Gunning for Gun Control

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Gunning for Gun Control

[Note: This essay is one in a continuing series by ICCFA executive director Bob Fells focusing on various issues in our federal government. Although the subjects are political in nature, the approach is bipartisan in outlook, at least so far as that is humanly possible. The goal of each essay is not to persuade the reader to adopt a particular political viewpoint or party, but to illustrate why a knowledge of the system is important to protect our businesses, our homes, and our families.]

For the record, I have never owned any firearms nor did my parents. In fact, the only person in my extended family that I know has guns is a brother-in-law who owns a couple of hunting rifles. My grown son once took me to a shooting range and we rented a 9mm pistol and some ammo. I rather quickly became bored with trying to hit the little paper bulls-eye and invited my son to finish my round or whatever it’s called. I have no philosophical or religious opposition to owning firearms and I can appreciate why the American sense of self-reliance includes provisions for self-defense with implements that go bang. That said, the debate in Congress over gun control, what weapons should be banned, what background checks should be universal, and who decides all this, has deteriorated into a form of demagoguery that makes a mockery of the very issue it seeks to regulate.

This has been a horrific week between the Boston Marathon bombings and the explosion in a Texas fertilizer plant. Many Americans, including me, are experiencing PTSS-like flashbacks of 911 and it can be unnerving. Some have said that we have become too complacent as the events of 911 have receded into the mists of Time. But timing can be everything so it was with some concern that the advocates of federal gun control legislation found that this week is a bad time to vote on Americans giving up their firearms. America has been a gun-toting nation since the Minutemen of 1776 and probably before that. The Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution safeguards the right of all citizens to bear arms, but it doesn’t say what kind.

The fact is that tens of millions of Americans keep firearms and always have. It is significant to note that very few of them have ever abused their Constitutional right to bear arms but we are being told relentlessly by the political classes that gun ownership is the common denominator behind the shootings in Newtown, Connecticut; Aurora Colorado; Virginia Tech, and many other places where these types of massacres have occurred. That’s like claiming that a book of matches caused the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 (Mrs. O’Leary’s cow has since been officially and legally exonerated) so let’s lock up all the matches.

The true and rather narrow common denominator behind all these mass shootings has been mental illness. All of the gunmen were mentally deranged and yet this obvious fact has been stunningly ignored in all the debate and tears shed on the subject. I mean that NOBODY is talking about mental health, better detection and intervention before the next whacko decides to find a soft target, i.e., a location where people are unlikely to have firearms to shoot back. You may wonder why, so at the risk of sounding cynical, I have to tell you that “gun control” is a lot easier for politicians to champion than advocating for better mental health services. And the insurance companies dislike the subject of mental health – just check your health policy to see how little coverage they provide for mental health claims. If you get a physical disease you probably have decent coverage, but have a mental illness and you’re pretty much on your own, brother.

Also, promoting more effective treatment of the actual cause of gun violence doesn’t lend itself to catchy slogans. It is much easier to tout, “If guns are outlawed, then only outlaws will have guns.” You might point out that if only outlaws have guns, then law-abiding people will be defenseless and ready victims, but you will be viewed with suspicion. The unspoken elephant in the room that politicians don’t want to mention is this: law-abiding citizens don’t need guns because the government is here to protect them. That loud rushing noise you just heard is the public running out to buy guns because they finally learned the real reason for pushing gun control: more power to the state. The first thing that every totalitarian government has ever done once in power is to disarm the population “for their own safety.”

We also don’t hear anything said about providing better gun owner education so weapons will be properly secured and tragic accidents will be avoided. Why? Because this approach does nothing to empower government. Besides, what kind of slogan is, “If all Americans had guns, then outlaws would think twice before trying to victimize them?” Nah.

Even as a non-gun owning American, I benefit from a robust application of the Second Amendment. You see, the bad guys don’t know whether I am armed or not, but gun control will go a long way to shift the odds in the bad guys’ favor. And it’s no coincidence that the nutjobs know to get at people where the government already prohibits them from carrying firearms like schools and movie theaters. “Crazy like a fox” is an old expression that’s quite apt here. So whatever your position on gun control, from total confiscation to unfettered Second Amendment rights, the next time you hear the politicians holding forth on this subject, ask yourself why they’re not talking about mental health issues and improving firearms education. They really do have their reasons and the omissions aren’t coincidental.