We Must Stop Pretending there are Two Sides to the Gun Control Debate

Categories: Guns

The argument against gun control should've gone out the window the moment 20-year-old Adam Lanza walked up to Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, and with completely legal firearms he plucked from his mother sometime before shooting her multiple times in the head, blew through a wall of glass, walked inside, and began slaughtering young children and the staff who protected them.

By the time he was finished, mercifully ending the onslaught with a shot to his own head, 20 children were dead, none older than seven years old, along with six adults who gave their lives protecting their doomed students. It was the worst day in America since, well, a few months ago, when James Eagan Holmes walked into a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado and sprayed bullets, like raindrops, into the seats and limbs and torsos and heads of moviegoers, killing 12 and injuring 58.

We're all healing, as we've had to do too many times this year alone, and everyone's faced with the question of what to do now. This is America, after all, one of the greatest nations on earth and, more than a few people will tell you, a country whose lands and citizens are handpicked and protected by God Himself. This can't happen. Our children are not livestock.

If any good can come out of so many lives senselessly lost, it's that America would maybe, as John Surico wrote, seize the day to act on guns, so that what happened at Sandy Hook Elementary School would never happen on our shores ever again.

The National Rifle Association has even been silent on the matter, not tweeting since the morning of the shooting, and deactivating their Facebook page just days after reaching 1.7 million followers. So it was surprising, then, that one of the country's most vocal gun advocates, "gun academic" John Lott appeared on CNN's Starting Point with Soledad O'Brien and argued that we should actually eliminate whatever laughable gun laws are currently on the books.

In the days following the Newtown massacre, people have offered, among other things, Godlessness, video games, and our widespread negligence of the mentally ill as cause for these periodic slaughters. Today, Lott blamed gun-free zones. "We try to make an area safe by banning guns," Lott said. "But what happens is it's the law-abiding good citizens who obey the ban and not the criminals."

The problem that logic faces, of course, is that there are entire countries, with criminals and children, for that matter, that are more or less gun-free zones. And in these countries with stringent gun laws, there are fewer guns in circulation, and fewer deaths. There were 51 total gun deaths in the United Kingdom last year. Australia saw 65 gun deaths in 2008. That same year, Japan, which has some of the strictest gun laws in the world, saw 39. In America, there are 34 gun deaths every single day.

It seems that the smart, sane, human thing to do is for Americans to publicly recognize that semiautomatic rifles and handguns like Lanza's are made solely to quickly and efficiently kill men, women and children with the flick of a finger. Because the amount of people who stop shooting due to finger fatigue are negligible, someone in a movie theater, or mall, or school, can ostensibly shoot until their magazines are empty and they're out of ammo. But when you can buy bullets thousands at a time, no questions asked, that's unlikely to happen, either.

Lott has argued for things like guns in schools, even though all evidence points to the fact that when guns are around kids, bad stuff happens, and kids end up dead. And conservative pundits on Fox News and elsewhere have argued that if a psycho wants to kill a bunch of people, the psycho can build a bomb, or grab a knife, or wield a pipe, or hell, use their bare hands, because it's all the same. Of course, it's not the same, because the very best thing about a gun is the effortlessness in which lives can be taken.

America needs to follow the lead of guys like Joe Scarborough and Joe Manchin, lifelong gun advocates who admitted on Scarborough's show Morning Joe today that their views have shifted, that they were wrong. Because they're fathers, and they on some level can imagine the gaping, ragged hole in their souls if their children were shot down senselessly, and they don't think something like what happened to Newtown should ever happen again, no matter what.

And to take action so that it doesn't, everything has to be on the table. According to the ATF, there are almost 130,000 federally-licensed gun dealers in the country, compared to about 143,000 gas stations. There are an estimated 300 million guns in circulation today. If we go forward with the attitude that gun deaths are a bad thing, and the only way to assure no gun deaths is to make sure that no one has a gun, then shouldn't we start by trying to decrease the number of guns people own?

The only way to do that is to attack the Second Amendment. Gun advocates of course ignore the whole "well-regulated militia" part, as they ignore that at the time, England was an almost all-powerful entity that people feared could come and wipe early Americans off the face of the earth at any time, and also that people then shot each other with muskets. Times change. It wasn't so long ago that women weren't seen as full citizens under the Constitution and that blacks were seen as property. When it gets outdated, we amend the document. Why not now? What right is more important than the right to life, the right to live to adulthood?

There are some uses for being able to kill things really fast, obviously. There is an ever-shrinking population of people that hunt for food, or need to defend their flocks. Gun advocates also argue that with so many guns already out there, people need and use firearms for protection. Maybe if someone had a gun in Newtown, or Aurora, or Oak Creek, or Covina, or Tucson, or Omaha, or Blacksburg, or Columbine, they would've saved the day. But where are these legions of samaritans stepping forward who have shot down would-be killers? And how can you explain away the Empire State Building shooting this summer, where bystanders were hit by stray bullets from well-intentioned, crimefighting NYPD officers?

In the wake of every mass shooting, we cry, then bloviate, then pretend that there are two sides to the fact that dozens of men, women, and children are getting blown away every hour of every day, then we move on, only to feign surprise at the next killing. It's almost impossible now to remove guns from Americans because the biggest, best argument for Americans having guns is that Americans love guns. So why not limit the amount of bullets a magazine can hold, or tax ammo, or institute a six-month waiting period? Why continue to make it easy?

