America the uncontrollable

I write a lot of stories about a lot of things. I’m decent at it, and I think I’ll be able to make a living doing it. Usually when I write, it’s like an anxiety-ridden game of connect the dots I must play for the (something like) pleasure it brings me.

As long as I’ve been a writer, I’ve never wrote anything with this feeling of sickness, this pang of guilt in my stomach. It’s the feeling I’ve had on and off since I heard about the Oregon community college shooting.

In the wake of 10 more deaths, a seemingly hollow yet angry President Obama said he will politicize the issue of gun control in our country because politicians possess the power to pass restricting legislation and don’t.

Yes, it would be a convenient method of saving lives if our Republican-controlled Congress would pass laws like the UK, Australia, Canada— every single developed country in the world, for that matter—that make it harder for the sick and evil to get guns.

But sociopolitical trend starts with the citizens, because in a democracy, the decrees of rulers must reflect the desires of the people.
This is where my guilt comes in. I feel I haven’t done anything to convince people something must change, that introducing more guns into the situation won’t solve anything, that it could be our school next time.

Responses from Republican presidential candidates on the Oregon shooting all centered on mental health—Trump, Bush, Carson—they all said it was not a gun problem but a mental health problem causing the egregious and increasing numbers of mass shootings in our country.

If you agree, you’re wrong, and here’s why.

Countries like Canada, where 21 percent of the population live with a mental disorder, have more mentally ill than the U.S. (18.5 percent). However, countries that have equal or higher percentages of those afflicted have nearly eliminated mass shootings because they chose— usually after a single incident, from which they learned their lesson—to limit who could own guns. If an insane person has no access to a weapon, catastrophe avoided.

The U.S., though, has not learned any lesson, nor does it show any signs of response to the blood that will be continually spilled. The numbers are staggering. In 2015 alone, there have been 296 mass shootings—two of which happened the day after the Oregon shooting. Eighty-eight people die in our country every day from gun violence. Although we represent only 5 percent of the world’s population, we are home to 31 percent of the mass shootings.

This is insanity. This is welcoming numbness to afflictions that could so easily be prevented.

There are 300 million firearms in the U.S., a country of 318 million people. Yet 65 percent of citizens don’t own guns. This is because some gun owners own arsenals (10 or more guns), which they use for hunting, collecting, self-defense or illegal purposes.

Those who require weapons to protect themselves are naturally untrusting individuals—rightfully so in a country with outrageous rates of violence from city to suburb to bucolic town. But this intrinsic fear shifts onto the government anytime they hear the mention of gun control. They’re not doing anything wrong, so what right do we have to take their guns away? Plus, the Second Amendment protects their rights as individuals to own any weapon they want, right? Not quite, actually.

If you read the amendment, it does ensure the right to bear arms, but the phrasing intended by the men who wrote it clearly framed this right in conjunction with the maintaining of a well-regulated militia. These were men scared of a colonizing king usurping their rights from thousands of miles away—a fear we no longer share.

Here’s the text of the amendment:

“A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.”

The people they’re referring to are musket-bearing militiamen, not private, unaffiliated gun owners, and certainly not seedy individuals unwittingly selling guns en masse to future murderers.

The reality, and the reason I can’t shake this sickness, is because I know the changes will be minimal, if any, during my lifetime. But like slavery, women’s rights, prohibition, interracial marriage and homosexuality, views on gun control will shift progressively too. We’ll shake our head at our past folly, like our fathers and grandfathers did at theirs, trying now only to distance ourselves from a cause we accept as foolish.

So what causes change? Writers can play some part. But in truth, I know my audience. I know most in this region disagree with me, despite the overwhelming evidence (dead bodies), many remain hidebound to their positions.

So I have a proposition in the meantime.

Kind of like how drunk drivers are shown photos of families killed in drunken driving accidents and forced to listen to speeches delivered by grieving mothers, we should publish aftermath photos of mass shootings.

If people truly want unrestricted gun ownership, they should see the damage these weapons can do. They should be forced to stare at it every morning before they send their kids to school, accepting their part in allowing it to continue.

I, for one, cannot accept it. I have to do something. This is my part.

Whether you disagree or agree with me, email me your thoughts on the issue at rsmith71@atu.edu. I want to hear especially from those with a perspective at variance with my own. Help me understand your sentiments and talk openly with me as I do with my readers.

Change starts with a conversation