In light of all the tragedy-wrought controversy floating around the web, I’ve decided to jump on the bandwagon and write up an article about firearms. This is not to open up a debate, but to inspire thought.
I am a gun owner.
I am a gun owner who is pro-gun reform. (Say it louder for the folks in the back!)
Why? Picture this: I am 21 years old and heading out to purchase my first handgun with a friend. My friend is also 21. He is a diagnosed schizophrenic, known to go on and off his meds, known to have explosive bouts of violence and worked for the school district.
Our purchases were made in California, one of the states with the toughest gun purchase laws. Yet we both walked into the store, passed the little multiple choice test for handgun permits and returned three days later to pick up our semi-automatic pistols. My schizophrenic friend walked away with 9mm semi-auto. Nothing ever came of it, to date, though he did try to pull this gun on me two years later. His friend wrestled the gun away from him on his way out the door and I’m not sure if he ever returned it.
Should he have been able to purchase that gun? I’m going to say no.
So is it a mental illness problem that has led to all these mass shootings? We’ve made budget cuts in all the wrong places. No mental health care + access to guns = carnage. Yes, there’s something mentally “off” about people who coldly execute others, but it's more likely that such violence is rooted in anger.
Yoda said it best. Fear > Anger > Hate > Violence
(or the “Dark Side,” if you want to get technical).
America has an anger problem. Rooted in fear. Around the world citizens of the human race marvel at the USA’s high levels of fear and violence. We are afraid to leave our comfy bubbles, we view other countries and its citizens as “less than,” and we are quick to anger in any circumstances in which we are made uncomfortable. We build defensive walls around ourselves, and lash out the moment we feel those walls are in danger of being breached.
Photo: Me, dressing a rattlesnake for dinner
Why do I have guns? Part of it is where I live. In the country, with rattlesnakes, wild boars and the occasional tweaker, I would be an absolute idiot to not have a gun (as a tool) at hand. (Believe me, there is a big difference between going at a rattlesnake in close quarters with a shovel vs. a gun)! Occasionally I’ve had to put down a horse the old-fashioned way. Here too a gun is a necessary tool.
In the city, a gun primarily becomes a tool of human-on-human violence. People in city areas and people in rural areas need to recognize these circumstantial differences.
Photo of my godfather and I heading out to hunt
I have a CCW (Concealed Carry Permit). I carry a gun with me most everywhere I go, despite statistically being more likely to accidentally shoot myself with it than save someone. I have guns in my house, despite having had one stolen from me (though stored properly and legally) and used in a suicide.
Photo: I mentor a student in horsemanship, and I take the time to teach her to properly handle guns.
Why? Because other people have guns. (Say it again!) Other people have guns. They are literally everywhere. And a gun is the best defense against a gun. (Because, as an American, I live in a constant state of defensiveness and distrust). It’s an unfortunate truth, and a vicious cycle. If other people did not have guns and use them inappropriately, there would be no need for me to carry a gun. It’s a horrible cycle and sad that anyone should have to feel that way.
I was in the post office yesterday and there was a man yelling at a postal employee, swearing and screaming and threatening to “fuck him up.” He wore a bulky trench coat and was patting his multiple pockets while threatening the frozen employees. I stood there clutching my packages, tuning into the moment and deciding my next move. Since I was in a federal building, my gun was in my truck. I had to calculate how far to the exits, and what to do if this guy actually followed through on his threat. Call the police then get my gun out to defend others? It’s a good thing I have the right to have a gun with me, right? I’m saying NO.
We see it as our freedom, but there is no freedom in fear.
The cycle needs to end.
Once again I have to turn back to Finland. They have the highest rate of firearm ownership in Europe and the third highest in the world, behind only the United States and Yemen. Only get this - gun violence is very rare in Finland. Why is this?
When Fins apply for a gun, the process includes a check of criminal records, an interview by the police, a personality test and a medical health certificate. Any significant history with violence, substance abuse or mental health issues will cause the application to be rejected. There’s no significant waiting period, but extremely dangerous guns are either more difficult to get a hold of or are banned entirely. In other words, guns are saturated in their culture, but violence is not.
Check out this Wiki link on the history of mass shootings (and bombings) in Finland: (you'll have to copy and paste it):
Since 1999 there have been five mass incidents involving guns resulting in 31 total deaths and 11 injuries. Each incident brought tighter gun laws to the Finnish communities – the citizens demanded them. They curb gun violence whenever it surfaces. But they keep their guns.
There’s a social structure advantage Fins have where they are not desperate, overworked, sick, struggling, uneducated, indebted or fearful. America needs to address the foundation on which we stand before we can curb our gun violence issues. It’s cause and effect. We need to identify the cause of our social discontent that causes people to snap and kill people en mass. We also need to tighten up our gun laws and casual access to high profile weapons.
Gun violence is a symptom. And until we eradicate the disease, treating the symptom alone isn’t going to get us very far.