It's the Gun, Stupid

We must address mental health, ban assault weapons, and pass legislation to restrict who can own a gun.


It's the gun, stupid...or is it?

Most of our nation is still shaken by the recent massacre, the second worst in our country's history., in Newtown, Conn. It's not just that 27 people were gunned down in cold blood by a killer who then took his own life; it's that 20 of those people were children, babies really, most 5, 6, 7 years of age. On Friday, the world seemed to stop spinning on it's axis, and not just for the people of Newtown, Conn.

And now the questions come: Why? The speculation: The killer must have had a mental illness. And the experts line up to give their 2 cents.

[See a collection of editorial cartoons on the Newtown shooting.]

The biggest area of agreement is we, as Americans and as humans—which I hope we are first, my dear friend—agree that none of us want this to ever happen to another person, especially another child— certainly not to any of our children; and I say that as the mom of a 4 and 5 year old.

I am a liberal Democrat. I love our Constitution. I want those of you who embrace your guns as much as I embrace our Constitution to keep those guns for the Second Amendment says you may. I also love the fact that in our nation of freedoms, I can choose to keep you and your guns as far away from me and my family as possible. I'm not a gun fan and I choose not to bear arms. I only like you to bear arms if they're wrapped around me giving a hug.

Now when this tragedy first happened, many of us, myself included, assumed that the shooter must have had some form of mental illness, but it has yet to be determined exactly what was his mental state. Then there are those of us who say, "We need to bring back the assault weapons ban." (And we should!) Yet the Bushmaster rifle that killed so many in such a short time was legal under the law of the state of Connecticut and was not included on the list of weapons banned with the ban that expired in 2004. Then there are those that say, "Too many guns are illegally obtained." True, but wrong again. This one was legally obtained by the shooter's mother. Of course there are those who feel (as do I) that responsible gun owners should keep their guns and ammunition locked up, separate from one another in a place that no one knows or can access. True, and a good idea, but how does one use that to protect one's self if that's the case? And wouldn't we then be blaming the first victim of this terrible tragedy in this instance? 

[See a collection of political cartoons on gun control and gun rights.]

Here's the thing America:  In order to prevent this from happening in the future, we need a multi-faceted approach.

  1. Yes, we need to address mental illness. We need to stop shutting various institutions (hello former President Reagan), we need to stop defunding (hello current GOP) programs that cater to the mentally ill. 
  2. Yes, we need to bring back the assault weapons ban. But we need to add to that ban additional weapons, such as the one used in this horrific massacre. And, we need to know that for every weapon that is banned, gun manufacturers will find a way around the ban by creating a similar weapon that appeases the gun owner. Much like tax loopholes, there are gun loopholes, and we need to find a way to close those.
  3. Yes, we need to have stricter legislation with regards to who is getting the gun. If I hear "guns don't kill people do" one more time, I might have to buy a shoot myself from hearing this too much. So we need to make sure we know exactly who is that person getting that gun. We need stronger background checks and a system in place so people don't just visit a gun show to get around a background check.
  4. And lastly—and here is the big one my friend—we need to ask ourselves, why are we so violent? And why do we love to harm others with guns?

    [Read the U.S. News Debate: Did the Sandy Hook Shooting Prove the Need for More Gun Control?]

    It might be a tough pill to swallow, but we're one violent, gun-toting country. And we have to ask ourselves, why?

    First let's look at the stats. We are ranked No. 1 worldwide in homicides caused by guns. We had 9,146 homicides by a firearm in 2011, that is 60 percent of all our homicides this past year. In our nation, 88.8 out of every 100 people owns a gun. To put that in perspective, in Norway, which is No. 11 in gun ownership (the United States is No. 1) with 31.3 firearms per 100 people, 8.1 percent of their homicides are the result of death by gun so to speak. In Canada, our neighbor to the north, there were 173 homicides by firearms last year, 32 percent of their homicides, and for every 100 people, 30.8 own guns.

    In the United States, 24 people everyday are killed by a firearm. And that does not include accidental death by firearm or suicide. So let's face it America, we have a problem. Is the problem the gun? Or the person holding the gun? Could the problem perhaps be ourselves?

    [See Photos: Obama Joins Mourners at Newtown Memorial Service.]

    After every massacre in the United States over the past couple of years, gun sales have soared after the massacre took place. Newtown this past Friday is no exception. But what was different this time, is that after this particular massacre, one that took the lives of 20 children, according to a Washington Post/ABC Poll, over 40 percent favor stricter gun laws. That is the first time that has happened when Americans were polled about tougher gun legislation after a tragedy such as this in the past.

    Now back to our problem with guns: Why do we have this problem? Is it because we think we're Dirty Harry? Possibly, but you can't blame Hollywood. Nor can you blame violent TV shows or video games. Japan has one of the lowest homicide rates due to firearms and they have video games far more violent than we do here in the United States. Could it be the number of broken homes we have? Sorry, but the United Kingdom has just as many per capita as we do. How about the lack of God as one conservative television host recently suggested? Well, that may sound nice but more people attend church in the United States more than any other Western nation.

    [Read the U.S. News Debate: Should People Be Allowed to Carry Guns Openly?]

    And then there's the shooter in these cases. As Adam Lankford, assistant professor at University of Alabama suggests, these people want to die, they blame society for something. and they want to kill themselves, taking as many people with them as possible. 

    And with those nasty high capacity clips which I feel should also be included in any gun control legislation that is drafted, it does make it possible to kill many people in a short time. In Newtown it was 26 people in two and half minutes, according to the dispatch report. That means, with the type of clip the killer in Newtown used, 686 people would have died in the time it took me to write this blog. One person every 5.6 seconds. Need I say more?

    • Read Peter Roff: President Obama Wants To Go Over the Fiscal Cliff
    • Read Susan Milligan: Daniel Inouye Knew the Senate Was Bigger Than He Was
    • Check out U.S. News Weekly, now available on iPad.