On Saturday night/early Sunday morning, June 12th, 2016 at the LGBT club Pulse in Orlando, Florida:
- 49 people were shot dead, 50 including the shooter
- 53 non-fatal injuries incurred
- It was an apparent hate crime
- The perpetrator, Omar Mateen, had been previously investigated for ties to ISIS
- He was allowed to legally purchase firearms after the fact
- He was also physically abusive toward his wife
- A co-worker described him as “psychologically unhinged”, though he did past psychological tests
- Previously scouted Walt Disney World as a target
If gun violence wasn’t a daily occurrence in my country, and my brother-in-law wasn’t so passionate about his rights as a gun owner and well-read when it comes to politics–far more so than me–I wouldn’t be so on the fence about gun rights. I would be stark raving mad and as irrational as everyone else. Don’t get me wrong. I am genuinely supportive of gun rights (and every other right granted us as citizens) in the US. However, there are moments when I hear the phrase “gun rights” after tragedies like this and I truly, honestly, just need to throw up my arms and scream:
Because for every argument in favor of guns, another person dies in this country due to gun violence. Anyone without a criminal record can walk into a store and legally purchase a gun and the associated ammo, provided he/she passes the background check, and walk out of the store. They could easily run across the street and shoot up a mall right then and there if they wanted, just like that. You would never see it coming. But all because they have no prior criminal record or were let go by the oh-so-responsible FBI (if you don’t believe me, look at the startling number of people with supposed terrorist ties that they vetted, who then went on to bomb cities), they are permitted, in this country, to purchase a gun and run off and start causing chaos like a real-life Grand Theft Auto scene.
I jest a bit here, but it could happen. People can get them all willy-nilly.
There are reasons this cannot be done in countries like Canada, or most other First World nations on the planet (others may issue guns or allow you to purchase them, but not keep the ammo on hand). They look at us like we’re insane, and perhaps rightfully so. Because most other First World nations are 1) far older than the US, and with a much longer history concerning firearms rights and usage, and 2) it has made them responsible about gun ownership enough to realize that how we do things in the US opens a huge can of worms. The stark difference was that all it took for them, by contrast, was one or two massacres. Boom, tighter gun laws, no question.
So what, exactly, is our problem in the US?
Now before anyone starts screaming about gun ownership being a right under the US Constitution, I wasn’t making light of this to be sarcastic. I’m just pointing out the facts. Literally ANYONE could, within the realm of probability, do something drastic or insane like that in the US. I could. You could. Your nextdoor neighbor could. Somebody’s nextdoor neighbor already has. Ask the Harris and Klebold family’s neighbors. It’s a fact. We just don’t know. And yet we trust each other with this responsibility after all these countless tragedies? We live in an era where few people even have the balls to let their kids out of their sight for one fleeting second to go play outside because we’re told that child predators are running rampant everywhere. But somehow, we feel safer as long as we’re “the good guys with guns”? We are incredibly mistrustful of each other. Incredibly so.
And guess what?
That’s the whole point.
Firearms and the massacres carried out with them are just one of many things in this country that have MADE us mistrustful of each other. And that lack of trust leads to more gun sales, because more people are paranoid. Hell, it drives the whole industry. We live in a culture of fear, and that fear is destroying us as a nation. An entire generation of people have been raised on television and look at the world, and all they see is horror, because the media perpetuates that mindset and hammers home the nail of fear. Fear has driven a lot of horrid actions taken by this country, usually for the worst. And in turn, we as individuals become more volatile.
But if we cannot trust our own neighbors and fellow citizens, what in the name of all that is good and holy makes us think that we can trust each other when at least one or all of us has a stockpile of deadly weapons on hand? Can you even trust yourself?
Think on this for a moment: There is literally NO federal law limiting how many firearms a person in America can own, and while some states require multiple sales in a short time span to be reported to law enforcement, law enforcement by extension is not required to investigate said purchases.
Why should we have the right to own as many firearms as we can amass with the fewest possible checks, and in the shortest time span? And when we have clearly demonstrated, as a society, that we do not respect guns in America, and the damage they are capable of doing?
Going back to trust, do you get what such a level of fear and anger does? It throws responsibility out the window. So you’ll buy weapons and fumble to use them. That goes doubly so in situations when you’re faced with a knee-jerk reaction. Parents have shot their own children dead because they thought they were intruders, or they happened to leave the safety off their gun while in the car. In addition to this, the average first-time gun owner in America is not required to undergo training courses on firearm basics such as proper storage or how to aim, much less how to fire the thing. Are these really people who should be able to purchase such a deadly device? Would you want them trying to diffuse an active shooter? They would be far more likely to shoot themselves, or another innocent bystander.
