FEATURED IN LEADERSHIP
“You cannot address crime prevention without getting rid of assault weapons and handguns. I consider them a threat to national security, and I will go door to door if I have to, but I'm gonna convince Americans that I'm right, and I'm gonna get the guns.”
That is a line uttered by fictional Commander and Chief Andrew Shepard played by Michael Douglas in the movie An American President. He makes the above declaration after delivering a heartfelt speech about love, country and character near the end of the movie. At the time (17 years ago), I never thought much about the Second Amendment: I only owned a couple of handguns, wasn’t a hunter and as a police officer I was allowed to have and carry a firearm virtually any time I wanted.
And while the movie was considered a romantic comedy and overall I thought it was a pleasant little fairytale, even back then that line still struck me as odd and somewhat disturbing for a number of reasons.
The first: I believed it was an implied right for a citizen of this country to own guns, so “getting” them seemed a bit of a Constitutional reach. The second, it was literally impossible to do; take every gun away from everyone. Third, I thought the viewpoint was somewhat tyrannical, and, fourth, the statement was confusing and narrow-minded on a number of fronts, especially handguns and assault weapons being lumped together. But again, it was just a movie so I simply dismissed it as an unrealistic fantasy … until now.
The concept subscribed by Andrew Shepard isn’t so much a fairy tale anymore. There is a large segment of the population that looks at a citizen’s right to bear arms as misguided, factually wrong, antiquated or just plain stupid. And that's just a little bit scary as--in my mind--we are talking about a Constitutional right.
We have probably never been more at odds in this country over a plethora of issues. Immigration, gay marriage, abortion, race, the budget--you name it. Both sides--all sides--complain the other refuses to engage in “serious discussion” about whatever it is that needs addressing. I agree with that perspective; we do avoid discussions and when we have them they do need to be serious. But more importantly, they have to be realistic. The Second Amendment, mass killings and gun control require a realistic discussion. So let’s start one here.
But as we do, please understand that the argument isn’t about the Second Amendment per se. It's about the overall reason for the argument in the first place: violence. Where the discussions veer off course is when they become myopic in focus. People have an agenda and offer quick solutions to a complicated problem; unless of course that solution impacts them, their views and their income.
In my opinion the most vocal are: completely biased, using a tragedy to push an agenda, close minded, passing along wild misinformation, and are involved in massive hypocrisy. Let’s look quickly at some of the reasons for violent behavior in our society, possible solutions and the hypocritical behavior that both allows it to continue and avoids the taking of responsibility.
24/7 News organizations. What do they do when there is a tragedy? They capitalize on it! So here’s a suggestion: Stop the oversaturation reporting! I’m not saying ignore the tragedies, but why don’t we limit the spotlight afforded to these crazed killers? Spend a couple of minutes on it. Report the incident. Keep us updated. Then, stop it!
The people who commit mass killings have sick twisted minds and they want the notoriety because of perceived wrongs and their belief that they have been shunned by society! If they didn’t think they’d get worldwide attention then they’d be less apt to walk into schools and movie theatres and fire away! The news organizations say they care about stopping the carnage but they won’t change their behavior. Why? Their argument is the First Amendment and that “people have a right to know.”
What do I think their motivation is? Pure and simple--and yes I’m a cynic--RATINGS! And as we all know, ratings = money.
Parents and family structure. Uninvolved parents--what the hell happened to holding kids accountable? Parents need to spend quantity time not quality time with their children! In other words: Be there! Set the example. Know what they are doing and where they are. How the hell are kids able to build bombs and arsenals in garages and the parents don’t know about it?
On a related note, the breakdown of families, but in particular the lack of an active father has absolutely been linked to violent, anti-social and criminal behavior. So maybe we should stop having kids out of wedlock. The stats are staggering. More than 50% of births to American women under 30 occur outside marriage. Children in father-absent homes are almost four times more likely to be poor. One study showed that 85% of incarcerated youth are from fatherless homes. You think that might have something to do with violent behavior among young males? Casual links absolutely exist.
But how does our society respond to this? We ignore it. We argue that women have the right to have children without the need for an active father (the need for a Dad being archaic and antiquated thinking), and for millions of them, we pay for all the expenses. Again what is society doing about this?
Media and video games. Some of the most self-righteous and disingenuous people in this debate are the movie stars, producers, directors, and video game manufacturers. Their entire argument is that what they produce doesn’t influence others. Pardon me, but that’s flat out crazy!
Their whole purpose in life is to influence! Everything they do is designed to elicit an emotional reaction, a response. Movies change the vernacular and slang of the nation, influence the way we dress, make heroes out of idiots and promote fame as something to be achieved even with a lack of talent or meaningful contributions. And if they really think they don’t influence people then why do public service announcements rallying against gun violence and the Second Amendment?
They obviously believe that by presenting a three minute video clip while displaying an introspective look and talking in a serious pensive tone about gun violence they can influence the masses to change their minds about gun ownership. But, in the same vein, they argue, the 25,000 murders they collectively commit on TV, in video games and during movies each year has no affect at all. What's their motivation to keep doing what they are doing? Money.
Politicians and actors (again). Some of the very same people rallying against citizens owning guns wouldn’t walk down the street without a bevy of armed guards surrounding them. Yet they scream about hunters being limited to three bullets and women defending themselves against rapists and home invaders needing no more than seven.
And while those speeches are being delivered--at that very moment--they have a small militia of “armed” security who are there for one reason and one reason only, to shoot anyone trying to do harm to the boss. How many rounds of ammunition do you think is within 30 feet of these people at any given moment? So let’s start there. Let’s limit them to one security guard with one gun limited to only seven rounds. If that was the case, these people wouldn’t walk into the hallway to retrieve the morning paper--not that they do anyway.
Mental Health. I’m no expert, but I generally understand the law in this area and I have common sense. Bottom line: Many people are just plain sick in the head. They have unfortunate mental, emotional and psychological problems.
But even if they are recognized, what can we do legally? Nothing. We can’t incarcerate someone because they have emotional “problems.” And we shouldn’t, since 99.9% of the people with psychiatric issues aren’t violent. We can’t force them to take medication or go to counseling. Therapists aren’t even mandated to report them unless there is an indication of an immediate threat. And all the while, we release convicted violent sociopathic/psychopathic felons from prison while suspending five-year-olds for forming their hand into the shape of a gun!
Fictional President Shepard was right about one thing: “We have serious problems to solve, and we need serious people to solve them.” Let’s start by having the discussions in the land of REALITY. Until we do, we are wasting time and possibly costing lives.