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