*** UPDATE – 9 April, 2013 ***
I’m not normally one for updating posts, but this issue is important. This morning, a student at Lone Star Community College in Cypress, TX, went on a stabbing spree (I’ve never heard the term, so I get credit for it), wounding at least 14 people, some of them seriously, before being subdued by authorities.
Why is this important? Because what we have is a mass murder attempt that was made without a gun. It deflates the argument that guns or access to guns, semi-automatic or otherwise, is the root cause of gun violence and mass murder. What we have here is evidence that someone like Adam Lanza or James Holmes can still inflict a large number of casualties even without a gun. People intent are harm will commit harm. It shows that despite a leaning in this country to ban guns and rifles, they aren’t the only weapons available. Anything can be a weapon when someone is properly motivated.
I’m inclined to wonder, though… would this attacker have been so bold if he thought that one of the people he was attacking might be armed with a gun? Lone Star College System doesn’t permit firearms on their grounds, except as allowed by law (read: only police and military). On the flip side, if one of them HAD been armed, it’s likely that the assailant would have been killed rather than placed in police custody. None of the people he’s attacked are dead as of this writing, but 2 of the 14 are in critical condition. The attacks seem to have been carried out with a box cutter or Xacto knife.
So what will we ban next? Pocket knives? Baseball bats and lacrosse sticks? Power tools?
Since the tragic events of December 14th, 2012, when Adam Lanza entered Sandy Hook Elementary School and unloaded an array of semi-automatic weapons into the staff and children, there has been a great nation debate about firearms and the American People. I thought, since I hadn’t written in a while, I would toss in my thoughts.
I spent the evening discussing this on Facebook with a friend from high school, and in doing some research, I’m shocked at the irresponsible nature that this has been reported. There have been conflicting reports and apologies about what guns where found where, and what people are supposedly actors. I mean the Conspiracy Theorists have had a field day with all of this (some people actually think the whole thing was staged in order to disarm us). So, I spent some time last night looking into the facts and arguments and I felt like a few points needed to be clarified.
- The guns on site were all semi-automatic, and widely available for purchase. Adam Lanza was actually denied when he attempted to purchase a rifle himself, which is probably why he killed his mother – to get her guns
- “Assault Rifles” are long barreled automatic rifles designed for military use. “Assault Weapons”, as defined by US Law, are just about any weapons they decide to put into this category. Currently, depending on state, this category can include all semi-automatic rifles, shotguns and handguns… basically almost every gun on the market
- The police are reporting it correctly – the media is getting it wrong
- One of the guns was an AR-15 “Bushmaster”. This is the gun from which the M-16 was derived and was specifically designed for law enforcement use.
- The Bushmaster was equipped with a 30-round magazine, which is a standard size for this weapon. Compared to the 60 and 100 round capacity magazines available for the AR-15, 30 rounds hardly seems “high capacity”
The amount of misinformation surrounding this event isn’t just astounding, it’s alarming. If we can’t rely on our news outlets to supply us with good information, how in the world are we supposed to know who and what to support. Not that we should be relying on them to tell us these things, but invariably we do. At least you would think they would try to take that responsibility to heart, but instead they just sensationalize things to make people want to watch. It’s not about the truth anymore, it’s about what hooks viewers. And while I’m not a Conspiracy Theorist, it isn’t hard to see how easy it would be for the government to use the media to manipulate the masses. I mean we accused the Soviets of doing it for decades, so we know it can be done. Why is it so far-fetched that we’d use it on ourselves? I mean 4 Americans die in the Embassy attack in Benghazi, and you barely hear about it, but some kid from Notre Dame makes up a girlfriend and it’s headline news for two weeks. Really?! Our priorities are a bit out of line, I think.
But that’s only part of the equation in this even, isn’t it? There are a multitude of cultural issues to deal with here, but we really seem preoccupied with the Second Amendment argument. Of course, when the Second Amendment was written, it was common practice for governments to forbid it’s citizenry from having weapons, or more commonly, for them to oppress the people because they were too poor to have weapons. In America, though, because of the frontier nature of the colony, guns were practically a necessity. It’s bred into us, this need for guns. Don’t you find it funny, though, that the only Amendments you ever hear about are the First and Second? Every now and then, when a white collar criminal is on trial, you’ll hear about the Fifth (or more specifically “pleading” it). We know about “illegal search and seizure”, but why is it illegal? Which Amendment was that? Do you know them? Probably not, but I would say, “why don’t you?” How can we be good stewards of our own destinies without knowing from where our freedoms derive. I mean most people go around quoting the Declaration of Independence, but that document doesn’t have legal ramifications – it was simply a very strongly worded (and signed) letter to King George III.
There seem to be two main sides to the Second Amendment argument: the NRA and its supporters (who seem to think that we need to worry about our own Army turning on us), and those who think guns should be outlawed altogether (which just isn’t realistic). Actually, there is a third side, which includes people like me, who understand that while it’s probably not necessary for someone to use an AR-15 to defend their home, the problem really isn’t the guns – it’s our culture. As a trained shooter (I was in the military) I know that a hand gun is far more effective for home defense, and that there should be a certain amount of training involved for anyone trying to own a gun. I mean we force people to train to drive cars, why wouldn’t we force them to train to own a gun. Cars are just as dangerous. Probably more so. I also often hear about using them to hunt, but then I remember that the earliest Americans hunted mammoth and mastodon with simple bows, spears and rocks. BOWS AND SPEARS PEOPLE! If you need an AR-15 to hunt deer, you’re doing it wrong. Period.
So, would things have been different if Adam Lanza wouldn’t have had access to those guns? We can’t answer that. What we can do is look at the data, and understand that if he wanted to hurt those kids, there are hundreds of other ways he could have done it that don’t involve guns. We could also say that things could have been different if his mother accepted his illness and dealt with it appropriately… and didn’t own guns herself. I’m not saying she shouldn’t have had the right, I’m saying that it was irresponsible of her to have them knowing her son was unstable and could have access to them. Of course, we’ll never know for sure because she’s gone too.
What I DO know is that countries that have banned guns have much higher instances of violent crime per capita than the US does. We may have more gun-related crimes and deaths (duh), but guns are equalizers, and criminals know that. They are less likely to attack someone they think MIGHT have a gun, than they would be knowing the person was unarmed. Home invasions in Australia and Great Britain are significantly higher than in the US because the criminals know that there’s very little chance they can be confronted inside the home with a weapon. You see criminals will use knives and bats and pipes and whatever else they can get their hands on. Victims, on the other hand, usually don’t fight back if confronted with an armed assailant. We would be trading one sort of violence for another because, let’s face it, we are a violent species.
The truth is that bad things happen, and it sucks and there’s nothing we can do about it. We always look for someone to blame, because we can’t believe that we ourselves can be at fault. I think it’s clear we are. We ignore the mentally ill. We favor guns over common sense as we cling to the fears of bygone days. I blame Red Dawn. It “proved” to us that one day, foreign (or domestic) invaders will give us a need to have these powerful military-grade weapons in our homes. It’s perpetuated by cyberpunk and post-apocalyptic concepts like the Revolution and Road Warrior. We’re taught that if we don’t have weapons, we become easy prey to those who would take advantage of that weakness. I mean every kid I knew either wanted to be a Goonie or one of the Wolverines.
Does this mean I get to blame Patrick Swayze?