Yes, gun control debates are one of those obnoxious polarizing bullshit things that people get testy over. But since a decision seems to be impending (or not, really. since the House refuses to get their shit together and fix up a budget, I doubt anything will get done before mid-spring), I thought I’d examine my own position.
I tend toward the left on most issues, and while there’s a part of me that really wants to be able to own a functional howitzer, I’m still on the regulated and controlled side of this. I’ll explain why, but first a little background.
I came from a Southern family, most of whom hunted (or still hunt) and ate what they killed. I never shot a deer myself, but that’s due to my dislike of 4 a.m. more than anything else. I was, however, taught gun safety at a very early age, as well as how to maintain and handle them. To clarify, that means by 5 or 6 it was ingrained in me that guns were not toys, that they weren’t to be touched without supervision, and that you never point a gun at another person or anything you didn’t intend to shoot. My uncle gave me a .22 for Christmas once, which is generally good for target practice and not much else, but I still enjoyed it. Guns are fun to shoot.
That said, I’m fine with gun control for a couple of reasons. First, I don’t care how awesome it is to shoot an assault weapon, they’re unnecessary outside of military conflicts. They’re not good for hunting, they’re not meant for traditional target practice. They’re made for suppressive fire: making the other guys keep their heads down so they don’t see the grenade you threw until it’s too late. Not even the police need them. The big argument here is that the “bad guys” will have automatic weapons, and no one else. Maybe that’s true, but in what realistic scenario would a bunch of half-trained-at-best civilians having equivalent firepower to said bad guys be anything but a bigger mess? Most of the public statements from gun control opponents in the last week have sounded like a bunch of cowboy-bravado bullshit. “If that principal had an automatic rifle in her office, she could have taken his head off before he shot them children.” In what fucking reality would an elementary principle see fit to fire a weapon inside a school building with the risk of escalating the situation and accidentally shooting a child herself? Is she Rambo? I don’t think so. That’s pure fantasy.
Second, given the second amendment, no one will be stripped of their rifles. Semi-automatic pistols will probably be fine as well. I agree that the right to bear arms and the idea that we have the right to defend ourselves has some power to keep at least the idea of a police state in check- although some would argue that we’re already there, and I’d add that even if everyone had their own functional tank, that would do little to stop such a thing if it became overt. Fear and ignorant ideologies would halt us way before that.
Lastly, whether tighter control would be an empty gesture or not, it’s far more likely to happen than better treatment of the mentally ill- which is the real issue we’ve seen in most of these gun related mass-homicides. Speaking from experience, increased health care and psychological treatment is about the last thing lawmakers will lift a finger to help. And prison is ultimately a more palatable solution for legislators, lobbyists, and the general public than funding mental health treatment. If that sounds like an argument against gun control, it’s not. What I’m saying is that it would be something rather than nothing. The last big gun regulation in the ’90s seemed to have worked fine. People clearly still had access to their weapons of choice, and it didn’t seem to stop the more determined folks from stockpiling and occasionally rampaging, true. Did it save lives? It probably did. There’s no way to count people whose lives were untouched by gun violence because somebody failed their background check. We only count the casualties here.