America and its Guns

Recent gun-related violence caused me to think about the effect and use of guns in the United States. Here are some observations:

1. The Bill of Rights is not a document from heaven like the Scriptures are. And so no one can claim infallibility of the Bill of Rights. It was written by regular humans (James Madison) for regular humans. And therefore there is always the possibility of error. This is a fact that we must consider.

2. I am not sure that we can equate guns with any other injury-causing device that is usually found at home. For two reasons: One. In terms of sheer destructive power, guns kill much more than a rope or a knife or a pin or anything else. Secondly, guns are not necessary for normal living as are knives or rope or pins etc. It probably was necessary for normal living in 1791, but not today, even in third world countries.

3. The sheer statistics of the matter. Guns in America kill 32,000 people a year – 85 people a day. Yes, the tragedy at Sandy Hook (2012); Orlando (2016) and Las Vegas (2017) bring attention to the matter but many more people are killed on a daily basis than the infamous massacres. The occasional massacres highlight the need for some kind of control, but the daily death of 85 people should be the reason for that control.

4. There is no middle ground. 50% of the country want guns, 50% of the country don’t want guns. What is the middle ground? That is why I suggest having some kind of evaluation for those who do want to get guns. That would be the middle ground. Just the desire to sit at the table for a discussion does not mean that a consensus would be reached. The matter is such that half the country wants the exact opposite of the other. In that case, it is easier to approach the matter from a different tangent. The talk of sitting at the table to discuss is just that.. talk. There is no common ground.

5. It is a fact and proclivity of human nature to sin regardless of the laws. It is precisely for that reason that I suggest making it difficult for those who want to sin from committing widespread destruction.

Phrases I have heard.

“Most of the deaths in these statistics are suicides. Not really interpersonal gun violence.”

So, in other words, there is a person with the potential for committing suicide and there is a gun easily available for him. And this is an excuse to have more guns? How is this an excuse to have more guns? This should be a reason to have fewer guns so that people don’t kill themselves.
Depression affects about 8.2% of the US population 18 years and older.  50% of all those with depression can have suicidal tendencies. But instead of protecting these people, we have facilitated their suicide by making guns easily available. And in a moment of weakness, they were able to use their guns.

“If guns kill and we ban them, shouldn’t we also ban cars or cell phones because they are responsible for more deaths than guns? Where do we draw the line?”
The issue is one of need versus want.
200 years ago we did not need cars or cell phones in the Western world. We needed guns more. But in 2017 cars and cell phones are a need not a want. With the progress of science and the advancement in the standards of living, cars and cell phones move from want to need and guns and bows and arrows move from need to want. Of course, if you are living in an area that is infested with wild animals, then you need guns more than cell phones/cars.
So the difference between using a gun to kill and using a rope to kill is that one is a want and the other is a need for today’s living. Under the category of need is everything else that can be used to kill somebody-ropes, ladders, pins, cars, toothpicks, knives etc. etc. Guns are not in this category because unless you stay in the area where there are wild animals in which case it is a need, in all other cases it has become a want due to the advancement of the standard of living. This is the reason why even though somebody may use a scissor to kill somebody else, we cannot ban all scissors. So if an item that is a need is used for nefarious action, then it cannot be banned. But if an item that is predominantly a want is used for killing people, then they can and should be banned.
Where do we draw the line? Right between our needs and our wants.

“Now is not the time to talk about this. Let us first mourn and then we can talk about it“.
The question is will we talk about it later? It’s been 5 years since Sandy Hook – are we talking about it? It’s been two years since Orlando – are we still talking about it? On the basis of past history -nobody talks about it after the dust settles. So the time to talk about it is when there is an event. So yes, now is the time to talk about it. Also, it doesn’t matter about the event. In Las Vegas, there are 58 dead. But every day 85 people die. So there is an event going on every day. It may not be a “major event” unless the victim is in your family. In a culture where there are short attention spans and too many distractions, now is the time to talk about it, or no one talks about it.

