Originally published at Medium
’all. Please stop debating whether guns kill people, or people kill people. The two are not mutually exclusive. Here’s the reality: People with guns kill people. We can’t just simply separate the two. The fact that this debate is still going on is like banging your head against the wall. Will common sense ever filter into this discussion? Your fellow Americans are grieving in overwhelming proportions of unimaginable pain, which most of us — God willing — may never know. Do we really need to argue semantics and philosophy here?
I don’t get this unhealthy, possessive, puerile attachment that some Americans have with their guns— specifically, the most popular, most widely used assault rifle in mass shootings of late, the all-too-familiar AR-15. However, I do get that people calling for sensible gun legislation are not fascist dictators. Regardless of what Tucker Carlson believes, gun control is not actually “people control.”
No one is suggesting we completely obliterate the American fundamental, constitutional right to own a gun. We all seem to be on agreement that there are responsible, law-abiding folks who happen to own guns. It’s not being suggested that they pay the fine for the acts of the evil minority. It is being suggested, however, that we move past the circular arguments and enact some real change.
We also can all be in agreement that when the second amendment was ratified in 1791, semi and fully-automatic firearms technology didn’t exist. Firearms of our forefathers were typically flintlock pistols and muskets. Some characteristics of these guns: they were heavy and cumbersome, could shoot one round at a time — up to 3 or 4 per minute, had very low levels of accuracy, very short ranges, no sights, and smooth bore barrels, which made their projectiles unstable in flight. Additionally, the weight of musket balls (the original “bullets,” made of mostly lead and tin or pewter) had a negative effect on range. Because they were so heavy, gravity pulled them downward as soon as they were fired.
These guns were also very slow. The process of loading and reloading these guns involved adding gunpowder, using a ramrod to insert the bullet and make sure it was in place, and reattaching the ramrod before taking aim and firing the single bullet. Cartridge paper had to be shoved in after the ball in order to keep it from rolling out of the weapon. Since the musket was really only the beginning of the battle which ultimately ended in hand-to-hand combat, the musket was collectively considered “a good handle for the bayonet.”
Quite different from the AR-15, a semi-automatic weapon of war, with a power of physics that cannot be argued.
In comparing the damage a modern AR-15 and a modern 9mm handgun can do to the human body, Peter Rhee, a trauma surgeon at the University of Arizona explained, “One looks like a grenade went off in there, the other looks like a bad knife cut.”
“The bullet from an AR-15 does an entirely different kind of violence to the human body. It’s relatively small, but it leaves the muzzle at three times the speed of a handgun bullet. It has so much energy that it can disintegrate three inches of leg bone. “It would just turn it to dust,” says Donald Jenkins, a trauma surgeon at University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio.”
“When you trail your fingers through water, the water ripples and curls. When a high-velocity bullet pierces the body, human tissues ripples as well — but much more violently. The bullet from an AR-15 might miss the femoral artery in the leg, but cavitation may burst the artery anyway, causing death by blood loss.”
“Then, multiply the damage from a single bullet by the ease of shooting an AR-15, which doesn’t kick. “The gun barely moves. You can sit there boom boom boom and reel off shots as fast as you can move your finger,” says Ernest Moore, a trauma surgeon at Denver Health and editor of the Journal of Trauma and Acute Surgery.”
There have also been plenty of arguments surrounding the wording and intent of the second amendment. “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” leaves plenty of room for differing legal and political interpretations. What is meant by “well regulated?” For that matter, what constitutes a “militia?” Or the right to “bear arms?”
Most judges and scholars who debated this before the Supreme Court’s 2008 ruling in District of Columbia. v. Heller consistently arrived at the conclusion that the second amendment solely protects gun ownership for purposes of military duty and collective security, not an individual’s right to own military-style assault rifles.
The “I need to protect my family” argument is just nuts. As comedian Jim Jefferies pointed out in 2014, in an ironically hilarious take on gun control, the arguments people make for owning assault rifles are all “bullshit arguments.” Especially the “I need to protect myself; I need to protect my family” argument.
“Really?” Jefferies asks with a smirk. “Is that why they call them assault rifles? Is it? I’ve never heard of these f — ing protection rifles you speak of!”
