The Firearm Debate

Bill Neinast

The consensus  of opinion among Americans is that there are too many firearms in the country.  Even some ardent defenders of the 2nd Amendment agree.

This view is highlighted every time there is a mass killing like the one in Florida last week.  Every time one of these tragedies occurs,  there is an immediate outcry from politicians and many others that something has to be done to stop the carnage.

Rarely, however, is there a proposal of a real solution to the problem.  That may be because there is actually no readily available solution, if there is even one.

Let’s be honest.  School and church massacres with automatic assault rifles dominate the news for 24/7 when they occur.  Rarely mentioned, however, is that throughout the year many, many more humans die of gunshots, primarily from pistols.

A drug deal gone bad, some gang warfare, a toddler killing herself while playing with daddy’s old six shooter kept in a bedside drawer for safety, and similar incidents occur almost daily throughout the country.  Each isolated incident gets a little coverage on the nearest TV station and in the local daily newspaper for a day or so, but then gives way to the more important information about the school district’s latest football game.

So let’s do a little basic analysis of why the United States is a killing field.  First, there are only two common elements in every killing being considered here, whether it be a single death or multiple murders.

First, a firearm of some sort like a rifle, shotgun, pistol , or other variation was involved.

Second, a human other than the victim or victims was involved.  A live individual had to be there to pull the trigger.

Currently, there are reams of laws on the books to control both of those elements.  There are restrictions on who may buy or own firearms, requirements for licenses to use firearms of hunting or to carry, and murder has been prohibited forever.

Why, then, do we still witness murder on a daily basis?

Every weapon used in the recent massacres was legally purchased, albeit some like those in the Sandy Hook shooting were stolen from the original legal owner.  

Think about that.  Someone intent on committing mass murders was not at all concerned about the prohibitions of theft when he steals something before the rampage.

How can that be prevented from happening again?  That is simple.  Let’s just pass a law to prevent it.

Hmmm….?  What could that law be?  How about making it illegal for anyone other than military and law enforcement personnel to possess any type of automatic assault weapons?  

That will work, won’t it?  Well probably not.  Just study the effectiveness of the laws prohibiting the possession of any type of weapon by convicted felons.

There are many logical arguments that assault type weapons should not be allowed in the hands of American civilians.  Facts, however, are facts, and one of those facts is that there is no way all such weapons can be removed from American society.

Those weapons already in the hands of individuals with little or no regard for laws will remain on the streets and be readily available to anyone interested in mayhem.

This should make it obvious that controlling weapons, the first element mentioned in mass shootings, is virtually impossible. 

So what about humans, that second common element mentioned above?

There are more possibilities here, but none is foolproof or 100% effective.  There are also numerous obstacles in any system trying to control human conduct.

Who will be responsible for identifying the problem?  Can parents and siblings be counted on to call authorities and say a child among them is a serious threat?  How about fellow students or co-workers?  Can they stand to be referred to as “the snitch” if their concerns were unfounded?  What about the multitude of wild goose chases that police will be led into by social media bullying when someone just wants to “get even” with a rival or someone with whom he or she is having a spat ?

When authorities get a report about suspicious behavior or comments, what can they do?  Immediate arrest and confinement in a jail or mental institution?  What about a trial?  How long may the suspect be held?  May the home of the subject be raided and all weapons seized?  What kind of warrant would be required?  

The list of questions under this scenario is endless.  The point should be obvious, however.  Prohibiting future mass shootings like Las Vegas, Sutherland Springs, Sandy Hook, and now Parkland, Florida, through laws concerning human conduct would be no more effective than more “gun control.”

So here’s the perspective.

This is not an argument that nothing can be done to prevent more school or church shootings.  It is simply a discussion of the difficulties inherent in crafting a solution by simply drafting another law.  

One action that might curtail the spread of the current rampage would be to restrict the news coverage of such incidents to the same level accorded the shooting of a drug dealer or a domestic dispute ending in death.  If there is no prolonged coverage of mass murderers, mentally unstable individuals  would not be constantly shown ways to get the recognition they crave.

Let’s stop the coverage and political rhetoric.  Work out of the political spotlight on finding a solution to a very difficult problem.   


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