Sunday, 16 December 2012

Re: Gun Control

A friend I've known online for years, Samantha, recently made a post in response to the gun control debates in the states. I was quite impressed by it and decided to repost it here for others to appreciate. If you want, you can read the original debate here. As a preface, I should say that I don't 100% agree with her (in particular, I think points 3 and 4 are excessive), but it is a very good gun control argument.



Gun control is something I've always felt strong about. I posted most of this on my facebook on Friday, and some of you may have seen it, but oh well.

For the past two days at work, I've been inundated with people saying "guns don't kill people, people kill people." Which is true. Guns aren't sentient. Except in rare instances where the gun is faulty, it's not going to randomly go off and kill someone. But guns make it a THOUSAND more times easier to kill people. Scott already posted a link to the knife attack in China where not a single person was killed. The facts are that if someone wants to kill a bunch of people, a gun or two is going to be the go-to method. Bombs are difficult to construct, which is why they aren't used nearly as often. 

For the simple fact that guns make it easier for people to hurt other people, there NEEDS to be a complete revamp to gun policies in the states. Can anyone think of anything else people are allowed - and even encouraged - to buy or have that has the potential to hurt others like guns do? Because I sure as hell can't.

The second amendment was added because founding citizens were concerned with not only the British coming back, but of the fledgling new government turning tyrannical, and the founding fathers felt that it was best to include a clause that allowed people to arm themselves. Keep in mind that this was in the 1700s when when firing a normal musket meant that you had to reload after every shot. I'm not sure if anyone knows what it's like to reload a musket - the closest we have today is probably black powder guns. There is a very specific and precise way you have to load the gun that takes time. It can be kept preloaded for a shot (I would have to ask my father to verify how many shots it can do, but I believe it's only one at a time), and then the person shooting it would have to take the 30 seconds to reload it. That's the kind of firearms people had readily available to them in the 1700s. The drafters of the Constitution could have NO possible way to foresee that method changing as it was the norm to them. And in fact, the first machine gun wasn't available until a hundred years later. Shooting multiple people with a single shot musket would have been nearly impossible - which is why I'm sure the founding fathers felt comfortable adding it to the Constitution.

However, it's been over 200 years since the US has felt any kind of threat from another country invading. The government is well established now. At this point in time, there is zero threat to everyone's personal liberties, at least coming from a government aspect. Because of personal beliefs some people might feel their rights are being stepped on because of homosexuals being allowed to marry, but that's a whole different ballpark. So why is it that Americans still feel the need to own a gun? We have a fully functioning military to protect from outside threats, and a fully developed internal police system that is 3 cell phone buttons away. Because of GPS locators, you don't even have to tell 911 of your location. This is how far our technology has come. 

Now, I'm not suggesting that guns are useless. I fully believe in and support hunters because it's been shown that the animals that are culled during hunting season drastically help the entire animal population. If deer populations get out of control, then they're more likely to spread diseases, which hurts more deer in the long run. And people do have to eat, and I completely understand the economic reasons someone wouldn't want to buy all their meat from a store - it's expensive. And I'm not suggesting that we stop that tradition. But handguns are pretty useless to anyone doing anything legitimate except for police officers. Hunting with a handgun is impractical. And ok, I guess if people want to show their accuracy or something they might want to shoot a handgun. But is that very necessary? Think of all of the gun crimes committed in the states, and then see how many of them use handguns as their weapon of choice. Hell, the shooter on Friday had two semi-automatic (which is a whole other terrible idea) handguns on him. The usefulness of handguns lie in that they are compact and discreet - which are two attributes someone looking to do harm absolutely love. So why are they necessary?

Oh, self defense, you say. I need my handgun to protect my home and family from intruders. That is an absolute load of bullshit. And here's why. 

Unless you are practicing weekly with your handgun, you are not likely going to be prepared to defend yourself with it properly if the situation arises. In fact, it's even more likely to cause problems. Sure, as a scare tactic, a gun works occasionally. But you know what else works? A black airsoft gun that can't kill anyone. They look exactly the same, and if you're trying to frighten someone that's a good method to go. But do you know what guns do? They escalate situations. 

