GUNS AND VIOLENCE IN AMERICA: IS THERE A MIDDLE GROUND?
I am a gun owner and no I don't belong to the NRA. In fact, many of the ideas espoused by them I do not support. After the latest massacre in California, the usual players knee-jerked to social media that allows any of us to declare we are "experts." Statistics are bent and twisted to suit our particular points of view. The discourse becomes loud, contentious and at times personal. Reason is gone and rational thought is at a premium.
I'm not saying I have any of the right answers, but I do believe I can see both sides of the arguments clearer than hard-liners. I can see some valid arguments across the divide of both camps where advocates have their heels dug in so deeply that sinkholes are forming. So here are my thoughts and for whatever it is worth, some possible solutions.
The NRA accepts nothing that even hints or smells of gun control. This position is all too similar to the pro-choice advocates for abortion. Any controls or restraints, even third trimester or partial birth abortions, are seen as the first step on the slippery slope of curtailing abortion rights. For the pro-second amendment and pro-abortion rights crowd, it is an all or nothing game. This in and of itself is irrational and a non-starter for any balanced discourse.
I favor universal background checks and closing the gun show loophole. Gun dealers should not have to adhere to one rigorous standard and those selling "vintage firearms" in their backyard or a parking lot another one. In an odd moment yesterday I even found myself agreeing at first with our President. He said anyone on the "No-Fly" list should not be allowed to possess guns. "Yeah," I said to myself, "that seems obvious." I smacked my forehead and said, "I can't believe I am agreeing with this guy!" How can Republicans and the NRA disagree with this?
But then I though about it some more and came to a different conclusion. Who, I thought, is on a "No Fly" list: documented and potential foreign and domestic terrorists, of course. But the better answer is "who might eventually become on the No-Fly list?" How about the far right militia guys, the Obama haters, and any one else who advocates their right of free speech if it doesn't agree with the current administration? That can't happen you say? Really? Who could have once imagined that the IRS and the DOJ would become tools of the administration to stop and punish those who don't agree with them politically? But they did and they still do. Loretta Lynch's comments about cracking down on anti-Muslim rhetoric and speech rather than radical Islamic mosques and perpetrators are proof enough of that. How can we take seriously an administration that thinks that climate change is a bigger threat to America than ISIS?
Are there "too many guns" in America? Probably. But much of this is born of the belief and the reality that law enforcement is simply not equipped to protect us any longer. I know this first hand when someone recently tried to break into my house and was only deterred when I held a shotgun to his head. The police did not arrive for 20 minutes. I get it.
In a large free and open society, terrorism can never be eliminated. This is not Israel where the borders contain a country about the size of New Jersey. Even there random knife attacks cannot be prevented. Should Israel ban knives in order to reduce the violent death rate to zero?
Tougher gun laws do not necessarily work—California has one of the toughest gun laws in the country. High capacity magazines and "assault" rifles are "banned." How did that work out? Ditto for the citizens of Paris, Mexico, Illinois and Chicago.
I have long maintained that part of the problem with the isolated whackos that initiate gun massacres, like Sandy Hook, the Colorado movie theater, etc. can be traced to poor care for the mentally ill. There has to be a compromise between the old days of institutionalization, lobotomy and ECT, and today's run-free culture where privacy laws prevent even medical personnel from knowing that the crazy in the ER was just involuntarily committed last week down the street under a Baker Act. If anyone who has been treated for depression cannot buy a gun, then over 10 million people in the US will be denied rights. Most of the mass gun killings are committed by the mentally ill and unstable, and not religious zealots. Notable xceptions are Dr. Nidal Hassan and the San Bernardino couple.
And while we are on the subject of mass gun violence, let's get rid of a couple of bogus claims. When gun deaths and violence are corrected for per capita variation, meaning the number of people in the country studied, the US is not #1; that is Norway. We are not even in the top five. And no there has not been more mass gun violence in the US than days in the year. Things such as youngsters shooting bb's at each other are included in that misleading stat. And New York newspaper headlines notwithstanding, like "God can't fix this"; and yeah neither can more control laws.
So where does that leave us, other than dazed and confused? That's the question. I think second amendment advocates would feel better if our leader did not view much of the populace as "clinging to their guns and bibles" but that's who he is and we are stuck with him for another 13 months. But some reasonable concessions by the NRA crowd as I have mentioned, are needed as well. On the other hand, the fact that most of these violent acts are carried out intentionally in "gun-free" zones is hard to ignore as well.
We need leaders who can speak and govern from a middle ground, not just from a polarized pulpit. Otherwise nothing will change no matter how many new gun control laws are passed or prayers are uttered. If I have sufficiently pissed off both sides in the gun argument, then I suppose that means I have made a fair assessment of the problem.