So, What Do We Do Now?

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December 17, 2012 by bellabettina79

“This awful massacre has changed where we go from here. Our conversation should move beyond dialogue,” -Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.)

Warning: If you are not willing to consider an open-hearted and open-minded discussion about access to guns, do yourself a favor and stop reading now. While I am using this blog to voice my opinion, I am always open to other viewpoints, and if I am wrong I will certainly change my views. However, what I have seen on social networks the past few days – friends insulting one another over differences of opinion – sickens me. Initially I had refrained from posting my opinion on social media, opting to simply ask for an intelligent discussion about what our nation needs to do about mass shootings, since so many in my news feed were getting nasty with each other. Apparently, some thought my request for discussion was endorsement of political policy, and the discussion was bunked before it got started. Given that I am actually ready to state my opinion, let me say now that we are adults, and I expect anyone who feels led to respond will do so with thoughtful, educated, insightful comments.

What I am writing about today is emotional, and is neither defined by boundaries of black and white or right and wrong. We may all have opinions about the Second Amendment, but if we haven’t learned by now that the unbelievable arrogance of some in this nation is leading to tragedy then the “you’re wrong, I’m right” mentality is going to perpetuate the problem we face today. In addition, it will bring zero justice to anyone who has died at the hands of someone who has used a weapon to murder innocent people to prove whatever nonsensical point resided in his or her mind at the time. When innocent people are dying, we all need to consider an alternative to our own views.

Tragic deaths happen every day, in cities all across our nation. Some deaths are symbolic of everyday challenges (Tupac) or ignite wholistic social change (Martin Luther King, Jr) due to the magnitude at which the carnage pulls at our heart strings. Sadly, the media is the greatest controller of how frequently or in what detail we hear of such deaths, and this control runs the risk of creating a numbing effect on our emotions with respect to violence.

While our country is faced with images and stories of the tragedy that happened at Sandy Hook Elementary School this past week, many may not realize how often this kind of violence has happened in 2012 alone. The 24-hour news cycle of all media outlets means some relevant stories will be ignored or barely spoken of so the different news stations can have a competitive advantage for viewers. At the same time, the substantial news coverage of the shootings in Aurora, CO and Portland, OR were so recent, I’m sure anyone who hasn’t been hiding under a rock has to be questioning what the hell is going on.

Today I ask myself how many more of these mass shootings we need to hear about before this country realizes the status quo is NOT working. One thing that has happened since Friday is a lot of heated discussion about gun control and mental health care. I understand (though I disagree with) the viewpoint of strict Constitutionalists and those who support the Second Amendment carte blanche. These people are passionate about the ability to protect themselves from government and societal oppression, and the use of guns in hunting for food or sport. I get it. But I think it’s time we address the reality that some rights we have in this country need to have limitations that are necessary to protect ourselves from greater harm.

While driving is a privilege law abiding citizens enjoy, drivers in 45 out of 50 states must wear a seatbelt to help prevent devastating injuries or death, should an accident occur. Responsible driving does not exempt any of us from this law, as 45 of our states have determined the benefit to all outweighs the inconvenience of the few. This will not guarantee everyone in those states wears a seatbelt (and those who don’t, what the hell is your excuse??) but a driver can be cited if they are caught without a seatbelt while operating a vehicle.

Businesses have the right to appeal to their customer base with atmosphere and amenities, but in order to protect the rights and health of non-smokers, some states have enacted a ban on smoking inside restaurants, bars, non-hospitality workplaces, or various combinations of these places. While this may prove inconvenient for some smokers, the intent behind such restrictions was to create a better opportunity for non-smokers to frequent the same places as smokers, without compromising their desire for a healthier lifestyle. While some businesses are opting to pay fines in order to allow customers to smoke indoors, the vast majority are complying with the law to protect the masses.

We already do have restrictions on gun ownership in this country, but the argument against further restrictions seems (to me) less relevant after 9:35am on December 14, 2012. Many of the laws we have that restrict access to and use of legal objects or substances are written to protect the masses from the negligence of the few. Obviously, guns are a very sensitive topic to begin with, because the support of firearms is polarizing by nature.

