Let's Get Offensive

I generally try to avoid controversy socially. I watch the news. I read articles and reports. I listen to politicians. And usually among the many things heard, read, seen, etc., I find something I don't agree with. Unlike most in today's always-on, digitally-connected society, I choose not to take to social media to spout my personal beliefs or some half-cocked statistic that I merely parrot from someone who had a similar thought to my own without researching the statement first. Instead, I either keep my opinions to myself or I choose to do a little research to better understand the facts.

Keep in mind, that by "do a little research" I do not mean to imply that I feel that I am in any way an expert in these matters but simply someone who spent a few minutes doing some Google searches on things that seemed relevant to the topic and tried to only consume data believed at the time to be from an unbiased and fair source.

However, I recently read an article, I won't link it here, that stated that the author once felt that gun violence and the lack of action to curtail the behavior was a matter of racism. The article's author explicitly called out that they felt white men in particular refused to see gun violence as an issue because it was seen as only impacting the black community. Wow! However, the author went on to say that recent tragedies had changed their opinion that gun violence isn't about race but that we love our guns more than our own kids.

I took offense to that view.

Of course because I am a white male, anything I say may be discounted but I love my kids more than anything else, including my guns.

That said, my thoughts on gun violence is that malevolent violence of any type is disturbing and is not something that should be tolerated socially. But the constant cries to ban gun sales of a certain type or even of all types is a shortsighted rally cry to achieve virtually nothing.

I'm not going to slam those who support that action as ignorant or uninformed because frankly I don't know that. I'm not going to blame people who have been victims of gun violence for what would be a logical concern for them. That'd be like blaming someone who was a victim of drunk driving for speaking out against alcohol. Their position is understandable, but it doesn't necessarily make it reasonable.

And that's the issue with society today. Thanks to the prevalence of social media, the Internet, and the wide variety of platforms and channels for people to speak out on and listen to, everybody has an opinion they want to share but it seems that nobody is willing to listen to anyone else. It has become "my opinion is right and everyone else is wrong" across the board. Even people with similar but slightly differing opinions can't come to an agreement because they are unwilling to listen to anyone's opinions or perspectives that don't match their own.

But rather than use this article to get on my soap box and blast everyone with my personal thoughts on gun violence and crime, let's take a look at some things from throughout our nation's history that may paint a different picture.

First off, the Second Amendment. There have been tons of arguments over this for years. The Second Amendment gives the people of our nation "the right to bear arms." Proponents of the amendment point out that under our nation's constitution that is it our legal right and choice to buy and possess personal firearms. Opponents on the other hand argue that the amendment was written in an age long ago that also supported slavery and that like slavery, this right should be abolished in our modern age. However, if you take a closer look at the full wording of the 2nd Amendment you will see that it goes much deeper than just our legal right to buy guns for fun.

"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."

Our nation was born from rebellion. Those colonials rose up in defiance of an oppressive British monarch to create a new State, "a free State." That revolution wouldn't have been possible if it weren't for the landowners and private citizens of the colonies who had guns in their homes and were able to band together to form a non-government sanctioned militia to fight against those believed to be oppressing them.

This clause was added to our nation's constitution because the founding fathers wanted to make certain that our budding government could never oppress its people completely without fear of an uprising or rebellion. A population without arms is a population at the mercy of others. When a government is the only armed force then the government can act against its own people with relative impunity because the people lack the means to fight back. All those men and women who risked everything to break free of the British crown more than two centuries ago wanted to make sure that their descendants and all who came to their new nation would always have the ability to resist a despotic government.

For many, the subject of banning gun sales of any kind isn't a matter of loving gun violence or putting a personal love of guns over their love of family but a sense of patriotism. Some see it as the first step in government overreach by circumventing the constitution. We all complain when we think our 1st Amendment right to Free Speech is being infringed upon and to many, gun control is the same kind of government infringement on our constitutional rights as provided in the 2nd Amendment. It becomes a question of when is one of those amendments no longer valid versus giving up the personal freedoms our country and its constitution are supposed to represent.

But there's more to the 2nd Amendment's power than just allowing private citizens to stand up to its own government. It also gives us power to stand up to foreign governments in the form of preventing invasions.

