Don’t get me wrong — we need to be talking about the level of our discourse and turning down the heat on the rhetoric — but there is a conversation we need to be having that politicians will recoil from like a vampire from Holy Water. We need to have a frank, honest discussion about guns and gun control. In short, we need fewer of the former and more of the latter. And I say that as the resident gun nut, which we define in these parts as someone who owns way more guns than they need and not nearly as many as they want. One of the guns I own is a 9 MM Glock much like the one the shooter used, but mine has a 12-round clip and a trigger lock. But I can tell you this — the very thought of a 33 round clip for that gun horrifies me. An extended clip for that weapon has one purpose and one purpose only — killing a whole bunch of people in a short period of time.
Medical and law enforcement professionals know it, too. I was working as a lab supervisor in an inner-city hospital with a trauma center when the assault weapons ban was allowed to sunset. Do you know what we did? We added a mass-casualty drill to our calendar, one that was specifically designed to prepare our team to deal with the aftermath of a shooting like the one that happened Saturday. Most of us had lived through the crack wars and the drive-by shootings of the eighties that created the climate that led to the passage of the assault weapons ban in the first place, and we had lived through a decade of steadily-declining gunshot traumas that came through our doors. An incident that brought us three GSWs at once was a rarity instead of a light night.
Maybe I am willing to take the heat for starting the conversation because I have a foot in two worlds. I was the country kid who grew up with a gun in her hands who was raised with the proper respect for firearms, who grew up to become a medical professional whose job it was to clean up the mess when guns were used, to tragic effect, to settle meaningless, petty disputes.
Whenever I broach this subject, I get some vitriol from both sides. Gun nuts are offended that I favor reasonable controls and regulations and anti-gun nuts inform me that I am an idiot because the Second Amendment clearly doesn’t provide for an individual right to bear arms. They lose me at “clearly” and I ignore those pleadings and will continue to do so until a bank of nine judges in Washington D.C. agrees with that interpretation.
The simple fact of the matter is, my worlds collided, and the tri-corn hat got knocked off the Second Amendment. Most of the people packing heat aren’t doing so out of “patriotism.” That’s bullshit. They do so out of fear because they are moral, psychic and physical cowards.
The stone cold fact of the matter is that guns changed society in immeasurable ways. Guns changed geopolitics when a single shot from a handgun felled Archduke Franz Ferdinand and the end result was a world war.
A mail-order deer rifle killed an American president and yet another handgun killed that President’s brother just months before he would have been elected President himself.
When I say that guns changed everything, I am not exagerating. They are the biggest god-damned deal mankind ever unleashed upon ourselves.
If you don’t think about the fact that you have in your hands an instrument that has the raw, unbridled power to change the course of history in the blink of an eye every time you touch one…you should not have access to a gun.
There is no question that we have a serious problem in this nation with gun crimes.
The question is…what the fuck do we do about it? We live in a somewhat free country, and the fact that ordinary citizens have that power I just waxed poetic about enshrined in the Constitution is ostensibly a pillar of our freedom – but most of the folks packin’ today I quite frankly can’t imagine as patriots and freedom fighters, so can we take the tri-cornered hat off the second amendment?
We all need a gut-check.
We need to start by fully enforcing the laws on the books, but we can do something more, and we ought to, even though it will be politically volatile and make the right wing freak out and buy even more guns and ammo in their never-ending preparation for the always-coming (when there is a Democrat in the White House) revolution.
We need to bring a basic framework of laws into standard compliance across all 50 states, with common sense adaptations. States need to share information. Thorough background checks for all firearms purchases should be mandatory, including psychiatric/psychological occurrences. I would go so far as to mandate that private sales, those currently unregulated, would have to take place through the county sheriffs office; and any unregistered sale proven in a court of law carry a stiff penalty, with mandatory prison time and the loss of the right to bear arms after a conviction.
I have been saying this for years: All the states need to have the same basic framework of gun laws because there are a few “donor states” (Mississippi, Kentucky and West Virginia, I am looking at you) with lax laws that flood the streets with cheap guns and that is why we have an epidemic of gun crimes clogging our ERs and our court dockets.
Reasonable regulation of a product that is specifically designed to, when used properly, kill, is not out of bounds.