Posted Last Week in The All-State Here at The All-State, I have a love-hate relationship with reporting the news and voicing opinions. I try to keep facts above feelings because this is a news organization, not a political action group.
Of all the topics that divide this nation (let alone campuses and even my household), firearms and gun control is probably one of the most divisive and controversial. Being sort of a subject matter expert within the ranks of our agency (as not only a former combat soldier, but a small-arms instructor and the only person on staff who has used a weapon defensively), I was no stranger to this argument, but no eager participant, either.
Both sides of this debate range from the extreme and politically-biased (National Rifle Association and the Brady Campaign) to the average individual with an opinion. Both hold considerable power, some more than others.
Recently, there have been a rash of shootings reported in the news (Aurora, Colorado and Oak Creek, Wisconsin to name the most recent) and even our own campus has been hit with a few stray rounds from a shooting in mid-August (however, when you factor the geographical location of the campus to the lower-income and crime-infested neighborhoods adjacent, it is surprising this doesn’t happen more often).
As far as media coverage goes: of all the (rare) mass shootings that occur, nearly 100% are reported. Conversely, in cases where firearms are used in self defense to stop crimes from occurring, the media rarely covers the incident on such a broad scale, such as the 14 year old Arizona boy who protected his three siblings from an armed home invasion by using his father’s pistol.
However, we don’t get that kind of information. The most exposure the average (unarmed) American has to firearms is from Hollywood or Video Games, which often paint them in a bad light. People are afraid of them. Fear is a politician’s favorite ammunition. With enough hysteria, a politician can walk a legislation into law with little resistance (and little effect. the “Assault Weapons Ban” had little effect on reducing gun crime, not to mention it mostly placed restrictions on weapon parts that “looked” intimidating, but had little or no hindrance to the operation of said weapon).
Gun laws are already fairly restrictive. From “purchase to permit” (meaning the purchase of a handgun to the ability to legally carry it concealed) in the State of Tennessee, a total of two thorough State and Federal background checks are conducted. In addition, the applicant must also have never had a Felony, no DUI within the past 10 years, fallen short of child support or been found mentally defective by a Judge. These are just a handful of the 17 requirements that must be met before Tennesseans can even consider applying for an eight-hour defensive carry class, in which they must not only learn how to safely handle their firearm, but understand the laws about using force as well as prove on a range that they are capable of accurately using that force. The process is long, expensive and your Carry Permit is subject to being revoked at any time if you do something that causes you to no longer meet the initial requirements.
The fact of the matter is, most legal gun owners are law-abiding citizens who understand that self-defense is a human right, and do what they can to even their odds against an attacker. Criminals do not care about getting permits, gun free zones or legally obtaining a firearm. If we take firearms from the law-abiding, only criminals and Government agencies would have them. I have lived in countries where firearms are banned. Crime still goes up, because citizens have no deterrent against criminals and criminals don’t care. The Colorado shooter, James Holmes, was not a disgruntled individual. He legally purchased those firearms, that much is true. As effective as the FBI's NICS background check system is at preventing the legal transfer of firearms into the hands of felons or other unsavory individuals, a few fish will always make their way through the nets (often due to poor reporting of the individual’s character by health officials and family members, not the firearms dealer or Background Check services). Banning firearms or ammunition wouldn't have stopped Holmes: he is a deranged psychopath who was determined to carry this plan out in advance and would have obtained those weapons and the ammunition for his rampage, no matter what. The guy even made homemade flash-bangs and wired his apartment with IEDs that would have killed anyone who went inside. There was no getting around this guy. People knew he was deranged: his own mother wasn't all that surprised he carried it out. Had an individual been armed in that theater, this might have been prevented. I can’t personally guarantee it, but there is no denying that it would have changed the odds.
This argument could go on and on; I simply do not have enough paper in this office to sufficiently post every fact or argument I have obtained in my month-long hard research on this topic.
Despite all this, I think we lose sight on what the Second Amendment is really for. Why can we purchase and keep guns?
Regardless of how my pro and anti-gun colleagues think out there, the Second Amendment is not there so you can own 20 AR-15s or carry a pistol on your person “just because you can”.
It isn't so criminals can run rampant with stolen/illegally purchased weapons and commit crimes. The second amendment is there because it protects the people from the worst criminal of all - the Government. So long as we live in an armed society - one armed as well (if not in quality at least in quantity) as the Government it is forced to remember that the second amendment is the explicit right of the people to rebel if the Government no longer represents the will of the majority.
In closing, gun culture is undeniably part of the fabric that makes up American life. Say what you want about them; they aren’t going anywhere. The problem lies not in the object, but in the operator. Improve society and you won’t need restrictive gun laws.