Mitchell Chapman: Let's move past tired pro-gun rhetoric
PITTSFIELD — With two recent mass shootings, one in El Paso, Texas, and one in Dayton, Ohio, within 13 hours of each other which left over 30 people dead, the tired, obstructionist pro-gun rhetoric has hit our news and social media feeds once again.
People cry of their Second Amendment rights, rights that were granted to them in the age of the musket. Others see it fit to make the distinction that we've always had guns; this is a people problem, a lack of respect for human life, if you will. Some cite America's mental health crisis, fueled by the fact that too many Americans are unable to get the care they need because of our dysfunctional health care system. Some cite the new technology, like Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who along with President Donald Trump, embarrassed himself on the national stage by blaming video games for the attack.
"We've always had guns, always had evil. But what's changed where we see this rash of shooting? I see a video game industry that teaches young people to kill," Patrick told "Fox and Friends," using a passing reference to the game "Call of Duty" in the El Paso shooter's manifesto to deflect discussion from the actual cause of the shooting: America's loose gun laws and white supremacy.
If you've ever played a video game, you'd know that they are purposefully made so as not be one-to-one comparisons to the real thing, especially with first-person shooters like "Call of Duty." Their violence is cartoon violence and not actual violence. In a video game your character will fall over like a toy when shot, maybe spurt some bright red, cherry blood, with no bone fragments, no organs, or anything that can be seen as unsavory on screen. And then after a certain amount of time, your character will pop back into existence, perfectly unharmed. In real life, wounds are not clean. They're gross, and they're permanent. And people stay dead. Violence in video games is an inconvenience. Violence in real life is horrific, and nobody who plays video games mistakes the two.
Video games are also just that: games, and as such are far removed from their real world equivalents, making it impossible to teach "young people to kill" like Patrick is suggesting. There is little to no physical strain on the player. It's easy to press the A button to shoot meaningless munition. It's hard to pick up an assault rifle, look real people in the eyes, and take their lives.
When we evaluate the rest of the tired pro-gun arguments against banning high capacity weaponry, none of them make sense. The Second Amendment for instance, is often used to defend gun rights of any kind, even the absurd, as its fans cite the people's perceived need to defend themselves in the event our government were to turn tyrannical.
The amendment's wording, ratified in 1791 is as such: "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."
This amendment was written 100 years before the maxim machine gun was invented and nearly 70 years before rapid-fire guns would grace American battle fields in the form of the Gatling gun during the Civil War. Mass shootings did not exist in 1791 outside of firing squads in the army, and as such, the Second Amendment cannot be applied to high capacity weaponry.
Another common argument against limiting high-capacity firearms is that it will bring us to confiscating all firearms in the country, often seen as the first steps to establishing the aforementioned tyrannical government. There is no evidence to suggest that banning high capacity guns will lead to the banning of all guns. And we've already limited high capacity firearms before, in the form of the Firearms Owners' Protection Act of 1986, which banned all sales of new machine guns. And if you have a problem with this, know that even the very best fully-automatic weapons will not protect you from the government if it turns tyrannical. No civilian militia can put up a fight against the federal government. None can even come close.
The lack of respect for human life these shooters have, as well as the mental health crisis our country is going through need to be addressed, as political commentators recognize. Trump's hateful and divisive rhetoric that fueled many of these mass shootings and his weak stance on curbing white supremacy are certainty not helping. But they do not negate the fact that it's simply too easy to get a high capacity gun in the U.S., which is why we have so many mass shootings, as opposed to just shootings in general.
Shootings and crime will never end, but taking high capacity weapons off the market will limit shooters' ability to kill at such high volume, unless they are determined to acquire high capacity weapons already in circulation by costly and nefarious means. Both factors will deter future would-be shooters and save human lives.
PUT 'DEBATE' TO BED
In the days of swords and arrows, there was a physical limit to killing, as you inevitably ran out of arrows, your sword got dull, you got tired, or your enemy ran away. Today, there are no such limitations, as in certain states, anyone can buy a high-capacity firearm and become a mass shooter. With these guns, you don't need to be trained, you don't need to have a plan — you don't even need to aim. You just need the gun and a population center. To deter these shootings we must create legislative limitations, either by outright banning these firearms or by making it as hard as it possibly can be to get one.
We must address the culture that has created these shooters, and part of that will be addressing the hateful rhetoric that has spurred them on as well as the toxic media culture that rewards them for their crimes by spreading their names and messages. But we must also limit their access to the very tools that allow them to carry out their crimes, and we mustn't get bogged down by the tired pro-gun talking points that have been dismissed and debunked time and time again, yet still manage to find their way into the mouths of our politicians. It's time to put this "debate" to bed, and start doing something about our mass shooting problem.
The time to pass appropriate gun legislation nationwide was seven years ago, after Newtown, and every day we fail to do so, more people will die at the hands of American mass shooters who continue to have easy access to high capacity firearms.
Mitchell Chapman is an Eagle page designer/copy editor and freelance writer.
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