Targeting gun owners is an easy target, but off the mark

For most of us, we have never experienced the current pandemic of senseless violence that we read about and visualize every day. I challenge you to find a newspaper tomorrow morning, or listen to a news broadcast, that will not report on dark and pernicious inclinations and accomplishments of evil practitioners.

If that challenge is not sufficient, then find an American over the age of 70 to attest that the world is better today than it was during his youth.

I listened to the every word that President Obama said at the ceremony honoring the fallen Navy Shipyard personnel. He spoke well, and his reference to congressional inaction with regard to gun violence didn’t trouble me at all. It was beyond shameful when craven congressman couldn’t pass any piece of legislation in the wake of the Newtown catastrophe. This was a bipartisan failure that broke congress’s already abysmal performance level.

I’ve never been a gun control supporter, and I’m still not persuaded by their arguments. I do believe that some classes of weaponry should not qualify as an absolute constitutional right of law abiding citizenry. Should folks be able to purchase unlimited numbers of weapons and ammunition? Explain why background checks somehow don’t apply to gun shows and ‘private sales’? I have some flexibility on these issues.

Although I would support some restrictions on gun ownership, I do not accept the views of gun control zealots that lack of restrictions are responsible for recurrent episodes of senseless violence. Somehow, these folks demonize the NRA while they give a free pass to Hollywood, the video gaming industry and the music business, all of whom bathe us with violence every single day. Do we believe that the media can’t influence us, especially those of us whom might be vulnerable? To those who deny that media can influence our behaviors, explain why gazillions are spent on advertising for this very purpose.

Criminals will not surrender their weapons or fail to procure new ones because of more restrictive laws. These guys do not obey laws. That’s why we call them criminals. Get it?

Outlawing assault rifles — red meat for the gun control crowd — will keep these guns from law abiding citizens, not others. And, even honest gun control fanatics admit that these classes of weapons account for a very small percentage of violent American deaths, which are largely caused by handguns. That’s where our collective outrage should be focused, although this is a more difficult and elusive target.

I’m hostile to the argument that’s often issued as a question, “Who needs an assault rifle?” The fact that it is a right means that there is a legal entitlement that doesn’t require an explanation for exercising it. How often do courts permit speech, for example, that many of us don’t understand the purpose or need for its expression. Indeed, having a right means you don’t need an explanation.

I am aware that no constitutional right is absolute including the Second Amendment. Personally, I do not feel that I should be entitled to purchase unlimited numbers of any kind of weapon available. But, if I did so, I don’t think that I would be threatening the fabric of America society.

As far as keeping guns from the mentally ill, a goal that every thinking person supports, explain how you would do this. I don’t have a clue. What’s your definition of mental illness with regard to this issue? Depression? ADHD? Having seen a psychiatrist or a counselor in the past year? On Paxil or similar medicines? Being regarded as a loner in school? Being moody? Should a family history of mental illness be relevant?

While there have been obvious lapses in mental health that we should address, it’s an easier task to look backwards after a catastrophe has occurred and recognize missed opportunities than it is to do so prospectively.

I vigorously support stronger background checks, even if this is not a proven remedy for reducing gun violence. These are guns, not toothbrushes. Guns can hurt people. Stronger background checks by themselves would not restrict weapons that eligible folks can purchase and should be palatable to the pro gun crowd, in my view. I am perplexed that one can purchase a weapon and not be required to have sufficient training in its safe use and storage. Cars can hurt people if not used properly. You cannot obtain a driver’s license without demonstrating that you know the rules of the road and can manage the vehicle safely. Should we relax these requirements?

The explanations for the horrible violence that is our new reality are deep and complex. Gun ownership may be an easy target, but I think that this argument misses the mark.

Michael Kirsch is a gastroenterologist who blogs at MD Whistleblower

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  • Ron Smith

    The problem is not guns, and never has been. The problem is with the idea of tolerance.

    The ‘tolerant’ people who think that everything should be permitted in our society, i. e. that there is ultimately no absolute right and wrong, are the same ‘tolerant’ ones trying to tell us that a certain ‘type’ of gun is different from another because we tag the word ‘assault’ onto its name.

