(For my friends and pastors who subscribe to the "An Ordinary Guy" blog, this is NOT a "faith based" post. Instead, it is my thoughts/ideas on guns and gun control.)
We've all seen the pictures.
We've heard the stories of horror and the accounts of heroism.
As a nation, we woke up on October 2nd in disbelief ... or at least in shock.
And by 10:00 AM EST people began forming their narratives about this tragedy. Politicians, celebrities, gun rights activists, the NRA, late night talk show hosts, bloggers, Facebookers - everyone had a thought and everyone wanted to share it.
After reading Hillary Clinton's posts about the shootings in Las Vegas, I was frustrated at the lack of compassion and respect for the at least 58 dead and over 500 injured by the acts of mad man, Stephen Paddock. The post was simple enough: can we just take one day - 24 hours - to come together to grieve before we completely divide and argue.
The responses to my post spoke loudly: apparently not.
I responded to a few of the posts by saying that a discussion absolutely needs to be had, but not less than 24 hours after the terrifying events at the Route 91 Harvest Festival in Las Vegas. So, true to my word, here are a few of my thoughts, as a gun owner.
THE IMPORTANCE OF THIS ISSUE
The issue of guns and gun control is important to our country, and incredibly divisive by nature. It has become such a profound issue that it has embedded itself into the identity of who we are as a people. Because of the undeniable prominence of guns in the history of our country, including the 2nd Amendment, this is not an issue that is easily solved. And yet, it is a problem that must be addressed and fixed.
58 lives in Las Vegas demand it.
49 lives in Orland demand it.
14 lives in San Bernardino demand it.
21 lives in Charleston demand it.
12 lives in Washington, D.C. demand it.
26 lives in Newtown demand it.
12 lives in Aurora demand it.
This list takes us back to 2010 and only includes shootings with more than 10 victims. Imagine if this list included shootings of one person, a few people, several people ...
It's time to move this from discussion to action.
THE COMPLEXITY OF THIS ISSUE
The reality is that there is more to this issue than the "right to bear arms."
This is a FEAR issue.
This is a SAFETY issue.
This is a HEART issue.
This is a PUBLIC issue.
This is a PRIVATE issue.
This is a POLITICAL issue.
And yes, this is a MONEY issue.
And herein lies the complexity of guns and gun control.
Let's not be naive about guns and gun control. The "right" needs to understand that arming everyone and their brother is not going to fix violence, and the "left" needs to recognize that taking guns away from everyone is not going to eradicate evil. BOTH sides need to come to a simple understanding:
More guns increase the potential for more shootings,
but no guns does not eliminate gun deaths.
While that truth may be too simplistic, it is fair, especially based on research. (You can check out a telling chart here. For a more in depth study about gun ownership and gun cultures, you can buy a report here.)
Again, this is not just an issue of "rights" as much as we make it out to be.
THE SOLUTION OF THIS ISSUE
If I had a hard and fast solution, I'd gladly give it. I'd be the first one on the steps of congress to address it. I'd knock down the doors to the NRA to explain it. I'd travel to gun shows and churches, to town halls and peace rallies to proclaim it. But I don't have an easy answer, just a few thoughts/suggestions:
We can learn from other cultures.
- Germany - To buy a gun, anyone under the age of 25 has to pass a psychiatric evaluation.
- Finland - Handgun license applicants are only allowed to purchase firearms if they can prove they are active members of regulated shooting clubs. Before they can get a gun, applicants must pass an aptitude test, submit to a police interview, and show they have a proper gun storage unit.
- Italy - To secure a gun permit, one must establish a genuine reason to possess a firearm and pass a background check considering both criminal and mental health records.
- France - Firearms applicants must have no criminal record and pass a background check that considers the reason for the gun purchase and evaluates the criminal, mental, and health records of the applicant.
We can listen to the words of victims.
- Sit down and have a conversation with victims of gun violence - family members, friends, communities affected, etc.
- Hear their stories and suggestions, and honor their pain.
We can continue to commission non-partisan, outside-the-country studies.
- I know there are already mountains of existing data, but let's resume a commissioned report on researching gun violence.
- To be fair, this needs to be a comprehensive study, focusing on ALL of the data. In other words, it needs to focus on both sides of the issue of gun ownership, the positives of gun ownership, and the negative of gun violence.
At the end of the day, it is time ... past time ... to do something. Learning, considering, listening, and commissioning are all great, but we MUST ACT.
THE PUSHBACK ON THIS ISSUE (especially this week)
By now many of you are already writing this post off as either not enough or too much. Some are already thinking:
"Not enough because change has to happen now! Michael, you must be a gun-loving, right wing 2nd Amendment hick!"
"Too much because nothing would have stopped Stephen Paddock from doing what he did, he was a psychopath that no rules/laws would have stopped! Michael, you must be tree-hugging, left wing, Hilary loving extremist!"
The truth is neither side can put me into a box that small.
I'll tell you what I am ...
- I'm tired of waking up and feeling the way I did on October 2 when my wife said, "More than 50 people were shot in Las Vegas last night."
- I'm tired of writing sermons and having to preach on Sundays about finding peace in the midst of senseless violence.
- I'm tired of listening to the left protect their side of the aisle and the right protect their's in the name of "democracy" and "freedom" instead of sitting down in the middle to figure out a solution.
- I'm tired of lobby groups like the NRA fighting for the money of gun manufacturers instead of the lives of people.
- I'm tired of reading everyone's rants on Facebook instead of having a meaningful face-to-face conversation with someone you disagree with.
- But most of all, I'm sick and tired of seeing people die.
THE FIRST STEP
Admittedly, I'm going to say this and everyone will see all of the issues listed above come into play. They say the first step is always the hardest, but here it is:
We must be able to sit down at a table and have a civil, honest, productive conversation centering on what's important.
The most important issues are NOT money, fear, or politics, in fact the only issues that should be central to this discussion are life and peace.
"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."
- The Declaration of Independence
"We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America."
- The Constitution of the United States of America.
It seems to me that the pursuit of rights, the pursuit of money, and the pursuit of power and control have superseded the stated unalienable right of life and the purpose of the U.S. Constitution to insure domestic peace to the point that we can't even sit down and have a civil conversation about what's best for the citizens of this country.
The point is, it's time to start talking about what happens next, either we make societal changes on gun control, or we wake up to another bloody day. So ... to that end ... here are a few of my thoughts on common sense gun control. If you don't want to hear my thoughts on gun control, that's ok, feel free to stop reading now, but at least consider what's been said to this point.
MY PERSONAL THOUGHTS
For the record ... I'm a gun owner, and I don't want to see my "right to bear arms" stripped away. That being said, gun owners can not sit out of this conversation citing their right to bear arms over the value of life. Our nation's gun laws need to be rewritten to protect people AND to protect the very right their afraid of losing.
In my honest and humble opinion, we need better common sense gun laws such as:
- A nationalized gun policy.
- A national gun license registry.
- Better/Deeper background checks, including criminal record checks, mental health/psychiatric checks, and an in person interview with law enforcement.
- A qualified, express reason for gun possession.
- The passing of a certified aptitude test.
- Proof of approved firearm storage.
- The outright banning of all automatic weapons for non-active military citizens.
- The outright banning of all conversion kits transforming any weapon to automatic status.
These are just a few points/thoughts as I'm sure there are and will be many more suggestions made.