This post may diverge a bit from what we usually talk about. Let’s just say it’s in the name of self defense . . .
It’s been a while since the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary school. There has been plenty of time to begin working to prevent something horrible from happening like this ever again. So what’s the average American to do? Argue about something unrelated and completely irrelevant to avoid facing the real issue!
Please pardon my sarcasm. I live in Connecticut, USA. I am a public school teacher. I am a martial arts instructor. I am husband and a father. I have a vested interest in learning how to keep myself, my loved ones, and my students safe. I hoped that people would address the underlying issues of school shootings and other senseless crimes against children head on. Instead we are drowning in a debate about gun owners and their rights.
It seems counterproductive to discuss gun rights when really we need to tackle mental health, adolescent issues, and school safety. Maybe if we dispel the myth that the Second Amendment and public safety are inextricably linked, we can finally get somewhere. So here we go!
Admittedly, I am not as intimately familiar with guns as some. I grew up in a gun-owning household. I had a high school job at a shooting range. I’m no hunter or marksman, but I’ve done some target shooting. I have a healthy respect for guns and gun owners, I support the right to bear arms, and I understand the need and desire for weapons in our culture. However, I don’t own a gun and I probably never will. Owning a gun just doesn’t seem to jibe with my chosen occupations.
The students and staff at my school were shocked by the Sandy Hook shooting. We offered support to the kids and to each other. While the massacre didn’t directly affect many of us, we discussed the issues at hand and offered reassurance that we would do all we could to keep everyone safe. As a teacher, I think we’re in a good place. We seem to have moved on; our daily routines are back to normal, and we aren’t scared to be here. I would have written about all of this sooner, but it did take a while to process something so awful happening in my own backyard.
Here’s my conclusion: The debate over gun rights has no correlation with what happened here in Connecticut.
It simply does not connect. The shooting was an act of evil–something we need to learn more about in order to prevent it from happening again. Profiling Adam Lanza and his family, exploring mental health issues, discussing how to make schools into “hard targets”–all of these things should be explored. It would be an ethical failure not to work toward better identifying and treating the mentally ill, incarcerating those beyond assistance, and protecting the innocent.
But it seems the only conversation we’ve had since Columbine, since West Virginia, since Aurora, since Newtown, is whether or not we should restrict gun ownership. Why is this?
The answers are not that complicated. America is not ready to address the underlying issues of violence because they indict out culture for what it is at times–impulsive, repressive, and inherently violent.
So it’s easier to foster argument between hippies and NRA members, Liberals and Conservatives, and Democrats and Republicans instead of figuring out why mass murder keeps happening.
Do I have the answer? No. I wish I did. I do know–especially from working with young people–that violent and self destructive actions are symptoms of inner turmoil. For students who act out in class, abuse drugs, participate in choking or cutting, or for those who express suicidal ideation, the first step is protection. The next is investigation. Every child–like every adult–has a story that must be read into before you can understand and prevent dangerous behaviors.
Are there bad kids? Yes. Can you help all of them? No. Is it important to try? It’s a moral imperative. Ask any teacher or guidance councilor. To help the kid, you help the kid. You don’t blame drugs or ropes or razor blades.
So, gun owners, I understand that guns are not the problem–people are. But people are also the solution–not guns.
With that said, I have another message for you. If you want to help prevent gun violence, stop acting paranoid and irrational. Offer real support and solutions to the problems we face in America. Don’t run screaming and foaming at the mouth, waving around the Bill of Rights in one hand and a Winchester in the other. All you’re doing is distracting us from the real problems we need to solve.
Gun owners: It’s time to get real. No one is taking away your guns. Legislators are not repealing the second amendment. All that’s proposed is adding a few new background checks. Magazine size could be shrunk to ten bullets. Assault weapons may be banned. No one is impeding your right to defend yourself. No one is revoking your pistol permits. No one is closing your gun club. The government will not be sending people to take your weapons.
They are, perhaps, limiting your right to show off.
Let me make an analogy to the auto industry. Are you allowed to drive a race car on the highway? No. They are not street legal. There are also speed limits that are meant to keep our roads safe. Do these laws work all the time? No, but they abide by common sense and they are helpful overall.
Yet you don’t see NASCAR fans picketing the Capitol for the right to drive over 200MPH in a school zone.
If you’re a gun owner and you want to show off, trick out your rifle. Get it custom fit and balanced. Order a hand carved stock. Add a laser scope if you want. Make your firearm into a Ferrari. Or a BMW. Or a Model T. (I’ve watched enough Pawn Stars to know how much gun enthusiasts love an antique!)
You don’t need to show off with a closet full of assault weapons.
For those who want to drive fast, there are speedways and closed, recreation courses. If you want to fire high-powered weapons, let the shooting range rent them to you. Spend a few hours there. Hell, make it into a weekend! There’s no harm in that. Even I think it would be fun. But the Bondurant Driving School won’t let you drive their cars home. Neither should shooting ranges let you take an assault weapon home.
It’s just so impractical.
Sure, it would be really fun to drive a stock car to work everyday. But could you afford the special racing fuel? Would you field a pit crew to change those slick tires during your lunch hour? Would you really shave time off your commute, or would you slog through traffic jams like everyone else?
No. You wouldn’t want a race car for everyday driving. Neither would you want an assault weapon for hunting or protection. Would there be any venison left after hosing a deer down with a MAC-10? Do you plan on sleeping with an AR-15 under your pillow? If you are a responsible gun owner, it will have a trigger lock installed, and it will be locked in a safe. You won’t be able to load and draw it in time to save your family from intruders. So why keep one at home?
Assault weapons are status symbols among gun owners. Pure and simple. And that’s another reason why they’re up in arms about their right to own them. The other, more outspoken proponents of assault weapons seem scared and angry of things like government run amok, deposing current and future tyrants, defending the motherland against invasion, and general anxiety about Armageddon. Paranoia and fear not not good drivers in decision making. Maybe gun rights advocates should chose their spokespeople more wisely?
To continue my automotive analogy, you don’t get to drive in a NASCAR race unless you have a flashy jumpsuit and someone pays you a lot of money. You probably don’t need an assault weapon unless you’re a soldier or a member of the SWAT team. Let’s put face the reality that unless it’s your job to fire guns at people, you don’t need assault weapons. They don’t help you defend yourself against real or perceived threats. So please stop hijacking the national conversation about school safety for selfish reasons.
If you want to argue, that’s fine, but save it for another time. There’s too much at stake to fire on the wrong target.