    Those who think everything should be permitted then become the ones who tell everyone else that certain things should not be permitted. They pursue with rabid viciousness their brand of tolerance while trying to deny others of freedoms they think are unacceptable.

    Democracy then spires upward and pinnacles in totalitarianism and is consumed entirely. Ultimately the ‘tolerant’ people become self-consuming as they consume those with whom they disagree. The destruction of each of us a free individuals and a free nation is certain.

    That’s why the right to bears arms should not have a ‘but’ added at the end. Rest assured that what I’m trying to explain here was clearly understood at the time our nation was born. There is nothing ever new under the sun.

    You can apply this same understanding to all of the other rights we have too. That’s also why some things should never be considered to be a right in that sense of the word. Good healthcare should not be a right. It should the outflowing of a nation whose people care, not those who want to control everything.


    Ron Smith, MD

  • elkhead71

    Dear Dr. Kirsch,

    I enjoyed reading your article it was a fair argument on gun
    control. However I would like to address some issues I
    found with your article, hopefully you can become better informed on the issue and provide more factual arguments.

    1) I would like for you to look up the actual definition of assault rifle and how extremely regulated it is within the USA. This is different from an “assault weapon” and the terms should not be used interchangeably. Assault weapons for fully automatic weapons that are highly regulated with the USA. An assault weapon” is a made up term used to describe guns that are semi-automatic but have “scary” cosmetic features.

    2) Background checks do apply at gun shows. If any federally firearm dealer is there they have submit the same background checks that they do at their gun store. If they don’t do they they face fines, loss of license and possibly jail time. So when people say increase background checks at gun shows, it’s a meaningless statement because licensed firearm dealers already do that.

    What I believe you are confused with is private sales of firearms. Those do occur at gun shows, peoples homes, in parking lots, anywhere where 2 people agree to meet. Background checks don’t apply to those for 2 reasons 1) Guns are someones property and the supreme court has ruled you don’t need the government’s permission to sell something that is yours ( just like selling a car or refrigerator).
    2) There is no legal/simple way for a civilian to administer a background check on someone who wants to buy their gun. If I try to go through the same NICS background check firearm dealers go through, I will get arrested and fined for abusing the system. If you say I have to go a firearm dealer to do the check for me, then that costs me money, time and convenience. No one will go through it and there is no feasible way to enforce it. And like you said criminals won’t go through the legal system to their guns.
    So once again it’s another meaningless statement people want enacted. Instead there should be a free and voluntary system where I can do a background check, however no one is offering that. No one wants to sell their guns to someone who shouldn’t owe one. However, there’s no way I can tell if this person is legally allowed to own guns.

    You say you vigorously support stronger background checks, even if it doesn’t reduce gun crime. I have to ask you why do you support something that doesn’t have any effect and what you want to prevent? Do you prescribe homeopathic medications? Its the same logic.

    I too support stronger background checks, however without defining what you want to do , it becomes a meaningless statement.

    You could enforce requiring states to tell the NICS of people who have psychotic problems ( such as the Navy Yard Shooter whose state didn’t report him) so they can’t purchase weapons. Sadly many states either through incompetence or refusal, don’t do it so there’s no way to know who recently is a danger to themselves and others.

    You could create a background system that civilians who want to sell their guns to people can use.

    You can enforce current laws, such as jailing felons who try to purchase firearms. However, law enforcements agencies are stretched to thin to enforce these.

    You can look beyond the gun and focus on true social issues such as poverty, gangs, education and the drug war to have a dramatic decrease on gun violence. No one is talking about these issues.

    I also agree on showing competence on owning a firearm. Fortunately many people who do have firearms properly train and use them. Sadly there are some people who own them who are dangerous and ignorant and really shouldn’t own them. Sadly there’s no way to know who they are until they commit a negligence (no such thing as accident with firearm) discharge.

    I’m sorry I didn’t cite my sources, but you can easily look up the information from an unbiased source. I hope you look further into some misconceptions you have in your article. I look forward to your next one.

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