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Renewed Gun Debate Amid a Bloody Weekend

Monday, May 16th, 2022

The gun discussion is back in the limelight amid a weekend of tragic circumstances. Shootings in Milwaukee, WI following the Bucks' playoff game left 21 injured. A self-proclaimed white supremacist shot and killed 10 at a supermarket in Buffalo, NY. 1 dead and 4 injured after a shooting in a church in Laguna Woods, CA. Not to mention the 30 people shot collectively in Chicago, IL - 5 of whom passed away.

Politicians looking to position themselves favorably and manipulate the emotions of voters have thrusted themselves back into the gun rights debate. Every time we have a tragedy like what occurred in Buffalo over the weekend, our leaders run to their team's respective "sides" and start pointing their fingers. Our inability to react to these situations in a rational, productive way is the true tragedy.

The political left will make every argument possible to justify their desire to have stricter gun laws, re-implement the assault weapons ban. Meanwhile the right will make every argument possible to explain why the left is wrong. BOTH seem eager to provide more resources to the Dept. of Homeland Security potentially ushering in The Patriot Act 2.0 with much larger surveillance capabilities. But NEITHER even try to attempt to understand any root issues or cultural poisons that often lead to mass shootings. Its either the gun's fault or not the gun's fault. That shallow debate is irresponsible and proof that our elected officials aren't fit for the offices they hold.

If we aren't willing to dissect the why behind these instances with nuance and compassion, we have already failed.

White Supremacy?

This should go without saying, but any act in the name of white supremacy is abhorrent. I am very interested in learning the background of the Buffalo shooter and why, as an 18yr old, he felt the need to target Black-Americans. What about his upbringing and environment bred that within him? I've seen some information showing he trafficked in groups on 4-Chan and Reddit (online message boards), but what about outside the computer? What were his parents doing and how did his home life create this?

Our nation is built on people's rights to believe in whatever they wish to believe. So long as actions taken don't infringe on another's right, neo-Nazis, white supremacists, Anti-Semites, are allowed to organize and even actively spread their message and recruit. This kid went further than a belief and took innocent people's lives. However angry we are about this, we cannot allow it to impede the aforementioned's right to assembly. An attack on the freedom of one is an attack on the freedom of all. I recognize that's a hard pill to swallow but we must remain principled and consistent - no matter how much I'd like to go kick down the door of a neo-Nazi meeting.

White supremacy is not a leading threat to our nation, and anyone proclaiming such is being irresponsible. However law enforcement must stay plugged in and stay vigilant, and we have to discuss what tools they should be allowed to use and if they have the right to monitor those who traffic on hateful online message boards. Crazies are abundant. It is curious that an 18 year old became so radicalized and even created a manifesto with his intentions. Unfortunately, racism and evil will persist no matter what course of action is taken. All we can do is swiftly and collaboratively fight it with true equality and compassion for each other.

The 2nd Amendment Revisited

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

We must continue the conversation, alongside data, to understand if our right as Americans to keep and bear arms has made us more unsafe and has taken more lives OR if it is more so our lack of discipline and responsibility in using said right. Any legislation aimed at banning certain weapons, like the "assault weapons" ban, is by definition unconstitutional - but that doesn't mean the regulation of arms isn't beneficial.

The right must do a better job and eloquently arguing their point rather than knee-jerkingly trashing the left as "anti-gun" or "anti-freedom" while the left must also do a better job at not labeling the right as evil or uninterested in saving lives.

There are areas of agreement. For instance, machine guns (fully automatic) have been banned since the 1930s in an effort to combat mob rule and their firepower over police departments. Courts have upheld this legislation and we as a society, including political players like the National Rifle Association (NRA) agree. There are lines in the sand that most rational voters agree on, and no rational pro 2nd Amendment Republican would ever argue to bring the right to own them back.

Of course the libertarian view is that the 2nd Amendment clearly holds no specification on "arms", so nukes are fair game. Libertarians often cite the market being the true regulator where weapons such as machine guns, tanks, grenades, etc. would be so unaffordable that only the military could ever have them. I think this is an unproductive and pointless argument, but its fun to hear it posed.

