People are talking about gun control. Over Facebook, over dinner, around town, I’ve found myself in multiple conversations about gun legislation and mental health and Constitutional rights. The tragic shooting at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon, - and President Obama’s impassioned speech afterwards - seemed to have sparked honest reflection on what we as a nation are doing wrong when it comes to guns.
I’ve noticed a reoccurring argument in many of the conversations I’ve had over the past few days. It’s an argument as old as guns themselves.
“Guns don’t kill people. People kill people.”
This theme is followed closely by a call for enforcing the gun control laws we already have and increased outreach care for the mentally ill.
No one - especially me - is going to argue against enforcement or attention to mental health. However, particularly with regards to mental heath - as my friend Kristin passionately argues here - there is no simple answer.
In a way, the argument that guns don’t kill people is correct.
Guns are simple objects. A gun is nothing but a chunk of metal until a human being picks it up and makes it work.
Unfortunately, the human being is very, very complex and legislating human behavior is damn near impossible. What we’ve found over and over again is that when there is a complex and harmful relationship between human beings and an object then we restrict access to the object.
Cigarettes. Cars. Drugs. Alcohol.
Sitting around and waiting for human beings to act the way we think they should doesn’t really work.
There is always room for education (which is apparently working with soda) and intervention and community support. However, that doesn’t mean that’s enough.
So, I believe we have to restrict access to guns.
I do not believe the Constitution guarantees an absolute right to anything. Speech. Press. Religion. Even one’s own liberty can be restricted under the right circumstances.
A person - even a law abiding sportsman - does not have the right to ANY gun they want. A person - even a law abiding sportsman - does not have the right to AS MANY guns as they want.
Your right to own a gun is not absolute and I am willing to restrict that right if it means saving lives.
Why is that such a crazy thing for a political to say? It’s not because they are all cowards. It’s because there is a $31 BILLION dollar industry who will lobby for those rights. Those lobbyists have gun owners and gun laws and gun sales to point to to make their case.
However, we will never know the lives saves. Politicians can’t hold a press conference celebrating the fact that your child or my child lived a long happy life because a mad men couldn’t get his hands on a gun. No lobbyist can point to the mother who raises her children because her ex-husband couldn’t get his hands on a gun. No candidate can plaster the faces of suicidal teenagers on a billboard - teenagers who survived because all they could get their hands on was a bottle of pills instead of a loaded gun.
But that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth it.
It will be hard. We will get things wrong. We have a huge problem when it comes to violence in this country and it won’t be solved by one law or twenty.
But we have to TRY. We can keep talking, but that can't be all we do.