Let's think for a minute that you're sleeping in your home, and are awoken by a loud noise of a window breaking. Someone's breaking in. You grab your pistol from beside your bed, still a little groggy, and start to make your way downstairs. You yell "stop I have a gun." The intruder is in your living room, trying to steal your television. He had intended to only get in, take the TV, and leave. But now that he hears you're armed, he gets nervous and pull out his weapon. You now have 2 loaded weapons in an enclosed space, with both people wielding them on edge. That situation could end, very, very badly with either the home owner or the thief getting shot. Adrenaline does not make for a very steady hand. Take that and couple it with a shooter who doesn't practice regularly, and maybe the shot they meant as a warning takes someone's head off. There are VERY FEW people who should be using guns as a means of self defense, and those people are the ones that have been trained to use weapons for that exact purpose. Normal Joe Schmo who bought the pistol and fired it once and then sleeps with it near his bed "just in case" is not likely to be very accurate with it at all.

And wouldn't the above situation - which had the potential to escalate very quickly - have been better handled by shouting "I just called the police, they're on their way"? That way the intruder knows that more people are already coming and that he should probably leave. He benefits nothing by pulling his weapon, because the authorities have already been notified. What's really mind boggling is the fact that people feel like they have to defend their stuff, like a physical belonging is that important. Home insurance would cover the damages anyways. So is it worth risking your life or the life of the intruder? No.

Don't you dare say something about "well what if the intruder had the intent to hurt you anyways?" That situation is EXTREMELY less likely, and then I'd like to refer you back to gun-proponents favorite argument - that if someone wants to kill you bad enough, they'll find a way. Maybe they're a crazy psycho killer breaking into your home armed with just a knife, and you're a regular 'Murrican with guns stashed around your house. Congratulations, not only are you dead, but you've armed a psychopath with a gun! Great fucking job. 

The fact of the matter is that most Americans will not experience a situation where they have to defend themselves in their own home. And if there were stricter gun control laws, the amount of incidences of anyone having to defend themselves in public would dramatically decrease. We have a seriously stupid logic when it comes to guns. There's an incident of gun violence? Then every citizen should arm themselves. But that's just a never fucking ending cycle of stupidity.

Gun violence --> more guns in the general population --> more gun violence because the weapons are more available --> people buying more guns. When does it stop? When is enough enough?

This is what, at least in my opinion, needs to be done:

1. Handguns should be limited to those in law enforcement/military situations only. Special circumstances can be made for security officers and bodyguards provided that there is reasonable proof for the necessity of them, and that each individual guard is able to pass a federally approved psych test and background check. All handguns should be relinquished by anyone using them in a professional way at the end of their jobs (ie when an officer retires). Handguns for personal use should be abolished. Handgun production should be limited ONLY to the supply required for police and military usage. Anyone requesting a handgun for bodyguard purposes would have to go through their local police department and would essentially be renting them. Any decorative handgun should be made unusable before being returned to the owner. Any person found possessing a handgun illegally (be it selling them or just carrying them) should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. I'm not talking a slap on the wrist community service stint or a couple months. Years in federal prison. This would deter people from seeking handguns out, and make it more risky for criminals to carry them. Any handgun that is confiscated by law enforcement should be destroyed. This is the only way to cut down on the number of handguns already available.

2. Automatic and semi-automatic weapons should not be available to anyone who is not in a military setting or in certain police related instances. There is absolutely ZERO need for any regular person to have them. Anyone found possessing them should be arrested immediately and detained under terrorist laws. Sorry folks, but if you own an automatic weapon, it should be assumed that you're going to do harm with it. 

3. Hunting weapons such as shotguns and rifles should not be sold in easily accessible stores. They should be limited to 1 store per county, and the price should be set in some way by the government to prevent the inevitable price gouging that would occur. It would be best if hunting guns could be sold by the state troopers or something. The amount of guns a person owns for hunting purposes should be limited - if they decide they would like a new gun, one of their old ones should be traded in for it. This will help cut down on the amount of unnecessary weapons hanging around people's homes. The procedure to purchase a hunting weapon should be extremely strict - they must go through a background check, agree to be fingerprinted and put in a gun-owner database that can be accessed whenever there is a gun crime (however it should be accessed for other reasons - kind of like how there is a separate database for all the kid's fingerprints they take while you're in school and only used if you get kidnapped. The gun database should not be used to connect you with any other crime you may commit but a gun crime), and then have a face to face meeting with a certified member of government to discuss why they want to own a gun. Each gun should be registered to a specific person, and if it's found in the possession of another person, the original person should be questioned about why they do not have it. Every hunting weapon sold should come automatically with a gun lock so that it can be kept trigger locked while not in use.

