The tragic “Texas Church Massacre” raises the issue of gun control yet again. It’s time to reexamine what we’re doing here. Here are some quick statistics. Did you know that the rate of gun deaths in the United States rose in 2016 to about 12 per 100,000 people according to the Centers for Disease Control? That was up from a rate of about 11 for every 100,000 people in 2015, and it reflected the second consecutive year that the mortality rate in that category rose in the United States. More than 33,000 people die in firearm-related deaths in the United States every year, nearly two thirds of which are suicides. Suicides account for about 60 percent of firearm-related deaths, and homicides about 36 percent. Unintentional firearm deaths and those related to law enforcement officials account for about 1.3 percent each.
We’ve all heard the saying “People kill people, not guns” which is true, however people can kill people much quicker and with greater precision with a gun than without. Guns are designed to kill and yet I believe that we should all have the option to carry one, for protection, if we so choose.
A few years ago, when I lived alone, a man attempted to climb through my first floor apartment window, after having already come an hour earlier and stared through it for almost one minute, which woke me up. It was completely dark in my place so he could not see me looking at him while I laid there, frozen, devising a plan. As I watched his silhouette, framed by the street lights falling around his head and shoulders, peer into my room and then examine the window, I knew he’d come back. He did, about an hour later, around 2:00am. As he proceeded to tamper with my window, I rushed over and kicked the window in the part opposite his head and yelled in my deepest uncle Rodney voice, “What the f@*k are you doing?!”, like I’ve heard and imitated so many times. The man immediately ran off.
After that encounter, and one other, I put some serious thought into what it would be like to own a gun. I asked myself tons of questions and thought of several scenarios…
What if everyone had a gun? What if everyone had the ability to kill at the first sign of danger or when they become insane with rage and anger, for whatever reason? What if a person became so depressed one day, and full of pain that they’d just as soon take their own life with a gun than go on?… How many of us, even the most mentally sound, have been able to identify with one or more of those feelings at some time or another?
From a practical standpoint, would everyone carrying guns prevent a truly desperate person from attempting to steal/get what they need to survive? No.
After wrestling with these and other questions for a few weeks, I came to the conclusion that I and others are less safe with a gun in my possession. I came to the conclusion that it’s possible to make errors in my perception of people and their intentions. I came to the conclusion that such a weapon could be stolen and fall into some very dangerous hands and also, that I do not want to take another person’s life just as I would not want mine taken. Lastly I came to the conclusion that I do not want to perpetuate violence of any kind.
That man who attempted to break into my apartment is alive and I’m glad about that. He has another opportunity to make better decisions and work to improve the quality of his life. If I had had a gun that night, as scared as I was, I’m not sure the outcome would have been the same. If he had had a gun it’s possible that the outcome would have been different but neither he nor I did and we are both alive.
At this point in my life, the best way to protect myself is by being responsible with my daily decisions regarding safety, including how I treat people. However that was the “right” decision for me. The “right” decision for another person may be to own a gun for protection and I can imagine circumstances in which that is justified and support everyone’s right to make such a decision based on their lifestyle. However I wholeheartedly believe it’s past time to be much more rigorous about our vetting policy and loopholes. In my opinion, opposition to such common sense reform is reckless, ill thought out and popular arguments against gun control make that point clear.
Arguments Against Gun Control:
“Murder doesn’t account for most gun-related deaths”
Right. Suicidal people with a gun are much more likely to kill themselves. Another strong reason to regulate access since mental health is also a growing concern.
“Gun control is pointless because criminals don’t obey the law”
So, based on this reasoning, we should just do away with law altogether because criminals don’t obey the law anyway? Think about it.
“Guns stand in the way of tyranny and reform is all about disarming the population”
Look, I personally believe an educated and informed citizenry who is engaged in the political process and helping to shape policy for the benefit of all, is the best defense against tyranny (and ironically the best defence against gun violence) but I hear you, brother. We have and should have the right to bare arms. Even if your main hobby in life is fantasizing and preparing for some future showdown with the US government and you salivate at the thought of you and your neighbor “Bubba” being victorious heroes as your little militia faces down the government’s massive arsenal or if you harbor more sinister fantasies like a coming race war and imagine hunting people in an effort to preserve your “race” or if you just have some weird obsession with violence, that’s your business and you still have the right to bare arms. At a certain point you may want to talk with a professional about why you are spending so much of your life focused on death. Anyway, just please know that your fantasies, fetishes, hobbies and even concerns about the future are not more important than the present reality that guns continue to fall into the wrong hands and people are being killed. You can’t possibly be ok with that. We should know who owns a gun, record sales, “close” the “Gun Show Loophole”, be aware of any criminal history and test to be sure that the owners/users are mentally/psychologically sound, which should go for law enforcement as well. Though the arguments against gun control are poor this faction is very strong is in their political engagement. They do an amazing job lobbying and wielding their political influence on Capitol Hill and know that they have the numbers, through organizing, to sway elections. There is a lesson to be learned there.
“Violence Begets Violence” ~MLK
Those were the words that kept coming to me while I was considering owning a gun. Perhaps some time in the future we will move away from our petty preoccupation with violence and not be so quick to use it as a means by which to solve problems and disputes. In the meantime I’m choosing to navigate through my life non violently, while defending our rights, the most important of which is the right to Life.
People do kill people but people can also reason, learn, begin to understand each other, solve problems together and even grow to care for each other. What are your thoughts?
Ardena Joy Clark is an American activist, author, award winning recording artist and former elected official who has dedicated her life to serving others.