America is now a country where anyone with a couple of extra bucks and some time to kill can rip an entire town to shreds in minutes. Sunday night, a shooter fired multiple rounds inside a San Antonio movie theater. Monday morning, Ridgefield, Connecticut schools were put on lockdown after reports of a nearby gunman. This can't happen. And yet it does.

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9 comments
pvalemont
pvalemont

Time for the USA to face up to the horrible mess they have allowed their country to get into. Their President is valiantly leading the way with the international arms treaty, and it is up to the people to put pressure on the Senate to make sure it passes through. Simultaneously, they need to start on cleaning up their own back yard. This is not a case of their right to bear arms under the 2nd amendment at all, but a case of basic human rights and children's rights as outlined in international charters on human rights, to which the US is a signatory.  The human rights issue overrides the 2nd amendment issue, no question about it.  People, particularly children, have a right to feel safe in their place of work, schooling, when walking the streets, in public buildings or in their homes. In the case of Newtown, there can be do doubt that the mental health authorities and current system plus Nancy Lanza’s ridiculous and irresponsible attitude to letting Adam carry 3 of her guns at the time she was extremely worried about his  mental health, were the primary causes for these fatalities.  However, his father is not exempt from blame. I have seen a picture on the Internet of Adam Lanza at one year of age or possibly younger, playing with a real gun, surrounded by an arsenal of weapons. His Dad now says he wishes he had never been born. I am sure Adam also wishes this now, in retrospect, that he had never been born, certainly not into that family. They, the crazy gun culture of America to which they ascribed and contributed, combined with the absence of tight gun laws in the USA are entirely responsible for this incredibly cruel tragedy. There is no psychological test that can adequately safeguard the community against such a crazed gunman, and no way of knowing when they will strike, where, or at whom.  The only answer is to ban the guns out of the hands of the general populace, especially heavyweight military hardware, for whom such guns were not designed in the first place.  An ultra right wing agenda, the Doomsday Preppers movement, idolization of neo-Nazi Anders Breivik and economist Ron Paul were among the key elements that also need to be addressed in relation to the the Newtown shootings. Time for a serious re-education program in the schools and universities. Ethics, morals and community responsibility need to be addressed in a big way in regard to combating the damage being done in the homes by some parents. A time for a national symposium too on mental health, particularly as regards gene mutation for Fragile X Syndrome accompanied by Autism, and the current treatments being metred out to patients. There may be a need for a closer look at how administration of drugs is monitored and by whom.  Gun advocates, please do not reply to my post; I will not reply to you. There is nothing you can say to me in the face of this kind or horror that can possibly justify your stance. Thank you.

Adam Lanza and the Newtown Massacre ebook

http://www.lulu.com/shop/pamela-lillian-valemont/adam-lanza-and-the-newtown-massacre/ebook/product-21281329.html

eggyknap
eggyknap

This article's title is exactly right -- we must stop pretending there are two sides. We must stop pretending that anyone in the debate condones the killing of children. No rational person wants to see mass slaughter, including those arguing against tightening firearms laws. The thing is, those people also look down on precipitously banning large swaths of weapons based on no greater evidence than raw emotion. The federal assault weapon ban failed, as did the Connecticut one. Places like China, with stricter bans, also haven't protected their children. Places like Israel, which allow citizens to arm themselves, have succeeded. So let's follow the example of some place where what they're doing actually worked.

kypackrat
kypackrat

The Israelis had a mass shooting at a school in the mid-70s. Now they have armed teachers and armed guards in schools. No more mass shootings. (I can provide links to kids and teachers with AR-15s on field trips if desired.) Thailand is doing the exact same thing. 

In the US, all (but one) of the mass shootings since 1950 have occurred in facilities that ban firearms. In Aurora, James Holmes deliberately passed theaters which did not ban CCW for the only theater in town that did. (The "but one": the Gifford shooting. Multiple spectators were armed, but none were able to engage before other spectators tackled the shooter.) OTOH, multiple events per year are stopped or blunted (the most recent, the Clackamas shooting) by civilians legally carrying concealed.

We already trust school personnel with our kids' lives. Teachers have at least three times the continuing education of policemen or infantry, and teaching basic position defense is easy (i.e. safely hold this spot, shoot any bad guy you see). Training willing volunteers for school defense would be trivial in cost and effort, but invaluable in saving children.

Instead of giving these teachers the tools they could have used to save their students' lives, we demanded that they sacrifice their lives and their students' lives in vain. Shame on us.

We're already arming commercial pilots, and it's working. Some schools in Texas already have armed adults, as are more private schools in the US than you would realize.

It's time to protect all of our children.

paradigmperipheral
paradigmperipheral

Hey Greg,

Instead of citing an emotional attack against Lott in which the reporter failed to address anything he said, you might want to actually take a look at his research yourself.

Though criticisms have been made against his ground-breaking work, over the last decade the majority of economists/statisticians/criminologists who have looked at it have come to agree with it's conclusions:

http://www.law.umaryland.edu/academics/journals/mdlr/print/articles/71_4_1205.pdf

Lott listed 18 studies that found such laws reduced violent crime, ten that said it has no discernable effect and one that found it increased violent crime.

mooswa61ny
mooswa61ny

This guy is just wrong, if guns were banned in this community how in the heck did this killers mother own 4 of them and keep them in her home? He is a fool.

debdoingdallas
debdoingdallas

@greghoward88 @villagevoice great piece, man. thanks.

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