To be honest, this isn’t rocket science – guns are intended to kill. One can use a gun to kill for sport, kill for sustinence, kill for protection, or kill for revenge. The negligence of some who own such a weapon (legally or illegally) will be the driving force behind the laws we have that grant access to these objects. No amount of responsibility shown by good drivers can negate the damage done by accidents where seatbelts aren’t worn. No amount of good fortune had by a 60-year-old smoker who has not developed lung cancer can negate the damage done to a child breathing in the second-hand smoke in a restaurant. Furthermore, no amount of responsibility shown by the majority of peacable gun owners can fade the stain of mass shootings this country saw 16 times this year alone:

2/22 – Norcross, GA
2/26 – Jackson, TN
2/27 – Chardon, OH
3/8 – Pittsburgh, PA
3/31 – North Miami, FL
4/2 – Oakland, CA
4/6 – Tulsa, OK
5/29 – Seattle, WA
7/9 – Wilmington, DE
7/20 – Aurora, CO
8/5 – Milwaukee, WI
8/14 – College Station, TX
9/27 – Minneapolis, MN
10/21 – Brookfield, WI
12/11 – Portland, OR
12/14 – Newtown, CT

In all 16 shootings listed above, the victims and the location appeared to be random. The killer had access to guns and ammunition, but whether the access was gained legally is questionable. Arguably, it is difficult to prevent criminals and mentally unstable people from doing business on the black market to obtain a gun and ammunition illegally if they cannot pass a background check to obtain one legally. However, in the grand scheme of things, is this really a valid argument for maintaining assault rifles as a legal weapon? Would we accept the viewpoint of “They’re going to do it anyway, may as well just make it legal” for legalizing herion or cocaine? How about child pornography? Better yet, since teenagers have sex anyway, shall we say statutory rape in all states is defined as non-consensual under the age of 12?

Obviously, since the most recent mass shooter gained access to several weapons owned legally by his mother, we must ask ourselves one question: Could removing certain firearms from the legal market lessen our risk of criminals gaining easy access to such weapons? If even three of the perpetrators in the deadly shootings listed above had to rely solely on the black market, and not their family’s or neighbor’s gun rack, to obtain an assault rifle, lives would have been saved. Quite possibly, the acts of violence could have been stopped completely, had the perpetrator’s need for a weapon been tipped off to an undercover officer. While making weapons illegal will not avoid all acts of violence, it certainly makes it more difficult to carry out without raising some sort of suspicion beforehand.

The protection of legal gun ownership for the purposes of self-defense can be maintained through strict enforcement of existing regulations on handguns. For the purposes of hunting, possibly with a few adjustments, not much will have to change. Assault rifles, on the other hand, are the most absurd protection under the Second Amendment I have ever heard of. Who in the eff needs an assault rifle for “everyday use” or “protection”? Anyone who tells me they need to blow away some intruder breaking into their home with several rounds of ammunition is sick in the head. At best, one bullet can take down a perpetrator unless a scuffle ensues…then you may need a few. Anything else strikes me as an over-compensation for closeted fears of the zombie apocalypse.

We owe it to every one of the victims in the 16 mass shootings this year to do something – ANYTHING – to prevent this from being another headline in a month. What excuse do we have to say “my right to carry whatever firearm I want is more important than that 6-year-old who got blown away by some crazy dude”, other than pure selfishness and arrogance? I have owned a handgun for seven years, because I felt the need to protect myself if someone breaks into my home. Today, however, I feel differently. What became utterly clear to me a few days ago is that if someone breaks into my home when I am not there, my firearm could be stolen and used to carry out violent acts against innocent people. I’m willing to give up a bit of my rights for the better of society as a whole.

For me, it all boils down to this: I don’t want to bear the responsibility that my Second Amendment right could become the means to take away someone else’s right to life.

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