There is a reason that swimming pools are surrounded by fences or cages. Does anyone wonder why we keep pesticides and cleaning products up and out of reach of children? Is it an attack on your “freedom” to test and license people before they drive an automobile? Why is liability insurance mandated for these same automobiles? As a society these are the regulations, rules and laws we have put in place to protect those who cannot protect themselves from the irresponsible in our society. Yes, I know these regulations, rules and laws are meaningless if you’re an outlaw, but we have to start somewhere.
I am always reminded of the “slippery slope” when we begin to discuss some “meaningful restrictions” on personal ownership of firearms. Just having that discussion will somehow lead to tyranny and the total destruction of our American way of life. Hyperbole aside we have never had the “freedom” to do, to say and be anything at any time we may feel the whim. That much freedom in a civilized society is not logical and has never been possible. Hypothetically, if there was only one human being on our planet he/she could do anything imaginable, but since that’s not a viable solution for procreating a civilization long term we can set that scenario aside. When your freedom to do anything you please intersects with those very same freedoms for me, a conflict invariably arises. In an effort to mitigate those conflicts we have created a society with a system of regulations, rules and laws. Not all of them are popular and sometimes the powerful tend to bend the rules to suit themselves, but in a democracy we always have to weigh the consequences of our actions against the greater good.
When we have a discussion about firearms safety and regulation we never examine the other end of the “slippery slope”, but I think we are witnessing it today. Can I assume that most rational individuals understand why we want to prevent a country like Iran and North Korea from obtaining nuclear weapons along with a delivery system? When bad people have access to weapons of mass murder, bad things invariable happen. I began a discussion recently with a neighbor about weapons proliferation. He was convinced that America’s policy of mutual assured destruction (MAD) during the cold war had worked quite well to prevent a nuclear holocaust (unless you happen to live in Hiroshima or Nagasaki in 1945) and had the added bonus of the breaking up the Soviet Union. By his reasoning if only everyone had an arsenal (nuclear or conventional) at their disposal there would be world peace because everyone would certainly behave for fear of mutual assured destruction. Makes sense right? What could go wrong? Who wants to be responsible for destroying our planet? I will pause for a moment to acknowledge that we have a certain segment of the population that is intent on just that outcome. Yes, I am talking about climate change deniers. If they continue to demonize scientific fact they may be able to destroy the earth without launching the first missile. That’s a topic for a larger discussion long past due. I digress.
If we can all come to some consensus that weapons of mass destruction (bullets, toxic gas or nuclear devices) and their delivery systems (guns, launchers or missiles) should be kept out of the hands of diabolical, evil or irresponsible people then as a society we can make progress. The discussion breaks down when an irrational fear of our neighbors, our government or the government of others is stoked by the gun manufacturers and their lobbyists (NRA) who have a vested interest in keeping you in fear to sell more weapons. I am told I need a weapon, so I get a frying pan or baseball bat. My neighbor sees me carrying my bat around my yard at night. Now he’s afraid and starts carrying a knife or a golf club. He tells his story to several people at work and they too arm themselves with sling shots and rocks. A confrontation occurs between a person carrying a bat and a sling shot wielding individual and the escalation begins.
The weapon manufacturers marketing departments have saturated the military and law enforcement departments with as many high powered automatic weapons as their respective budgets can justify. We have municipalities that have militarized to the extent they resemble small armies, but its profit sharing time and weapon manufacturers need to inflate their stock price. The military is downsizing after fighting two wars simultaneously and most municipalities are now under financial stress trying to fund their schools, the homeless, aging population etc. Where are more firearms sold if they have already exploited the only legitimate markets for these weapons of mass destruction? The private market in America is always promising under the right circumstances. Can they instill enough fear in every moviegoer, mall patron, teacher and parent that it is much too risky to roam the streets without some protection (something small and concealable with a 30 round clip)? The message is clear; those that aren’t packing are risking their lives and the lives of their loved ones. There shall be no “fear free zones”, if the weapons manufacturers are to meet their Wall Street numbers. They just need to sow a little more fear to get the ball rolling.
