Two for the Show

Waving_American_Flag1The gun show, that is. Gun control has been at the forefront of political discussion as of late, and I’d be remiss to not give my two cents on the issue. But first, let’s start with some transparency. I’ve never been extremely passionate about the Second Amendment (at least not as much as the type of people that I’m going to mention), but I’ve always supported it. The right of the people to bear arms and protect themselves against a tyrannical government has always been a logical idea to me.

That being said, I’ve always been disappointed by the way the Second Amendment is handled. Yes, we have the right to purchase and use guns, but it’s gotten out of hand in terms of requirements and regulations (or lack thereof). We can’t use the Second Amendment as an excuse for not properly deciding who is stable and trustworthy enough to own a firearm. We can’t allow crazy people to go on shooting rampages, and then say that the Second Amendment is perfect. When we see a dozen different mass shootings throughout a year, it’s proof that we’re not doing our best to ensure that mentally ill people don’t get their hands on a gun. So there’s that.

There are two things that we have to address here. First, we have to step back and take a look at the bigger picture. In this case, the picture is of an American flag, with crazy people standing in front of it. Allow me to elaborate.

MericaI’ve seen a lot of people that simply refuse to have any kind of discussion on gun control. As soon as it’s brought up, they scream “Second Amendment” and say that any such debate is unconstitutional, and unamerican, and blah blah blah. They adopt this tone that suggests they have some extreme level of patriotism that other Americans could never have. Calling a gun control debate “unamerican” is simply irresponsible. We can’t be afraid to discuss issues that might come close to the Constitution. It’s going to happen more often than not, and we have to be willing to create some kind of dialogue on these issues. The idea of gun control, at least to some people, is often related to some crazy policy of handing in every gun ever purchased. We can’t keep jumping to the worst possible conclusions before a discussion ever takes place.

I understand the enthusiasm for the Second Amendment, as it’s basically all that stands between us and a dictatorship. But at the same time, we have a social obligation to tackle problems that put American citizens in danger. An example of such a problem is drunk driving, which we’ve discussed. These discussions resulted in stricter blood-alcohol limits, raised drinking ages, and ramped-up enforcement penalties. Those campaigns have helped to reduce drunk driving incidents by two-thirds over a few decades. We couldn’t have done this without an initial discussion on drunk driving.

An extreme overreaction isn’t going to help further the debate on how to prevent more tragedies like Sandy Hook from happening. There are ways to have some kind of gun control or regulation, while still preserving our right to bear arms. It’s not an “all or nothing” issue. We’ve adopted this mindset that any idea opposite our own is just crazy, and anyone that suggests it must be out to destroy America. This accomplishes nothing.

In case you were wondering, Alex Jones is exactly the kind of person I'm talking about. We don't need a screaming match, we need a rational discussion.
In case you were wondering, Alex Jones is exactly the kind of person I’m talking about. We don’t need a screaming match, we need a rational discussion.

Now, once we’ve gotten past extreme patriotism, we need to have a civilized, reasonable debate on what we can do to curb the onset of these horrible tragedies. That discussion will have to include several different aspects, and people that can calmly reach a compromise. We’ll have to enact stricter regulations on certain firearms, required background checks for all gun purchases (yes, this includes secondhand gun shows), and harsher penalties for violent acts with a gun. At the same time, more work must be done on the medical side of the issue. We need to improve the system so that individuals like Adam Lanza are flagged long before they commit a heinous, violent act.

But the discussion doesn’t end there. We need to change the way that these shootings are perceived. After the Aurora theater shooting, the killer’s face was plastered on every news channel for a week. Someone that’s mentally unstable could watch that and think, “this guy went on a shooting rampage, and he’s a celebrity.” This has to stop. When someone sees that James Holmes is being called the “Batman Shooter” nonstop for a month, they’re going to notice how much he’s being publicized, regardless of the fact that it’s negative publicity. We need to focus more on the victims, and get help to the grieving families. Let the police and the FBI worry about the madman with a gun.

This is not a one-sided issue, and there isn’t a simple solution. Banning assault rifles isn’t going to act as a universal band-aid on the plight of gun massacres in this country. On the other hand, we can’t expect mental health regulations to completely solve this problem either. It’s going to take contributions from more than just one suggested solution. A quick look at the drunk driving example shows how one change in a policy or idea isn’t enough to have a major impact on a problem.

We promote this idea of democracy from sunup to sundown, but how often do we actually embrace it when a solution is needed? It’s high time Americans start practicing what they preach, and open up to an actual conversation on guns. If not now, when?

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