“Guns don’t kill people, people kill people”.
This is the most profound-sounding false statement I have heard.
If guns and bombs don’t kill people and people kill people, we would have had a far different mortality rate at the end of World War II if countries used arrows and knives. But no, guns and bombs were used instead of arrows and knives and millions died. Yes, people kill but the method of kill is also important.
Can we change people? If people are evil then they should not have access to destructive gadgets like guns or bombs – the same reason why the world does not want North Korea to have access to nuclear power – because they are not responsible.
If we ever use this argument that people kill people and not guns, then we need to wait until people become more reasonable so that they would not kill other people.
If people kill people, how do we know who not to give a gun to? There are two options – either we take the guns away from everybody and give only the good people guns or we do an evaluation to weed out the bad people. A starting point would be to have a mental health evaluation. It is not the perfect method but it is a starting point. If there is a better method to screen people then let’s use it. Whatever method is being used now is not working.
The people-are-evil is the argument FOR gun control. Kim Jong-un is evil so don’t put nuclear power in his hands. People in America are “evil” so don’t give them easy access to guns.

“But I am a responsible gun owner“.
I may be a responsible gun owner but since we don’t know how to identify the ones that are responsible and the ones that are irresponsible we have to wait until we perfect an evaluation to know who is responsible.
If there’s no other test, have a comprehensive and regular mental health evaluation done to make sure that we are not a threat to ourselves or to somebody else. At this point it is not about one or two people being responsible and getting offended about having to go through an evaluation, rather, it is about the general safety of the public.
The alternative is for no one to have guns.

“A good person with a gun is the antidote for a bad person with a gun”.
Here are some reasons why it is a terrible idea:
a. It is never a 1:1 ratio. ie. the evil guy shot someone and the good guy shot him. boom. done. 1:1. No. It is never like that because there are guns with more than one bullet in it. What does that mean? That a person does not have to fire a bullet and then stop to reload the gun to get the next bullet. If this were the case then the good person with the gun could shoot the man the evil man with the gun before anyone else is killed. But that is not the case. There are automatic weapons that can destroy many people before the “good” person kills the evil person.

b. It just does not work in every situation. For example, in Las Vegas the killer was hidden from anyone’s view and nobody could get to him; in Sandy Hook, toddlers were killed.

c. It is not predictably successful. Very few people walk around with their finger on the trigger to pull it out at the smallest sign of violence. If there is even one policeman that has been shot dead by a civilian with a gun, the argument falls flat. If a trained and armed policeman could not protect himself from a maniac, then “good“ civilians are not the antidote to evil people with guns.
In 2017, so far – 38 armed policemen were killed by guns.

It is funny to see people pointing to random isolated events as examples that guns “protect” people when there is the overwhelming statistical evidence that guns kill people.

Changing the 2nd amendment will open the door to change other things in the Bill of Rights
So what? If there is a need to amend a statute from 1791, why not? No one complains that the 18th amendment was changed in the 21st. Laws were made in different eras without the perspective of future reality. Over the years, many laws have changed and were updated. Since amendments require passage by 2/3 of the House of Representatives, AND 2/3 of the Senate, followed by ratification of 3/4 of the States – it is not possible that basic humans rights of free speech and right for religious assembly etc. will be amended. Such objections are more theoretical than real.
Since no one can claim infallibility of the Bill of Rights – it should make it easier to amend it.

“All the laws were followed and they got through”.
This seems to be a recurring theme in recent past. Killer X followed the laws and legally bought his guns. Killer Y had all the necessary background checks done and then bought his guns. But he still killed in spite of clearing the background checks. Oh well, nothing can be done.
The proposition is true but the conclusion is terrifyingly false.
Yes, the killers cleared the background checks and legally bought their guns. But that does not mean that nothing can be done. What it does mean is that the US gun laws and background checks are woefully inadequate.
The lackadaisical shoulder-shrug, while people are being killed, is indefensible. Not only are US gun laws inadequate, the repercussions for breaking those laws are inadequate.

Why have guns in the first place?

I have gathered at least four reasons, there may be more.
a. To protect from (evil) people: It is a mute point about protecting oneself if nobody has guns. Or if the mentally unstable don’t have guns. In most countries where there are no guns whatsoever, nobody needs to be protected from somebody else with a gun.

b. To protect from wild animals.
This is a legitimate reason. This was probably one of the reasons for the 1791 right – to protect oneself from animals roaming around.

c. To prevent a future tyrannical government! I heard about this reason only recently and it is the one that I do not understand at all.
In 1791 this was probably true because British could (possibly) have come back with bigger guns and retaken America. But 300 years later they are unlikely to annex the most powerful country on earth. Or, do we fear a government that could rise up in the future that would have dictatorial inclinations? Is that even possible in today’s civilized democratic society? It may be possible in North Korea or other such dictatorial countries; but possible in America?? I have a hard time believing that that is even possible. What are the odds of that happening? A hundred percent? 50%? 10%? Or .0001%
I would like that the odds of a future tyrannical government that would kill off all the Americans is low enough to be impossible. And while we prepare for that unrealistic cataclysm, 85 people die every day. If that is the reason why guns are being allowed to kill and maim innocent lives and families, then we need to rethink some things.
If you were truly concerned about having guns for a future invasion-forget that nothing happened in 300 years and that 85 people a day are killed – will you be OK with the law that says that you can have guns but use them only if there is a future invasion?

