I have some decisions to make as far as having a public presence that will exist on the internet for the rest of my life and beyond. Do I behave in a way that endorses no particular ideology and speaks of no topic that could be controversial in nature? This is the approach of someone who is trying to appeal to everyone to sell a product and become a household name. I'm a bass teacher and music educator as well as live and in-studio musician. Who cares what I think about gun violence?
The other approach is to speak my mind and to allow the pieces to fall where they may. Some, well, most people won't care. Some will be turned off by my opinions and choose to not be associated with me and anything that I'm involved with. Yet, some people will like and agree with me.
What I'm most interested in though is the people that might hear what I have to say and it makes them think. I was most affected in my formative years by topics and books that made me think about and even change my opinions on certain topics. I continue to find media that makes me think differently and challenges my previously held opinions. If there's a chance that I can contribute to that process for someone else, then I'm willing to take the risk of turning someone off.
That being said, here's a video of me firing a glock.
I was also recently able to fire a fully automatic assault rifle. I will not post that video because I wasn't supposed to have access to one (they are banned you know?) and I have no wish to involve anyone else I know and trust in following me down this rabbit hole which is my individual opinion.
The difference between a pistol and an assault rifle is like poking someone with a fork and shoving a spear through someone's chest. It's powerful and dangerous. I kept thinking that it was like opening Pandora's box. Like, "I shouldn't be able to cause this much destruction."
You may be surprised that I fire guns. I appear to be a bleeding heart Liberal to most people on the exterior, but anyone who knows me well knows that I am more nuanced than just being Liberal or Conservative. We all are more nuanced than that when you look at the total makeup of an informed individual. I think one of the biggest mistakes you can make is allowing media or government dictate what your opinions should or should not be.
As far as gun ownership or the 2nd Amendment, I get the appeal. The practice of gun ownership is deeply embedded in American culture and a big part of it is the safe, common sense practice of how to handle a gun correctly. My father is a lifelong gun owner and he gave up on the idea of me EVER wanting to go to the shooting range. But then again, he never asked. Now, we are bonding over it.
All this interest in firearms is recent for me and born out of an interest to see the other side of a divisive issue. Many of my friends, family and loved ones are responsible gun owners who view firearms the same way I view bike riding. An interest and a hobby, but one that is much more prone to deadly consequences. That's why the people I have learn to shoot from all say the same things:
- Always treat a gun as if it is already loaded, even if it is not.
- Don't point the barrel at anything you do not wish to destroy.
- Keep your finger off the trigger until you are aimed and prepare to shoot.
- Look beyond the target and be aware of objects you may damage behind your point of impact.
If the four above procedures are followed, then you can enjoy your firearm safely and accident free. I certainly believe that for protection and safety law enforcement and qualified, responsible citizens should have access to weapons. Afterall, we live in a free society and should be able to protect ourselves and our families.
All of this makes sense in theory.
In the early AM of Sunday June 12 2016 a man with an assault rifle massacred the attendees of an Orlando nightclub. Fifty people were killed and fifty three injured, the shooter was either an ISIS sympathizer or specifically targeting homosexuals. Either way, it was a hate crime. Independent of this tragedy, a man from Indiana was plotting to shoot up a Gay Pride parade in Santa Monica that same day of which several of my friends and loved ones would be in attendance. The massacre was fortunately thwarted before a second tragedy could occur but it made one thing clear:
Something is very wrong here. This has become all too commonplace in America. These horrible tragedies should not be dismissed as a mere byproduct of living in a free society.
If your defense is that gay people should be armed so that they can defend themselves against shooters, then we must know VERY different gay people. All my gay friends are peace-loving, non-violent and abhor firearms. When you go to a gay club as a homosexual, you are going to a safe place where it is okay to be who you are, there should be no need to arm yourself. Just like the children in Sandy Hook were supposed to be in a safe place where the teachers should not need to be armed. I personally don't think that nervous, untrained American citizens are any safer with a deadly weapon that they cannot control and would wind up killing more innocent people trying to aim their weapons at the actual bad guys. I have had friends who were robbed and mugged at gunpoint. I ask them, "Would you have felt any safer with a gun?" The answer is always, "No, I think things would have been worse." These people were not trained in martial arts or combat, they were just regular citizens.
But the "arm more citizens" defense is always what the NRA comes up with. Why such a tone deaf and unreasonable response? Well, first you have to ask:
The really sick thing is that gun sales go up after every mass shooting. The NRA has a strong lobby in government and they are making money hand over fist after every mass shooting. A portion of this money is given to your elected representatives (snicker) in Congress. These guys make sure that absolutely NOTHING gets changed as far as weapon laws so that nothing obstructs the gravy train. That's right, the slaughtering of American citizens by crazed gunmen is inconvenient for Congress, but not inconvenient enough to piss off the NRA.
Nothing ever gets done from a government policy standpoint and it's absolutely MADDENING. This is the paradox of living in a free society. We have the freedom of protection from violence yet that same freedom is making it easier for sick individuals to murder us. I've heard all the counterarguments against legislative gun restriction:
- Criminals don't follow gun laws.
- The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.
- Crazed people will find a way to kill people without guns, be it with bombs, gas or machetes.
- The 2nd Amendment is a right of all citizens to protect themselves from the government itself. I call this one the "Germany argument" because everybody knows the Nazis are coming.
- It's a mental health issue, not a gun issue.
I actually do believe some of the above points are valid (although the nuts go to #4 a little too quickly) but even if these points were 100% true in every case, they don't offer up any solutions. More guns? It's not working. More security everywhere? Not practical.
