One Man’s Perspective on Gun Violence and What’s Wrong with America
By now, I imagine everyone has heard about the school shooting in Oregon. And everyone is aware of just about every school shooting that has made the news in recent history. Some might even remember the University of Texas shooting in 1966. And I’m sure we are all aware of the rampant gun violence in this country that doesn’t make the 24 hour news cycle; in cities like Chicago, Detroit, New York, Houston, et cetera, people are shot every night in the name of drugs, gang violence, and other criminal activities. This saddens me, as it does all of us. And it leaves me asking, “why?” But I’m afraid that too many people have the wrong perspective on this issue. I’m not a writer or a philosopher, just somebody who’s sick and tired of being part of the silent majority. You don’t have to agree with me, I just ask that you read what I have to say. After all, America is a country where everyone is entitled to their own opinion. At least, it used to be. So, for what it’s worth, here is my perspective.
It is well known that America’s gun laws are probably the most permissive of any modern Western nation. In countries like Great Britain, France, and Australia, it is very difficult if not impossible for a private citizen to obtain and carry a handgun for self defense. Rifles and shotguns for “sporting purposes” may be permitted, but that’s about where it ends. Of course, if you watch any amount of news, you know that shootings and violence occur in these countries as well, so I guess their laws aren’t working as well as they claim.
Each side of the gun control debate has its own statistics. Now, statistics can be hand-picked to support one person’s side of an argument over another, so I won’t even bother to discuss it. If you’d like, you can look up the FBI Uniform Crime Reporting database and see that overall violent crime has declined since 2010 (the earliest year I looked at recently), but that’s a debate for another day. I’d like to take a philosophical approach rather than a mathematical one. I’d like to discuss our nation’s history and the track that we’re on today. We know violent crime happens; but why does it happen? And who’s to blame? The NRA? Gun owners? Republicans? Democrats?
Gun ownership is nothing new in this country. The first colonists had muskets. That is, after all, how they put food on the table. And I don’t recall reading in the history books about rampant gun violence; I don’t recall learning in my high school American History classes about school shootings or church massacres in the 13 colonies. There was no such thing as a concealed carry license. People just had guns, that was it. And that continued into the future. Why, when my grandparents were little, many an American boy of 12 or 13 had a .22 rifle or a .410 shotgun for hunting, and I never learned about any school shootings in the ‘40’s and ‘50’s. What I do remember learning about was the oppression that the colonists faced from King George III. I do remember learning about the Revolutionary War, and how the colonists banded together for a common goal—American Freedom. And, lest we forget, George Washington’s ragtag militia—formed by the people—used their privately owned firearms to defeat the British. We had no military; we had no Federal armory; we didn’t even have a government—at least, not in the modern sense. So it was privately owned firearms—the same ones that put food on the table—that kept us free from an oppressive government. That is why they wrote the 2nd Amendment.
I also remember learning about the rise and fall of other oppressive regimes throughout human history. When you study these historical events, one common theme is often present: the oppressed people had no way to defend themselves. Hitler made it illegal for Jews to own guns. Of course, his military was permitted to own private arms, as was he. We all know how that ended. The slaves brought to America obviously weren’t allowed to own guns. If they had been, there would have been no slaves.
We still see this in modern times. The “citizens” of North Korea are not allowed to own guns. The citizens of Mexico are only allowed to own guns if permission is granted them by the government; and even then they must purchase guns through the Defense Ministry, and they are limited to small calibers (the drug cartels, it seems, can have whatever they want. Vietnam only allows its citizens to own shotguns, and only by special permission of the government. Of course, we all know how safe and violence-free these countries are. But, since laws only apply to the law-abiding, I suppose one could argue that the laws in these countries work: private, law-abiding citizens don’t commit gun violence in these countries. The problem is that the citizens of these countries are often victimized by terrorists or criminals; or, in the case of North Korea, by their own government. We hear on the news all the time about the drug-related violence in Mexico, and how private citizens are totally dependent on what few police and military resources they have left for protection. We all know how oppressed the people of North Korea are. Strangely enough, we don’t have these problems in America. At least, not yet.
But freedom doesn’t come free. Freedom is a big gift that has been given to us by our forefathers. And, as it says in the Bible, “to whom much has been given, much will be required.” Are we doing our part to earn the freedom that we’ve been given?
