As the sad, unfortunate headlines remind us, life and death due to the indulged whims of a madman still prevail. This has brought gun control back into the talking points of every operative in politics in The United States of America. Whether you want to see every gun rounded up and melted into a giant monument dedicated towards peace and love, or you think they should be handed out along with your driver's license; everyone in the US has a firm belief when it comes to guns and gun control. Though there have been some places trying to enact serious, positive changes in their communities, it seems that their potential downfall is going to be the same that has plagued America for a very long time; our own hubris.
Written By: Anton Sawyer
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Due to the nature of this topic, I first wanted to make my stance on guns perfectly clear; I support them ... to a point.
At the young age of six, I had my first life-changing experience with a firearm which helped me form my own ideas about weaponry. These ideas are ones I would end up carrying throughout my life. At that tender age, I was living in a very small town in Utah with a population of around 1,800. My father had been driving a truck for a local company for a few years when he had an on-the-job accident and was forced to become a statistic of workman's compensation (WC).
At the end of his allotted WC time, the paychecks stopped. There was an issue between WC and my father's physicians and he could not return driving trucks. He was healthy enough to work but wasn't allowed to. It was fall and my parents had no regular income. Three things saved us that Christmas—my parents were breeders of AKC competition Basset Hounds, we had a robust garden on a 1/4-acre of land, and my father was a hunter who drew on his permit. Luckily for us, around the same time, we were able to harvest the garden, our female dog had a litter of puppies that sold for $500 per puppy, and my father shot a buck. He gave some of the buck meat to a friend of his for butchering the deer, and the rest is all the meat we ate that winter. So for me to be opposed to guns when they quite literally helped feed me during a bleak time before my father returned to work would be absurd.
Looking at gun control in America is falling down a rabbit hole that even Alice wouldn't dare look at, let alone jump into. There are many reasons why emotions drive people's actions towards guns. Actions that run the gamut from their removal from our society as much as possible, to those who think that everyone in the US should have a firearm. Whichever side you are on, it's an incredibly complex issue. As of this writing, the March 22, 2021 shooting in Boulder, Colorado happened just over a week ago, and I want to see what each side will say and do. I'm not going to go into the shooting itself, the potential motivations, or what happened on that fateful day—there are plenty of articles that are easy to find. And the responses that it generated fell pretty much the way I anticipated they would.
Conservative talk radio has been lambasting the Democrats about "making this political," and the DNC has been asking the GOP how many more people have to die. However, the thing they both agree on, to one degree or another, is that mental health issues need to be addressed. This isn't surprising given that per the American Journal of Public Health findings, reports suggest that the perpetrators of up to 60% of mass shootings in the United States since 1970 displayed symptoms including acute paranoia, delusions, and depression before committing their crimes. When looking at some of the most recent tragedies over the last decade, this pattern holds true.
2012, in Aurora, Colorado, a movie theater shooter “was seeing a psychiatrist specializing in schizophrenia” before he opened fire in a crowded theater. In 2011, classmates said they felt unsafe around a fellow student because he would “laugh randomly and loudly at nonevents” in the weeks before he shot US Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and six other people at a rally in front of a supermarket in Tucson, Arizona. But when you see that this has now been back-and-forth for 50 years, and the same arguments and statistics keep piling up, something has to be done. The truly tough part is what though, exactly?
Do we have an encrypted file that monitors everyone and whenever keywords or phrases are used they get a visit from the police? All of which violate a number of different Constitutional Amendments. Do we ask high schoolers "Hey, which one of the kids in your school looks the most unstable?" It would be nothing more than a modern witch-hunt. That's the problem. Anything you would do to try and profile anyone like this would be met with swift recoil. One positive step towards trying to remedy the mental health aspect of police work is that some departments are attempting to incorporate social workers with their officers to try and help prevent these shootings as much as possible. In March of 2021, The Salt Lake City Police Department put into motion the events allowing them to hire a licensed social worker to help them in crisis intervention situations in the field. Though this move has been applauded nationwide, keep in mind that it was also done in response to an officer-involved shooting in 2020. A mother called SLPD to ask for a crisis intervention officer to help bring her son, a 13-year-old boy with Asperger syndrome, to the hospital as he was experiencing a mental health crisis. She never expected the officers would shoot him instead. But putting all of this aside, the only thing that can stop us is ourselves. And it seems a huge populace is attempting to do just that.
It's pretty common knowledge that half of the country truly feels that ANY legislation towards gun control is akin to immediately removing the Second Amendment and sending the National Guard to your home in the middle of the night and swipe all of your weaponry ... while they probably kick your dog too. Even in legislation that is seen by most as being generally positive, it is received by this section as being anathema. This is most evident in the recent bills passed by the House of Representatives in March of 2021.
The first of these bills being The Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2021, H.R. 8. This would close the so-called "Charleston loophole." This loophole made it possible for a known white supremacist to kill nine people at a historically black church in Charleston, S.C., in 2015, by purchasing a handgun even though he should have been barred from getting it. The measure lengthens the review period for background checks from three days to up to twenty. Though gun-ownership activists have tried to frame the Charleston situation as a "one-off," or that it gets characterized as "attempts by the federal government to exert more force over law-abiding citizens who want to protect themselves and their families,"—as stated by North Carolina Republican Rep. Virginia Foxx. But these situations aren't hypothetical by any means. According to a report by the Department of Justice called "National Instant Criminal Background Check System Section," in 2018, 4,240 background checks were denied nationwide after the three-day investigation period elapsed. In at least 3,960 of those cases, a gun was sold to the prohibited buyer at the discretion of the dealer, requiring officers of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives to attempt to retrieve these guns from individuals with a potentially dangerous criminal history.
The second is the Sabika Sheikh Firearm Licensing and Registration Act of 2021, H.R. 127. This legislation would give authorities 10 business days for federal background checks to be completed before a gun sale can be licensed. Currently, such sales can proceed if the government cannot complete complicated background checks of prospective buyers within three days. So this means if someone happens to have some very odd, or extensive federal issues, they can still get the gun. Of course, if someone has such an extensive or difficult to access file, the background check can definitely take more than three days to be received back. This law was also met with disgust by those on the right. "These bills are a transparent attempt by gun control advocates in Congress to restrict the rights of law-abiding Americans under the guise of addressing the violent criminal culture in America," Jason Ouimet, head of the NRA's Institute for Legislative Action, said in a written statement.
I often hear advertisements on conservative talk radio trying to gin up students to attend Hillsdale College. It's a "school" that prides itself in its excellent courses on the United States Constitution. They always speak so highly about how their students are better educated and know more about The Constitution than even the most liberal congress-people. You would think then that the GOP base would be so well versed in The Constitution to know that in order to remove an amendment—let's say something like the Second Amendment—all of the nearly impossible hurdles it would need to cross. The proposed amendment language is approved by a two-thirds vote of both houses. Congress must call a convention for proposing amendments upon application of the legislatures of two-thirds of the states (i.e., 34 of 50 states). And amendments proposed by Congress or convention become valid only when ratified by the legislatures of, or conventions in, three-fourths of the states (i.e., 38 of 50 states). In basic terms: it's not going to happen. Just like in 2004 when they thought former President Bush could amend the constitution to prevent gay marriage, it's a complete basic non-understanding of American civics. With all of this misdirection going on, I wonder if Hillsdale College will ever face a class-action lawsuit. I ask this because I know that there isn't enough self-awareness when it comes to this matter from the Republicans to see that the problem just might be themselves.
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