That’s why a lot of European countries require military duty for all male youth, by the way; so they can defend themselves and their country if needed, and know how to handle and respect firearms properly. And even then, they still cannot obtain such weapons as easily as we can in the US.
Now sure, some argue you could own a multitude of knives or swords. And yeah, maybe in barring guns, they too would cause a problem. But they certainly wouldn’t kill as many people per second, even if used by a trained assassin, because guns are easier death machines and cause more fatal injuries by far.
I get it that owning firearms is your Second Amendment right under the US Constitution. I really do. And I support your rights. But I also really have to question just what makes you so afraid that you feel the need to own such a deadly weapon for protection in the first place. Is it because anyone else could potentially be holding a gun, or something else? There is an old quote, often misattributed to Einstein, which I think applies in this case.
“Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result is the definition of insanity.” – Unknown
Many people have said this in recent days too, and I think it bears repeating as well. Violence in response to violence is not the answer. And yet this is the excuse people use when it comes to the vast majority of arguments in favor of guns as a means of protecting themselves and their families from harm. But that makes little sense when it applies to an active shooter situation, as most massacres are over within two minutes. Heck, even any sort of attack, it’s not supposed to be your first choice! All experts and law enforcement concur that your NUMBER ONE priority in that scenario is to RUN. NUMBER TWO is to hide. If those previous points fail, then you can whip out your gun and start doing your thing.
But to the end of protection, I must ask…what about the protection of other innocent civilians who are gunned down every day because of firearms in this country? How might they have prevented it? Whether by a planned massacre or a careless accident, it seems to me that all of those deaths have been in vain. And I’m not mincing words here. They have all died in vain. Every single one.
Because if they’d died for a reason, we would be doing something by now about the collective careless mindset of ignorance that we’ve all adopted regarding guns in this country. It is not a right that the vast majority of us respect, because it’s been proven that fear hinders rational thought, and thus I personally believe that an overwhelming number of people in this country have purchased and own guns for the wrong reasons. Whether or not it’s your RIGHT is not the main issue for me. I question your motives for doing so.
They might think otherwise. And you can tell me that’s just my opinion if you want, that’s fine. I know it is. But it doesn’t change the truth that we have a major problem with our attitude surrounding guns, and the ignorance has gone on well past the boiling point. Even more than that, it’s become the gun’s foremost selling point. Not hunting, but killing or injuring. Supposed “protection” from people who are crazier than you are.
You know what other bogus things we do for “protection”? The PATRIOT Act. Infant circumcision. Building up our arsenal of nukes whilst demanding that other countries dismantle theirs.
Of course my opinion doesn’t matter, because it’s still your right to purchase and own a gun. And to that end, I would pose one final question to responsible gun owners everywhere, since I’ve yet to hear any actual solutions from them with solid points…
What would YOU do to prevent any further massacres?
And please don’t back down. I genuinely want to know. Because all I ever hear from people arguing gun ownership in this country anymore is “there are no easy solutions” or “we don’t fully know what causes these things, there are a multitude of factors”.
Stop making excuses. Gee, I don’t know, why is it that every other First World nation has tighter gun laws than us? Why do they look at us and shake their heads whenever a new massacre happens? Gosh, I dunno, could it be because there IS a way to prevent this nonsense?
Because I argue that if you’re such a responsible gun owner, it is YOUR MORAL OBLIGATION to prevent such careless tragedies from happening, because the stance you choose to take on this issue does not only affect you, but countless other Americans. Find a way. Please. Before any more people die because you chose to stand idly by and do nothing. Saying “it’s complicated” is an unacceptable cop-out when countless lives are lost to gun violence, all because such weapons are so easy to obtain. After all, if this is truly about protection, how can you logically, or in good conscience, fight for your own rights whilst letting others die in vain?
I can hear dissenting voices now. “How dare you equate me with the perpetrator, I didn’t personally do this!”.
No, you didn’t. But maybe, just maybe, your attitude about guns speaks more about why there’s such a problem in this country regarding firearms.
After all, when a Constitutional right to own something becomes more important than a single human life that has been lost, and you begin to see all these deaths as a statistic instead of actual people whose lives were equally worth fighting for along with your own, maybe it’s time you put down the doomsday device for once and ask yourself why.