We Call BS on the NRA

After every mass shooting that occurs in America, there is an outpouring of thoughts and prayers, accompanied by a cacophony of pleas for reform and condemnation of such efforts. The shooting in Parkland, Florida, is no exception. In the wake of the shooting that occurred at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, politicians offered thoughts and prayers, but the survivors demanded action. Students have organized to lobby for a series of state and national reforms that would make it more difficult for people to get their hands on an assault-style weapon. We had an assault weapons ban until relatively recently. After it lapsed, we saw the frequency of deadly shootings with semi-automatic weapons increase.

 

But most importantly, they have demanded that politicians listen to them, or be thrown out of office. They have called bullshit on decades-old arguments against gun violence prevention measures. It is a logical fallacy that regulating guns won’t stop people from killing other.

“Guns Don’t Kill People, People Kill People”

 

One common argument is that it should be legal to own an AR-15 simply because someone who really wants to kill people will find a way to do so. It makes no difference whether or not AR-15s are illegal because people who are mentally ill will still find a way to kill people. We call bullshit.

First of all, that is not how we make laws. Laws are designed to create a system of incentives that demonstrate the moral underpinnings of society. Murder is illegal because we think it is immoral to kill people. Rape is illegal because we think it is immoral to have sex with someone without their consent. Yet, rape and murder still happen. Does that mean that they shouldn’t be illegal because someone who really wants to rape someone will do it anyway? Absolutely not. That is an absurd suggestion. It is equally absurd to suggest that banning the sale of automatic and semi-automatic weapons would have no effect on the frequency and scale of mass killings.

Second, it is a myth that most crimes and mass shootings are committed by people with mental illness. To say so perpetuates stereotypes that people with mental illness are dangerous and prone to violence. Less than 4 percent of violent crimes are attributed to mental illness alone. A history of violence is, however, a significant predictor of future violence, regardless of mental illness. We have very few laws that keep violent people from having access to guns. The background check system currently only includes felons and ex-cons and folks who were involuntarily committed to a mental institution. Those who have been convicted of misdemeanor assault or battery charges can purchase guns. So can stalkers and domestic abusers.

 

Making assault weapons illegal won’t necessarily prevent someone from killing someone else, but it will make it nearly impossible for a 19-year-old kid to murder 17 children in under 6 minutes. Banning assault and assault-style weapons is as much a statement about our country’s morality as it is about literally saving children’s lives.

“We Can’t Regulate Guns Because They are Protected by the Second Amendment”

Americans sacrifice all kinds of rights in the name of safety. We allow all kinds of surveillance and intrusions to prevent terrorism on a regular basis. Every time we get on an airplane we are searched, some of us more than others, to prevent a potential terrorist attack. We allow the government and corporations to track everything we do on the internet. The government is arguably attempting to track and prevent terrorist plots with this information, but corporations are trying to build personality profiles so that they can earn higher profits.

 

We allow restrictions on speech and expression when we determined that it was illegal to instigate violence by yelling “Fire!” in a crowded theater. We allow capital punishment, which some people consider cruel and unusual. We used to allow people to own other people, count them as three-fifths of a person, prevent women and black people from voting, allow presidents to serve indefinitely, deny black people of a speedy and public trial, and hold them to answer for a crime without indictment (we still do this when cops shoot unarmed black people walking on the street or sitting in their cars). The list goes on and on. Several of these allowances were a violation of the Bill of Rights of the Constitution. Several of them were Constitutional until the end of the Civil War, almost 100 years after the founding of our country.

Time and time again, white male Americans have fought to preserve the constitution in its original condition, and time and again they have failed. Our incredibly flawed founding document is redeemed by the fact that we can change it and interpret it differently as time goes on. For too long we have stood idly by while innocent children have been murdered in their streets, in their homes, and in their schools. The NRA wants you to believe that this is the cost of freedom. As the Parkland students pointed out at the March for Our Lives in DC, when you divide the number of students in the state of Florida by the amount of money Marco Rubio received from the NRA, each student’s life only cost $1.05. There are 2,131,760 students enrolled in school in the state of Ohio. Rob Portman, our Senator, receives $3,061,941 in campaign contributions from the NRA. To him, our lives only cost $0.70. We call bullshit.

 

We can regulate guns and we will. Our lives are worth more than a toy or a hobby. Our lives are worth more than 70 cents or a dollar-five. The politicians in Washington and in state and local government have stood idly by while their constituents are slaughtered. It is time for them to go. There are some issues where there is no gray area, and this is one of them. You are either on the side of guns, or you’re on the side of children.

 

We’re on the side of children. Whose side are you on?

 

Images: Feature, 1, 2, 3, 4