If the US instilled more strict, common sense gun regulation, then maybe at least an effort could be made to make it more difficult for sick individuals to gain access to an assault weapon. A legislative fig leaf for the victims? Could we at least try to do something to curb these senseless killings?
I'm going to take a little detour here.
This morning while I was driving on the freeway to pick up my cousin from the airport I saw something that made me mad. A driver in a sedan was trying to decide if it was safe to merge into my lane. He kept waiting, fearful that they wouldn't have enough room even though I was leaving space enough to fit a big rig through. He was going to cause an accident either in his lane or the for the people behind me because I was slowing down so much. I finally honked and he committed to the lane change. Just then right when the 5 north and south split from the 134 another driver in a Mercedes couldn't make up their minds about where they were going and nearly hit the divider, almost causing an accident. Both these geniuses made me angry.
Not because they were bad drivers.
I was mad because both these idiots can BUY GUNS.
I don't hold people to a very high standard, at least not anymore. I live by the creed, "Never underestimate someone's ability to let you down." Whenever I HAVE to eat at Elephant Bar or BJ's I always expect the service to be bad and am always pleasantly surprised when the server actually knows what they're doing. I know, it's cynical but it's how I managed to make it this far.
The threshold is pretty low in today's society. The cognitive capacity of your run of the mill gun owner does not need to be very high and that's a problem. Even if they are intelligent then that doesn't mean that they can't be a complete nut job. Nutty people shouldn't own guns, I hope we can all agree on that. But how do you legislate based on nuttiness? The Sandy Hook shooter took his Mother's assault rifles, what do you do about a responsible gun owners children?
It's too late to become Japan and Australia and take guns from the culture of middle America, but I'm all for making it more difficult. If I'm going to buy a gun, the criteria should be more than cash and a waiting period. Require a trained gun specialist to sign off on the purchase and ensure that the buyer knows how to handle the weapon safely. Take steps to ensure that the weapon will be stored safely. Have the buyer take tests and give them background checks. The end result at the very least is a gun owner that is trained in how to handle their weapon correctly.
When I was firing that assault rifle on full auto and wrecking havoc on unsuspecting lightbulbs, I could only imagine myself in some mysterious position to allow or disallow people to use one. What would the criteria be? "A full year of transcendental meditation"? "A full psychic evaluation from birth to adulthood and signed off by a team of elite psycho-analysts"? "Seven years in Tibet"?
Would this stop the mass shootings? I think it will be a drop in the bucket, sadly. To change things we need to do something much more difficult.
We need to change the culture.
America has more violence than Japan not because guns are banned in Japan, it's because Americans are more violent, period. Our culture is rooted in the genocide of Native Americans that our textbooks edit out or make a footnote out of. Our society is based on Manifest Destiny, take out the natives of a given area and conquer it for our own. Yes, we have violence in television, music and movies but these violent images themselves are really not the problem. Other countries like Canada have gun rights, watch violent media and go about their lives largely without incident. What we have is a systemic problem of violence in America and to get at the root cause of it will take effort.
We need to change the narrative. We need to move in the direction of unity and love and away from the direction of divisiveness and hatred. We need better, more effective solutions. This is like putting the daisy in the rifle barrel and it won't be easy but we as a society have to at least move in this direction.
As I said, this is difficult.
To change the culture in a free society takes the efforts of people far more intelligent than myself. Mass shootings may continue, but I can only hope with a cultural movement in the direction of peace that they can start to decrease in scale.
I don't have all the answers, but here's some ideas to start:
- We have a constitutional right to bear arms, why not a constitutional right to health care and mental health services?
- People with mental health problems will look for ways to end their pain. A violent society will offer violent solutions. A peaceful society will offer peaceful ones.
- Ammunition costs less than medication, can we make it the other way around?
- Crackdown on gun crimes with harsher sentences. Twenty years for armed robbery. Felons in possession of a firearm should receive a thirty year minimum sentence. The next world famous hip-hop artist with a criminal record who gets busted with a gun will be an example to kids everywhere once he gets nailed with a thirty year sentence. Zero tolerance.
- Subsidize these longer sentences with a new gun and ammunitions taxes. 10% tax on new gun sales for mental health services and longer prison sentences for gun crimes. NRA, put your money where your mouth is and be part of the solution.
- When there is a mass shooting, don't allow the media to post pictures and names of the shooter. The shooter is looking for some glorification in their sad, miserable lives. Don't allow them to have a podium and look like a martyr. Their incentive will be lost.
We all need to unite and find viable solutions instead of attacking the other side. Responsible gun owners need to recognize that there is a problem that needs a solution and gun critics need to accept that America will not give up it's arms.
Responsible gun owners, the gun critics are not the problem, the mass shooters are. Decent, gun owning men and women in this country have every interest in reaching across the aisle and working with gun control advocates to reach common sense solutions. Responsible gun owners must make efforts to ensure they can keep living in a free society without the threat of an all out gun ban. This is where we're headed towards if we can't right the ship and unite. Innocent people are being killed by maniacs and all we can do at this point is bicker about gun laws. There is a better way and we need to work together to find a solution that keeps our society free and at the same time, safe. We are not safe at this point, obviously and it is causing a lot of fear. Fear leads to irrational decisions and deadly consequences.
Embrace your fellow man, love them as you love yourself. Know that as long as no one is coming to harm, they can live their lives as they see fit. Choose to change the narrative from "Us and Them" to just "us"...
Just "us"... Justice. I like it, let's go with that.
My heart goes out to the victims and their families. Let's keep trying to make this a better, safer place to live.