August 2014

Line in the Sand- Gun Control

Author: Barry Kaufman & Courtney Hampson

A few weeks ago, I would have said it was impossible: I was proven wrong. Twice. You see, there are two beliefs that I’ve held for some time now that were swiftly overturned recently. The first belief is that gun control just makes sense in an era of runaway gun violence and seemingly constant school shootings. You want to take your armor-piercing 50 cal tankbuster out into the woods to aerate a few deer? Too bad; we can’t risk that thing ending up in the wrong hands.
The second belief is that no one has ever had their opinion changed by anything ever posted on Facebook. Particularly anything political, which is about 90 percent of my feed (the rest are photos of peoples’ kids and links to Buzzfeed).

My cousin is a pretty staunch second amendment advocate. I haven’t counted, but I think he has somewhere in the neighborhood of eleventy million guns, is very good with all of them, and is licensed to carry about half of them on his person at any given moment. He is also an incredibly responsible gun owner and very knowledgeable about safety and the law. That said, I would not recommend you go messing with his stuff.

In the wake of the latest shooting (it’s a sad indictment of where we are as a society that I can’t remember which one) he posted something to Facebook that essentially said, “We should pass a law making it so that the media can’t report the names of these scumbags, then they’ll stop getting recognition.”

I can respect the notion that we should stop making de facto celebrities out of these monsters, but it was the notion that the law needed to get involved that bugged me. After all, I’m kind of a journalist, right? What he was advocating here infringed on my rights as a pseudo-journalist. It’s sort of my job to defend the first amendment when it’s under threat, (also to drink heavily, another fine journalistic tradition), so I knew I had to respond.

I keyed into the “comment” field ready to craft my bold defense of a free press. Freedom of speech is one of our fundamental rights as Americans, I began to write, and any law designed to inhibit it is unconstitutional. And besides, in this day and age, even if you restrict “the media” from reporting on it, who’s restricting some guy with a police scanner and a Twitter account? Who’s restricting the shooters themselves from releasing their manifesto on YouTube?

It would be one of those laws that you pass to make yourself feel better. One that really only punishes the people who obey the law, while not actually accomplishing anything.
And that’s when that first belief I mentioned earlier was proven wrong. Because I realized if I just replaced the First Amendment with the Second Amendment in my argument, I had pretty much destroyed my own views on gun control.

Telling the press not to give killers any PR, telling gun owners to maybe cool it with the assault rifles, it’s all the same. It’s a good idea in theory, but passing a law isn’t going to accomplish anything but punishing people who would actually obey the law. The names of the killers will still find a way to get out, and so will the guns. And nothing will have been accomplished apart from trampling the rights of Americans.

Look, apart from two Nerf guns and a backyard full of foam ammo, I don’t own a gun. I don’t have a dog in this fight. The Supreme Court could decide tomorrow that they were taking away everyone’s guns and my world would keep on turning. But even if I don’t take advantage of it, I would have lost one of my fundamental rights as an American, and these days it seems like we’re running short on those.

I’m not saying I’m a born-again gun nut. I still think the notion that anyone “needs” an assault rifle is kind of ludicrous. Just admit that it’s essentially a toy for grownups, and don’t act like you don’t imagine yourself mowing down Terminators when you’re at the range. Do I think “the only thing that can stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun?” I guess, but when you say “good guy with a gun,” I picture a police officer or a soldier, not a guy with a basement full of Uzis and a Rambo complex.

I’m just saying that, impossibly, something I read on Facebook completely changed my mind, and I’m starting to realize that you can clamp down on gun owners all you want and it won’t stop a single school shooting.

So what can we actually do? Say hi to your neighbor. Walk up to somebody at the grocery store and tell them a joke. Throw a party and invite the entire neighborhood.

The problem isn’t a gun. The problem is the fear and isolation that drives people to use them for evil. The problem isn’t violent movies or video games. The problem is the culture that creates a $600 game console and can’t think of anything to do with it but use it as a murder simulator for children. The problem isn’t the news reporting the names of madmen. The problem is a culture that wants to know their names, for whatever reason.

