Balancing your right to a gun with my right not to get shot
How can we coexist in a democracy where their right to bear arms doesn’t supersede my right not to get shot. You know … my right to the pursuit of life, liberty and happiness. Especially the life part. Call me crazy, but I like a bullet-free body. In case you’re not clued in yet, I’m not a proponent of guns on demand. In fact, I’m personally against the idea of giving guns to anybody beyond the military, police force and actual hunters. But, against the current fashion in our national politics, I realize I live in a democracy where I can’t always get everything exactly the way that I want. Some of my countrymen and women support responsible gun ownership. So what’s a democratic and rational solution?
The Kansas City Star
Are you suffering from “What the Hell?” exhaustion in the gun control debates yet? Lord knows I am. Every time I’m pretty sure I’ve just about heard it all, someone says something to push my “WTH” button.
This time it was NRA President Wayne LaPierre with his suggestion that we construct a national database on the mentally ill as a viable solution to prevent mass gun violence.
Say what, now?
Sure. Why not? While we’re at it since most of the mass killers were men, I’d like to suggest a national database of those suffering erectile dysfunction too (if intensely personal medical disease is on the table for federal scrutiny).
I mean somewhere in the United States a guy who couldn’t achieve the pinnacle of his own success shot somebody. So, putting his name in a database with all the other “erectile dysfunctioneers” just has to tell us something. Right?
Right. It would predict just about as much and protect us just as little as the one La Pierre suggests.
There’s almost too much irony in the very same people who don’t want government up in their lives regulating their guns or building gun ownership databases proffering up ways the government should intrude on the medical privacy of other Americans by building databases. (HIPPA laws be damned, I guess?)
And, what would we do with that information exactly? How deeply or often could we expect to invade someone’s medical privacy?
But, okay, let’s say we do it. Then what?
Would we “pre-punish” mentally ill people in some way for crimes before they committed those crimes? Maybe, lock them up based on what we’re scared they might do? Would we use the information to control their movements? Pressure their doctors to break confidentiality and inform the government beyond what’s already required by law? (Excuse me while I let the freezing cold from the chilling effect that would have on medical treatment work its way down my spine.)
Perhaps LaPierre (the hardest working man in the gun business) is suggesting (ironically) that we curtail the Second Amendment rights of the mentally ill and stop them from buying guns if they have a history of violence or serious instability.
Wait? Aren’t there already state laws that do that last thing?
Yes. Yes there are. You can see them enumerated state by state here on the website of the National Council of State Legislatures: http://www.ncsl.org/issues-research/justice/possession-of-a-firearm-by-the-mentally-ill.aspx
Funny thing: It turns out that one of the very few things besides a criminal record that can keep you from getting your hands on a gun in this country is a history of mental illness.
So what good would a national database possibly do? Not much beyond appearing to be a real solution when it’s not. Something the NRA likes to pretend it has - when it doesn’t.
I might be more inclined to believe they care as much about ending gun violence as they care about holding on to their guns at all costs if they stopped the misdirection, the sleight of hand with all five fingers pointing to mental illness, entertainment and everything else as the cause of out-of-control gun violence except the over-proliferation of crazy-high powered guns and itchy trigger fingers.
Or, I might buy their line that they want to engage in meaningful change if they wanted to talk about mental illness for real.
An informed understanding of mental illness could show us, for instance, that mental illness alone doesn’t predict who will become violent like say drug and alcohol abuse do, a history of family violence might or huge stressors like job loss have. In fact, the best estimate is that 95% of gun violence is committed by people without a diagnosis of mental illness.
A better question might be how to keep guns out of the hands of violent people. Well, that one is kind of tricky since we can’t generally know who the violent ones are until they do the violence.
It’s trickier still for the NRA since guns sometimes turn people without a history of violence into perpetrators of gun crime, particularly in domestic violence. On occasion, even though the majority of gun owners are law-abiding citizens, guns help perfectly law-abiding citizens do wrong.
Tell me if you’ve ever heard this one before: “He’s the last person I thought would do something like this.”
So, basically I’m still waiting for the gun-worshipping guys and gals up at the NRA to work with the rest of us in good faith. What’s the rational answer on how to balance their rights with mine?
How can we coexist in a democracy where their right to bear arms doesn’t supersede my right not to get shot. You know … my right to the pursuit of life, liberty and happiness. Especially the life part. Call me crazy, but I like a bullet-free body.
In case you’re not clued in yet, I’m not a proponent of guns on demand. In fact, I’m personally against the idea of giving guns to anybody beyond the military, police force and actual hunters.
But, against the current fashion in our national politics, I realize I live in a democracy where I can’t always get everything exactly the way that I want. Some of my countrymen and women support responsible gun ownership.
So what’s a democratic and rational solution?
While I personally don’t buy the illogic of making the world safer by making sure everybody has something at his or her disposal to shoot off, I accept that guns are a part of American life for now.
In a nation where a good number of people believe guns to be a sacred part of U.S. history, tradition, notions of honor, family, heritage, culture, manhood, individualism, property, protection, politics and where guns actually do represent big billion dollar business, I doubt I’ll ever get the gun-free nation of my pacifist dreams. But I will always advocate for a gun murder-free America.
None of us should do any less. In fact I’d argue that those who advocate for unlimited access to guns have the moral obligation to do more: If the NRA claims the right to tote guns this aggressively, they should claim the corresponding moral obligation to prevent senseless gun deaths of innocents with as much fervor. In ways that will actually work, I mean.
Not one more child should lose his or her life in a classroom. Not one more woman should lose her life at the hands of a brutal spouse. Not one more child should be shot on an inner-city walk to school or during a “game” at a suburban slumber party. Not one more anybody should be killed through senseless gun violence.
It’s way past time for us to stop accepting all this carnage and senselessness as normal. If you’ll forgive my word choice –it’s crazy.
There are simpler, more straightforward and (to borrow language directly from the exalted Second Amendment of the United States Constitution) more “well-regulated” measures that can be taken.
Can we do that now? Because if not … just … WTH?