There are people who would like us to believe that guns are the real killers. Most recently, this was stated by the father of the Oregon school shooter. If that’s the case, I guess cars are the reason people drive drunk; and knives are the reason people get stabbed; and pressure cookers are the reason the Boston Marathon got bombed; and it’s fertilizer’s fault that the Murrah building in Oklahoma City was bombed. They never put the blame on the individual. They only seem to hate the guns, not the people using them for evil. And they argue that, because of a few “bad apples,” all law-abiding gun owners should have their rights stripped away. Funny, because when George W. Bush signed the Patriot Act into law in 2001, those same people got real mad that the government was trying to infringe on their freedoms because of a few “bad apples.” They got mad that Congress passed the massive Act without even reading it….sounds familiar, doesn’t it?
They try to demonize the NRA and the nearly 5 million private citizens they represent, or people who “cling to guns and religion” (Barack Hussein Obama, 2008). They would have us believe that every gun owner is a potential mass shooter just waiting to snap. They claim that more background checks, more restrictions, more bans—just one more law—will keep us safe. In fact, Hillary Clinton just unveiled her own plan for gun control if elected. Now I can sleep at night.
Of course, the law has failed to protect us time and again. In the case of many school shootings, the shooter was too young to legally carry a firearm in the first place. In the cases where the shooter was old enough to carry, as in Virginia Tech and Umpqua Community College, they weren’t licensed. Not only that, the firearms they used were legally purchased and the background checks were passed. Or, in the case of Sandy Hook, the legal owner was shot in the head—the shooter’s own MOTHER—and the guns stolen by the attacker. We are told that limiting the number of bullets a gun can hold will keep us safe. Unless, of course, the shooter carries five handguns and a rifle, like recently in Oregon. We are told that a sign banning guns will keep us safe, but this continues to fail. We are told that allowing concealed carry by private citizens will lead to Wild West shootouts and that the streets will run red with blood, but this continually fails to be the case. We are told that the police will protect us, and to “just call 911.” But when the police show up five minutes later, it’s too late. The people telling us these things are often politicians or even celebrities—all of whom have their own security guards. Some of our politicians tell us we can’t be trusted with guns. I thought We The People were supposed to be able to trust the government, not the other way around.
Time and again, gun control policies fail to protect us; and time and again, we are told that we just need more gun laws. Last I checked, it was illegal to murder somebody in the first place. But surely a criminal wouldn’t break another law, right?
Time and again, we are told that the record number of private citizens legally carrying guns for protection will lead to more shootings; and time and again, license holders continue to be statistically among the least likely to commit crimes.
So, therefore, I would argue that guns are not the problem. There are about 350 million guns in this country, but there aren’t 350 million shootings every year. The vast majority—well over 99% —of gun owners have never and will never commit a crime. I myself own six firearms—legally, I might add—and I wouldn’t hurt a fly. Unless of course the fly tried to hurt me or my family.
But, the question remains unanswered, why do we have mass shootings in America? Why are their shootings in the first place? Or, more importantly, why has America become such a violent, hate-filled country? As I alluded to earlier, violent crime is actually decreasing, but that doesn’t mean America isn’t a violent place. I will agree that our country seems to be headed in the wrong direction. Too many kids are ending up in gangs. Too many kids are taking their own lives. Too many people are putting their own desires above the freedoms and rights of others. Why?
I would argue that we have been facing a massive cultural shift in this country over the last few decades. I’m not old and wise by any means—I was born in the mid-1980’s. But I remember the world before smart phones and Facebook and the internet. I remember a safer, more peaceful time. I remember when the most violent video game kids played was Super Mario Bros. I remember running outside on a Saturday morning to play—unsupervised—and not coming home until dark. My parents weren’t exactly sure where I was all the time, but they knew that I wasn’t getting into trouble. They raised me to know better, and they knew who my friends were. I’m fortunate enough to have been born to happily married parents—one mother and one father—who took me to church every Sunday. I’m fortunate enough to have been taught the value of hard work, study, and dedication. I’m fortunate enough to have been taught that the world doesn’t owe me a damn thing. And I’m fortunate enough to have been taught the Golden Rule: do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
I have faith in God. I have pride for my Country. And I have respect for my fellow man. I have strongly held beliefs that I am willing to stand up for. Sadly, I find that missing in today’s society. Too many people are more interested in what Kanye West or Justin Bieber think than what their parents think. Too many people these days have their political views shaped by the VMA’s and Hollywood rather than by their families. Too many kids are raised in broken homes by parents who are more interested in their own wants and needs than those of their children. Too many kids are raised with no faith and no belief in something greater than themselves. I’m not arguing that everyone should go to church. Your beliefs are your business, not mine, and I know a lot of good people who don’t go to church. But I do believe that everyone should be part of something bigger than themselves; be it a religion, a country, or even just the neighborhood where they live. In the words of a country song by Aaron Tippin, “You’ve got to stand for something, or you’ll fall for anything.” Everyone is obsessed with instant gratification. So many kids are raised with the mindset that “the only thing that matters is that I get mine.” Be it money, drugs, happiness, success, fame, notoriety, followers on Twitter, or “likes” on Facebook, they want theirs. To hell with everybody else, they think.
