The Second Amendment states, “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” One’s right to raise a weapon is a freedom, and should not be discounted for its apparent lack of use in modern time. The Founding Fathers of the United States were revolutionaries and enshrined the right for people to rise up against any oppressive government, just as the Founding Fathers did during the American Revolution. Any government is less inclined to enslave a population that has the right to bear arms. Every dictator in modern history started with a gun ban under the auspices of protection and safety, when in fact it was disarming its citizenry. The current US Government may not require its citizens to revolt, but that does not mean it will never happen. Banning assault weapons not only sets a precedent, it does not address the evil that pulls the trigger.
My brother runs a firearms business, and as a Federal Firearms Licensee (FFL), he interacts daily with gun aficionados including collectors, sharp shooters, military and law enforcement personnel, and the general public interested in self protection or sport. He performs extensive background checks, complies with the BATFE, Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and deals with clientele who are affluent, not criminal. While not directly involved with his business, I remain familiar with our country’s gun culture, and I know that law abiding, gun enthusiasts should not be the targets of the pro-gun control movement.
The Newtown shooting remains an inconceivable tragedy, but unfortunately, it has created a biased notion that the NRA and gun owners are unsympathetic, and pose a threat to the safety of America’s children. This could not be further from the truth. A psychopath took the lives of innocent civilians in Connecticut. He pulled the trigger, transforming an inanimate object into one with the intentional power to kill. He committed matricide to gain access to the weapons. His mother is dead. She paid the ultimate price for owning a weapon. Those affected by Newtown want justice, and since there is no one left alive to accept blame, an assault weapons ban appears to be the only solution. This judgment is skewed and problematic. It fails to distinguish gun culture from criminal gun activity. It does not acknowledge the lack of metal health resources offered in the United States, especially within the public school system. It also does not address external factors, such as the rise in violent video games and movies, single parent households, socioeconomics, and more.
Millions of U.S. citizens legally purchase weapons for personal use, whether to add to a budding collection, as legacy collectors, shooting for sport, such as skeet or target, or just to own the latest in modern technology. Within this gun culture, the margin for error does exist, when there is unwanted access to weapons, a crime has been committed, or an accidental shooting occurs. Sadly, the public majority does not bother to read the statistics. Since 2000, for example, the overall homicide rate declined to levels last seen in the mid-1960s. In the United States, in 2011, 32,163 deaths resulted from firearms. Of those, suicides accounted for 19,766 deaths, 11,101 due to gun homicide, and 851 unintentional. The remaining balance falls under undetermined causes.
The National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS) is an interesting resource that breaks down homicide victimization trends relative to age, sex and race, type of crime (gang, argument, felony), occurrence within large and small cities, etc. The proportion of homicides, with or without a gun, involving two or more victims remains relatively stable at 4.5% since 2000, with homicide incidents involving three or more victims remaining less than 1% of all homicides each year. Mass shootings fall under this less than 1% bracket, but wield tremendous social impact. On the flipside, according to the FBI, in 2011, “firearms were used in 67.7 percent of the nation’s murders, 41.3 percent of robberies, and 21.2 percent of aggravated assaults.” From this, one might assume a gun ban will reduce gun related crime and death. Should a gun ban go into effect, however, this tightens the control on those who lawfully attempt to obtain a weapon. It does not affect criminals who ultimately commit the majority of these crimes with an illegal weapon. According to the Department of Justice, which interviewed State and Federal inmates who committed a crime with a firearm for which they were serving time, 13.9% of offenders purchased a gun from a retail store, pawnshop or flea market, 0.7% from a gun show, 39.6% from a friend or family member, and 39.2% from the street or other illegal source.
The next issue involves the current mental health disparity in the United States, which has received greater attention due to Newtown, but as it requires long-term change, it lacks the immediate “results” the public is hungry for. Full-time psychiatric facilities and asylums to house the insane and mentally ill were scattered throughout the United States in the mid 1900’s. Facilities such as Pilgrim State, the old Kings Park Psychiatric Center, and Edgewood State Hospital dotted Long Island, NY. Only Creedmore Psychiatric Center remains (it was used in the 1870’s as a firing range by the NRA before the property was handed back to the state). These facilities were shut down in the “shift from long-stay public hospitals to acute care provided in private settings. States have reduced their costs by shifting their financial burden to federal dollars and commercial insurers through managed care practices.” And because of this shift to managed care, there are bed shortages, increased use of ER rooms, and shortfalls in funding for community-based services. The end result is a nation with a growing rate of mentally ill people who are homeless, in jail or prison, many of whom remain untreated. The pro-gun control movement has put a premium on gun control, yet the real solution resides with improving mental health in the United States.
Finally, examining other influences is necessary in preventing future gun violence, particularly the video game industry. In 1993, DOOM made its debut as the first of its kind, video game based on graphic violence and satanic imagery. The horror themed, first-person shooter video game was played by over ten million people within two years of its launch. It’s popularity lead to the DOOM franchise, which since paved the way for other first-person shooter video games, including HALO, Call of Duty, and Medal of Honor. It was well known, after the massacre at Columbine, that shooters Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold were avid players of DOOM. The U.S. Secret Service’s Safe School Initiative, however, was unable to create a specific profile from the students who contributed to school shootings. In fact, the “attackers came from a variety of family situations, ranging from intact families with numerous ties to the community, to foster homes with histories of neglect.” The U.S. Secret Service and Department of Education delivered a report that shows video games do not correlate directly to school shootings. Despite both organizations’ denial of such influence, no one should deny that such video games glorify gun violence, and trigger a negative influence.
In summary, our right to bear arms is an inherent right, and the quick and easy answer, to impose a ban on assault weapons, does not provide an equitable solution. Instead, it sets a precedent for a future ban on all guns. Criminals will always have access to weapons, whether a knife, rope or gun, so we, as civilians, must retain the right to protect ourselves. We must remember that one psychopath does not dictate the action of an entire group. The majority of the millions of legal gun owners do not kill people, nor do they wish violence upon children. Before any gun ban should be remotely considered, mental health resources must improve, and today’s youth must be encouraged to engage in healthier activities. Individuals taking part of the pro-gun control movement have insisted the 2nd Amendment of our U.S. Constitution is antiquated, but it was created as a safeguard against tyranny. Above all, it was created, and remains in effect, to protect our freedom.
Written by Katherine K., 6 FEB 2013
- Gun Policy, United States — Gun Facts, Figures and the Law (http://www.gunpolicy.org/firearms/region/united-states) accessed 2 February 2013.
- U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Statistics, Homicide Trends in the United States, 1980-2008 (http://bjs.ojp.usdoj.gov/content/pub/pdf/htus8008.pdf) accessed 2 February 2013.
- Federal Bureau of Investigation, Crime in the United States 2011 (http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/cjis/ucr/crime-in-the-u.s/2011/crime-in-the-u.s.-2011/violent-crime/violent-crime) accessed 2 February 2013.
- U.S Department of Justice, Survey of Inmates in State and Federal Correctional Facilities, Firearm Use by Offender (http://bjs.ojp.usdoj.gov/content/pub/pdf/fuo.pdf) accessed 5 February 2013.
- Health Affairs, Hospital Psychiatry For The Twenty-First Century (http://content.healthaffairs.org/content/28/3/685.full#xref-ref-2-1) accessed 2 January 2013.
- United States Secret Service and Department of Education, The Final Report and Findings of the Safe School Initiative: Implications for the Prevention of School Attacks in the United States (http://www.secretservice.gov/ntac/ssi_final_report.pdf) accessed 2 February 2013.