Arguing over gun safety reform

arguingLast night I attended a Hillary for President organizing meeting in my city. Attendees were asked to go around the room and say why they were at the meeting, why they though Hillary would make a good President and what was something on their bucket list. Right out of the shoot, the local organizer told her story of how gun violence has affected her and why that is such an important issue in this campaign. A few people later, an older couple revealed that they were affected by the same shooting in our area that the organizer had talked about.

By the time it got to me, fully half or more of the people in the room said that gun violence prevention and gun safety reform were so important to them that that is one reason they wanted Hillary to win. They knew she would work hard on making the laws stronger to prevent the carnage in our country. Many in the room already knew my story but I told it anyway.

After the meeting I posted something on my Facebook page about the meeting and how happy I was that gun safety reform rose to the top of the list of concerns of those in attendance. I tagged some of the people who had been at the meeting. And wouldn’t you know it, as expected, a few friends of those I had tagged started right in on the tired old stupid arguments they get from the NRA and the talking heads opposed to any kind of gun reform.

As I was going to write about this today, I happened upon this blog written by a gun owner about why we need to pass stronger gun laws and why we have to stop listening to the NRA. From his blog:

Every time there’s a new mass shooting, you can already tell by the nature of the shooting what sort of standard, fear-mongering argument the NRA will bring forward; is it the “maybe teachers should have guns” argument? Is it the “regular citizens carrying would have prevented this” argument? Is it the “see, you can’t trust the police” argument? We all see it coming, they come right out with it, plain as day, and nobody bats an eye. Because Second Amendment.

And then he writes about all of the reasons resisting attempts at common sense make no sense ( language not mine):

The truth is logic won’t break this problem; you can waste your life explaining that fat guys in Crocs carrying assault rifles through Wal-Mart isn’t what the Founding Fathers meant by “well-regulated”. You can try showing how nobody has ever “come to take your guns” even though every four years you idiots fall for that line and continue voting Republican. You can explain that the number of mass shootings in this country has skyrocketed in tandem with gun sales. You can show pictures of dead schoolkids. It doesn’t matter. The NRA has too much power, because lobbying. Because campaign contributions.

So here’s my take:

If you don’t support universal background checks, it’s because you wouldn’t pass one. You don’t count. BOOM.

If you think assault rifles are used for hunting, you don’t count. If you need a 30-round clip to take down a whitetail deer, hunting is not your fucking sport. Go take up bowling. BOOM.

If you have ever said the words “take our guns” and meant it, you don’t count. You’re a conspiracy theorist, and not the kind of fella we want to see armed. Seven years, and Obama hasn’t taken one single gun. Stop that. You sound crazy. The NRA sells you that bullshit every election, and it’s time to grow up. BOOM.

If you use the “cars are lethal, too” defense, then you are ipso facto in support of registration, regulation, licensing, insurance, periodical safety examination and extensive training. BOOM.

If you think the NRA “does a lot of good” or has any of your interests in mind, you don’t count. You’re fucking stupid. BOOM.

BOOM. These are the arguments I had last night. They make no sense. No, background checks on all gun sales will NOT lead to registration or confiscation. That’s a fact. No, expanded background checks will not affect “law abiding” gun owners. No expanded background checks will not stop all shootings but they just make sense given our current status with mass shootings, domestic shootings, terror attacks and the shootings that take the lives of 89 Americans a day.

Why in the world would we not require Brady background checks on all gun sales?  We require the same license test for all drivers. We require the same registration for all car owners.We require all people who work with our children to get a background check. No one is treated differently. Why? For public safety and protecting innocent people from being harmed.

But to me, the worst and most insidious argument is that we shouldn’t pass any gun laws because laws don’t work anyway and criminals won’t follow them. This is one of the more ridiculous arguments used by these folks. We do have a country based on laws, thank goodness. Without them, we would be a lawless society similar to some of the third world countries we criticize.

We know that some people don’t follow laws. There are consequences for that. Some people speed or drink while driving and end up in serious trouble with the law. Or worse, they manage to cause death or injury to innocent people. Some people rob others. Some people steal money from others or a business. Some people abuse their partners. Some people harass and threaten others. Some people beat their children. Some people traffic young girls.

There are laws against all of the above. Most people follow the laws. Why? Because they want to be safe and they don’t want to spend time in jail or kill or injure someone else.

So let’s look again at our laws. As of now, domestic abusers, felons and those adjudicated mentally ill can’t buy guns from licensed dealers. I think most would agree that’s a good thing. And if they don’t, they don’t deserve to say anything about any of this. And since the Brady law was passed twenty years ago, over 2 million of these folks have been stopped from buying guns. That’s a good thing, isn’t it?

That being the case why does anyone think it’s a good idea for those very same prohibited people to be able to buy guns from private sellers? Unless of course the people who object the loudest are, indeed, someone who can’t pass a background check.

As for the argument that we aren’t enforcing the laws already on the books, no one can really say which laws those are. One of the problems in our country is that our laws have so many loopholes thanks to the corporate gun lobby, that they aren’t working as well as they should be. That is intentional on the part of the NRA and others so they can come back and say that our laws don’t work.

As long as these arguments go unchallenged, dangerous people who shouldn’t have guns, including terrorists, will get guns. One has to wonder if that is what the gun lobby actually wants. Because then they can continue to stoke up the fear and paranoia that drive people to the gun stores and drive up gun company profits. Follow the money.

All the way around the arguments are insidious and make no sense. But they have gotten away with them because not enough of the 90% or so of Americans who want the laws to change are making enough noise. Check out this article about making more noise and changing the conversation at long last:

Reasonable people can disagree about the availability and volume of guns in a free society. But understand this: In the decade between 2003 and 2013 — the most recent data available from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — 337,135 people in the United States died because of a homicide, suicide or accident caused by a gun. And owning a gun or being in possession of one does not reliably help people remain unharmed. Study after study has found that, including this one funded by the National Institutes of Health. Those are just the facts. Nothing more.

Yet, witness the response to the New York Times’ front-page editorial last week about the toll of gun violence and the absence of political action. There are those who have taken to social media, to their blogs and to the airwaves with all of their frustrated might. But few have a response that does not rely on either an NRA talking point or the scientifically debunked idea that mental illness is the only issue in need of attention here. These folks are outraged and on fire. (…)

Policy reforms and debate are one response to compelling events, to new research, and to tragedy in any functioning and healthy democracy. One wonders what anyone arguing against any discussion of gun control at this moment would have thought of the workplace safety laws that followed the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire. What might they have made of the effort to make lynching a federal felony crime after incredibly brave Americans such as Ida B. Wells made the gruesome handiwork of lynch mobs plain?

Was this work also gauche, imprudent, a waste of time? These issues were polarizing. There were powerful, well-organized and deep-pocketed forces opposed to reforms. And at points, there were also lone champions, activists and voices who refused to abandon their cries for change.

Reform might be difficult, complicated or unlikely. Debate about it may rally those on either side of the cause. But that really is not a valid reason to abandon all efforts to create change.

So the corporate gun lobby would love to have us abandon our efforts to create change in gun laws and to the conversation about guns and gun violence. But we will not do that. In fact, we are getting stronger. The more people understand about what the corporate gun lobby has accomplished, the more repulsed they are.

Why have the argument at all? When the majority of Americans want gun safety reform, it should happen shouldn’t it? Arguing makes no difference. What does make a difference is making a very loud noise with our elected leaders. Or making sure they are not re-elected. Shaming them is also good. For if the Senators who voted against a law to keep terrorists from buying guns in this country after the San Bernardino shooting aren’t ashamed of themselves, something is wrong.

We are better than this.