The internet is flooded right now with op-ed pieces and news pieces trying to answer the question “How do we stop gun violence in the US?” and a lot of people seem to think it’s a complicated issue. The NRA will point its fingers relentlessly at the people who commit heinous crimes using guns as mentally ill and claim that it’s not the guns that are the problem but the people who misuse them – and it’s interesting to me that a high percentage of staunch supporters of the NRA are also people who don’t want universal healthcare in this country so that everyone can get the mental health care they need. Others (like myself) are pointing at gun laws as the main issue. And then there’s Morgan Freeman who thinks that if we just stop watching the news and if we make a concerted effort to remember the names of the victims of shootings and not the gunmen that those mentally ill people with guns will be discouraged by our lack of interest in them… eh? Morgan, I love you, but that is one giant hunk of wishful thinking. Then there are those pointing their fingers at video games and violent movies – but mostly video games – saying that these kinds of shootings occur because kids are desensitized by video games and are disconnected from the reality of violence and just want to – what? – play real live versions of their favorite games? So if only there were no video games we would not see this kind of massacre happening?
Remember when people thought heavy metal made young people become violent and commit crimes? And then Rap came and blew Heavy Metal to pieces and everyone started saying the Rap lyrics were making all young people into gangsters…
Remember when people thought Rock-n-Roll would make all the young people into reckless sluts and drug addicts?
The solution to this whole problem of having the highest number of guns and gun-related deaths than any other country in the world is not rocket science. The problem is that the opposition to the solution all have guns and they will do almost anything to keep them. I have some ideas on how we can drastically change our culture from being a “gun culture” to being something we can actually be proud of.
- Ban ALL automatic and semi-automatic weapons. All of them. Make them all illegal and start a government-buyback program as incentive. Make this a federal ban, not a state ban.
- Ban all handguns too. No one needs them. No one.
- Since no leader in this country will ever have the balls to ban all handguns, I suggest a very rigorous process be required to acquire all and any non-automatic firearms including mandatory classes just to be able to apply for a license (safety classes and classes on conflict resolution without weapons for starters)
- Tests should be required to see that applicants can properly use a gun and to prove they paid attention in their safety and non-violent conflict resolution classes.
- They should have to pay a nice big fat fee solely to be used for victims of gun violence and their families.
- Next they should be not only screened for criminal records (any domestic complaints about them that didn’t result in conviction should disqualify them from ownership) but they should also have to undergo a rigorous mental health screening through a qualified psychologist.
- Paranoia should be considered a disqualifying factor. This will prevent most people from being able to get the proper license.
“But Angelina – you bonehead – people will just get them off the streets!” you say.
- Right. However, if you make it a very serious crime to sell weapons illegally – such as make it jail time for conspiracy to aid in the use of a lethal weapon – you will begin to deter people from selling weapons illegally. It’s SO DAMN EASY to buy any gun you want in the US. Make it HARD.
- These laws should also apply to private gun sales. Guns are lethal weapons so you should not be able to sell it to anyone you want unless you follow the legal protocol and go through legal channels. Selling guns privately should be punishable with enormous fines and inability to pay fines resulting in jail time.
“Angelina you stupid-ass gun-hating person who is also super stupid because jails are already filled to the brim and we can’t fill them up with people selling lethal weapons to other people!” you exclaim with horror at the stupidity of my suggestions.
- Right. So I propose you make the taking and selling of drugs legal. Legal with heavy use taxes attached to them.
- Drug addicts who are in jail for possession who do not have any history of violence should be put, instead, in a federally mandated drug rehab program and simultaneously be screened for mental health issues and have those addressed during rehab since many people become drug addicts through self medicating.
- Legalizing drugs will take some serious steam out of drug cartels and gangs. Obviously they’ll find other ways to be engaged in nefarious bad shit. But this plan will make a whole lot of room in jails for people who sell lethal weapons which I think are much more heinous than drugs.
- Give us all universal free healthcare through the government regardless of income. Everyone qualifies for FREE healthcare. We can pay for this by reducing our military spending. EASILY.
- Make mental health something that is broadly covered in health classes in public schools. And not some stupid pap about it either. Let’s educate youngsters about mental illness and how so much of it can be treated. Let’s also teach them how mental illness can be a gift – a gift that needs managing – but a gift. We can underscore this by telling kids about all the great heroes in sports, art, music, politics, and science who are known to have suffered mental illness but without whom our world would be much less civilized and fun and interesting. We already all know about the mental illness of the monsters in history. Why do we never talk about the mentally ill heroes?
