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Time To Get Off The Gun Control Merry-Go-Round?

A bold proposal for ending the pointless gun control debate.

On our most recent episode of the Midwest Peace Process podcast, we talked about the current level of frustration over gun violence in America, and the fruitless scramble to find the answer. This frustation is also evident among those we talked to in our subsequent "On The Street" interviews. This frustration inevitably leads many of us to engage in age-old debates, repeating the same conversations over and over again, accomplishing nothing of substance. We hop on and off the proverbial merry-go-round, expecting it to take us somewhere new each time, but we are always left disappointed.

People in positions of power are perhaps subject to this frustration moreso than the rest of us. They are in the spotlight, and they have high expectations placed upon them. If they do nothing, they could be viewed as out of touch, preoccupied, or the unpardonable sin of not caring at all. No one wants to be perceived this way, but politicians especially, for whom a lack of empathy can easily result in the end of a career. (I'll leave the discussion of whether choosing politics as a career should even be an option for another time.) A story in the Post today refers to an Alderman in Lake Saint Louis who said that "he doesn't know the answer to confronting gun violence in light of the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School. But he thinks the city should say something." So he admits that he doesn't know how to fix the problem, but he feels compelled to do something anyway. This feeling that something must be done is natural for most people to have, I think. But should we give in to it? Isn't it likely that the steps we take out of sheer frustration will have unintended consequences that may be worse? As with many things, we may find that the cure could be worse than the disease.

So allow me to break some new ground here.  We don't talk about ridding the world of influenza, do we?  No, we long ago realized the futility of trying to control something that cannot be controlled.  Instead, we talk about individual protection (through the use of vaccines).   Perhaps it is time to stop talking about ridding the world of guns, or other similarly futile approaches to controlling them, and instead accept the reality that they are not going to go away, and focus instead on individual protection.  Furthermore, in this country, we are fond of saying "freedom isn't free" when we talk about the hard-working members of our military. They are portrayed as paying a price (sometimes the ultimate price) for the rest of us, and we honor these sacrifices on holidays like Memorial Day and Veterans Day. Well, perhaps it is time for a new holiday where we reflect on the sacrifices made by victims of gun violence, and the price they have paid for the rest of us -- because our freedom to be armed is also not free. We already know the price of free speech is tolerance of hate groups like the KKK.  Perhaps it is time to acknowledge that the price of our freedom to keep and bear arms is that we as a nation must occasionally endure tragedies like those at Sandy Hook.  Perhaps it is time to step off of this merry-go-round.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Terry Cooper January 15, 2013 at 07:34 PM
"Since the federal ban expired in September 2004, murder and overall violent-crime rates have actually fallen. In 2003, the last full year before the law expired, the U.S. murder rate was 5.7 per 100,000 people. Preliminary numbers for 2011 show that the murder rate has fallen to 4.7 per 100,000 people. In fact, murder rates fell immediately after September 2004, and they fell more in the states without assault-weapons bans than in the states with them." John R. Lott Jr., Ph.D., National Review, July 27, 2012
BT January 15, 2013 at 07:36 PM
I'm always hesitant to enter gun rights/safety discussions, but there are a couple of points in your article that I find troubling. I STRONGLY disagree with the notion that mass shootings could be considered collateral for our constitutional option to own firearms. The thought of simply accepting a tragedy of the magnitude of that experienced in Newtown, Connecticut, and then attributing it to be necessary in some vetting process of the constitution is morally disturbing. I find such a line of thought to be inhumane and offensive. The second disagreement I have with your article is in equating gun violence to contracting influenza. Although the oft quoted number of flu-related deaths per year in the US (~36,000) is comparable to recent statistics concerning deaths in the US related to firearms (~32,000, almost two-thirds of which are suicides), the nature of the two is quite different. In addition to gun violence being a man-made problem, I would suggest that crimes involving a firearm are more dangerous to society than the flu. Between 5%-20% (15.5 million - 62 million people) of the US population contract some form of influenza, while (as of 2009 statistics) 383,987 (~0.12% of US population) people were victims of crime involving a firearm. Disregarding other factors would then say, someone contracting the flu has up to a ~0.23% chance of dieing while a victim of a crime involving a firearm (sans suicides) has a ~3.1% chance of dieing.
