Let’s look at an idea closely.
Guns are not evil. Inanimate objects don’t DO things. People do.
Yes. Astronauts went to the moon but they couldn’t have if they didn’t use the right tools for the job.
We built and connected a nation with wagons on trails, trains on tracks, cars on highways, and planes in the sky. Without these, we would remain in small villages isolated by great distances and natural boundaries. Yet people go places. Trains, Planes, and Automobiles do not direct themselves.
At some point far back in human history someone said, “I need to do something but it is beyond my physical power and ability.”
That person or group of people asked “How can we make this happen?”
We’ve been asking and answering this question since the first rudimentary tool.
“How do we get to the moon?” “How do we cross the world faster than on our two feet?” “How do we build a stronger bridge?” “How do we move this massive pile of earth?” “How do we deliver this medicine, heal this injury, and fix this person while minimizing the risk of doing additional harm or inflicting unnecessary pain?”
And, of course, “How can we kill people faster and more effectively while minimizing the risk to the killer?”
Tools make things happen that otherwise couldn’t.
The Monster of Orlando Pulse was able to murder and harm and terrorize 350 people because he employed the “right” tool for the job. One knife against 350 people? Not so much.
The killer chose his tool, knowing there would be 350 people in a dark, crowded, disorienting space. He knew it would be loud. He knew people would be distracted and drunk, their guards lowered in a kind of sanctuary. He also knew there would be armed police nearby and possibly a few patrons at the bar concealing handguns even though it is against the law. He knew he only had a few seconds to cause a panic and accomplish his mission.
He didn’t choose a knife.
He didn’t choose a pistol.
He didn’t choose a hunting rifle.
He didn’t use a shot gun or any other firearm that would give his prey a “sporting” chance.
He chose a weapon designed for use by US Special Forces for use in combat operations to be accurate, reliable, quiet, compact, light, and efficient. Its civilian version is limited in its rate of fire but still capable of emptying a 40-round magazine supersonic and subsonic 5.56mm rounds in eight seconds (or as fast as you can pull the trigger).
He chose the weapon off the rack because it was available, suited his needs, and fell into his price range.
This was an assault, not a hunt.
That’s why we need to have this discussion about who gets killing machines and who does not.
Stop frothing. Banning all guns is impossible. Even regulating won’t stop blood from being spilled. But regulation over the sale of certain “sporting weapons” and harsher criminal penalties for people who act irresponsibly or commit violent crime with them, re-defining what it means to have a weapon of mass destruction versus one for home protection, hunting, or sport — these things MUST be discussed.
I realize that the monster could have dropped off a crock pot bomb or chained the doors and set the place ablaze. Having a rifle made the job of murder easier and gave the monster the power he craved over his victims. He got to choose who lived and died. He got to take a life, one at a time, like thumbing tiny black ants on the kitchen counter. Maybe someone with a gun could have stopped him after five victims, or ten, or twenty-five. It’s a valid point to say someone with a gun might have been in a position to draw, line up a clean shot, and bring down the target. The description of the scene after the first few shots makes me skeptical. Someone with a chair and decent upper body strength could have brought the monster down just as easily. Chairs were everywhere. Heavy beer mugs, pool cues, pool balls, too… But nothing happened.
So the monster fired a round like someone flipping through channels with a remote.
I appreciate and agree with the notion that violence is rooted in the darker heart of humanity. But mass killings, hate crimes, homicides, and armed criminal acts happen every day. Changing society takes generations and a lot more dedication by more people than seems possible. We cannot wait for people to have that Aquarian epiphany. If it didn’t happen by now, it won’t in time to stop the next massacre. Or the next ten.
So you cannot tell me “society needs to change” as though that’s a solution. It’s not. It’s an empty gift box with a pretty bow. And it isn’t even an original idea. Every time people die, someone says “Guns aren’t the problem, society is the problem.” While that is partially true, it is as helpful as pointing out that if only a potato were processed right, it would be vodka. Sure, it could be. But it isn’t unless we’re all willing to create a plan and take steps toward that goal.
Meanwhile, these shootings continue. Gun sales jump. Nothing is done. More kids get buried.
The tools will exist so long as we have a need or a desire for them. In other words, so long as there is a desire to kill or the fear of being a victim, this personal arms race will continue. This indisputable fact makes the idea of social change so much less likely.
Gun advocates claim that controlling access to firearms in order to limit gun violence is an impossible feat, yet somehow the act of solving our racial, social, gender, and economic biases and prejudices to end gun violence is not only possible, but the only path to solving this problem.
That’s a cop out. It’s an abdication of ownership over the problem because it proposes that if everyone thought, believed, and acted one way the problem would be solved. The solution, I hear, can be found in embracing Jesus. If everyone owned a gun, then we could end gun violence with the constant threat of gun violence. Maybe a libertarian level of freedom would make everyone equal and accountable. Perhaps if we grew out our hair and lives in communes, we’d stop fighting and make some real music again.
There will always be crime, poverty, and outrage. Diversity and change are the only ways a society grows and change is always met with ideological resistance. When ideas fail, some resort to more physical means.
Gun advocates are right – the country needs to change.
Regulation advocates are right – we need to stop monsters from buying weapons, particularly ones designed specifically to kill a lot of people quick and easy.
I’ve how these discussions tend to get side-tracked when control-advocates misuse terms related to firearms. Some people are particularly insistent about the definition of an “assault rifle” as it has a specific definition in the continuum of gun owners and manufacturers. I agree, we should all have a common vocabulary when discussing the specifics of an issue. But we also need to understand that every vocabulary has a vernacular usage and that the debate cannot be forfeit by one party choosing a more generally-used term, especially when it does little to break down understanding.
I won’t change my mind about the MCX used in Orlando if you tell me it isn’t an “assault weapon” because I’ve seen the weapon in use. You can call it a “population control device” or a “penile surrogate” but the reality is that a shooter can use it to unload 100 rounds in three magazines within 40 seconds. Shooters point with pride to the speed, accuracy, and ease with which the tool can be used to throw ammunition downrange. It isn’t an “assault weapon” but it is a weapon used to carry out assaults.
So, I put this challenge to the “society must change” crowd. If you can come up with a plan to change the hearts and minds of those who would use these weapons to kill your sons, your daughters, wives and husbands, your neighbors – DO SO. Your nation needs you. If you don’t feel the responsibility to make that change yourself or get involved, kindly admit that you have no clue how to fix this but you don’t want the solution to inconvenience your ability to buy kill toys.
We MUST have a serious debate about improving access to mental health care, removing the stigma of mental illness, and improving relations between all Americans. We need to stop treating each other like mortal enemies and sinister conspirators who either want to take all the guns or hold the country hostage. We have accept that some Americans want guns and others want to live in a world where we don’t need them to carry them in order to feel safe. We must be honest with one another about the root cause of gun violence and ask why we support a world where we want so many of them and who is accountable when the bad guys get hold of illegal weapons. It’s a big order. None of us can just walk away and wish everyone else good luck in solving the problem.
Until society moves in the direction of treating gun violence the way it treats pedophiles and terrorists, the only way to even ATTEMPT to stop some of these murders is to make it harder for the monsters to find the right tool for the job.