The 2nd Amendment is an awesome responsibility, and not one to be taken lightly. Education and awareness of weapons is the most important piece missing from our public discourse and could prevent so many deaths, yet we are so caught up in debating prohibition. If there is anything I know for sure, its that prohibition of anything in this country never goes well. The cure to alcohol related domestic violence wasn't to ban alcohol, it was to promulgate a culture in which responsible drinking was encouraged and expected.

Our founders could have never predicted the weaponry available today, and it makes sense to discuss how to apply the 2nd amendment correctly. That discussion has to be in good faith with the understanding that large sweeping bans aren't effective nor do they even remotely touch on the root issues. Most gun related homicides occur with a handgun that holds no more than 10 rounds per clip. In fact handguns accounted for over 8,000 murders in 2020. Banning "assault weapons" doesn't solve the daily death toll occurring on the streets of Chicago. Additionally, knife/cutting utensil related homicides accounted for more than 1,700 deaths in 2020. Should we ban sharp objects?

Let us also not forget that many equivocate "assault weapon" with "automatic rifle". Assault weapon is just a blanket term that the media loosely applies to weapons that look to be of the military. The AR-15 is often mislabeled as an "assault rifle" when in reality the AR stands for "ArmaLite Rifle". ArmaLite was a small arms engineering company that eventually sold its patent to Colt. The general misconceptions surrounding gun terms like "semi-automatic", "automatic", "bump stock", etc. is one of the major issues in this conversation.

Gun rights activist Colion Noir often wows voters on both sides of the aisle with his eloquent explanations and rational takes on gun issues. You don't have to agree with every point he makes for listening to his perspective to be meaningful an productive. Here's a clip from his appearance on The Joe Rogan Experience in April 2021.

Guns Don't Kill People... And People Need Help

It seems more and more clear to me that this isn't an issue of whatever object is being used, its the fact that evil and mentally ill people exist. Take away the gun and these people will find another way to harm others if they so wish. We must figure out ways to address these problems ahead of the tragedies occurring. A more robust understanding of mental health, and fostering a culture that doesn't promote violent action or sensationalize shootings.

Today we are so fixated on our personal light boxes in our pockets that our serotonin levels are directly in sync with how many likes or shares we get on social media. I have no doubt that many of these killers are lonely and desperate for attention. Maybe they feel ignored or forgotten and they believe the only way to build their legacy is to do something drastic. And of course we blast their face all over the place and make them infamous.

Alongside this, our nation's rhetoric surrounding issues like abortion, gun rights, racial equality, gender, etc. has been increasingly existential. Leaders on both political sides label the other as evil incarnate and sound alarms that embolden people to act irrationally. Look at January 6th 2021. Add this fervor onto our nosediving economy and people living pay check to pay check? The tinder box just got a hell of a lot hotter. People are afraid, backed into a corner, swamped with depression, and will do anything to survive. An we wonder why crime is at an all time high.

A gun, just like a knife or a hammer, is a tool. That tool's power must be understood and respected. Discipline is the most important part of gun ownership, especially when children are around. And even if guns aren't for you, you and yours should take the time to learn and understand gun safety. If we continue to neglect this responsibility, there will be more shootings and death - regardless of any type of weapons ban or magazine capacity limit. More government power just is not the answer here.

We must approach this issue differently if we want to actually effect any change. Legislating culture is nearly impossible, and once we understand that we might be able to have productive conversations about the root issues. Focusing on building more community and stronger character is of the utmost importance - something the suits in Washington D.C. are incapable of doing.

People are in a bad spot nowadays and I can't even imagine the social stress of young adults entering a world where everything is hyper political and partisan. All of us are under the social media microscope. While it may be self inflicted, we are at all time highs for anxiety and depression. All of these things add up and to not account for their contributions to our chaotic culture and violent atmosphere is sorely irresponsible. We will never be able to end all evil. Shootings are going to happen. But rather than ban and over regulate, we can focus on education and awareness along with investing in a more robust mental health apparatus. If we continue to politicize events like this, we are doomed to more bloodshed.


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