I know that I haven’t blogged in a while, and I wish I were coming out of the woodwork to comment on a more uplifting subject. But today, I feel I need to talk about my views on gun control. In fact, I don’t just feel a need—I feel it’s my duty as a person and as a writer to use my voice, and my blog, to share how I and so many others are feeling about guns in the wake of yet another senseless tragedy.
In “Say No to ‘The New Normal’–Five Things You Can Do About Gun Violence,” Daily Beast columnist Cliff Schecter writes that individuals can make a difference when it comes to gun violence and gun control, even by simply talking about it. He reminds us: “You are consequential. You have a voice. You have reading clubs, Facebook friends, bridge parties, etc. Make sure everyone knows your feelings on this issue.” And maybe Schecter’s case is even more applicable to writers over anyone else. Last week, author Nick Sweeney called for us writers to remember that we are the voice of the people in his Atticus Review op-ed, “Changing the Narrative: The Responsibilities of Writers in a Time of Crisis.”
As a response to both of these reminders, here are my unbridled views:
1. I don’t know what to think exactly, but there are other countries in the world that don’t have this problem.
I am so saddened to hear of the shooting in Oregon, and the subsequent unrelated shootings at Texas Southern University, and at myriad other locations throughout the United States. Though at this point, I don’t even know what to think anymore. After watching Obama’s first remarks about the Oregon tragedy, I was glad that our president gave voice to my opinion on this matter.
At this point, I support responsible gun owners who use them for hunting, sport, or a sense of protection, and feel they should be able to continue that. But there needs to be stricter gun laws to prevent the wrong types of people from easily getting a gun. I’m not sure what that will look like in the United States, but other countries have done it successfully.
2. Guns don’t kill people, but guns make it that much easier for people to kill people.
Yes, it IS people who make the choice to harm others, so we may never be able to prevent that. But what we need to focus on is reducing the CHANCES of innocent people being killed, especially en masse. Maybe guns themselves don’t kill others (except when those all-too-frequent accidents occur while cleaning a gun or when a child finds one and plays with it), but I have 100% certainty that without guns, people wouldn’t be physically able to kill as many people in short periods of time.
Of course, gun enthusiasts will say that a person who wants to kill others will just use something else. A knife, perhaps. They’ll probably cite the recent Kunming attack that occurred in 2014 at a Chinese train station where 29 people lost their lives to eight knife-wielding terrorists. They’ll say, “See? It’s not just guns we have to worry about. Are we going to need background checks to buy kitchen knives next?” But guess what? It took eight of those disgusting people to kill 29 others. That’s 3-4 victims per psycho. Do you think the death toll would have been the same if the eight of them had guns? Stricter gun laws will likely result in a mentally ill potential killer—or in the case of terrorism, a mentally misled and brainwashed potential killer–only hurting a few people with a knife, rather than 10, 20, or more with a gun.
3. State by state, stricter guns laws = less gun violence
In fact, there’s a direct correlation between stricter gun laws and decreased gun violence/death by gun. According to this State by State gun law graphic from National Journal, states with the strictest gun laws (which includes things like background checks, lack of “stand your ground” laws, and required permits/registrations) have the least occurrences of gun violence. We’ve got a truly promising answer right here!
4. Do we really need to live like this?
I also need to admit that ever since the Aurora, Colorado tragedy, I can’t comfortably sit in a movie theater anymore. I get extremely nervous when someone walks across the floor in front of the screen just a little too slowly. I also get nervous, sometimes, on public transportation and in public places where I know someone could bring a gun quite easily—trains, buses, subways (and if I were a student, classrooms)—all because these things have been happening, and keep happening. Because the current gun laws don’t fully prevent a person with bad intentions from getting their hands on a gun. Because I know that someone planning something like this can just walk into a local Wal-mart in some states and buy a gun without a background check or mental health check that would at least raise some red flags.
I’m also sick of the mental health stigmatization that is often reinforced in the wake of shootings. What makes someone perform an act of violence is very complex, and often isn’t only a result of brain chemicals, but also their upbringing, the culture they live in, life events, and a host of other things (most importantly, a disregard for the preciousness of human life, which is not exactly a mental health issue). People with mental illness are more likely to be the victims of crimes rather than the perpetrators, and this has been proven over and over again. Pretty much everyone I know, including myself, has dealt with some type of mental health issue at some point in their life, especially things like anxiety and depression. It’s not uncommon to go through something like that, and many people who deal with it are not a danger to others or even themselves for that matter.
I would like to live in a country where my worries about someone randomly using a gun to kill people are unfounded. Let’s make it so that my or anyone else’s fears of gun violence are nothing to worry about. We need to do everything we can to keep people from harming others. End of story.