None of these solutions will get rid of gun crime completely. It will not solve all our problems. But this would shift things considerably. This would definitely reduce gun-related crimes.
I know several gun owners who wouldn’t be able to pass a psyche evaluation to carry them. I do not think these people should have guns. I especially don’t think they should have semi-automatic rifles. I am a mentally ill person with a history of suicidal ideation – I should not be able to get a gun in my hands, but I can. It’s not that preventing me from getting my hands on a gun would keep me from killing myself (because I would be more likely to jump from a bridge or cut my artery open) but the point is that I am a person with mental illness who has a history of suicidal periods and I would have no trouble getting a gun legally because I would pass a criminal screening and there’s nothing else in my way. That should not be true.
The statistics on gun violence in this country compared to other countries is stark and no one in the NRA can rationally explain that as UNRELATED to our gun issues here. No country has as many guns per capita in it and no country matches ours for gun-related deaths. That information is all you need to know to know that this has got to stop and that simply medicating or treating all mentally ill people in this country is NOT going to stop gun violence. The fact of the matter is that the majority of the gun deaths in this country are not committed by mentally ill people. They are committed by people who have easy access to guns in their homes and use that as a way to end family disputes. Gangs use guns to fight turf and to kill people who get in their way or don’t pay up. Some of them are probably mentally ill. Many of them aren’t.
Our core problem isn’t mental illness. Our core problem is ridiculously easy access to both legal and black market guns. Our core problem isn’t a desensitized youth who doesn’t understand that video games aren’t real or who are just that blood thirsty. Our core problem is that when you want to cause people harm it is easy as shit to get your hands on a “tool” whose sole purpose is to kill. Our core problem isn’t that guns are made to seem glamorous in our culture. Our core problem is that they are already in so many homes in this country that I can go get one right now. That shouldn’t be true. The core problem isn’t that I’m mentally ill. The problem is that I can get my hands on a killing tool within the hour.
Deregulation has been the enemy of progress, of safety, and of responsibility. This has been proven over and over again and yet Americans* keep clamoring to deregulate more things. When has that ever worked in our favor? “Responsibility” is like a unicorn whenever good money is to be made from irresponsibility. Deregulating power burned us pretty bad. Deregulating food production results in weird-ass shit being used in our food without our individual consent and knowledge. People in this country are not responsible unless they are forced to be responsible. Where there’s money to be made – Americans ditch their sense of responsibility over and over again.
Crime is always going to happen. Especially in a country going through a depression when people are desperately poor and getting poorer all the time. But people should have to work a hell of a lot harder to kill other people. People should have to resort to other weapons to kill – they should have to get up close and personal to do harm. Guns are a coward’s weapon. You can wipe people out before they even know what’s coming and you can do it from safe cover, you can do it from a distance, and with automatic rifles you can kill a lot of people in a matter of seconds.
If the Newtown killer had gone into the school with a knife he may have been able to do some serious harm but I can promise you that unless no adults tried to overpower him – he could have been disarmed before anyone actually got killed. A man with a knife can only control so many people at a time. A man with an automatic rifle can control a whole school of people. That’s a fact.
Let’s get some balls in this country. Let’s have the balls to protect our citizens from each other. Let’s have the balls to do it without increasing gun ownership and gun use. Let’s have the balls to face the NRA. Let’s make every member of the NRA get a mental health screening including a good hard look at how many of them suffer from clinical paranoia. Let’s have the balls to change this nation’s relationship with guns.
I want to see a day when all the other countries in the world stop calling the United States a culture of violence.
Here is some good reading and watching:
What is the real cost of Americans’ obsession with guns? Bill Moyers has the numbers.
Want to avoid gun massacres? Australia shows how. We need to pay attention because this is an example of how gun control actually makes a difference.
Gun Violence Statistics from Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence
Frontline: hot guns gun statistics from reliable sources – though many of these statistics are already quite old – I would like to see more recent numbers. Still, this is telling information and worth looking at.
Newtown and the madness of guns. By Adam Gopnik
25 Statistics That Reveal Everything You Need to Know About the U.S. Firearms Industry by the Huffington Post
Today IS the day: sponsor strict gun control laws in the wake of CT school massacre Please sign this petition before January 13th.
Gun Control. Now. This is another petition, please sign this one too.
*Mostly conservative Republicans and Libertarians and everyone who stands to make more money through deregulation of whatever business they’re in.