The problem is bigger than guns, bigger than the media, bigger than all the things we scapegoat after the tragedy.

The problem is us. Let’s start there.

Now share this on Facebook and see if it changes anyone’s mind. It won’t, but at least you’ll start a few arguments. 

Barry Kaufman

On December 13, 2012, I received the worst news of my life. My dog, Darby, was dying of cancer. My world was rocked. On December 14, 20 children and six adults were shot and killed by Adam Lanza at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. As I continued to reel from Darby’s diagnosis, my sister comforted me, with the following words, “I know you are sad, but I also know that there are 20 kids in Heaven that could really use a dog to play with today.”
Despite the fact that my sister forgot that I don’t necessarily believe in a Heaven, her words were seared into my brain. And there they remain. Each time—which is unfortunately and shockingly often—there is news of another senseless shooting, my sister’s words echo in my head.

What does this have to do with the Second Amendment? Well, everything.

Humor me with a quick seventh grade history brush up. The Second Amendment reads, “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.” The Second Amendment was ratified, along with the other nine, on December 15, 1791. George Washington was president; New York City had just created the first one-way street; the first law school in the U.S. opened at the University of Pennsylvania; only 3.9 million people lived in the U.S.; we hunted for our food; and our arms were single-shot muskets that had to be manually loaded with powder and ball for each shot.

My point? This was a long time ago. I don’t imagine our forefathers (but, I do intend to ask them when I meet them in Heaven) wrote the second amendment with the forethought that we would one day have the ability to build personal arsenals of semi-automatic assault weapons that spray 50-60 high-caliber bullets per minute.

I am afraid of guns. I don’t want to own one. I’ve been hunting twice, with a seasoned and legendary guide. Pulled two triggers. Killed a deer. And a hog. While exhilarating (mostly because my guide was so stoked), pulling the trigger was also traumatizing.

I repeat. I don’t want a gun. I don’t want a gun in my home. I might not want to be in your house if you have guns. But, I also don’t believe I should restrict your ability to own a gun. And, by gun, I mean a small hand gun for your protection. One that you keep locked in a safe and probably won’t have time to access if you need to protect yourself.

What I can’t understand, is why folks support a person’s right to build a full artillery of weapons, in his or her home. Under exactly what circumstances does someone believe that they may need dozens of semi-automatic weapons to protect his home? Too many zombie movies, people.
Why is society unwilling to keep guns out of the hands of people who can do unbelievable damage?

On June 10, following a school shooting in Portland, Oregon, President Obama reacted by saying, “We’re the only developed country on Earth where this happens. And it happens now once a week. And it’s a one-day story. There’s no place else like this.”

The president added, “Our levels of gun violence are off the charts. There’s no advanced, developed country on Earth that would put up with this.” He went on to say, in reference to Newtown, “The fact that 20 six-year-olds were gunned down in the most violent fashion possible and [Washington] couldn’t do anything about it was stunning to me.”

As for those who believe mental illness is chiefly responsible for the rash of gun violence, Obama said, “You know, the United States does not have a monopoly on crazy people… It’s not the only country that has psychosis. And yet, we kill each other in these mass shootings at rates that are exponentially higher than any place else.”

Call me daft, but I don’t quite understand how anyone can be okay with the idea that they may send their husband, wife, child, parent off to work or school one day, and because of the Second Amendment, be okay with the fact that they may never return home.

Courtney Hampson

  1. Courtney – I take my hat off to you with this argument. It makes a lot of sense. Well said, well put, well done. Sometimes I agree with you and I am not too proud to admit it.

    — Mary Frances Lowrey    Aug 8, 01:56 pm   

  2. whoops! I made a mistake…I liked Barry’s argument! Sorry reading online and I thought the first article was Courtney’s! I should have known better … the serious sarcasm was missing. Oh well, good job to both lines in the sand.

    — Mary Frances Lowrey    Aug 8, 02:05 pm   

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