Personally, I’m not a fan of guns. My immediate association to them is violence, injury, and death – whether they’re used for protection or for harm. It would be a beautiful and perfect day to see the world without ammunition of any kind: guns, bombs, weapons of mass destruction. But realistically, that will never happen. Everyone knows that, even the least logical or most weapon-hating of us. So I’m not quite sure that ridding America of guns entirely, as some would argue, is the answer, but there has to be a way to make our lives more protected and valued, and the country safer, without taking such an extreme (read: impossible) measure.
I read a statistic the other day that said there have been more mass shootings in America this year than the number of days so far in 2015. There have been 336 days this year, 355 mass shootings. That’s more than one mass shooting per day this year. A number like that is heart-wrenching, infuriating, and perplexing all at once. Obviously, something needs to be done. It’s what your newsfeeds and Twitter timelines have been “annoyingly” buzzing about not just this week, but for months and for years, every time another absurd act of violence breaks out.
I understand both sides of the argument: it’s Americans’ right to tote their own protection if they choose to do so, vs. the “less guns means less violence” mindset. I can sort them out so that both sides make sense in my head, and I honestly think our government is in that same predicament of understanding the truth to each argument. How can they claim to protect citizens by eliminating their weapons, when some trustworthy, mentally-together citizens have done their due diligence to own a gun and protect their family from external harm? But then again, look at all the countries out there with extremely restricted gun laws and their respectively low crime rates. So then, maybe making guns merely less accessible in America is the answer.
Did you know it’s pretty simple to buy a gun in our country? You can get one at Walmart, and a lot of other stores (per CNN). You fill out a simple form for a background check that can take a matter of minutes. Then the store clerk calls up the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) for a verification of your personal and criminal background. Less than 1 percent of those checked are denied. Or, you could always go to a gun show, where you don’t need a background check to purchase a firearm, according to CNN. (That was shocking to me.) President Obama tried to pass a bill in 2013 that would’ve made background checks at gun shows mandatory, except that little group called Congress got in the way and didn’t pass it. Maybe that’s all it would take – more background checks across the board. Only then there’s the issue, which I admittedly know less about, of illegal trading and black market selling of weapons.
My mom always told me growing up, “If someone wants to find something, they’ll find it.” You could have a criminal background a mile long, but I guarantee there are ways for you to find a gun somehow. Plus, did you know the guy who killed nine African Americans in a South Carolina church this summer, Dylann Roof, passed his background check to purchase a gun soon before his crime, even though he’d been arrested earlier in the year for drug possession and trespassing? Somehow he met the legal criteria regardless, and all that junk on his Facebook displaying racism would go unnoticed in the typical background check, too.
That’s one thing background checks cannot look into. While conclusive of almost all past criminal activity, they have no way of knowing a person’s mental stability. That is the bottom line here.
It isn’t about predicting which nasty criminal is going to strike next and taking away his or her gun; it’s about getting to those people who show signs of mental incongruence and offering them a hand before they have the chance to go to their local Walmart and drop $200 on a handgun. Stricter laws like mandatory background checks at gun shows (which I do actually believe would help) will make it more difficult for the mentally instable to buy their weapon of choice, yes, but it doesn’t take the idea out of their head that gunning down others will make them somehow feel better. They’ll find a weapon if they feel the need to do so.
I’m not writing this because I am certain about exactly what it will take to get those whose minds are ill help. Mental health is an expensive issue, and one far more complicated than even passing a new gun law. It isn’t black and white, and there isn’t a clear-cut answer that I can come up with. But I know there are medical and mental health professionals, much smarter people than I am, who have a clue of what our country needs to deliver better mental health to the masses, and to protect our citizens from the hurting people out there who feel the need to hurt others. I just want to continue the conversation.
I know people are fed up with the violence, and they’re fed up with the right-wing and left-wing answers spewed on social media that don’t agree with their own, but the definition of insanity is just that. It’s getting fed up with the same thing happening over and over and over again, and not doing anything about it. Let’s do something about it.