4. Ammo for hunting weapons should also be regulated - you can only buy ammo if you have a gun registered to you. 

I realize that this isn't going to happen. Gun ownership in the states is still thought of as a right when really it should be a privilege. The Constitutional necessity for gun ownership has long passed, but sadly the idea that all Americans should have a gun is much too ingrained for it to change any time soon. But there are a few simple tweaks that can be made to gun law now that would help cut back on violent gun crimes. Like, if doing anything illegal while carrying a gun around other people - even if it's never produced - was charged as attempted murder. And if the penalty for having an illegal weapon that is not registered to you was doubled, and there was no option for community service. Or even if all states do what New York does with it's handguns and requires that you have a face to face sit down with a trooper before you're issued a permit. If people have to jump through hoops to get a gun, and then the penalty for having an illegal one is increased, then they're less likely to do it. 

And for people who say that limiting the number of guns available in the US will just cause guns to come to the states from other countries, I'd like to point out that the US is the number one arms exporter, followed by Russia. We are WAY down on the list of importers, because there are so many guns that are made in the states that we don't need to bring them in from other countries. If gun manufacturing was limited in the states, then the number of guns in the states would decrease. Simple as that.

Sorry this is long, it's just really frustrating to me that people are so selfish.


Samantha also added the following:



This is a whole other topic that deserves some discussion, I think.

I was reading today about the mental health system in Massachusetts, and I know a little bit about how it works in NY since I work in a pharmacy here. I can honestly say it's complete shit. If someone has a problem, and ends up in the hospital because they've threatened their own lives or another person, their insurance company gets to dictate how long they are allowed to stay. Their insurance company gets to decide if they want to pay for them to go to a facility where they can receive long term care, or if it's not in their contract and they just go home. There are thousands of people who just slip through the cracks and don't get the help they deserve because an outside company just looking for money is telling them what kind of care they need. Doctors can fight it, but only to a certain point. And private run homes where they can get the health they need are very pricey.

I'll give an example from my job. There's a single mother in her 30s that comes in a few times a month to get meds for her daughter, who is 9. We'll call the mother D and the daughter M. M has oppositional defiance disorder among a slew of other diagnoses. Also living in the home is D's elderly mother who is diabetic and needs to be on a medication schedule. D works full time, and the grandmother often watches M when she's not in school. M has been on quite a few drugs since I started there 2 years ago. They've pretty much settled on Zyprexa as being her go-to drug (which D's insurance puts her copay at $80 for the brand and $40 for the fairly new generic). D sometimes doesn't have the money, and we try to help by loaning pills, but there are sporadic days when M will go without her meds.

This 9 year old girl is terrifying. She was molested as a young child by her father, and has extreme attachment issues with him. For a short stint he moved back in to help, and when D kicked him out, M had a break down at our counter, ripping our posters off the wall and kicking her mother who couldn't get a hold on her. M can be very sweet if she wants something (the other day she told me that she hopes Santa brings me lots of money), but then she can be vicious. D didn't want to buy something for her, so trying to be helpful I took the item and hid it and M started screaming at me how she wanted to stab me and that I was terrible. She's 9 and much smaller than I am so I'm not really in any harm, but the way she looked at me then was haunting. 

A few months ago, D was telling us how the cops had to be called on M 5 nights in a row because she was being violent towards the grandmother. The grandmother is frail, but she's still capable of getting around by herself. She just can't live on her own.

D said at that point that she was looking to put M in a home. The next week she came back and cried at our counter because her insurance would not approve M to be committed somewhere, stating that she hadn't been in the hospital enough times for self harm to justify it. I repeat: M is 9 years old. I've heard her say that she wants to kill herself, and I've heard her threaten others. She just doesn't know HOW to do it yet, which is why it hasn't happened. D even said that M's psychologists recommended it, but the insurance wouldn't budge because it was their policy.

So, the grandmother had to go into a nursing home. She's doing well there, and her care is paid for because it's for medical (not mental) reasons. Poor D is stuck with M and is trying to cope, but it's so easy to see that it's difficult for her.

This is what a lot of families who have children with mental illness go through. My adopted cousin is schizophrenic, and my aunt and uncle have a terrible time getting him help. He was covered under medicaid, but now he's 18 and I honestly don't know how they're affording it. 

There needs to be a change in the system to stop this all from happening. The latest articles I read said the shooter had a personality disorder, possibly Asbergers (which does not have violent tendencies, so I don't know why they'd suggest that), and also that he wasn't receiving help for it. 

I don't really know what I'm ranting about. It's all so frustrating. 

This article was a good read about the plight of a family with a mentally disturbed kid. http://anarchistsoccermom.blogspot.com/2012/12/thinking-unthinkable.html

Also, the police response time where I am is very quick, maybe 5 minutes max. And even back in my hometown when I lived on a dirt road, the only time we ever had to call the cops, troopers showed up within 10 minutes.

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