I hate guns.
I did not grow up with guns, I have never shot anything more than a bb gun (okay, there was a potato launcher at a party that one time…) and I am uncomfortable even in the presence of guns.
However, my brother in law is a hunter. He feeds his family for the entire year on what he hunts during deer season. I have no problem with him owning guns, and I would never advocate taking them away from him. He does not own an AR-15 or any of these so-called “assault rifles” so I saw no reason why any ordinary citizen would need or want an AR15 or anything similar.
I thought I supported a ban on these assault rifles and the rest of the legislation that has been talked about in recent weeks. That’s until I took the time to learn more about what’s banned, what’s not, and what could be banned and why. This is the first video that changed my mind. It was shared with me by someone on our facebook page. It clearly shows there is NO difference between a hunting rifle and the more evil looking “assault rifle”. At the Northeast Arms Show in Saratoga this past weekend, I got to look at these guns up close and personal. Are they scary looking? Hell yes, especially to someone like me who is uncomfortable around guns of any kind. But why ban the scary looking black metal gun if you aren’t going to ban the less menacing, wooden hunting rifle? And I DO NOT support banning a hunting rifle because there are many, many families- like my brother in law’s- who live largely on what they hunt. So banning one based on its appearance alone is not a strong enough argument for me to advocate for. It may be well-intentioned, but it’s misguided, misinformed and provides a false sense of security.
Now let’s talk about large capacity magazines. They have also been subject to scrutiny after mass shootings like Aurora and Newtown. The theory is that if you ban large capacity magazines, you reduce the number of mass casualties. That may or may not be true. A skilled gunman can change out magazines in a split second. The Newtown shooter had 30 round magazines, but didn’t even empty them before removing and reloading them. No one’s really sure why, but it’s a common practice in some of the more violent video games not to enter a room without being fully loaded. So even though he had a 30 round magazine, he didn’t even use them all before changing them, and still managed to massacre 20 children and 6 adults. He very likely could have done the same thing with a 10 or 7 round magazine.
Some of these mass shooters have been stopped when their guns jammed, or after the magazine had been emptied and they were trying to reload. Logic tells me that the more times a shooter has to reload, the more chances there are of the gun jamming or someone being able to stop them. The shooters we have seen are not highly skilled weapons experts. They are not lightning fast in changing magazines. They don’t know how to clear a stovepipe jam (another term I learned this week!) and there would be more opportunities to limit the number of people killed and injured.
I personally don’t understand why an average person feels the need to own a 30, 50 or 100 round magazine. Gun owners I’ve spoken to say it’s because they don’t know what kind of weapon or ammunition an intruder might have. I can see their point, but I don’t necessarily share that perspective. Should they be banned? A month ago I would have said absolutely. Now I’m not so sure what that would solve.
I also know that people who commit crimes like these aren’t really worried about having an illegal magazine. Why would they stop to observe a gun law when they are about to shoot up a theater full of movie-goers or a classroom full of first graders? Would these large capacity magazines be less-readily available? Maybe. More than likely, they would find a way to get them anyway.
I don’t see know how taking away a responsible gun owner’s rights will hurt the bad guys. They are going to do what they are going to do, regardless of what the law tells them. I have a hard time supporting a law that would hurt law abiding citizens, while having no impact on the people it is intended for.
Where both sides agree is when it comes to mental health. We all agree that mentally ill people should not have guns or access to guns. So how do you legislate that? A box on an application form that says “check here if you’re crazy”? The need for privacy when it comes to our health is a valid issue. So how do we legislate guns out of the hands of the mentally ill when there is no measurement of how mentally ill someone is? If someone has epilepsy that is controlled by medication, they aren’t always denied a drivers license even though there is a chance they could forget their meds one day and seize behind the wheel. So how do you deny the right to own a gun to someone who has mental illness that is controlled by medication? And how do you define what mental illnesses are a threat to others? Schizophrenia? Depression? Arachnaphobia? I think we can agree that no reasonable, sane person would shoot up a movie theater, classroom or mall. And I think we can agree that something needs to be done to limit an insane person’s access to weapons. So let’s come up with a way to do that.
What’s hurting us in getting there are the extremists on each side. People like Wayne LaPierre (sorry folks, he’s not helping the cause here) and Alex Jones are so angry and offensive that people tune them out. They make gun owners look like paranoid crazies who just want to shoot first and ask questions later. They aren’t helping any more than the Birkenstock wearing protestors on the other side who have just been looking for a place to pitch their tent and sing Kumbaya since the Occupy Movement.
I have no solutions, but I do know that name calling, finger pointing, and the flat out refusal to even acknowledge the other side’s concerns are not getting us any closer.