I am not a very political person, the whole running for president in my state notwithstanding. I am a centrist independent who has registered Republican on occasion, but never as a Democrat. I believe in fiscally responsible social programs in government and it disheartens me to realize that efficiency is not a priority in politics today, on any scale.
With the recent debate on gun control raging, I finally heard something that made me make a decision on where I stand on firearms in this country. We are a country that was founded on violence. We can’t escape that anymore than we can escape our inherit racism or religiosity (neither of which I subscribe to). We love guns. We can’t help it.
I’ve never owned a firearm of any kind, but I’ve been shooting a few times. The first time was when I was 6. The last time was almost 20 years ago. Every time I’ve done it, I’ve had fun. It’s not about the power over life and death. It’s about the ease of making a hole appear, seemingly instantly, 100 yards downrange with what amounts to the push of a button. Shooting guns is easy and the reward of accomplishment is immediate.
The problem is, of course, that some people don’t have the morals to not go and shoot someone. And that’s all it is. A question of morals. Or rather ethics, to remove the religious implication (it is possible to have morals without religion, but most people don’t use words that way). And it doesn’t matter if the morals don’t exist because of mental disease or a misspent youth. If the love of life is not ingrained in someone’s brain, then guns make it easier for them to hurt other people. That doesn’t mean, however, that guns are inherently bad.
The problem as I see it is not that guns exist. Without them, I wouldn’t be here. None of us would. It would be a completely different world. The problem is also not that there are specialized guns designed to kill quicker. They really are more fun to shoot. The problem is that it is too easy for people with no ethics to get a gun.
I think that bans on assault rifles and high capacity magazines are stupid because those bans miss the point. Yes, ARs have the potential to harm more people in less time. But in reality, it’s handguns that are used in most gun crime. It’s obvious when you think about it. What’s easier to conceal until you commit a crime, a gun as long as your leg or one that fits in your pocket? And that also doesn’t mean that there should be a ban on handguns, or even a limit on how many an individual can own.
No the problem, and it’s one that occasionally media attention, but rarely to the depth it deserves, is our lackadaisical approach to gun sales. We’ve all heard about the “gun show loophole” even if not everyone knows what it is. Basically, it’s legal for dealers at gun shows, or individuals anywhere, to sell a gun without running a background check. That means that I can buy a gun, of any type, from a neighbor at his garage sale without any sort of record keeping or check on my mental well-being or possible criminal past.
And if that weren’t bad enough, the ATF is not allowed to use computers to help with background checks. There is no central repository of information, like criminal records and mental health issues, that is available to everyone; the states keep their own records and phone calls, mail, and faxes are the only things allowed to be used to gather that info for background checks.
Even worse than both of those things, though, is the fact that gun stores are not required to keep an inventory list of their products. That allows unscrupulous owners to sell guns under the table and just report them as stolen. It also makes it easier for people to just steal them.
So to paint the picture, we have millions of guns that can be sold to anyone, regardless of mental state or criminal history. That is if they don’t just steal them. Or have a bad shop owner sell it to them anyway. And if they do try to obtain one legally from a license gun store, the background check will only be cursory because it requires too much legwork to do a thorough one. None of that makes any more sense than trying to do away with the second amendment.
We, as Americans, have the right to bear arms. It is not a right that should be taken lightly. But it is also not a right that should extended to those without the ethics required to enjoy the right without impinging on someone else’s right to live. Unfortunately, our politicians tend to follow ratings much like a TV network does, and therefore the real issues often get lost in the shuffle. But it’s not their fault. It’s yours and it’s mine. Because we, as humans, tend to focus on the immediate rather than bother to think things through. And that’s the real tragedy.