Sorry for getting all political on you. We usually try to stay away from these types of topics here at Deaf Dogs and Benevolent Gnomes, but I just had too much to say...
The recent mass killing at an elementary school in Connecticut is the latest heinous crime in 2012. News coverage has been so widespread that I won't get into the details of this event, since information and the gory facts we so secretly crave are readily available on other sites. I simply want to ask when is it enough? Which mass killing is finally going to makes us say ENOUGH!
Many people, including gun rights advocates, contend that such tragedies are not a time for advancing political agendas. I agree, but this isn't a political agenda. It's a human rights agenda, a decency agenda, a common sense thing, an opportunity to change this tragic course we're on. This horrible event should absolutely spur conversation and debate about gun control.
This is the second public mass killing THIS WEEK, after a shooting in an Oregon shopping mall. How many more will happen this year? How many more next year? Mother Jones recently published an article about all the Mass Shootings in America. The fact that we have a substantial list of recent mass shootings in America should disgust and appall every American citizen, regardless of your views on guns. There have been so many mass shootings over the last several years, that it is hard to remember them all. That's why this incident should spark a discussion about gun control, we can't let this incident fade into the past like the others.
I'm not a Commie Socialist America-hater. I love this country and respect our Constitution, it is perhaps one of the greatest documents of governance created by a society and is a uniquely living document. The Constitution has the ability to be changed, modified, and amended as the people see fit. The writers of the Constitution were scared of the way that British rulers of the Colonies made gun possession illegal, and prevented the Colonists from forming armed militias capable of overthrowing the British government in the Colonies. That's why we have a Second Amendment, not to make military grade assault weapons readily available for anyone to purchase.
Many gun advocates, especially on the far fringes become immediately defensive when the phrase "gun control" is even mentioned. All it takes is a visit to the comments section of an Internet news article related to this shooting and you can easily see extremist gun views being espoused. These gun zealots don't seem to understand that gun control isn't an all or nothing, black or white issue. You can have sensible controls around guns and gun ownership without making guns or gun ownership illegal. One gun control law won't lead to an erosion of your Second Amendment rights, but you know what might? Seeing news headlines of mass killings every week.
The NRA and pro gun crowd tried to convince the country that the assault weapons ban under President Clinton would bring anarchy, a complete repeal of the Second Amendment, gun owners being rounded up and thrown in prison. None of that happened. We can enact laws and rules surrounding guns and gun ownership that leave the Second Amendment intact and allow law abiding citizens to own guns while preventing SOME of those who shouldn't be armed from obtaining guns.
Not one of the family members affected by this most recent mass killing has said "While I disagree with his murderous rampage, I fully support this persons right to own guns". What these family members say over and over again is "Please, please let us do everything in our power to prevent this from happening again".
What laws/rules should we enact? Policy makers and those with years of experience in this arena can better answer this question, but I certainly think we should have some kind of mental health evaluation as a component of gun ownership. We should ban military style assault weapons whose only practical purpose is to kill human beings. We should ban 33 round large capacity ammunition clips (like those used by Jared Loughner in Arizona) for handguns whose only purpose is to kill human beings. We should consider limits on the number of guns that a person or household can own. No one person needs to have 20 different guns and 10,000 rounds of ammunition.
Again, to make my point clear - I'm not advocating for making guns or gun ownership illegal. This is not an all or nothing issue. We can make the process of buying guns, bullets, and gun accessories more regulated in order to prevent people who shouldn't own guns from stockpiling arsenals. The sad part is that genuine, law abiding gun owners should support common sense changes to gun laws in the country, but don't.
To answer you naysayers and gun zealots. Would these changes prevent a mentally ill person, or someone bent on destruction from illegally purchasing or stealing guns and carrying out a mass shooting event? No. No it won't. But if we put enough barriers between mentally ill people and gun ownership that we can prevent ONE, just one, of these mass killing from happening in the future, it will be worth it. Just a week ago there was a similar incident in China where a mentally ill person stabbed and injured 22 school children. While this event is sad and tragic in its own right, I would much rather read about school children being hurt than being murdered.
And to answer your inevitable question, no this isn't exclusively a gun control issue, it's also a societal issue. Along with reforming our gun laws we need to seriously look at how we treat mental illness in this country. I'm not one of these knee-jerk people who instinctively blame these tragic events on video games or movies or the media. But the truth is that America is a society that glorifies violence. Video games, movies, television, and music provide the background noise that amplifies our glorification of violence and desensitizes us to scenes of carnage and death and mayhem.
We need to seriously examine the role that media plays in our society and ask ourselves why these attention seeking, imbalanced people choose mass murder as an outlet. This may disgust you, but right now, right this second, there are young people out there who are watching these events in Connecticut unfold and saying to themselves "Wow, this guy was a nobody, now everyone knows his name, he's all over TV and the Internet. Maybe I should...". We need a find a way as friends, neighbors, family members, colleagues, and a society to reach these individuals who are mentally ill, or imbalanced, or isolated, or attention seeking and somehow reach them or help them before another scene of carnage emerges.
I'm always struck whenever one of these events occurs, that a city official or politician often ends up saying "please don't judge us based on this act, this is not who we are". The sad truth is - this is in fact who we are. We worship guns, consume and savor violence in our entertainment choices, sweep mental illness under the rug, and stay glued to the television when an event like this occurs. Let's change that. Let's start making substantive changes to ourselves, our families, our laws, and our society so that the next time this happens (tomorrow? next week?) we can genuinely say "this is not who we are".