Gun Control in America, Post-Florida School Shooting

Gun Control in America, Post-Florida School Shooting
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Originally posted at: http://www.yasminaliyakhan.com/2018/02/19/gun-control-in-america-post-florida-school-shooting/

 

We’re here again, in the aftermath of another school shooting. Thoughts and prayers are not enough. I’d said that before to mixed criticism. People asserted that thoughts and prayers helped them, personally, cope with the lives that had been lost. It helped them, personally, understand the gravity of what had happened. It helped them, the personally unaffected, to deal with tragedy that had befallen fellow Americans at the hands of fellow Americans.

And I get where they’re coming from. Sure, thoughts and prayers are an important first step when dealing with any kind of issue. They help gather thoughts and find internal peace, which are both helpful in preventing impulsive or ill-informed words and actions.

The second step, then, is to discuss the issue with others, like-minded and otherwise. That is, you can discuss the issue once the issue has been defined. What’s the question that needs to be answered? What’s the problem that needs to be solved? And what’s the best way to do that?

Whenever a shooting happens on American soil and lives are lost, the debate always comes back to gun control. It’ll run around here and there for a while. It might even some detours through blaming one party over the other, or through the mental illness debate, or through abortion rights (because that’s the real murder we should be discussing). Eventually, it finds its way back to gun control.

However, the debate has proven to be an increasingly unproductive one. Social media, while it certainly can be useful in spreading ideas and agendas, is more often than not misused. Our Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram feeds get bombarded with statistics that are skewed to be more inflammatory and memes that oversimplify circumstances. Social media influencers post tearful videos on Snapchat about how they can’t understand how anyone could shoot up a school, each saying the exact same things while commiserating with their followers.

We get inundated with things that don’t matter. And no, the irony of me writing this post is not lost on me. But while these things can help to give people a snapshot of events, the truth is that none of this can be captured in a snapshot. It’s multi-faceted. It’s rooted in history and precedent. It’s incredibly sensitive.

The thing I’ve noticed that distinguishes this incident from similar ones in the past is now, instead of seeing “thoughts and prayers” memes and gifs everywhere, I’m seeing calls for “policy and change.”

People are ready to move on to Step 3 in the process. We’ve talked about it. We’ve been talking since the 90s. It’s debatable how much we’ve been listening to the other side of the argument, but still…I’d say after decades of talk and no action, people are tired of losing their loved ones to something seemingly preventable.

Of course, whether or not it’s actually preventable is another question, but we haven’t even tried to curb these shootings. No legislation has been passed, no wide-scale initiatives have been run in schools, no great ideological shift has transformed the way Americans feel about guns.

Remember after the shooting in Las Vegas when Washington, notably Paul Ryan, insisted that it was not the time to discuss gun control, citing that it would be disrespectful to the deceased and insensitive to the people who lost loved ones? Remember the notion of tabling that discussion and putting it in the parking lot to come back to later? Remember how we all knew that “later” would never come and that the news media would have moved on to the next incident of insanity by the time the dust settled on Vegas?

Predictably and sadly since Las Vegas, nothing has happened to resolve the issue of gun violence in America.

For the record, I’m not anti-gun. I live in Texas. There are guns everywhere. Most people I know own guns or have at least shot one. I’ve shot one. For the most part, they’re treated with reverence and respect. People aren’t waving them around for bragging rights, they’re not flashing a piece to intimidate a bouncer at the club, and I’ve never seen one chilling on some dude’s hip at the movie theater. Concealed carry laws are taken seriously.

And while, yes, maybe it would be nice to not have any guns – good guys or bad guys –that’s simply not a realistic proposition. In my opinion, banning guns is not the solution.

That said, liberals and Democrats are often accused by the right of trying to take their guns, but the action and change that people want to see doesn’t need to be so severe.

Gun control is not the same thing as banning guns. It just means limiting access to those who can buy guns, which just seems like common sense. I, like the majority of Americans, can’t understand why guns are so accessible.

I mean, sure. I get it. NRA, lobbyists, 2nd amendment rights, money and bribes, blah, blah, blah, whatever.

But….why?

When people are dying…why?

When it’s an ongoing problem and no resolution has even been proposed…why?

When such a large percentage of the American population supports restrictions on gun accesswhy?

How effectively are our representatives representing their constituents? Who’s in charge here? The people who we’re paying to protect us and our children…what are they doing about this?

Well, I don’t have the solution to this problem, but I don’t see a downside to increased restrictions on gun purchases. Last year, President Trump and Congress rolled back legislation that would have prevented mentally-impaired individuals from purchasing firearms. I can’t think of a good reason for this to have happened, at least not one that’s palatable for the American people.

The most understandable – and I say that with a heavy dose of empathy, but not agreement – argument for reduced restrictions on gun purchases is that it’s a slippery slope of taking away rights from Americans. Once they take guns away from the mentally incapacitated and the previously incarcerated, who’s next?

That, to me, seems like a silly reason to just not do anything at all about a persistent problem. If we governed that way, it’d be anarchy. The law is a living, breathing thing. It adapts with the needs of the country and its citizens. Lines are drawn where they are appropriate, and if in the future those lines need to be redrawn, then so be it.

Another argument is that if we take away guns from everyone, criminals will still be able to access them via the black market while law-abiding citizens will not. As I stated earlier, I don’t think a gun ban is a workable solution, but if it was, I don’t find the black market argument to be entirely relevant. The black market is another problem altogether. Even now, it’s a problem that our government agencies should be working to diminish.

Next up – security guards and/or metal detectors in all schools. Sure. Assuming there’s a budget for that. The United States notoriously underfunds its educational system. Teachers are often forced to buy basic classroom supplies out of their own already-shallow pockets. School districts don’t have the budget for this, and even if they did, those funds could and should arguably be put towards the teachers, the classrooms, and the technology available to students. But let’s say there is a budget for a security guard. What difference, honestly, would a security guard make against a school shooter? Security guards aren’t exactly trained at the same level as police officers. It’s not hard to become a security guard. You don’t need to be in great physical shape to be a security guard. Aside from the fact that these people might have a gun on them (some only carry batons or Tasers), I wouldn’t call this a solution to gun violence in schools.

All of that said, I’ve tried to see the other side of this argument, the side that average anti-gun restriction Americans would be on, not the politicians who receive payouts from the NRA. I thought that maybe there was something I was missing from a debate that seems so nonsensical to me. Perhaps there still is something I’m missing.

But at the end of the day when children are dying, it’s hard to come up with an excuse to justify not doing anything about it.

The moral of this story? Call and write your representatives in Congress if you want to see increased restrictions on gun purchases. And vote in the midterm elections. Change happens through action. Politicians act based on their likelihood to get re-elected into office.

Votes count, if even for a bit. Because something is better than nothing.