BT January 15, 2013 at 07:40 PM
I ran out of room above, but I also wanted to voice my approval for a day of remembrance for the lives lost due to gun violence. Good idea. Similar to what was done the week after the tragedy at Sandy Hook, a simple moment of silence and reflection seems appropriate.
Dave Buck January 15, 2013 at 07:51 PM
Jerry, thanks for your article and for the important, continuing dialog it has stimulated. Just three quick points for everyone's consideration: 1. Concerning one of our first and fundamental freedoms, the 1st Amendment includes: "Congress shall make no law.....abriding the freedom of speech." But this freedom is not absolute. Congress may not make such a law, but our common law courts can, as slander and libel are against the law; so is yelling "fire" in a crowded theater. Is the 2nd Amendment and the "right of the people to keep and bear arms" absolute or should it be adapted from 1791 to 2013? 2. In 2011, the US number of deaths resulting from firearms was 32,163, including 11.101 firearm homicides, but with 19,766 deaths by gun suicide; and the remaining 1,296 accidental firearm deaths. Handgun homicides numbered 899 and long-gun homicudes 576, but (other) gun homicides were 9,603 - anyone know what other means? 3. While guns are at the top of the list, my research says that "arms" back in 1791 meant "weapons" and the right to bear weapons, of any and all kinds, including guns, knives, clubs, swords, etc. So, if this was applied equally to 2013, could it include bombs, land mines, missles, bazookas, tanks, WMD's etc.? Hopefully, most US citizens would, out of logic and reason, draw the line and eliminate many of these options. And that's the current debate - what line, if any, should now be drawn given the broad arsenal and types of firearms. Thoughts?
Terry Cooper January 15, 2013 at 08:21 PM
On point number 1 I think the 2nd is very clear and concise. "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." 2, I don't know what it refers to but as the data you are putting up 576 are long guns, this is the important data since this is what would relate to the guns they would like to ban. That amounts to about 2% doesn't that tell you we are trying to ban the wrong thing and this is a waste of time? 3. WMD I'm pretty sure are illegal to own already and if they aren't it's like owning a fully automatic machine gun, while you can own one legally in like 37 states, there is a mountain of red tape one must go through with the fine folks at the BATF. It makes it kind of senseless.
ReverePaul January 15, 2013 at 08:41 PM
Great post SGB. As for Jerry, where do people get the idea that Obama and his government are somehow going to turn into a tyrannical government? SGB basically laid out what gun safety advocates are looking for and none of those have the looks of a tyrannical government. Also, I briefly flipped on Fox News and saw that there were gunshots at a St. Louis college. Does anyone have any info on that?
Jh January 15, 2013 at 09:24 PM
Well regulated, when written, meant some military training. Bearing arms, in an organized defense requires some military training, that is only accomplished collectivelly. I dont know much about the history of state militias but maybe they just were never disciplined enough to be effective
Jerry Pipes January 16, 2013 at 01:26 AM
Mr. Revere, I don't know that I have any ideas that the Obama administration in particular is going to turn into a tyrannical government. My fear, like Jefferson's, is of government in general, regardless of who holds the White House.
Jerry Pipes January 16, 2013 at 01:40 AM
BT, my language was deliberately provocative, to spark discussion. I was not trying to be offensive, but I do believe that this notion that we can somehow prevent mass shootings is a dangerous myth, and those who continue to propagate it are doing a disservice to us all. My comparison to the flu was nothing more than a way to illustrate that there are things we eventually stop trying to eradicate, and simply learn to live with. And it is my opinion that we have reached that point where mass shootings are concerned.
