Orlando (Part I)

Posted: June 19, 2016 in Current Events, Politics
Tags: , , , ,

Orlando

Orlando. Of course I’m referencing the worst mass shooting in this country in modern history. There are lots of discussion regarding the reasons why. Lack of gun control? Hatred against the LGBT community? Mental health issues? Terrorism? In my view, it would really be nice if it was just one thing and if we could just figure out what that one thing was and we fixed that, we would be good to go. But the real world and its people are complicated. I think most likely ALL of these factors had a contribution (though I don’t think we will ever know by how much each factor contributed). Bottom line, we have plenty of problems to work on.

I think I kind of want to write my thoughts on each….just since these are rattling in my head. First, in regards to gun control:

  • We really do need to have a discussion as a country on whether we think guns should be totally unfettered by regulation or not. In other words, is the freedom to manufacture, sell, and own any kind of gun one can imagine really worth the trade-off of safety.
  • In regards to the 2nd Amendment, that “well-regulated militia” thing has to mean something, right? If not, why is it there? At any rate, we frown upon owning tanks. We don’t let you buy automatic weapons. So we’ve established that we can have some lines drawn. It’s just a matter of deciding if the lines we’ve drawn need to be tweaked.
  • Lots of talk about “preventing” these kind of attacks, and that’s part of it. But truth be told, we are also trying to mitigate the impacts of such events too. Had the Orlando attack been 25 dead and 27 injured, it still would have been a most horrible tragedy, but many lives would have been saved too.
  • Along that vein, yes, other means have been used to kill people. That said, when a rock is used to kill 49 people and injure 53 more or when fertilizer bombs become as common as gun attacks, we probably should visit those issues too. Until then though, guns are probably the appropriate focus.
  • Gun control measures will need to be smart. In my mind, the focus should be both on who can possess firearms and the nature of the firearms themselves. For that latter, we should discuss how many rounds should you really be able to fire off at a time without reloading, and how fast you can fire a round. What should be the purpose of firearms for the general public? Hunting? Recreation? Self-defense? If all that, what is really required to meet those purposes? And should anything beyond that be disallowed? Are some of the features of current arms really for just killing people (for instance, the family of the inventor of the AR-15 says it was designed strictly as a military weapon, not for civilians)?
  • Not all gun control measures are equal. The original assault weapon ban of 1994, for instance, was flawed mostly because it focused more on cosmetic features. This was mostly due to the fact that Congress really didn’t want to wide sweeping ban on guns and tried to focus its law on certain guns. However manufacturers pretty easily got around the bans for the most part by simply modifying the models so they would be within code.
  • However, there are some measures that seem like such low hanging fruit that I don’t see why they shouldn’t be done today. For instance, closing the background check loophole seems like just common sense. Also, I find it hard to believe that high-capacity ammo magazines really serve any good purpose.
  • Unfortunately, even if we pass good gun control measures, it is going to take a long, long while to reap the benefits. We have let the sales of military-style weaponry go on for so long, the market is just flooded with this stuff. Stopping the manufacture and sale today doesn’t make what’s already been manufactured and sold go away. (We could ban certain weapons/ammo/ammo capacity outright, perhaps with some sort of buyback program…..but since the biggest fear among some is that government will “take our guns away”, that seems highly unlikely. Of course, given our history, we will be lucky if ANYTHING AT ALL gets passed.)

One final thought: Let’s just clear one thing up. The NRA is not an organization of the people. It’s an industry advocacy organization, namely the gun manufacturing industry. And that means they have a built-in advantage. First, the organization is backed by the support of the industry with $12 billion of sales a year. Second, the goals of the organization is clear. Anything that promotes the sales of guns = good, anything that might possibly reduce gun sales = bad.

In a way, there’s nothing wrong with advocating for an industry. The problem is that there’s no true counter-organization to the NRA to argue and advocate for the other side, which means the NRA has outsized influence over policy. While it’s natural for gun manufacturers to ban together for their own mutual cause, there’s no natural grouping for the other side. So instead, you get several smaller and separate counter groups organizing independently from each other. Also, it’s easy to say we need some form of gun control generally. But it’s much harder to reach an agreement on what that should look like, so the goals for counter-organizations are muddier.

But even so, we either have to make a stand and take measures to see to it that these matters are at least seriously debated (one action I’ve taken is making a donation to Violence Policy Center). Or we need to come to terms with the fact that we collectively have settled on this issue, and we have decided to be ok with having occasional mass shootings as a trade-off for keeping things the way they are in regards to guns.

 

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