The horrific shooting in Newtown Connecticut in which 20 small children and 6 adults were murdered, some shot up to 11 times, had a profound impact on the U.S. I personally cannot remember an event shaking the country so deeply, I think you may need to go back to the assassination of John F. Kennedy to find an event that had such an impact. This has caused the gun control debate to heat up like it hasn’t in along time.
One could wonder why this specific incident had such an impact, as opposed to all the other shootings we had endured. It is because small children hold such a place in our minds. Once people, even young people, reach a certain age we accept that they may just get run over by a bus or any number of other terrible things at any time. Small children are felt to be our complete care, they aren’t yet capable of being independent, the biggest worry they have is what they will have for snack. This does make this event different in a very visceral way.
The gun control debate is a fairly new thing. Up until about 30 years ago the right to bear arms was identified as the right for states to have well equipped militias to resist the federal government if need be, it wasn’t taken as a right for individuals to own guns. This is why it was possible to outlaw sawed off shotguns. But no matter, it is an outdated concept, and a dangerous one. When we have nuclear arms scattered around the country capable of frying the planet the idea that states would engage in armed resistance to the federal government is insanity. The absolute focus must be on political means of resolving all conflicts, the stakes are just too high otherwise, not just for this country but for us a species. As for the rights of individuals to resist the federal government the thought that is possible to do that through armed means is absurd. To any of you patriots who anticipate holding out against apache helicopters, or even better unmanned drones, with your Bushmaster semi-automatic weapon I wish you the best of luck, and when the dust settles I will be glad to come with a mop to wipe up the bloody puddle which is your ass. On the other hand we have just witnessed a historic wave of government downfalls caused not by people in armed resistance but through popular sentiment. A piece recently in The New York Times highlighted this, pointing out that it is strong communities which provide the best weapon against tyrannical governments and not weapons, weapons in fact fracture strong communities. This is not to make the argument that there is no place in revolution for arms, Syria shows that clearly, but the first and most effective weapon in revolution is mass public sentiment.
So if you want to thank the NRA for something thank them for helping to insure that there are enough guns out there that we need to fear for our safety. If you want to thank them for something thank them for helping to support an industry that has enabled the horrific gang violence in Mexico, this violence is, after all helped along by guns which pour into that country from the United States. If you want to thank them for something thank them for empowering an industry that is so profitable and powerful that it is almost untouchable, and whose major business is producing tools that kill.
Still for the United States gun control is only a quick fix of probably limited effectiveness. This is because there are simply so many guns already out there, and attempting to seize them will only invite tragedy. Really the most effective option is to not control guns as much as we should control ammunition and the means to make it. Guns are unique in that they require something else to function, take way the ammunition and a gun turns into a somewhat inefficient club. Now the argument is continually made that bad people will do bad things whether or not they have guns. A really striking thing happened in fact at the time of the Newtown shootings. In china, where gun ownership is rare, a man entered a school and attacked children with a knife. He like the shooter in Newtown hurt about 20 children, the difference? Not one of those children died. As for home security pepper spray security systems or other non-lethal options are a lovely thing to consider.
In terms of bad people doing bad things whether or not they have guns, there is another side to that, which is that guns make it possible for good people to do bad things. What is the leading cause of gun deaths? Suicide. What guns do is make it possible for moments of passion to turn deadly very quickly. Find your spouse sleeping with someone else? Drunk after losing your job? If a gun is there what might otherwise simply be a bad experience may become something far worse. In this respect while the laws targeting assault type weapons are welcome, we could just as easily target banning handguns. Handguns and far more likely to be involved in tragedies like suicide than assault rifles are.
Now if you are a gun control advocate I strongly urge you to donate money to a gun control advocacy group, such as http://www.mayorsagainstillegalguns.org/html/home/home.shtml, http://www.csgv.org/, or http://codepink.org/. There are others, as a quick search on the internet will show, but we need to accept that our current political system works by money, and if we want to have a real impact we need to not only write our representatives and make our voices heard we need to offset the deep resources of the gun lobby. Remember this is not just about the right to own guns, this is not just a legal issue, it is an issue where a very profitable industry wants to keep making money, and they make a lot of money.
And bear in mind also, that if this issue is to get settled once and for all it will require a constitutional amendment to re write the right to own guns to reflect a modern world, far different from the one that the writers of the constitution were able to envision.