Caffeinated January 16, 2013 at 02:07 AM
"I don't know that I have any ideas that the Obama administration in particular is going to turn into a tyrannical government" Do you often not have any ideas about the things you intimate, Mr. Pipes? How very non-committal of you. In the many "conversations" I've participated in with those who advocate the arming of the citizenry with semi-automatic weapons and large cap mags, I've often asked why they need such weapons. The two main answers I've received have been that it's fun (an honest answer to be sure), and/or that it keeps the government at bay. The latter reasoning has largely been expressed in melodramatic terms involving the suggestion of armed action in some future revolution ("Wolverines!"). The fact that you prevaricate when answering shows me that some part of you knows that it's an inherently ridiculous notion.
mike k January 16, 2013 at 05:09 AM
The late Charlton Heston said it best, "they (meaning the government) can take my gun when they pry it from my cold dead hands". The liberal bafoon in Washington DC is hell bent on seizing as many of our private citizens guns as possible over the next 4 years at which time he will based upon some fictitious state of emergency, issue an executive order setting aside the 22nd amendment which currently limits him to two terms as President. By that time he will have stacked the Supreme Court such that they will be in his hip pocket leaving an armed revolt by the citizens in the street as the only option left to prevent him from establishing his dictatorship.
Caffeinated January 16, 2013 at 05:31 AM
Comedy gold.
Jerry Pipes January 16, 2013 at 12:01 PM
Caffeinated, let me spell it out for you. I wasn't trying to dodge the question, I just wanted to make it clear that I am not on an anti-Obama rant. I don't care who occupies the White House, the government is dangerous. I do believe that history has shown armed action against our government is inevitable. No government lasts forever. Will it happen in my lifetime? I doubt it. Will it happen in my children's lifetime. Possibly. Regardless, human nature being what it is, the option has to remain on the table if tyranny is to be kept in check at all.
BT January 16, 2013 at 03:52 PM
Mr. Pipes, I pray that I am never reduced to accepting mass murder as necessary to sustain individual rights. If mass shootings must be endured, I pray that I never see the day that my soul does not ache upon hearing of such a tragedy. I do not, and will not, accept mass shootings as a requisite for modern-day life in the United States of America. I do not see the need to view a gun rights/safety discussion in terms of mutual exclusion. Can we not work to reduce mass shootings while also adhering to the second amendment? I sincerely hope I have misunderstood you, but you have been quite clear in separate instances regarding this matter. In my view, the paramount right of every individual is life itself.
BT January 16, 2013 at 04:10 PM
Mr. Heston didn't originate the phrase, but he certainly delivered it to make it his own. I recall hearing similar fears of gun seizure four years ago. I'm not aware of those fears having come to fruition. Although I have seen charts indicating gun ownership exceeds that of four years ago. Furthermore, I'm not aware of any proposals to support your claims. I might also point out that, being a member of the Executive branch, the President cannot amend the constitution.
ReverePaul January 16, 2013 at 05:30 PM
mike k you are ridiculous. Just reread that statement you posted.
Jerry Pipes January 16, 2013 at 05:39 PM
I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but I think this is the new reality. We can stomp our feet and say we will not accept mass shootings as a part of life, but in the meantime, the shooters just keep shooting. And consider for just one moment how radically different the dialog on gun control would become, if we *could* all accept this and move on. You asked, can we not work to reduce mass shootings while also adhering to the second amendment? I would ask you, can we not work to reduce terrorist attacks while also adhering to the Bill of Rights? Sadly, the answer to both of these questions is apparently no.
Al Mount January 16, 2013 at 05:41 PM
I like the way you think Mike K.. :-) Caffeniated.... yer a _ _ _ _ _
Al Mount January 16, 2013 at 05:43 PM
I agree with ya Revert Paul.... buffon is too nice a word for this POS POTUS :-)
ReverePaul January 16, 2013 at 05:56 PM
Jerry could you elaborate on your terrorist point? Because all the checking done at airports post 9/11 seems to be done in an effort to reduce terrorist attacks. Also, how do measures such as not allowing those who are mentally disabled to carry guns effect the second amendment and those who are responsible with fire arms?
BT January 16, 2013 at 07:45 PM
It is a sad reality that mass shootings, although still rare, are occurring more often in the USA. I'm most concerned about the proliferation of the desensitization you are recommending. I cannot bring myself to view mass murder as a variable in a balance sheet for the Bill of Rights. As for your comment regarding terrorist attacks, I presume you are alluding to the enforcement of the Patriot Act. For the record, I feel the Patriot Act oversteps the Constitution. It is interesting that you bring this up though; since the Patriot Act has been enacted in the name of protecting the citizens of the United States of America while, in the view of many, neglecting some of the very rights afforded those citizens by the Bill of Rights. Why should the Second Amendment garner special treatment and not also be overshadowed by modern legislation in the name of protecting the general public?