He also notes the ridiculous logic many gun owners try to twist into submission by claiming they need their guns for protection, but are also responsible gun owners who keep their guns locked up. Of this logic, Jefferies remarks:
“If you have it readily available, it becomes unsafe. You have it in your bedside table, one of your kids picks it up, thinks it’s a toy, shoots another one of your kids. Happens every f — ing day. But people go, ‘that’ll never happen in my house… ’cause I’m a responsible gun owner. I keep my guns locked in a safe.’”
After a beat he yells: “THEN THEY’RE NO F — ING PROTECTION!”
Jefferies really drives home the point that if responsible gun owners keep their guns locked up, as they’re supposed to, it’s not going to do them any good when that anticipated serial killer sneaks into their house and murders their family before they can even wipe the sleep from their eyes.
“By the way,” he declares, “most people who are breaking into your house just want your f — ing TV. You think that people are coming to murder your family? How many f — ing enemies do you have? Jeez, you think a lot of yourself if you think everyone’s coming to murder you.”
Then there’s the “it’s-all-mental-health-to-blame” argument, which people only seem to take an interest in considering after a mass shooting has occurred.
It’s a ridiculous argument, implying “people kill people” as if having a mental illness is synonymous with being a mass murderer. Or, as if mass gun shootings would suddenly cease if only we fixed our huge mental health problem. (The USA isn’t the only advanced country on Earth with a mental health problem, but we are the only advanced country on Earth who sees these kind of mass shootings every few months.)
Approximately 1 in 5 adults in the U.S. — or 43.8 million adults — experiences mental illness in a given year, according to NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness). And those are just the ones who are actually documented. There are likely millions more who suffer some form of mental illness who are unaware, in denial, or living undetected — functionally able to blend in with society.
If it were required for all U.S. citizens to undergo a psychological analysis, we’d learn that not only do many Americans live with some form of mental illness ranging from mild depression to the most severe forms of ASPD (antisocial personality disorder), but also, a large group of the people in this country (1 in 6 people) are on some form of antidepressant or anti-anxiety medication, whether chemical, holistic, or other.
And suddenly, now, the Trump administration is going to “tackle the difficult issue of mental health?”
The first gun law Trump signed made it easier for people with mental illness to purchase guns, and now, certain cuts to healthcare are in the works to make it even more difficult for federal government to intervene or respond appropriately to red flag individuals like the Parkland shooter. It’s also projected that the National Institute of Mental Health will see a 30 percent reduction in funding — a half a billion dollar decrease — in 2019.
Trump can’t say a damn word about mental health because he and his Party have made it easier for people with mental health challenges to buy military style weapons, while also making it harder for people with mental health challenges to receive the care they need that would address the unhealthy thought patterns underlying mass gun violence in the first place.
Further, the GOP health bill would, beginning in 2020, remove a requirement set forth in the ACA that mandated Medicaid to cover basic mental and behavioral (including substance-related) health services. Who knows if we’ll even have Medicaid in a few years? Currently, Medicaid provides a good chunk of mental health services in America, so when Medicaid is cut, obviously mental health funding will get cut. And besides, it’s not as if Republicans have ever been lobbying for more mental health funding. They just want to talk about it for a little while until it goes away — for the next month, or week.
In this country it’s illegal to even do research about the public health impact of guns because of a 1990’s amendment, which, of course, passed with the strong backing of the NRA. That amendment effectively bars the CDC from studying firearm violence, which, ironically, is an epidemic the American Medical Association has dubbed “a public health crisis.”
What is this crisis really about? At the heart, we can certainly blame commerce. But even more than commerce, it’s the unadulterated lust for money and power, which amounts to plain and simple, pubescent, and unsatiated American greed. Perhaps this crisis is not about the right to bear arms at all, but about the right to sell arms. It’s a crisis of epic proportions because we have people in this country profiting off the mass murders of innocent victims, while the NRA sits back and smiles like a fat cat. Let’s start by addressing that.
Greed is not a good enough excuse. There’s simply no reason for American civilians to be able to get their hands on military-style assault weapons. None, other than selfish greed. As Americans, we tend to be highly attracted to “toys” that are considered “sexy,” “exciting,” and even a little “dangerous.” Well, no apologies needed; once a “toy” trumps the lives of our youth, it’s simply time to “recall” that particular toy. Plain and simple.