Understanding America, Gun Culture and The Need For Gun Control

No funny captions today; this is a serious discussion we need to have.
Source: NBC News

So, October is normally the time where I start rolling out the spooky stuff for Halloween. But unfortunately, we need to delay that to talk about a real-life horror story in America.

I really struggled with how to approach the topic of the recent mass shooting in Las Vegas. I wanted to talk about the gun control issue that crops up every time this happens – which seems to be like clockwork at this point. I wanted to mention how it has barely been a year since the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando and we’ve already topped it as the most lethal modern mass shooting in U.S. history. I ached to put into words my frustration at how this will likely be ignored again and no new legislation will be made to help protect innocent lives.

But as I wrote this in my head, I realized I would essentially be paraphrasing Jimmy Kimmel’s heartbreaking words on the matter and I feel no need to repeat that.

So instead, I want to try to bridge the gap between the two sides. I want to understand how and why this country that I love so dearly has come to this point and spread that understanding to others in hopes of ending this lucid nightmare once and for all.

Firstly, know that I am not making excuses for people that are against gun control; I am very much FOR the regulation of firearms. And bear in mind that I say that as someone who has made frequent use of guns himself. The Second Amendment, like any piece of text from antiquity that governs the lives of others, is something that is in need of occasional revision.

Second, I’m not calling for a gun BAN. I feel that any rational American knows that a full ban on firearms is not only logistically impossible but also completely overboard. Any citizen of any country should have the right to defend themselves, their property, and their loved ones. The goal of gun control is (or at least should be) to make weapons designed for crowd suppression such as full auto rifles more difficult to obtain – thus reducing the sort of horrific numbers of casualties we see in these events.

That being said, I feel I do understand the logic of where most anti-gun control rhetoric comes from. Like most things that come from those that feel that old traditions are inalienable, the key to understanding their thinking and their concern lies in our shared history.

The United States was, in essence, built by the gun. It was an armed citizenry that took the place of a standing army in the days when we were just a British colony and it was that same armed citizenry that made the revolution a success. The gun was the only thing protecting people as they expanded into the lawless west. In many regards, the image of the American cowboy-style sheriff and his gun is as much of a romanticized part of our history as the English knight and his sword or the Japanese samurai and his katana; a symbol of one man’s power and duty to maintain order and protect innocent lives.

But, it’s plain to see that that isn’t the case anymore. Too many people that lack the empathy and logical reason to wield such a terribly destructive tool exist – not just in our country – but in the world writ large. We need some kind of improved system to keep the gun (or, failing that, the most destructive guns) out of their hands.

And yes, it does seem unfair that those of us who are good, caring, loving and law-abiding citizens have to sacrifice some of our power just because others can’t be trusted with it. But, I honestly believe that if we are half the heroes we romanticize ourselves to be, we would make that sacrifice for the sake of protecting our people from the cruelest among us.


The Agent On Guns (or “I Don’t Want To Ban Them; I Just Don’t Want The Wrong People To Have Them”)

I have no jokes here – this article hurt me to write.
Source: The New York Times

Field Operatives… I am SO sorry to drag you into this.

I know there are tons of people that are fatigued by gun control debate to the point that the discussion offends them, but that’s kind of the reason we need to keep talking about it. It’s a serious issue and ignoring it just because it makes you angry or uncomfortable is just plain childish. In fact, the reason I didn’t immediately jump on this topic is because I was so shocked by the recent Pulse Nightclub shooting in Orlando that, in a disgustingly uncharacteristic move for me, I was actively trying to NOT think because it made me physically ill to do so.

But, I’m beyond that now. I’ve taken to long to say what’s on my mind as it is and I need to say it.

Here’s the simple fact that we need to understand; a man who was on an FBI watchlist on two separate occasions, had a long history of violent behavior dating back to 3rd grade, and came from a religious background known for its intolerance towards a group of people that he personally identified with (Omar Mateen was revealed to be a closet gay man) was given access to tools designed SPECIFICALLY for the purpose of killing.

I can’t help but feel like SOMEONE should have been able to predict something like this would happen.

Now, as I’m sure you gathered from the title of this little rant, I’m not one of those people who are staunchly anti-gun. I believe that we all have the right to defend ourselves from the cruel, the psychotic, and the tyrannical. If it came down to killing a madman or watching him kill the people I love, I would take up arms against him every time.

But, I’m also the kind of person that doesn’t want to fight in the first place if it can be helped. That pressure that I feel on my finger and wrist as I pull the trigger; to me, that’s the weight of someone’s life barring down on me.

I try to think of it in terms of if I was a police officer. As an officer, my duty would be, “to protect and serve.” That protection covers EVERYONE – even the most lost souls among us. That’s why the best officers try to end a standoff as peacefully as possible; if someone – absolutely anyone – dies, then they’ve failed their duty.

Basically, I’m trying to get you to understand my thinking in why I support, not the banning of guns, but the introduction of stricter gun laws. We have enough people looking for better ways to win a fight; it’s time to find better ways to avoid having to fight.

I understand that stricter laws and lengthy background checks can be a nuisance to gun owners, but you have to think about it in terms of every other safety procedure. We have to take tests in order to pilot speedy vehicles. We need approval from doctors for medications with dangerous side effects. We need training in order to operate heavy industrial equipment. Doesn’t it make sense that something designed with the intent to destroy whatever it’s aimed at should have a screening process just as, if not more rigorous than any of those potential killers?

And yes, people who want to kill will find a way to kill; I get that. But the goal here isn’t to prevent murder (that’s practically impossible), it’s to keep the emotionally unstable from killing more efficiently. If you were a homicidal person that was denied a gun due to having a history of violent behavior, do you think you could get similar results with, for example, a knife? Unless you have the speed of The Flash, then of course not.

All I’m saying is that if it weren’t easier for me to get a gun than it was to get approved for my new car loan, then clearly disturbed people like Omar Mateen would be far less likely to ruin as many innocent lives as they do.