We see this all around us. I drive to work every day and watch people cut off other drivers, run red lights or “steal” parking spaces. I watch other drivers throw their lit cigarette butts out the window onto the pavement. I watch drivers dodge pedestrians crossing the street, rather than stopping until it’s safe. I watch people cut in line at the grocery store. I watch people glare at mothers who’s kids are crying. I watch the way people treat others in airports or on planes. I walk past people on the street or in the hallways and say “hello,” only to be greeted with a stare or ignored. I stand in a crowded room with no empty seats and watch a woman or elderly person walk in and nobody stands up to offer a chair. I watch a mother with her hands full try to juggle groceries and kids, and nobody offers to help.
I see how people are more infuriated at the dentist who killed a lion in Africa than they are at the gang member who killed a 9-year-old girl in St. Louis in a drive-by shooting. I see how people chant “Black Lives Matter” when a white police officer shoots a black gang member in self defense, but they say nothing about the black teenagers killed in the streets of Chicago by black gang members every night. I see how a Kentucky County Clerk refuses to issue marriage licenses to gay couples and then receives death threats from people who claim to be “tolerant.” I see that a Muslim boy builds a suspicious-looking clock and is supposedly “persecuted because of his faith” and invited to the White House, while a Christian boy isn’t allowed to saw “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance. I see the outpouring of support from the Christian community when a mosque is spray-painted with graffiti, but I haven’t heard a Muslim say a single word when a crazed gunman shoots college students for saying they’re Christian. I hear the Pope call Muslims his brothers and sisters, while the Ayatollah chants “death to America.” I see American soldiers who are willing to fight and die for their country, while people in high-crime urban areas won’t even stand up for their own neighborhoods. I see the mayor of Baltimore offering no support to her own police officers, inciting violence and anarchy in the very people the police swear to protect. I see the people of Ferguson using violence to protest the way they feel targeted by police, only to prove by their actions the exact reason the police target them.
I live in a country where people are more concerned that gay couples be allowed to marry than they are about our nation’s high divorce rate. I live in a country where people are more concerned with how healthy our children’s school lunches are than they are about the number of children growing up without fathers. I live in a country where people are more concerned about protecting an endangered minnow in California than they are about protecting unborn babies.
Kids listen to rap music glorifying the acquisition of money, “street cred,” and guns. Kids seldom speak to their parents, but are in constant communication to people all over the world through social media. The entire world is at their fingertips through the internet, and still they want more. It seems family dinners are a thing of the past. Kids who feel lost and lonely see the instant media fame they can acquire through acts of violence, and they start to wonder if that’s the only way out. Kids take their own lives rather than face being bullied at school for their beliefs, their sexual orientation, or the clothes they wear. They see that their parents don’t pay enough attention to them. They see that the adults in our society want instant gratification and have no respect for others, and they assume that’s normal.
Teenagers see that posing nude for a magazine gets your more attention than an act of kindness. They see that leaking a sex tape makes you famous, while volunteering for charity gets you a pat on the back, if that. Kids that grow up in crime infested neighborhoods learn that the only way to get ahead in life is to steal from others. Our education system is more concerned with teaching kids about their options for birth control than it is with teaching the history of our great nation. Teachers are so afraid of getting fired that they can’t discipline unruly students. Our education system says it’s okay to teach about evolution, gay marriage, Islam, and American Imperialism, but not about freedom, democracy, Judeo-Christian values, or American Exceptionalism.
As a Catholic, a husband, a father of two children, and a patriot, I am scared about the direction our country is headed. I’m sorry that my children can’t grow up in the world I grew up in. I’m sorry that the people who are supposed to lead us are such a disappointment. And I pray—yes, I said pray—that my generation can fix this mess before America as I know it is long gone. So ask yourselves: Why is their violence in our country? Is it guns? Or is it our society’s complete and utter lack of values?
As long as there is violence in this country, I believe that I have the right to defend myself and my family, and I carry a gun for this reason. You won’t hear it on the news, but people actually do use guns to defend themselves and others around them. I have a strongly held belief that I have the right to be safe, and so does everyone else. And so, to all the people who say that guns are the problem and that people like me are the enemy, I say this: I am prepared and willing to stand up and defend you, myself, and others, no matter the threat. Are you?