Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Tuesday Top Ten: Pro-Gun Myths Exposed

Another month, another mass shooting in America.  What else is new?  I try not to get political here on GMYH, but frankly, gun safety and access to guns should not be a political issue; it should be a social one that crosses all political ideologies.  With every mass shooting, I get fired up because lives are lost when there are easy solutions to curb gun violence.

This past weekend's horrific shooting in an Orlando night club left 49 dead and another 50+ wounded, making it the deadliest mass shooting in US history.  As with Virginia Tech, Newtown, Aurora, San Bernardino, and every other one of these tragedies, there is a lot of anger on the left, as their should be.  And there's a lot of push back from the right, as there always is.

I tend to read this article entitled "10 Pro-Gun Myths, Shot Down" (published a couple years ago) more often than I should have to read it, to respond to several right-wing friends who think that any reasonable gun-related regulation (like, say, universal background checks and closing any loop holes for gun sales) is somehow the government's attempt to "take my guns" or that more guns makes everyone safer.

Make no mistake about it, the NRA -- whose membership is gun manufacturers, gun store owners, and gun dealers -- has only one mission:  sell more guns.  They don't care if people die.  After all, that's what guns are for.  Over the past 30+ years, the NRA has made a concerted effort to twist the original meaning of the Second Amendment from what the framers intended -- to allow for militias to be armed -- into what most people wrongfully believe today -- that it was meant to allow any citizen to purchase as many guns as he or she wants without any possible regulation.  The NRA's influence over members of Congress (thanks to hefty campaign donations) is so great that Congress has refused for over 30 years to allow the CDC to study gun gun violence.  This is insane, but I think it shows how far the gun lobby is willing to go to protect their bottom line at the expense of innocent victims.

The bottom line -- and I say this after every mass shooting -- is that doing nothing obviously isn't working.  Our country does not have a "people problem" or a "mental illness problem" or whatever else the gun lobby tries to frame gun violence as.  We have a gun problem.  We have a staggering amount of guns, and far more gun violence (both raw numbers and per capita) than any other developed nation.  It's sad and embarrassing.

There are reasonable solutions that can be implemented to curb gun violence, gun-related accidents, and gun-related suicides that will not violate the Second Amendment's right to keep a handgun in your home for self-defense (which is basically all the Supreme Court has said about the Second Amendment in the last 75 years), including, but not limited to:
1.  Universal background checks for any gun purchase, whether from a store, gun show, or private party.  This is something that nearly everyone (right, left, gun-owning, non-gun-owning) supports, and yet our elected officials are too scared of the NRA to pass it.
2.  Require safety training and a license in order to own a gun.  We require that with cars, so maybe we should require that with things that are made solely for ending lives.
3.  Ban assault rifles.  Seems like a no-brainer, although there is obviously the hurdle of defining what exactly would be banned to try to prevent people and manufacturers from getting around it.
4.  Ban high-capacity magazines.  This seems like another no-brainer.  After all, you don't need a 75-round clip if you're going hunting.
5.  Ban armor-piercing bullets.  Another no-brainer, as there is no legitimate use for these types of bullets other than to kill humans -- which regular bullets can do just fine.
6.  Provide for criminal and civil penalties for gun stores and private gun sellers who fail to conduct a background check for a gun sale or who sell guns to someone despite the fact that the purchaser's background check had red flags.
7.  Require a mental health evaluation before purchasing a gun.  This seems to be one of the right's biggest concerns ("it's a mental health problem, not a gun problem"), so if that's the problem, let's solve it.  Everyone can pay to get a psychiatric evaluation, which they must pass before being allowed to purchase a gun.

Of course, the right's response is always "criminals will still find ways to get guns," and maybe some of them will, but when they do, they will be breaking the law.  And honestly, sensible gun regulations are meant to cut down gun-related deaths, accidents, and suicides as a whole -- which, from the studies I've read about, would likely happen.  Obviously, it's impossible to prevent all crime from happening, but that doesn't mean we should get rid of all criminal laws.

Okay, I'm done, until the next mass shooting.  If you want some additional ammo (pun intended) to rebut your right-wing friends' or family members' tired "gun rights" arguments, I also recommend the following articles:

1.  "A huge international study of gun control finds strong evidence that it actually works."  Not only does the article detail some of the ways other countries have severely curbed gun violence (often with rather simple, reasonable measures that could easily be implemented in the US without infringing on the Second Amendment), but it contains this nifty video that runs though how bad our country's gun problem is compared to the rest of the developed world.

2.  "The five extra words that can fix the Second Amendment."  This is a Washington Post piece from a couple years ago by former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens.  It discusses the Supreme Court's recent gun rulings, and how they not only broke from Supreme Court precedent, but also failed to take into account the actual language of the Second Amendment, the framers' intent, or the prevailing customs of the time regarding serving in state militias.

3.  "The Second Amendment Was Never Meant to Protect an Individual's Right to a Gun."  This is another article taking a look at the history of the Second Amendment and how the majority Justices in the recent Supreme Court decisions kind of broke from their usual strict constitutional interpretation to make up a right to own a firearm within the meaning of the Second Amendment, even though the term "bear arms" was generally used in the 1700s to mean military participation.

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