I wrote this post in 2013, after the LAX shooting. Yesterday NPR informed me that another shooting happened in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Yes, Kalamazoo. A mid-sized college town. Not too far from the home of Post Toasties and Tony the Tiger (Kellogg.)
I’m still sorting out the facts. An Uber driver. He picked up riders between shootings? Someone was in the car when he started shooting? Could these things be true?
Except for the place and perhaps an update to the statistics, the story remains the same:
“We live in a schizophrenic world,” I say.
“We want our guns, all our guns, but we don’t want to worry about being shot.”
“Guns don’t kill people,” mumbles Loved-One.
“I know. People with guns kill people.”
I know, I know. People kill each other with baseball bats and fists and knives, and even cross-bows. Someone can, in a fit of rage, bludgeon or stab someone to death. Sometimes this takes only one blow. Still, the chances of killing someone with one bullet are much greater. And being killed by a stray bullet is much, much greater than being killed by a wild punch. Assault weapons and guns can wound and maim many people before the perpetrator is stopped. Most of the other ways people attack each other do not have the same power. More murders in the USA involve firearms than any other means.
I Understand: It’s our right to bear arms. Loved-One convinced me with his argument. For awhile. The origin of the Second Amendment is from British common law, as supports the “natural rights of self-defense, resistance to oppression, and the civic duty to act in concert in defense of the state.”
I agree that we have the right to defend ourselves. This is the logic behind concealed-carry and open-carry proponents. The state I live in is the last to allow conceal-carry. Gun-carrying “good guys” might just make the “bad guys” think twice before opening fire. I believe people behave differently when they think that anybody could be carrying a gun. Still, I wonder how many “good guys” might react with a little more machismo and vigilantism, with a gun in their pocket. Starbucks employees are encouraged to call the authorities if they feel threatened and openly carried weapons in their stores is prohibited, where not protected by law.
We do not live in the same world as the Second Amendment writers. Privately owned hand-guns, rifles, and assault weapons may prove about as effective as baseball bats, fists, and knives against military oppression. We live in an era of video surveillance, cyber-spying, and drone crime-fighting. Our private arsenals don’t stand a chance against the resources the government-run military has at hand.
No amount of security can prevent someone from entering a public place with a weapon. As long as we allow people to have and carry weapons, incidents like LAX will happen. We do have the right, and perhaps an obligation, “to act in concert in defense of country.” I believe that means coming together and supporting bans on assault weapons, and implementing stricter licensing requirements.
Australia did. “In 1996, 28-year-old Martin Bryant finished his lunch in a café in the seaside resort of Port Arthur and pulled out a semi-automatic rifle. In the first 15 seconds of his attack, he killed 12 and wounded 10. In all, he shot more than 50 people in six locations, killing 35. The worst mass shooting in Australia’s history capped a violent decade of mass shootings that killed nearly 100 – and Australians had had enough.” (ABC News, December 19, 2012)
In the wake of the 1996 shooting, Australia implemented stricter gun control. Zero mass shootings since. “It’s not that we are a less violent people and that you are a more violent people,” says Philip Alpers, an adjunct associate professor at the University of Sydney who runs GunPolicy.org, which tracks gun violence and gun laws across the world. “It’s that you have more lethal means at your disposal.” (GunPolicy.org provides evidence-based, country-by-country intelligence from a broad range of official and academic sources. This university site is for researchers, officials, journalists and advocates who need accurate citations and rapid access to credible sources/)
I realize that Americans’ right to bear arms is fundamental to our collective identity. Are we willing to live in a vigilante, gun-toting world for the sake of that identity? Or are we ready to adopt a new identity? Is there a way to maintain our “natural rights of self-defense, resistance to oppression, and the civic duty to act in concert in defense of the state,” without the fear of being shot? Let’s say YES.