As I wrote this post, I was on a plane cruising 34,000 feet above this great country we call the United States of America. That’s significant, because I’m headed to the not-so-great state of Florida. Sure, Florida has beautiful beaches and steroids and bikini-clad women, but it also has waaaay too many guns. Like, literally tons of guns. It’s not uncommon for American states to have loose to non-existent gun laws. In fact, many states have even adopted the now infamous “stand your ground” laws that allowed George Zimmerman to murder, with no provocation or cause, Trayvon Martin a few years ago. So, in this month’s edition of The Many Faces of Manny, I’ll be discussing what’s sure to be a hot topic in the upcoming Presidential election: Gun Control.
Speaking of the Presidential election: how about those Republicans, eh? Donald Trump’s camp says that rape is an impossibility within a marriage — implying that it’s a husband’s right to demand, or take, sex from his property…I mean, wife. And now, since we’ve had so many shootings in movie theaters, Rick Perry has a novel idea: everyone going to the movies should be packing heat! I can’t see where that could possibly go wrong. Further, is there any more American, do-it-yourself, manifest-destiny, attitude than believing that no one can kill you as long as you have your trusty sidearm at the ready?
What follows is the logic that so many overly-confident, right-wing, gun-toting sadists have been crying: “the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.” Of course.
Let’s look straight past the fact that we should be questioning why that bad guy had the gun in the first place. Who — and what — allowed him to purchase, steal or borrow a gun? Why was someone so easily able to provide him with not only an automatic or semi-automatic weapon, but also the ammunition with which to kill so many innocent people? And while we’re at it, let’s point out that the only thing worse than one shooter is several shooters creating crossfire in an already chaotic situation — like, say, an elementary school. Because children are definitely safer when bullets are flying at them from multiple directions.
When the now deeply-flawed “Second Amendment” was adopted in December 1791, this country was fresh off the heels of defeating the once-great British Empire. And America did so completely through the use of a guerrilla militia. American heroes cobbled together a rag-tag group of miscreants with the right combination of can-do attitude and firepower to defeat our former overlords. Sure, Gilbert Du Motier — the Marquis de Lafayette, who condemned America’s violent, slave-owning tradition and offered to purchase and then free every single slave in captivity — provided a naval fleet that turned the tide, but it was, primarily American farmers that kicked those Redcoats back across the pond.
Naturally, America was amped up on the idea of being able to assemble a standing army with reserve forces that could assist at the drop of a hat should its sovereignty be compromised in the future. So the forefathers, in their infinite wisdom, decided to protect and preserve the “right to keep and bear arms.” These are, of course, the same people that legalized slavery, grew mass crops of hemp and decided to systematically exterminate the Native Americans who were inconveniently here first.
So what is an “arm?” Well, in the late 1700s, an arm consisted of a muzzle-loading, smoothbore musket (e.g. the famous “Brown Bess”). These were single fire weapons that took a trained military man at least thirty seconds to reload and fire. And what was coming out of the barrel at a whopping per second was a hard lead ball that had no ability to explode and, unless fired from within roughly fifty yards (although accuracy was boasted to be effective upwards of 175 yards), could do minimal damage. In fact, repeating rifles (still not semi-automatic rifles) were not invented until 1860 and were not incorporated into the U.S. military until roughly 1863. (They’re primarily responsible, along with a vast numerical superiority, for the Union turning the tide in the Civil War.) And remember, these are repeating rifles and not semi-automatic rifles. Mostly rudimentary, lever-action rifles.
So fast forward to today. The average “lone gunman” is packing the now highly popular (and easily accessible at about $900) AR-15 assault riffle that has a magazine capacity beyond comprehension to our forefathers — upwards of sixty rounds. With ammunition designed not only to kill but also to maim and mangle the corpse, this gun could outperform anything that the American army was using up and through the Korean War. To say that the forefathers easily foresaw the development of such complex weapons would be a stretch to say the least. Further, the forefathers likely didn’t comprehend the sheer amount of money and resources that would be dumped into developing these mass killing machines. So isn’t it time to maybe think about reining it in, America?
By July 24 — the 204th day of the year — the United States had suffered exactly 204 mass shootings in 2015. (This has surely increased since this article was originally written.) That’s pretty easy math. There is one mass shooting in America per day. And these happen anywhere from elementary schools, to military bases, to crowded movie theaters. As our President so candidly pointed out during his interview with Marc Maron, there is no other developed nation on the planet that allows and accepts this level of mass homicide to occur. It’s unacceptable.
According to the Gun Violence Archive, 2015 has seen 29,804 shootings, resulting in 7,644 deaths and over 15,000 injuries. Only a little over 700 of those incidents were examples of people using a gun in self-defense — less than 3 percent! And more than 1,100 were accidental, meaning that, yes, there have been more accidental shootings than defensive ones. Worst of all, more than 400 of the fatal shootings claimed children under the age of 11.
A common argument against what our President has stated is, primarily, Switzerland. The Swiss have a lot of guns — almost the same percentage per capita as the United States — which is to be expected from a country that enlists mandatory military service from all of its residents. What Switzerland doesn’t have is gun violence. You see, Switzerland does not allow ammunition to be owned, held or stored anywhere except for a military base, police station or shooting range. Thus, while the average citizen may have a weapon, they lack the most important part of the gun: the projectile.
It’s utterly infuriating to watch people consistently defend America’s overly liberal and toxic gun policy. And it’s not only over assault rifles. The average defender of gun rights believes that a pistol is a good weapon for the average citizen to keep on their hip. A pistol, which is possibly one of the hardest weapons to control and properly use in self-defense. Pistols are simply not an effective self-defense weapon. They are highly inaccurate and dangerous even when in the hands of trained professionals like our police force. Further, their low magazine capacity makes them a do-or-die type of defense.
And before you criticize me as having a phobia of guns, I will tell you that I grew up around guns. I was a Boy Scout with gun safety merit badges. My grandfather a World War II hero, avid hunter and oral surgeon. He had a vast collection of weapons ranging from collector’s items such as Lugers and Blunderbusses to thirty-ought-six rifles, a dozen pistols and a bevy of shotguns. I enjoy target shooting actually. I enjoy skeet shooting. I’m even pretty decent at it. I am even proficient at field stripping and cleaning pistols. But as fun as guns can be when used safely — and in a capacity that is not designed to injure — I would give all of that up (and have) for the safety of others.
So I say to you that it’s time to reform America’s gun policies. Let’s get assault rifles, semi-automatic firearms and concealed carry pistols out of everyday life in America. Let’s make it difficult-to-impossible to purchase a firearm. Let’s make a society in which our police force does not have to carry firearms that they are often too eager to use just because so many of our civilians are strapped. It’s time for Americans to make sacrifices, modernize and deal with the harsh truth: guns are not safe. They are invented, manufactured and designed for the sole purpose of killing living things. And without so many of them we would all be safer.
So here’s to a better America.