Jerry Pipes January 16, 2013 at 08:41 PM
BT, you are looking at that in the exact opposite way that I am. If you start with the premise that the Constitution is there to act as a check on the government's power, then no government action should infringe on any part of the Bill of Rights, including the 2nd Amendment. So I wasn't drawing the comparison to preventing terrorist attacks to say, hey we're violating everyone's 1st, 4th, and 5th Amendment rights, why not add the 2nd in there too? I'm saying that the steps the government has taken since 9/11 to prevent terrorist attacks (the Patriot Act, TSA, warrantless wiretaps, FISA courts, Gitmo, extraordinary rendition, etc.) have significantly impacted individual liberties (and I hope that is obvious to anyone who has been paying attention). I don't personally believe that we are any safer from attack than we were before. It has just initiated an "arms race" between the government and the terrorists. Just like banning <insert weapon name here> will escalate the race between the government and mass murderers, and in the end won't make anyone safer. The murderer who can't get a gun, will attack a classroom with a sword instead. Or will build a bomb. Or will crash his car into a school bus. Or... In the end, we all lose. We all lose our freedoms, and we lose the lives of the victims. I think I'm okay with only losing one of those.
Jerry Pipes January 16, 2013 at 08:47 PM
Mr. Revere, those measures don't effect the 2nd Amendment. That's a different approach to solving the problem, and I don't have any issue with that. I will probably take issue with the ways in which it is implemented, but I agree in general with the concept of preventing the mentally ill from obtaining firearms. I'm not sure how you do that without violating people's rights to privacy, and doctor-patient confidentiality. I think it has to start with close family members taking responsibility for those who cannot take responsibility for themselves or their behavior. But beyond that, I'm not sure how you do it.
BT January 16, 2013 at 09:39 PM
Thanks for the clarification, I did misunderstand you in your earlier post.
Mike K January 17, 2013 at 01:22 AM
Thanks, Al Mount. Yew mite wanton cheque yurr selling. Hurr Durr. Meanwhile, little mike k is holding up the center tent pole in the Cirque du Suckay.
Dave Buck January 17, 2013 at 03:38 AM
Conceptually, I am on the President's side on the gun issue. But considering: - There are already 300 million guns owned in America that any new regulation will not effect. - Even the CDC concludes that the 1994-2004 assault weapons ban was ineffective or inconclusive. - That there are millions of law abiding owners of these semi-automatic guns, used for self-protection, target practice or hunting. - That handguns are responsible for approximately 9,000 gun homicides in the US, whereas "long rifle" homicides are around 500. - Such proposed bans are strongly opposed by the NRA, a powerful and influential lobby with Congress. As such, here's another thought: eliminate the proposed gun ban (which gives the NRA what it really wants) and focus all efforts on meaningful protection and safety issues, like universal background checks, gun training, licensing, recertification, school security and tracking and identifying those with mental illness and keeping guns out of their hands. In the past, the NRA has always been on the opposing side. Well, thinking outside of the box, what if the NRA was a true ally, instead of an opponent, with both sides working together, unified, to solve the problem in a smart, effective and balanced way.
mike k January 17, 2013 at 05:08 AM
now Obama comes after our guns, next will be our women
ReverePaul January 17, 2013 at 06:38 AM
where in any of Obama's executive orders do you see him coming after your guns? You are simply an uniformed man who thinks the government is going to turn into some sort of dicatorship. And I would go look at a couple of Republican statements about women (Todd Aiken, Richard Mourdock) before making another senseless claim against Obama.
Jerry Pipes January 17, 2013 at 12:01 PM
Dave, I tend to agree that the NRA would be a powerful ally, although I am somewhat skeptical that the Obama administration could bridge the current divide. And the NRA is already very committed to promoting gun safety (Google Eddie Eagle if you're not familiar with their campaign). Having said that, I'm not really a fan of the NRA. I would prefer people who value the 2nd Amendment join the JPFO.
Mike K January 17, 2013 at 01:32 PM
@ReverePaul Don't feed the trolls.

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