Sep 30, 2016 by Josh de Keijzer

Gun Control: A Balanced Way Forward

We’ve heard the voice against the ban on guns and we’ve heard the argument in favor of the ban. The two groups are pitted against each other and there seems to be no movement that will bring them closer together. All the while, mentally unstable people continue to get it in their head to shoot up innocent bystanders in public places. While it is quite clear that the group in favor of the ban has the moral upper hand, they do not possess the political upper hand. How could this issue be resolved? Here is an analysis and a few suggestions.

Guns and Racism
This brings us to the following issue. The whole discussion about guns is deeply interwoven with on the problem of racism in America. Once guns ruled the Wild West, but once the West calmed down, the dust settled over the plains, and law and order found its way into the fabric of society, the gun receded. But it did not disappear. While white people continued to use the gun for recreational use the gun found a new battlefield to make victims on.

This was the time of the mafia, the gangs, and prohibition. Guns made way for automatic rifles. In the meantime, black people who had been migrating to urban centers in the North during the early part of the 20th century found themselves marginalized and economically oppressed. When after the 2nd World War Americans moved to the new suburbs, black people stayed behind in impoverished conditions. Added to that was the influx of drugs since the 60s and the recipe was right for poverty, drug trafficking, and the hard living conditions of the ‘projects.’

While the gun wreaked havoc, the National Riffle Association (NRA) continues to celebrate the gun as a symbol of American spirit and glory. Its members can, because guns are not a problem for them. Go to any NRA conference and you will see only white people!

Infatuated With the Gun
Perhaps it is a bit confrontational to say this, but the powers that be, including most Americans, were just fine with that as long as it remained a matter of inner city strive and unrest. As long as the gun reigned in the black ghetto and the barrio nobody was too concerned.

The problem came with the first high school shooting in 1999. On April 20th, senior students Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, murdered 12 students and one teacher and then committed suicide. It soon became clear that this was not an isolated incident. In the years since many school and university shootings have followed. Each time innocent young students were massacred for no other reason than that they just happened to be present as the random target of people gone off the tracks.

But the absolutely baffling reality is this that even when white suburban children and students are targeted randomly by lone wolfs gone crazy, that is, the very children of the very same racial group as those that support guns, there is not enough outrage, not enough moral fortitude, not enough will power to give up what that group cherishes so much: the gun!

America is addicted to its guns!

Political Gridlock
The mere mention or suggestion that guns might better be banned, results in anger, shouting matches, broken friendships, etc. This happened to Rob Schenck, a prominent evangelical leader and President of the Christian outreach ministry Faith and Action. When in his own Evangelical Church Alliance of which he is the chairman, he suggested something be done about the gun, he got shouted at and lost friends as well as funding for his organization. Check out the movie that was made about his story here.

With the love for the gun stronger than racism and even stronger than the desire to protect the white children of suburbia, one would hope that help might come from Washington in order to do what makes sense and what is prudent: limit the use and access to guns. But no, the NRA lobby in Washington is so strong that no president and no Congress will be able to make decisive changes in this regard. Because Americans love their guns!

A Way Forward
The only thing that will make people change their mind, it seems, is when they or someone in their close vicinity is rudely awakened to the harsh reality of gun violence, to be precise, when someone they love gets shot and dies. But isn’t that price too high? And how many people need to get shot before enough people are finally awakened to the problem of gun proliferation in America?

There must be a way forward that stops short of banning guns altogether but at the same time doesn’t resort to an ever-increasing gun proliferation among a citizenry that will never have enough moral restraint to use the gun wisely. Here are three modest suggestions that both camps, pro-gun and pro-ban, should be able to agree upon:

Don’t try to play Europe. There’s one thing the gun ban lobby should not do and that is to try to play Europe. The American situation is simply one in which the gun is part of the culture and part of the American way of life. With more than 230 million gun in the hands of civilians there simply is no beginning to really ban the gun completely. So another way must be found that seeks to contain and discourage the use of guns.

Register owners and set conditions. The gun lobby’s axiom, namely that guns don’t kill people but that people do, is, of course, a gross distortion, but at the same time there is some truth to it. So it would be wise to try to get a grip on who has guns and where these people live. It might be necessary to require people to go through training to evidence a proficiency with their weapon. Perhaps psychological tests could be required to assess a person’s ability to used a gun responsibly.

Ban automatic rifles. The Second Amendment’s mention of firearms referred to the kind of firearm that was available then: a single shot for each time that a firearm is fired. Automatic rifles did not exist. Limiting or even banning the use of automatic rifles could greatly reduce the casualties in mass shootings. If they had not been available in 1999 and the years since, think of how many people could have been saved?

Allow armed guards temporarily. With all the craziness going on at the moment with racial bigots wanting to shoot up black churches, ISIS targeting churches in America, and the regular occurrence of mass shootings initiated by people gone crazy, it may be a good idea to, at least temporarily, have armed guards at churches and perhaps other places. This should not be intended to increase the proliferation and sales of guns, but to help calm the unrest that exists and help people to feel safer.

It will take many years if not decades before these measures will take effect because they aim at slow change instead of sudden change since the latter simply is not possible. In the meantime, gun lovers ought to be willing to take a hard look at their own assumptions about guns and the reality of gun violence in America. It is time to own that problem that we have created ourselves and work toward change. Our children deserve it and so do the minorities in our midst. We all need a safer America.

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