Monday, April 8, 2013

Throwing My Two Cents In

This evening James and I watched 60 Minutes together, drawn in by a promo about their lead story- families of the Sandy Hook tragedy and their appeal to their state and the federal government for new gun control legislation.  I was so impressed by the candor and insightfulness of the panel of parents and spouses.  Though they are obviously still grieving their losses, they are not bent on hate or vengeance.  On the contrary, their actions are solely based on the belief that we have the power to stop tragedies like this from ever happening again.  They ask for more comprehensive background checks on gun licenses, and the reduction of high capacity clips, as well as improved school security and better mental health awareness and intervention.  Common sense ideas, right?  In fact, here's their mission statement from their site ( :

1) To help the community heal and provide aid to the family members who lost loved ones, to survivors, teachers, staff, first responders and to our community.
2) To bring together, in local and national dialogue, the great majority of Americans who agree that we must find common sense solutions to make our communities and our country safer.
I will be the first to admit I am not a gun owner nor a gun lover.  But I do not think that makes me a gun hater, nor do I feel like they should be banned.  However, the minute you say "gun regulation" in this country everyone comes out with their pitchforks blaring, screaming that we're trying to superseded the 2nd amendment.  I have two points to make in regards to this fear mongering:

First, guns are weapons.  They are designed to kill, whether it be in war, for food, for defense, or for criminal activities.  That's what they are.  People often equate gun mortality rates to car mortality rates, offering up the statistic that cars kill more people than guns.  I'd like to take that comparison and expand upon it further.  People love to say that guns don't kill people, the people holding them do.  The same could be said for cars:  they don't kill, but the person driving them does.  We all acknowledge that as a truth.  They are a weapon, and in the wrong hands or wrong conditions, or simply accidentally, they become a weapon.  Because this is a fact, we have literally thousands of laws that guide and direct and prohibit the use of cars.  Those laws decided who can drive, at what age, at what mental and physical capacity.  They punish those who abuse the laws with fines, removal of license and even prison.  We all agree to these laws because they protect us, our families and loved ones, from the unthinkable.  Even with those laws, do accidents still occur?  Of course.  Do people still abuse their rights and drive impaired or under the influence?  Of course.  Have we stopped all traffic violations and accidents? Of course not.  But millions of us still drive every day knowing we have laws and limitations that put fate on our side, and we are reasonably assured of our safety.  If we willingly succumb to laws and regulations for driving a two ton weapon, why are we so resistant to establishing common sense laws for owning a 2 pound weapon?  

That leads me to my second argument.  Your answer to my proceeding question is probably, "well the Constitution guarantees my right to bear arms.  You cant take that away".  First, no one is trying to take away your guns.  We haven't taken away cars because they kill, have we?  We're asking for regulation, not total removal of guns.  You have a right to owner a gun for whatever purpose you want, but if it takes a year for my daughter to go through the necessary education, driving time and tests to get a driver's license- literally the license to drive a two ton weapon- then doesn't it stand to reason that we, as citizens and communities, deserve to know that those who are purchasing guns are doing so legally and with the proper background licenses and checks?  That we are not supplying guns to those with criminal or violent backgrounds?  Is that so radical?

In addition, the constitution does give us the right to bear arms, but it does not specify what kind of arms.  When the founding fathers drafted this bill of government, there is no way they could have anticipated the horrific ways we'd devise to kill one another.  They did not even know of the atom let alone the power it can harness as a weapon, nor the threats and fear that we as a world have lived in, wondering which crazed and power hungry dictator will unleash it's awful capability next.  They could not imagine, with their single shot muskets, of guns that could bowl down 26 children and adults in a matter of minutes, or movie patrons excited to see Batman, patrons of a mall or college students, or beautiful Amish children, or high school students in Littleton Colorado.  Would they be proud that we hold the 2nd amendment up as so infallible, so perfect that we cant do anything about these shootings that happen again, and again, and again?  As a people, we realized long ago that the constitution had to be amended to right certain wrongs.  We changed it so that black Americans were no longer owned and sold as property but acknowledged as human beings with the same worth and importance as anyone else.  It was changed so that women were given right to property, and blacks and women could vote.  Would anyone rational deny the importance of these changes?  The Constitution is not perfect: it has changed over time as we have evolved as a people and corrected the prejudices and injustices of the past.  Regulating guns does not take away the 2nd amendment, but bring it up to date with and protect us from the horrible ways technology has evolved in weaponry.  In that way, regulation allows us to do just what the 2nd amendment promised us:  the right to protect and safeguard our homes.

Lastly, I'd just like to return to my earlier analogy about cars and weapons.  My sons have degenerative eye diseases, meaning they sight is being lost gradually.  A few years ago at his appointment, Noah's doctor told me that with his sight as it was then, Noah would fail the legal limits to be able to drive in his left eye.  However, his right eye was still a little under the limit so he had hope that Noah would be able to drive a little.  You see, by law you only have to pass the eye exam in one eye.  I've thought a lot about that information over the last few years.  Just because he can "legally" pass the exam, should he? The test does not account for where the vision is lost.  I know for a fact that the majority of Noah's loss is in his peripheral field of vision.  To date, he has lost about 25% in his "good" eye, and 35% in the other.  That means that he cannot see what comes at him from the side.  How many times do we move or react because we see something come into our view, especially when driving?  Knowing my son's limitations has made me more and more convinced that he probably should never drive, for his safety and for everyone else's.  As a parent, it's the responsible thing to do. I really worried about his reaction and how to frame the news correctly, but in the end I made it a question of his own conscience.  I asked him if he'd ever feel like driving was worth the cost if he hurt someone seriously, or worse, killed someone, because he could not see.  He took the question very seriously, and admitted that the momentary joy of that teenage right of passage would never supersede the guilt of causing someone harm.  I have the advantage of knowing my son's condition and being able to step in and make plans and allowances for it.  Many parents who have mentally ill children do not know the depth or gravity of their child's condition.  It may develop quickly or evolve moderately over a longer period of time.  The symptoms may be drastic and obvious, or may me subtle and mask themselves in the difficulty of adolescence.  The lucky parents are able to intervene before their child does harm to themselves or others.  They can lock up or get rid of the guns and violent video games, enlist the help of therapists and counselors and physicians. But how many go unnoticed and are left unassisted?  How many are left with their disease festering their mind into adulthood, when their parents no longer have the say or permission to intervene? How many reach the point of no return where they decide that life is no longer precious or valuable, and take their anger and frustration out on the innocent?

Obviously, this is a subject I am very passionate about.  I wish it was not so divisive, politically and socially.  I have to believe we can come to a sensible and rational resolution, one that can appease both sides of the issue.  But gun owners, you have to give a little.  Remember, just because it's illegal to drive before 16, or you have different speed limits in school zones versus the freeway doesn't mean you don't have the right to own a drive a car.  You just have the rules in place to keep you, and everyone else driving, safe.

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