While many on the left look to the irresponsibility of the American people as a reason for mass causality tragedies, and look to government for the answer, I believe it is disingenuous and unconstitutional to limit the ability of American citizens to legally purchase a firearm.
In a perfect world there would be no need for guns. Over the last decade we have been constantly reminded that we do not live in a perfect world nor will we anytime in the near future. The threat from criminals and enemies foreign and domestic is a real threat and should be respected by every American. Because of the nature of criminality in this world, leveling the playing field by allowing for weapons to be wielded by law-abiding citizens can invariably deter heinous actions from even the most hardened of criminals. America does not need the government expanding its power, shredding the second amendment, and stepping in where families and communities can do the job just as well. I call on families and communities to take on more responsibility in preaching gun safety and to be more vigilant about mental illness. Personal responsibility will do more to stymie possible tragic incidents than anything the federal government can do.
Where I tend to divert with most liberals on the issue of gun control does not stem from the fact that we have a gun issue, for I am not blind to this, rather how it should be solved. Mere hours after the tragic school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut liberal news media and many liberal activists on social media began tiring out their vocal chords and fingers serving up a litany of contentious statements towards the National Rifle Association and advocating for federal gun control legislation. For example, beloved New York City mayor, and man who enjoys taking your picture three-hundred times from Wall Street to the Brooklyn Bridge, Michael Bloomberg composed over seventy tweets condemning the NRA, touting New York City’s crime rates, and demanding action toward federal gun control legislation. Only three tweets remembering and offering condolences to the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting were composed. He did not call on families to teach their children proper gun handling, to store their firearms in safe locations where children and/or family members who may have a mental illness cannot get to, or to install trigger locks and other measures of gun safety. Instead, liberals on this issue, and many others, take responsibility out of the hands of the family and community, and instill that power in the federal government. However, we cannot simply enact laws, wipe our hands clean and proclaim with vigor “problem solved!” One can see the explosion of gun violence in cities with the strictest gun laws in the country (Chicago, Washington D.C.). To simply enact a law similar to the 1994 assault weapons ban will not solve or even significantly diminish these tragic incidents. There needs to be a multi-faceted approach that can help ensure that every gun purchased legally will be used merely for sport, protection, or collection.
It should be up to the community and parents to teach every child about gun safety and proper handling of a gun. There are multiple ways to accomplish this. Once a child reaches middle school many districts require that a child takes a health class that teaches him or her about the dangers of unprotected sex, alcohol, and drugs. In most school districts these lessons are reinforced with another health class in high school. What most health classes do not teach is gun safety. To some that do not grow up with family members in the house teaching them about gun safety, guns remain a foreign and scary entity to them. Schools must then reinforce that guns are used for protection and sport only. Their power must be respected and not fooled around with. If we are to be serious about tackling this issue we cannot leave proper gun safety out of the knowledge of every child when they graduate high school. These same tenants must be reinforced at home as well.
It is the responsibility of parents who own guns to have basic safety features on their weapons and stash them away in places known only to them and responsible persons in the household. Far too many incidents have occurred involving children rummaging through mom and dad’s room only to find a gun of some kind stashed away unprotected. Children by nature are curious and a parent must always have at least one eye on a child under a certain age. Many instances where a curious child has found a firearm have ended in tragedy. Lock boxes, trigger locking mechanisms, and separating magazines from the weapon are all technologies and techniques that must be a priority for any gun-owning family. Once the child is old enough to understand and respect the power of a firearm, they should be acclimated with the weapon. He or she should feel the weight of the weapon in their hands while constantly being reminded to respect its power and dangerousness. Parents should have their children fire the weapon at a target. It will be an eye-opening and very powerful experience for many kids. Some may find it cool and become life-long hunters and sportsmen. Others may be terrified of it and never want to see a gun again. Either way, respect for the weapon is gained. I must make the disclaimer that children with mental disabilities of some kind may not have the ability to take on the responsibility of understanding the power of a gun. Discretion must be paramount to gun-owning parents. This brings me to my next section involving mental health.
Care and treatment of the mentally ill in America has transformed significantly, bringing about meaningful improvements in understanding these particular diseases. In Colonial America, many people who had mental illnesses were deemed to be in cahoots with the devil and subsequently killed through drowning, flattening by rocks (as the fate of Giles Corey in The Crucible can attest to), and burning at the stake (where the famous line “burn the witch!” derives from). Through the 1800s until the 1970s mental health was treated as blight on a family. Many suffering from mental illness were institutionalized in mental hospitals that were unkempt and forgotten, such as the infamous The Athens Lunatic Asylum. If they could not afford to be kept in mental institutions, they were simply thrown in prison, where many lived out their days in filth and human excrement. A call on the plight of those suffering was heard by Dorothea Dix. From the age of thirty-nine until her death at the age of eighty-five, Dorothea Dix advocated for better living conditions for the mentally ill. She even went so far as to advocate for legislation for national mental health institutions, however President Franklin Pierce vetoed that legislation. Through her work, conditions in mental health institutions improved significantly. While many still lived in deplorable conditions, marked improvements in meals and bedding were witnessed in many institutions.
Contemporarily, most mental illness is treated through “Big Phrama” and the litany of pills that many, unfortunately, have to take every day to keep some semblance of mental balance. Many of these pills leave the mentally ill sedated for most of the day so they cannot and do not harm themselves or others. Because of the stigma attached to the mentally ill and the perceived sedated lifestyle that some lead, upwards of 70% of all mentally ill people are not treated or diagnosed. Time and time again, we unfortunately have been witness to the horrors that untreated mental illness can wrought on a community and a nation.
Unfortunately, America cannot afford to dismiss mental illness as foreign or benign any longer. While it is difficult to obtain a gun if one is mentally ill, it is far from impossible. In many states, one can only be barred from purchasing a gun on the basis of mental illness if they have been deemed by court order to be a danger to themselves or to others. Even though this is a positive step, it does not do enough. Many mentally ill patients are very intelligent people who can mask their illness just long enough to obtain a gun. This harkens back to the Tucson shooter, Jared Lee Loughner. While gun laws cannot stop every person with a mental illness from obtaining a gun, I do believe we must extend the prohibition of guns to people that not only are court ordered to not have one, but to people who have certain mental diseases that limit their ability to make coherent decisions. Though we can ask our local and state governments to tighten up prohibition of firearms for the mentally ill, families of those suffering from mental illness must be more vigilant especially if they own firearms. Whether guns are stored in a closet or a shed with primary, secondary and even tertiary locks, one cannot be irresponsible enough to dismiss basic safety precautions.
While many on the left look to the irresponsibility of the American people as a reason for mass causality tragedies, and look to government for the answer, I believe it is disingenuous and unconstitutional to limit the ability of American citizens to legally purchase a firearm. I believe a moral approach focusing on the most basic unit of government, the family, is what is in order. I, and many others on the right, am not blind to the fact that there is a problem with the recent tragedies that have gripped the nation. It is truly unfortunate that both sides must play politics every time an event like this takes place. While I use terms such as “liberals” “the left” and “the right”, I only use those terms to put a name to the arguments that have come forth. I do not advocate for a political solution to the issue of gun violence. For politics cannot change the moral fabric of this country. We are a nation born out of the ability to protect ourselves and our loved ones from threats foreign and domestic and nothing will ever change that. The only thing that can deter tragedies from happening is for every person to wake up tomorrow morning and look in the mirror. Then look at your children and your loved ones and make it your duty to teach and preach responsible gun handling and gun safety.