And that brings me to my second point, other nations do not want to invade the U.S. in a land war because of the sheer number of guns in private homes. While the U.S. has a dominate military, the bulk of that military is rarely stationed in the continental U.S.. During WWII, both Germany and Japan feared the idea of a land war in North America. Even in the 1940s, the number of guns owned by private citizens was high. Both countries knew that even with our troops primarily stationed overseas fighting that our ability to form militia groups of heavily armed private citizens would potentially be disastrous to their invasion plans. And in the years following WWII, any foreign power thought to be a threat to our way of life created those threats through the power of long-range ballistic missiles. Really not since the War of 1812 have American citizens had to fear soldiers of a foreign army attempting to invade their home and that is directly linked to the 2nd Amendment's "right to bear arms." In a time of need, citizens don't need to depend on a police or military force to defend them because the 2nd Amendment gives them the ability to defend themselves from threats both foreign and domestic.

With that understanding, some might argue that since no nation wants to invade by land, or no longer needs to invade by land, that guns are no longer a true means of dissuasion. While the need for a land invasion by a foreign force may be largely unnecessary due to modern long-range weaponry, there will always be a need for some level of localized occupying forces before any area can be considered conquered. If the goal is to render our land useless, then sure, nuke it and be done but if a foreign power wants our infrastructure or natural resources, both of which are abundant, they can't just nuke the whole thing. In order to obtain what has made our country powerful, a foreign nation will require boots on the ground in a sustainable fashion and a persistent threat of an armed populace helps to stave off such invasions.

What is the true measure of such deterrence? It is hard to say. Having been a heavily armed nation since its founding, there isn't a good measure to say how effective that approach is other than its own historical value. We can't even really compare our nation against other nations given the disparity between locations, regional political climates, economies, or anything else. It seems that due to our history and relative geographic seclusion compared to the countries of Europe, Asia, Africa, and even South America that find themselves surrounded by countries that are at times hostile towards them or are smaller countries than their neighbors that our situation compared to theirs in terms of invading forces can't really be seen as reasonable examples. Although, one only has to look at Russia's recent invasion of Ukraine to make a reasonable argument for keeping the 2nd Amendment and allowing for private gun owners.

But for me, it comes down to this: if we go the route of outlawing something because it is dangerous then we have to outlaw everything dangerous. Guns kill people but so does alcohol, cigarettes, knives, bats, hammers, cars, trains, planes, foods, poisons, medicines, water, boats, bicycles, ATVs, glass, and of course the ever present threat of gravity. And I know that's reductio ad absurdum to use such extreme examples but I do that to prove a point that banning some guns, or even all guns, will not curtail the endless meaningless loss of life that so often prompts these calls. Anything can be used as a weapon when angry enough. One's intent to cause harm to another is not solely dictated by their access to a firearm.

Furthermore, I point to what I have seen as shocking when watching live cop shows like Live PD and On Patrol: Live. My wife and I are in a constant state of shock in the sheer number of people who drive without a license, some never having been issued one but are WELL over the age of 16, and the number of people we see get arrested for being felons in possession of a firearm. And it is that last point that really stands out to me when discussing gun control.

This next bit might sound like some "right-wing rhetoric" but a part of me, a big part of me, does agree that gun control only affects those looking to own and possess guns legally. Felons already aren't allowed to buy, possess, carry, or use a firearm of any kind. What additional gun control can be applied to that scenario? They're already not suppose to have or be around a gun, whether it be a handgun or assault rifle or any other type of firearm. Restricting the legal sale of any type of gun wouldn't impact felons any more than the current laws do since most felons don't acquire these guns by going to a store and buying it after being flagged as a felon.

But Gary, if people can't buy guns to give to the felons then they can't get them either, right?

Wrong. We, as a nation, spent several years where it was completely illegal within our nation's borders to produce, distribute, or sell alcohol. For 13 years, the U.S. was a 100% "dry" nation but the people that called the U.S. home were anything but sober. Illegal distillers were everywhere. Rum runners learned to specialize their cars to outrun the police to distribute their illegal goods, and later would serve as the foundation of NASCAR. Speakeasies sprung up in nearly every town across the country where mobsters and defiant citizens would peddle their illegal hooch to thirsty patrons. Six different government organizations from the FBI all the way down to the postal service worked to foil bootlegging operations but ultimately failed to do so leading to the repealing of prohibition in 1933. Many attributed prohibition's failure to the creativity of others to smuggle and produce the forbidden goods while others pointed to the established supply that was already in the hands of business owners and private citizens that allowed for alcohol's continued consumption and distribution well beyond the time that domestic production had been outlawed.

And today guns are no different than alcohol was in 1920. Millions of guns are in the hands of private citizens already. Guns can be produced by skilled artisans or 3D printers even. Stopping the sale of assault rifles at this point only drives the value up on the thousands or millions already in private collections. And because they already exist in the community then felons will continue to have access to them. If you take the guns away that people already own, what's to stop someone from hiding a gun from the government which keeps it out there to be used by those who shouldn't have them? How do you stop people from making their own? How do you prevent people from illegally importing them into the country from other countries? We can't even stop the illegal import and export of people. What makes you think the government can stop illegal guns from coming in? How's that War on Drugs going?

