The mass shooting in Dayton, Ohio, on August 4 – just a day after the mass shooting in El Paso, Texas, that left at least twenty people dead – is, according to the Gun Violence Archive, the 251st mass shooting to occur in the United States this year.
It is far past time to admit that we have a serious problem that is particular to our nation and our culture. The idea that this problem has nothing to do with the ready availability of guns, or that stricter gun laws would make no difference, is laughable. Blaming our gun violence on mental health issues demonizes a class of citizens that is more likely to be the target than the instigator of violence – and is just a deflection, given that the people making the argument are unwilling to support the kind of universal health access that would actually help the sufferers of mental illness. Making it about mental illness also distracts from the reality that we have a rising problem of racism, fascism, and white supremacy to contend with, that these “lone shooters” are committing terrorist acts, often against vulnerable populations, and that the president of the United States enables their violence with his racist and anti-immigrant rhetoric.
Opponents of gun control and gun safety legislation seem to be under the impression that tighter restrictions on gun ownership will mean that they will have to give up their firearms. When I hear this argument, I have to ask: why do you think this? Do you have a history of criminal behavior that would make you fail a background check? Have you been using hate speech online? Are you a domestic abuser? Do you feel you would fail a gun safety test? Do you regularly leave your guns lying around where children could play with them, or burglars nab them?
If these are not the case, it is unlikely that you would have to give up your firearms.
However, what if it did?
What if the price we have to pay, to end gun violence, is giving up our guns?
I am a gun owner myself, and I answer that, if I could be assured that these acts of extreme violence could somehow be stopped, if I were to relinquish my guns, I would relinquish them happily. The lives of innocent persons are more valuable than a gun. The right to life is prior to the right to own any item, especially an item more likely to take than to sustain life.
And I would like to suggest that gun owners in particular have a moral obligation to demand gun safety legislation, because we know just how dangerous a firearm can be, when incorrectly handled. We know the gun safety rules. We know to keep our guns locked up, away from children. We know not to go shooting while drunk, or in anger. We know never to aim at anything we do not intend to shoot. We know to be aware of what’s behind our target. We know how easily mistakes can happen, so we behave with caution, in sobriety. We know that if there is a mass shooting situation, in the midst of the chaos and uncertainty, having a gun one one’s person probably will not help the situation, and may even increase the harm, unless we have been extensively trained on a military level.
Or at least, we should.
If you, as a gun owner, are opposing proposed legislation that would ensure greater public safety given the lethality of the tools you possess, you are proving yourself a person unfit for gun ownership. If you give preference to your so-called right to bear arms over the right to life of the many persons brutally slaughtered in acts of terrorist violence, you have nullified that right.
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