chance of changing the minds of those running our government, guns would not be necessary. If something were that wildly popular, the change could be effected through the voting booth.
Finally, fighting tyranny and starting revolution is not something even the NRA, and its most rabid fanatics, support, nor is it as glamorous as it sounds.
In 2007 a cop named Chris Dorner turned in some other cops who he felt were violating the law. He was fired. He appealed the firing for several years, but in 2013 had exhausted all legal recourse to fight the system. He then took up arms and started killing police officers over a several day stretch in February that year. The NRA and its supporters did not hail Dorner a hero for fighting tyranny; they labeled him as another reason to support no limitations on the second amendment. Apparently, they do not believe him legally owning weapons to fight tyranny was part of his second amendment rights.
Jared and Amanda Miller spouted their anti-government sentiments, argued against any restrictions on the second amendment, and boasted about helping Clive Bundy stand down the federal government over a land use dispute. They were everything the NRA claims a true American should be! That is, they were everything a true American should be until June 8, 2014. On that date, they started "the revolution." They did it by killing two police officers and an armed citizen who tried to stop them before killing themselves in a Las Vegas Walmart. The NRA and its fans did not give them accolades for taking up arms against the government; they used them as an example of people taking up arms against the government as another reason for no restrictions on the second amendment.
Arguments are so much easier to win when, regardless of the example, it supports your cause even when it does not support your cause. The answer to school shootings: More guns. The answer to guns didn’t stop the shootings in Umpqua: more guns. The answer to fighting government tyranny: more guns. The answer to someone using guns to fight government tyranny: more guns. The answer to standing up to the government: more guns. The answer to people using guns to stand up to the government: more guns.
It is like listening to a broken record, only not quite so enjoyable.
Is it Possible to have a Reasonable Discussion About Gun Control?
The answer is a resounding maybe on a personal level, but probably not on a societal level.
It is obvious that the NRA will not contribute to meaningful discussions, and they have a huge influence over many people who believe their fear tactic of telling them that not being able to buy a fifty round magazine is equivalent to the government siezing every weapon they own.
As long as ardent NRA supporters believe keeping mentally ill people who have a history of sociopathy from legally purchasing weapons is the government’s attempt to prevent them for owning weapons, those of us who support the second amendment, but also want to have a reasonable discussion about gun control, will have our voices yelled over.
On an individual level, reasonable discussions are possible. Three people who are close to me, and who support the NRA, have each confessed a willingness to require background checks and restricting sales to mentally ill people. One even said he thinks there should be a requirement to pass a gun safety course before allowing the purchase of a weapon. However, that falls well short of saying these three people will raise their voices to support reasonable discussion to peers who would likely consider them turncoats for even suggesting that maybe reasonable discussion is warranted.
Ultimately, though, I do not believe reasonable discussion is possible on a societal level as long as the reason for every point that someone makes for banning certain types of weapons, ammunition, and gear, for expanding the situations and scopes for background checks, and pointing out flaws in the logic used to support keeping things the way they are, is more guns.
Some other things I've written about: