Why Gun Control Is Difficult

I wrote about the topic of gun control earlier this year in March after the wake of the New Zealand massacre shooting in two mosques. For those that have forgotten the events of that horrific day here is the first paragraph of the post I wrote:

On March 15, 2019, an Australian born national was alleged to have gone into two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand with several AR-15 assault rifles and used them to commit the worst mass shooting in New Zealand’s history.  The assailant took the lives of 50 people attending Friday prayers and wounded 40 more.  Some of the injured are in critical condition and may succumb to their injuries.  The shooter had a license for the firearms and owned the weapons lawfully.

On August 3, 2019, in El Paso, TX a gunman entered into a Wal-Mart and murdered 20 people and injured 26 others. The alleged shooter is a 21-year-old male from TX. He’s not from the El Paso area so it’s unclear at the moment as to why he picked that location for his attack. There are unconfirmed reports that he left a hate-filled manifesto, which might explain his state of mind. Many news organizations were quick to point out he was white and labeled him as a white nationalist terrorist.

For the people who are grieving the loss of a loved one at the hands of a crazed gunman, labels serve no purpose other than to place blame on an entire group.  Instead of directing that hurt to where it belongs, the killer, politicians, certain media outlets and gun control advocates place supreme blame on people who purchased their weapons lawfully. They blame the killer first then pivot to blaming every law-abiding gun owner, especially if they are Caucasian because that’s the easiest target and focus on the shooters’ political affiliation especially if they vote Republican. Laying blame to an entire group or groups that fit the narrative of those same groups being bad for the country is misguided and sad.

2020 Democratic Presidential candidate, Pete Buttigieg responded to the shooting similarly. “America is under attack from homegrown, white nationalist terrorism,” Buttigieg said in his opening statement before the AFSCME 2020 Public Service Forum in Las Vegas. “We have to talk and act about two things in this country: first of all, we are the only country in the world with more guns than people. It has not made us safer. We can respect the Second Amendment and not allow it to be a death sentence for thousands of Americans.” “Number two, white nationalism is evil,” the Sound Bend mayor continued. “It is inspiring people to commit murder and it is being condoned at the highest levels of the American government and it has got to end.”

I’m very sad about last night’s events. I was hoping I wouldn’t have to write about another mass shooting although I knew it was just a matter of time. Hearing remarks from the South Bend, IN mayor, makes me even sadder. Everyone handles grief differently. Politicians and those who seek the highest office in the land have a responsibility to try and console the nation when evil shows its face and do their best to bring a fractured country closer together. Sadly the mayor and so many in the public spotlight can’t resist the temptation to push their ideological viewpoints and spread false narratives that make for good sound bites but are hardly good solutions.

I don’t want to make this topic of why gun control is difficult about Mayor Pete but I will focus on his statement since it’s the opinions and beliefs of many who feel the same way he does.

“We have to talk and act about two things in this country: first of all, we are the only country in the world with more guns than people. It has not made us safer. We can respect the Second Amendment and not allow it to be a death sentence for thousands of Americans.”

We don’t know the number of guns owned by people in every other country in the world and what the ratio is per citizen. Why? The same reason why we don’t know precisely how many weapons people in the United States own. According to an article in the Wall Street Journal, one estimate of U.S. gun ownership is calculated using data from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, or ATF. This figure tallies the number of firearms produced by American manufacturers, adding the number of firearms shipped from other countries by American importers, and subtracting the number of firearms exported internationally. By this count, the U.S. has more guns in nonmilitary hands than residents.

But this estimate comes with several caveats. Annual manufacturing and import numbers don’t necessarily equate to annual sales. The ATF definition of a firearm includes specific parts regulated by the 1934 National Firearms Act, such as silencers, inflating the count. And it includes weapons manufactured for law enforcement agencies, though not the military.

Tallying up the annual ATF numbers to arrive at a cumulative total of guns in America also fails to account for firearms, which may have been destroyed, confiscated, permanently lost or otherwise taken out of commission.

A more accurate number, some researchers say, should assume a 1% depreciation to account for this loss.

“Number two, white nationalism is evil,” the Sound Bend mayor continued. “It is inspiring people to commit murder and it is being condoned at the highest levels of the American government and it has got to end.”

White nationalism is evil. So are people that are not white who perpetrate evil. Nationalism is an ideology that emphasizes loyalty, devotion, or allegiance to a nation or nation-state and holds that such obligations outweigh other individual or group interests.

His last sentence is highly egregious, utterly irresponsible and reprehensible. What Mayor Pete did in that one sentiment was call the President of the United States a white nationalist who condones the promotion of hate groups and the slaughter of innocent men, women, and children in the name of white pride. The mayor may firmly believe in his heart of hearts those feelings to be true. He can believe and say anything he thinks will help improve his ratings in the polls and resonate with voters who think just like him. He is not entitled to promote his version of hate speech in the name of gun control and saving lives. The same bias he shows for the commander in chief is no different than the hate he claims to be opposed to.

When I title a post why gun control is difficult, it’s difficult because the conversation is difficult. The conversation is difficult because the pain of losing anyone to senseless gun violence is difficult. Coming up with laws that protect law-abiding citizens from people who purchased weapons legally and were law-abiding citizens, up until they became killers, is difficult. The one common denominator that spans across race, age, wealth and geography is mental illness. Someone can appear to be sane on the outside and be a raging homicidal maniac on the inside. Some lose control of those urges and act on their desire to kill as a teenager. Some wait until they turn 21. Some live a model life and are pillars of their community until they finally snap.

Drinking and driving under the influence is illegal in every state yet every day someone drives impaired. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) says every day, almost 30 people in the United States die in drunk-driving crashes—that’s one person every 48 minutes in 2017. Every day, 100 Americans are killed with guns and hundreds more are shot and injured. Nearly two-thirds of gun deaths are suicides. The U.S. gun suicide rate is 10 times that of other high-income countries. Take away the people who voluntarily end their own lives with a gun, and the number of people who are killed by the barrel of a gun is almost equivalent to those who die by someone that is drunk or high behind the wheel. As a former drinker and someone who has been involved in many crashes as a result of being impaired, I am lucky that no one including myself was harmed from my careless actions.  You can always replace a car.

Alcoholics and drug users will tell you they drink for celebration and to make them feel better. They also use to help them forget about their problems and make the pain go away. The root cause of gun violence, as well as drinking and drug abuse, is mental illness. Until we address the difficulties and complexities of why we feel and act the way we do we will never come close to finding a solution to gun control. Whether it’s used as a tool for self-defense or criminal offense, a gun is merely a tool. Self-control is difficult for people who struggle inside. Until we all stop placing blame on groups of people who look the same, and acknowledge that violence is caused by people who are filled with sadness and pain, we will continue to mourn those lost at the hands of one whose insane. Why is gun control difficult? The answer lies in the brain.

Gun Control Pete Buttigieg

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