The recent shooting, at‚ Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School‚ in Parkland, Florida, has rekindled the hot debate about gun control in the United States. Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT), a proponent of more restrictions on firearms, argued, “This happens nowhere else, other than the United States of America. It only happens here not because of coincidence, not because of bad luck, but as a consequence of our inaction. We are responsible for a level of mass atrocity that happens in this country with zero parallel anywhere else.”2
Unfortunately, this has become the routine in the United States. After every mass shooting, the debate over guns and gun violence begins again. But, the violence is not solely about the gun. We have seen knives, bombs, trucks and cars used as the assailant’s tool as well.
In response to Senator Murphy’s (and others) attacks on Second Amendment rights, the National Rifle Association (NRA) “officially spends about $3m per year” lobbying to influence gun policy. Since its founding in 1871, the NRA has continued to promote gun safety programs and is the primary firearms educational organization in the United States.3
Here’s something to think about: Is it guns that kill people or people who kill people? Because a mentally ill person commits a mass shooting, is it fair to say that because of that, no one else can own a gun? Opponents of gun control argue that The Bill of Rights gives us as American citizens the right to own a gun for protection. What would happen if only people who acquired them illegally had guns? Would more people die because others were unable to protect themselves? Using that same logic, if we say that guns aren’t allowed for anyone because someone with a mental illness kills someone is like saying that “nobody can eat sugar just because there are people with diabetes.”4
In order for someone to purchase a firearm, it is only common sense to a require rigorous background check, restrict gun sales to only those individuals over 21 years of age and to prevent the purchase of, or take guns away from those individuals who are mentally ill, but as the old adage goes, “Common sense ain’t too common.” If only it were this easy . . .
Fortune magazine has identified a group of “Gun Super-Owners,” who love guns more than the average gun-lover and it should come as no surprise that these “Super-Owners” drive the firearms market in the United States. To illustrate this point with the numbers, approximately 2% of Americans (1 in 50) own half of the guns (50%) in United States.5
In 2015, The Washington Post’s Wonkblog site revealed that the average number of firearms owned by a “typical gun-owning household in the United States” has roughly doubled between 1994 and 2013, to 8.1 guns per household AND the trend has only gone up since. A recent Harvard/Northwestern University joint study estimates that America’s 319 million citizens own about 265 million guns. From 1994 to 2016 the number of Americans who owned guns decreased from 25% to 22%. In the last 18 months (May, 2016 through November, 2017), the FBI National Instant Criminal Background Check System data indicates that gun sales set new records in the United States. This means that there are fewer households who own guns, but there are more gun sales, so there is an increase in the number of guns owned per gun-owning household.6
The following five items are being proposed to help with what is commonly called the “gun problem” in the United States:
Universal background checks
“No fly-no buy” barring people on the no-fly list from purchasing guns
Creating a federal database for gun purchases
Banning assault-style weapons
Prohibiting the sale of bump stocks
The question is whether or not the “problem” is really a mental health problem that is partially fueled by the breakdown of the family structure and support system in the United States. Is it possible to detect a mental health issue with a background check before a gun can be purchased? The answer is maybe yes and maybe no.
Are people in the United States so accustomed to violence that it has become a way-of-life and we have become de-sensitized to it?
Consider the following statistics:
Number of murders seen on TV by the time an average child finishes elementary school: 8,000
Number of violent acts seen on TV by age 18: 200,000
Percentage of Americans who believe TV violence helps precipitate real life mayhem: 79
According to the A.C. Nielsen Co., the average American watches more than 4 hours of TV each day (or 28 hours/week, or 2 months of nonstop TV-watching per year). This means a 65-year life, that person will have spent 9 years watching TV, so how many murders and violent acts have they seen?7
Some Things to Think About
Should the chief of police in every city or town be assigned the task of issuing gun permits so law enforcement in that city or town will know who in their area has a weapon? What if individuals had to be certified by law enforcement to carry (and possibly use) their weapon of choice? Would this have an effect on gun crimes in the United States?
Everyone agrees that someone with a mental health condition should not be able to purchase a gun or obtain a gun permit. What if a doctor had to certify that the person was of sound mind? Would this help the problem?
We also agree that there should be signage posted that no guns should be allowed within 1,000 feet of any school and area to be posted. Again, will this help the problem? What if it is a mentally ill person with an illegally obtained firearm in the area of a school? Will they obey the law and stay back 1,000 feet if they have a gun? Are signs of “gun free zones the only answer, no, certainly not. Those that choose to break the laws, norms and mores of society will NOT be hampered by legislation, signage or other factors. As a locksmith told me in class, locks keep honest people out, if there is a will, there is a way in.
Every mass shooting incident (especially at a school) creates frustration ‚Äì for law enforcement, politicians, school administrators, teachers, parents, general public and even the students. Why? On Wednesday, February 27, a Broward County School Board member said that the security measures that were in place and the active shooter training that was conducted at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida were not enough to stop a gunman from killing 17 people. So, what is “enough” security?
Does This Need to be a Very Complicated Issue?
This may not have to be such a complicated issue. We need to use a common sense, pro-active approach. There are two approaches . . . we need to reduce the risk of mentally ill individuals obtaining guns and causing mass casualties or give everyone a gun and then active shooter will be the “new normal.” We are supposed to be a civil society but at times that doesn’t appear to be the case. Regardless of the reason ‚Äì mental illness, gun availability, de-sensitivity to violence and death, over-exposure to violence through television or video games, anger issues, etc., it does appear as though some individuals think only with their trigger finger.
What About “Smart” Guns?
A “smart” gun is a firearm that uses technology to prevent anyone except the owner from firing the weapon. This is achieved in different ways depending on the design, including through fingerprint sensors, radio-frequency identification (RFID), magnets and biometric sensors that unlock the weapon based on a combination of grip style and the strength and size of the person’s hand. Since technology is used in order for the weapon to fire, there is some concern that if “smart” guns become more readily available, they may run the risk of being hac