Thoughts and prayers need action too

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I’ve been debating with myself on whether or not I should post what you’re about to read. And it seems as though I’ve won.

Usually, I try to avoid engaging in obnoxious debates — those arguments that should be taken seriously, but neither side is willing to compromise and reach a mutual, beneficial solution. As any proper journalist should, I try to remain as unbiased as possible and it is my personal goal to keep an open mind on all subjects.

But we all know everyone is biased. And I’ve been debating with myself not only on this post, but also where I stand on this topic. And, fair warning, my conclusion — or the closest thing I’ve come to it — is going to probably offend and upset those that thought they knew me. Thats fine, I’m not seeking approval, just wanting to open the door for a (hopefully) intelligent conversation and an effort to finding a solution.

So let’s open this can of worms: gun control.

The issue is not new, but in light of Thursday’s tragedy at Umpqua Community College, it’s obviously very relevant.

Let me be honest, I love guns. I’ve had the opportunity to hold and shoot handguns, rifles, shotguns and the occasional Nerf gun. Guns are fun and exciting. There’s a thrilling element of power and danger I feel when my finger is on a trigger. Not to mention the boom effect, which I know every human being gets excited about the minute something explodes. But let’s be real: guns are weapons and they are dangerous.

Growing up, my family never had guns in the house. Actually, my Papa owned a handgun that he kept mostly well-hidden and out of reach. My brother and I always knew it was in his fanny pack, but we never dared to play with it. I remember my mom wouldn’t let us play with toy guns or first person shooter video games until we were teenagers and made our own reckless decisions mostly behind her back. In fact, my dad hadn’t owned a gun (to my knowledge) until a few years ago. It’s not that my parents preached that guns were bad, rather they were dangerous.

The main argument in support of guns is simple: it’s our second amendment right to bear arms.

The Second Amendment of the Constitution reads: “A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.”

I’m not a lawyer. I gave up that dream when I didn’t score high enough on the LSAT. But I have studied enough courses in law and even to this day deal with enough legal language in my reporting to know that legalese is not easy to interpret.

That said, I’m not arguing that gun ownership is not a right. I support the second amendment as much as any other gun-toting [insert political party affiliation here]. Over the years and through multiple cases, the Supreme Court has ruled that it is a right belonging to individuals and that the state and federal government cannot infringe on this right; but SCOTUS has also ruled that the right is not unlimited and is not immune to regulation.

I don’t think the Founding Fathers drafted the Constitution having considered all the potential arguments and complexities that would arise as a society evolves. From what I can remember in my high school history class, the Second Amendment was drafted by leaders of a young nation whose focuses were on preventing a tyrant from rising up and taking over their newly-found country of freedom. The solution to this potential threat was to give citizens the right to bear arms and organize an army to stop said tyrant.

Perhaps it’s thanks to this right we Americans have never had to worry about such a thing. But again, society grows and changes, and with that our views and uses of guns.

I’ve never purchased a gun, so I’m not sure if they have you fill out a questionnaire at the checkout counter in Walmart asking what your purpose for owning a firearm is. But my bet is that the number one reason people purchase guns is for hobby — maybe they hunt or collect weaponry. I think following behind that is the reason for personal protection. And, in my opinion, both reasons are perfectly fine and I have no problem with your gun ownership.

However, my problem with guns — the one problem that I think everyone should have — is when they are used to kill people. Innocent people. Children at an elementary school. Eager movie goers. People at church. If you’re more concerned about how the government might try to take away your rights rather than the death of six-year-olds, I think you might need to reconsider your priorities.

Prohibiting guns is out of the question. It is highly unlikely that the government would even make such a push because it wouldn’t succeed and it’s impossible to enforce. People still illegally purchase guns. No matter which side of the political spectrum you side with, most people will agree such a move is an unacceptable violation of a Constitutional right. Besides, prohibition of anything never works out in the end.

What about gun legislation? Gun laws in the US, contrary to some beliefs, are really not that restrictive. I didn’t take that much time to research all the ins and outs of gun laws, but I do know that laws vary state by state. In most states, you don’t even need to register your firearm. Federal laws only require registration for NFA weapons (machine guns, short barreled rifles and shotguns, grenades, etc. — but honestly, who needs these?).

Just a side note, to which I’m not saying there is a direct correlation: the US ranks among the top in the list of developed countries with the highest homicide rate.

Maybe I’m ignorant because I don’t personally own guns, but is registration and/or some limits on guns and ammunition really a big deal? Not to sound like a conspiracy theorist, but I’m sure the government already knows who owns guns. At the very least, it wouldn’t be hard for Big Brother to find out.

I want the government to keep its nose out of my business as much as the next [insert political party affiliation here], but isn’t there the slightest possibility that some effort to regulate guns might curb our disturbing trend of mass murders?

Unfortunately, with this recent tragedy, there has been an immediate reaction to politicize everything.

One argument I’ve heard that really upsets me blames the campus for being a “gun-free zone.” It’s a college campus, a place of education. Students shouldn’t have to worry about bringing a gun to school for safety. Maybe if a licensed gun owner was able to carry a weapon on campus, lives could have been saved. But you can’t predict an attack like this.

As a society, we’ve developed this fear that there is always the threat of an attack. Sure, those fears are justified by the track record of violence we’ve witnessed in the last five years alone, but isn’t it sad that we live in fear for our safety every single day?

There are a number of other issues that incidents like this raise, including accessibility to mental health help for those who might need it. For a leading developed country, we really fall behind in many areas.

I’m not saying we need more restrictive gun laws. I’m not saying everyone needs to carry a gun. I’m saying we, as a united group of citizens, need to work together to solve this very real problem, rather than bickering back and forth and overlooking what really matters. We need to educate everyone about the power and danger of guns and other weapons as well as how to properly use said weapons. We need to pay attention and help those who need help. We need to do something.

Thoughts and prayers are necessary in times like this, but action is even more important.


Note: This, as with everything else in this blog, is an opinion piece. I don’t expect everyone or anyone to agree with me. If you find yourself disagreeing with my statements, please let me know and let’s have a discussion. Explain why I might be wrong, but know that I will not respond to hateful and ignorant comments. 

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