Your neighbor sees you cleaning your .38 special and raises the ante with his newly purchased .357 magnum. Not to be outdone and feeling a bit inferior you rush down to the gun show and add to your collection a brand new nickel plated .50 cal Desert Eagle. The salesman talked about muzzle velocities, the myth of knockdown power and you were sold. You never bother to shoot or train with that much weapon, but it’s big, shiny and looks impressive. Actually you never shot your .38, but you shot one like it that belonged to your dad once before you bought yours. You had no intention of ever using a gun, you just thought that simply owning it was enough and besides it was too heavy and noisy to shoot anyway. The .50 cal ammo was too expensive so you didn’t bother to buy any, but the point is you have another big, flashy new weapon. Of course the next time you talk to the neighbor across the street you casually let it be known that you have added some serious firepower and that you have personally appointed yourself the neighborhood vigilante. He may feel the need to protect himself from you or may want to join your posse. He is now inspired to join the gun toting neighborhood by purchasing an assault weapon, three 30 round clips and several boxes of ammo. He signed up for the concealed weapons course at your suggestion, but realized when he got home that it was going to be next to impossible to conceal that AR15 anywhere on his person. The gun and those three magazines fully loaded are much too heavy to carry anyway. The next night a stray dog knocks over his trash can and you the Good Samaritan neighbor stop on your way home from the pub to clean up the mess and you two get into a shoot out because he thought you backed over his trash cans. A drunken vigilante with a loaded sidearm meets an irate trigger happy gun novice with an assault rifle. What could go wrong in that scenario? Why does the overweight, sixty-something, beer guzzling, near sighted grandfather believe he can purchase a weapon that will magically convert him into a well trained, sharp shooting SWAT officer or a member of SEAL Team Six engaged in a reenactment of Red Dawn? Even Viagra can only do so much.
What began as fear induced by propaganda from a well funded weapons manufacturer has become an arms race of individual citizens. We blame America’s violent gun-loving culture on Hollywood and video games. We can’t explain why other countries have access to the same movies and video games, yet not an equivalent level of mass murder. We feel the need to be armed to the teeth in the event our government runs amok, yet for over 235 years our leadership has been decided with ballots not bullets. The “slippery slope” argument is now turned on its head. We have become one of the most violent, well armed nations on earth. We rank “down there” with those countries with very little functioning government. The Libertarian nirvana.
“Our rate of death from firearms is three times that of France and Canada, fourteen times greater than Ireland, and two hundred and fifty times greater than Japan, where firearms are aggressively controlled.”In a recent survey by CNN we comprise a little over 4% of the world’s population, but have roughly 50% of the world’s guns.
"Since World War II, the United States engaged in over fifty military operations abroad killing some four million people (Korea, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Iraq, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Grenada, Panama, the list goes on). If you add in to that total massacres by proxies and surrogates, the number flirts with five million (Indonesia, Chile, Guatemala, and elsewhere)."
“We are the only country in the world seemingly perpetually at war. In 2011-2012 alone, the United States was killing people in nine different countries: Iraq and Afghanistan with troops, Libya with rockets, Somalia, Pakistan, and Yemen with drones, Honduras with raids against drug cartels, the Philippines with air support against insurgents, and most recently in Kenya as 150 Special Forces started their operations. No other country in the world can boast of so many military involvements.”
The good news:
“The number of households owning guns has declined from almost 50% in 1973 to just over 32% in 2010, according to a 2011 study produced by The University of Chicago's National Opinion Research Center. The number of gun owners has gone down almost 10% over the same period”The bad news:
The increasing number of guns are in the hands of shrinking population.
“…male gun ownership is down almost 20% since 1980. The Violence Policy Center's analysis of the General Social Survey data also found that part of the reason the gun owning population is declining is because those weapons are largely owned by white males, a group whose population is aging.”It appears gun ownership and the party of the angry white man have a lot in common. It’s no wonder the NRA was never asked to speak at The Democratic National Convention, Planned Parenthood and never funds progressive candidates. The NRA and some gun manufacturers believe that the answer to gun violence is to make sure everyone is armed and dangerous. I thought that concept proved too dangerous with nuclear weapons during the cold war. Am I missing something?