Judging from the past few weeks (and my Facebook newsfeed), I’d say these are two of the dirtiest words in America right now. They certainly seem to be among the most virulent. Mentioning guns at the moment is just asking to start an argument.
But it’s an argument we need to have.
No matter what your stance is, it’s safe to say we’ve collectively ignored the issue of gun violence in this country long enough. Even though there are many different opinions for why that is, it’s time for all of us to act like adults and have a civil discussion about what we can do to change it.
The problem lies in the myriad of directions we could take from here. When I first decided to write this article, I realized instantly that it couldn’t be so simple as a “yes-or-no, black-and-white, gun control-or-not” opinion.
That’s because there aren’t two sides to this story. There aren’t even five sides. If only it were that simple.
Let’s cut to the chase: I firmly believe this nation has a problem with gun violence, and I also believe that this violence could be reduced—though not eliminated—by restricting the sale of certain firearms and magazines, and by enforcing heavier regulations on who is allowed to own them. Already I will have made a few enemies simply with that statement alone.
But, and this is a big “but,” I recognize that there are people who not only disagree, but just as firmly believe that my plan would simply increase the chances for gun violence. We can’t both be right, but that doesn’t mean we can’t discuss it.
There are some facts that need to be recognized. Facts that support both sides of the argument.
There have been 61 mass shootings in the U.S. since 1982. In just under 50 of those incidents the shooters obtained weapons legally. America is a more violent country than the rest of the world, but violent crime rates have been decreasing since the late ‘70s. Yet, in 2011 more people were killed with knives, hands, feet or clubs than any kind of rifle at all. High gun ownership does not equal more shootings, but states with stricter gun control laws have fewer deaths from guns per capita.
And this: more U.S. civilians have been killed since 1968 by guns than soldiers in every war this country has fought since its inception. I am not making that up, it’s from a study published by the Congressional Research Service.
In reality, gun control is not the perfect solution. It’s a piece in a larger puzzle of violence that needs to be understood before it can be fixed. Many people, including myself, were incensed upon learning that Vice President Joe Biden was meeting with leading video game industry executives about this matter.
But fine! Do it!
Look at every angle, examine every stone, find out why in this country we have such a tendency for violence. I don’t think the answer is there, but let’s examine everything: Guns, movies, video games, education, living conditions and mental health. They’re all parts of this.
A gun by itself is not an evil thing. Millions of law-abiding Americans own guns, and I’m not suggesting they should forcibly have their guns taken away. But a gun is also a weapon; that is its primary purpose. It’s something that can do great damage, and thus something we should limit access to only those that can be determined responsible.
There’s so many other problems that feed into this issue. Mental health is an obvious and key one. Criminal background checks are another. No normal person should be upset to have those things examined when attempting to purchase a firearm. And for those who are sick, we need better ways to help them, before they turn into another news icon and crime statistic.
But no, in all practicality, we will probably go back to petty squabbles.
No side will admit they have an ounce of responsibility in the matter and will deflect the blame to others instead. Obama wouldn’t answer a question asking why he hadn’t done anything about this matter before, and the NRA declared that video games are to blame and the solution is buying more guns.
They might not be, but let us please try, try, to have a civil discussion.