A Few Thoughts on Debating Guns
Within hours of the news that early last Friday morning a gunman had killed 12 people and injured dozens of other at a cinema outside Denver, there were pleas across the Internet for us not to, once again, turn the latest tragedy into a referendum on our gun laws. Before noon on Friday, a post had gone up on the major right-wing blog Red State, asking everyone to "Shut Up. (Please): Sometimes mass murder is just mass murder - and that's horrible enough."
That’s the [...] message I have for the folks who are using last night’s massacre at an Aurora, Colorado cineplex as an excuse to fuel their hatred of political opponents, to push pet issues like gun control, or simply to babble stupidly.
But the Redstate writer protested in vain. The calls for more gun control were quick, pre-existing hatred was quickly prompted by the usual suspects and as expected flared [read the comments], and, well, stupid babbling is the norm in response to any situation, so that's hard to tease out from any other day, but...if you feel you've seen this film before, you're not alone.
In fact, we're so accustomed to this scenario in the US, that one of leading parody magazines, The Onion, dared to "go there" the very same day of the shooting [h/t wf]:
Americans across the nation confirmed today that, unfortunately, due to their extreme familiarity with the type of tragedy that occurred in a Colorado movie theater last night, they sadly know exactly how the events following the horrific shooting of 12 people will unfold.
While admitting they "absolutely hate" the fact they have this knowledge, the nation's 300 million citizens told reporters they can pinpoint down to the hour when the first candlelight vigil will be held, roughly how many people will attend, how many times the county sheriff will address the media in the coming weeks, and when the town-wide memorial service will be held.
Additionally, sources nationwide took no pleasure in confirming that some sort of video recording, written material, or disturbing photographs made by the shooter will be surfacing in about an hour or two. [...]
These weapons are military weapons. They belong in accountable hands, controlled hands and trained hands. They should not be in the hands of private citizens to be used against police, neighborhood intruders or people who don't agree with you. These are the weapons that maniacs acquire to wreak murder and mayhem on innocents. They are not the same as handguns to help homeowners protect themselves from intruders. They are not the same as hunting rifles or sporting rifles. These weapons are designed for harm and death on big scales.
- You can't step on the constitution at any cost
- Problems of definitions: "Wouldn't any weapon be considered an assault weapon if it is being used even in self-defense against another individual?"
- "Some guns aren't used for home defense or hunting. They are just owned because people like collecting guns."
- "United States citizens should not be banned from owning assault weapons, because we never know when the war is going to tread on our home soil."
- and even "People who fear guns are mentally ill."
On the other side of the debate, each argument boils down to one idea:
- "Citizens in the United States should be banned from possessing assault weapons because they are too dangerous"
With all due respect to those who support legal access to assault weapons by citizens, to my mind, that last idea is more convincing. It's the reason I'm comfortable with the government regulating nuclear materials, materials for making explosives, etc. etc. Those things are too dangerous in untrained hands or unstable/criminal minds for us to let the average citizen easily acquire them. Their potential for inflicting mass death and injury is too great. I'm terribly sorry for the people who just like collecting guns. I'm sure you're all really swell, but....
Actually, I'm not sure you are, and that's another big part of this equation. No one had any clue apparently what the killer here was planning, despite how many weapons and military accoutrements he had shipped to his tiny apartment. Had he not had a semi-automatic rifle, many more people would likely have escaped unharmed than did during his rampage. For that reason alone, I'm comfortable with two classifications of guns (and yes, I expect the definitions to be contentious, but at least it's a start): recreational (which law-abiding citizens can own with a background check and a permit) and military grade (which your average citizen is more than welcome to use upon signing up for the armed services).