Also, is a gun enough in 2017? I don’t think so. If an invasion of the United States were to happen (I simply cannot believe that I just wrote that sentence or that anyone actually believes this), it will not be through gunfight – that was how it was centuries ago – back in 1791. Today, any annexation of the US will be by nuclear warfare – your measly guns will be of absolutely no use. Any nuclear invasion will vaporize you, your gun and your communities’ guns.

d. For entertainment: If baseball resulted in 85 deaths per day of players and non-players, should the game be banned? Of course! The associated mortality is not worth the fleeting entertainment even though a few want to be entertained. This, as it turns out, is the most selfish of all the reasons. I want to be entertained and therefore, 85 or 200 people could die every day – I could care less.

The Compromise

In the ideal world, guns would be completely banned (except for law enforcement and military etc or in areas of wild animals) due to its widespread destructive capabilities, just like bombs are banned for the layperson. But the gun lobby is too powerful and there are more guns in America than there are families.
The common denominator in many killings seems to be mental health aberrations. That is why I suggest a comprehensive mental health evaluation prior to and periodically for the purpose of gun ownership. In fact, the courts try to establish that a person was insane at the time of a crime to avoid jail time. If that were the case why would a person who was insane have access to a gun?
There are flaws in any compromise. There is no compromise that will be completely satisfactory to both parties, but that is precisely what a compromise is – you have to give-and-take because it is not a perfect solution. I fear that in looking for the perfect solution in regard to guns, we are not able to even begin a conversation or attempt a solution because it is not a perfect solution. But we cannot NOT have a solution, albeit an imperfect one, because in the last 24 hours 85 more people died due to gun violence in America.
In 1791 the amount of mental disease was very low and the need for guns was much more. In a civilized society of the 21st-century, there is no need for guns and in a western society, the incidence of mental disease is much higher.
I don’t need to own guns to talk about the dangers of guns. Just like I don’t need to be a drug addict or a drug dealer to look at the numbers and talk about drug use and the dangers of it. Of course, I will not go into the details of kinds of guns because I am not a gun person. But any intelligent person can look from the outside and see that guns kill. Guns kill. There is no question about it. (When people argue that guns save lives it is not that lives are saved per se by the gun, rather, the gun kills a bigger killer thereby indirectly saving lives.)
There is no middle ground. 50% of the people want guns and 50% of the people don’t want guns. What is the point of compromise? To have guns or not to have guns? Hence my suggestion for a comprehensive and regular mental health evaluation IS the compromise because the gun lobby is too big to disappear.

At the end of the day:
It is not about Second Amendment rights-otherwise you would also protest that the 18th amendment was changed in the 21st.
It is not about a future invasion-for reasons mentioned above.
It is about entertainment. And if 200 people die a day instead of 85, the people who want it will still want it.
I can show all the graphs, all the statistics, and all the pictures but at the end of the day, a person who wants to get a gun still wants to get the gun irrespective of the logic and the statistics and will employ any “reason“ to get what they want.

I don’t have a dog in this fight. I started off neutral -neither for or against guns. Just did not care. But that doesn’t change the statistics of gun violence. When I look at the numbers from a neutral point of view, I see gun violence as the number one preventable cause of death in the US. If we stay in a country where baseball bats were the number one cause of death then maybe we should consider banning baseball bats. Will taking away guns stop human nature? No. But it takes away a primary method of killing in the 21st-century. Pro-life after all is anti-death too.

Anush

Resources:

Depression in the US: https://adaa.org/about-adaa/press-room/facts-statistics. Accessed November 17, 2017
Gun Violence Statistics: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-34996604. Accessed: Oct 14, 2017
The Bill of Rights: https://www.billofrightsinstitute.org/founding-documents/bill-of-rights/. Accessed: Oct 14, 2017
History of Mental Illness: Baumeister AA et al., Prevalence and incidence of severe mental illness in the United States: an historical overview, Harvard Review of Psychiatry, 2012 Sep-Oct;20(5):247-58.
Gun Charts: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-41488081. Accessed Nov 17, 2017

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