Again, I know, with the reductio ad absurdum. But they are valid points. Historically speaking, our country has made multiple attempts to outright ban things only to find that for those who really wanted what was illegal could still find a way to obtain them. As a nation, we have a pretty bad track record when it comes to enforcing these types of restrictions. It really reduces such efforts at the political level to little more than PR stunts so when it comes time for re-election the politicians can point and say, "look, I did that thing you wanted me to do. It really didn't achieve anything in the long run but I'm still an effective politician who deserves your vote because I did want you wanted, even if it meant nothing." And to that end, I don't know that most politicians would support a full gun confiscation bill because many of them own guns as do many of their largest donors. You can't piss off the money people by taking what they own by force.

But at the end of the day, it comes down to this for me, it is better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it.

To back up my point, I'll point to a very personal set of experiences for me. Back in the late 80s/early 90s, one of my aunts went through a particularly nasty divorce. Her former husband did not take too kindly to the dissolution of their marriage and angrily blamed everyone in the family for their divorce. This included calling my aunt, my grandmother, my grandfather, and my parents and threatening to kill everyone in each house. At the ripe age of about 12-13, I was confronted with this situation and routinely found myself home alone after school, something my aunt's ex was well aware of. One afternoon while sitting alone in the house watching my afternoon shows there came a terrible racket from our back door. It had the distinctive sound of someone trying to break it down. I grabbed one of my father's guns, that I had been trained to use since I was young, and confronted the would-be intruder. They ran before I could get a good look at them but I ensured they knew not to come back by letting a few rounds loose in their direction. To this day, I assume it was my aunt's ex because of the threats he had made and because shortly thereafter he was involved in another incident involving a gun. One night while drunk, he went to my aunt's apartment and attempted to kick in her front door while shouting how he was going to kill her once he was inside. Luckily, my aunt had a gun in her legal possession and used it to stop him from causing her harm. She did not kill him or even paralyze him. The shot wounded him significantly, preventing him from attacking her, but had it not been for her ability to own that firearm then we would have most likely been attending her funeral in the following days. Likewise, had it not been for my father's ability to own a fire arm then it might have been my parents attending my funeral as well.

Just like how I mentioned that the opponents to the 2nd Amendment often have had some personal experience with gun violence that makes them not appreciate them, some of us have had experiences where the 2nd Amendment literally saved our lives. Having had the experience I had and knowing of my aunt's experience, how could I in good conscience argue against allowing private citizens to own guns? Like I'm going to take a stand against the very thing that most likely saved my life, or at the very least kept me from becoming the victim of a crime. Had it not been the rights for American citizens to own guns, my family would likely have been much smaller today because some of us would no longer be here due to that individual who choose to operate outside of the legal boundaries of our nation's laws and was unable to fulfill his heinous plans. Legal gun ownership thwarted not one but two illegal acts against my family and likely spared my aunt and myself from severe injury or worse.

Those harmed by guns are more likely to want fewer guns out there, which makes sense from their perspective. Those protected by guns are more likely to support the ongoing sale of guns to the public, which also makes sense from that perspective. Those who have never had an experience with guns one way or the other may go either way. And just like with everything else, there is no single solution that will make everyone happy. And when it comes to preventing violence, history teaches us that violence transcends a singular method of violence. If we woke up tomorrow and guns no longer existed within the world, violence would still be possible and would still happen. And nobody can argue that without guns the loss of life contributed to gun violence would have never happened. Some might not have happened but others might have happened with the use of other means that could have either decreased or increased the loss of life. We will never know. All that any of us can know is that humans have been killing other humans for millennia and that won't stop just because we as a nation ban assault rifles or any other type of gun.

But for those who argue against assault rifles and cite school shootings or other mass shooting events as justification for such bans, I encourage you to do some research on which types of weapons are more predominately used in those events. While some do use assault rifles or have had assault rifles among their armaments, there is a staggeringly high percentage of those that either use handguns exclusively or where the handguns did as much or more damage than the actual assault rifles. In my opinion, banning assault rifles to curtail gun violence is an empty promise or merely wishful thinking. The statistics I've seen do not give me any confidence that gun violence or mass shootings would noticeably decrease if assault rifles were banned. It seems the stance against that particular style of weapon is little more than a rally cry and an attempt to use that style of weapon's aggressive design to strike fear into people to support a losing cause.

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