"If there's even one thing we can do -- even one life we can save -- we have an obligation to try."
--President Barack Obama
Following the mass shooting at Pulse in Orlando, FL, I did what appeared to be the norm with my peers: I took to Facebook and Twitter to voice the many concerns I had fruitlessly tried to suppress for months, concerns that could not be kept at bay any longer. I was outraged, and I wanted the world to know that. I had foolishly prescribed to the narrative that my voice could make a difference, so with all the eloquence and unadulterated rage I could muster, I attempted to make a difference in the form of tweets and Facebook posts.
However, my concerns were almost always met with a resounding lack of support, and in some cases, humiliation. My intelligence had been dragged into question, my patriotism heavily scrutinized. I was told to preform research, and in turn, modify my very inaccurate opinion. I was patronized, belittled, humiliated right down to my core.
Which got me thinking: no one knows what we, as those championing and promoting the idea of stricter gun regulations, want. Somewhere along the way, our agenda became befuddled. Our desires had been dragged through the mud, and left valueless and meritless. This could be accredited to our nation's tight grasp on their individual rights, or perhaps, we failed them. Perhaps we failed to convey our message correctly. Either way, there is a massive disconnect between what we want, and what the world thinks we want. I'd like to clarify this.
While there are certainly people who promote the concept of a national ban on firearms, the overwhelming majority of us exclusively prefer stricter regulations and better enforcement of these regulations. We respect the 2nd amendment, and do not wish to infringe upon it. We understand its importance, as we understand the value of all our rights. However, what we refuse to accept is the neglect put fourth in preventing known criminals from legally purchasing firearms.
According to the New York Times, "a vast majority of guns used in 16 recent mass shootings, including two guns believed to be used in the Orlando attack, were bought legally and with a federal background check. At least eight gunmen had criminal histories or documented mental health problems that did not prevent them from obtaining their weapons."
Following allegations that Omar Manteen (The Orlando shooter), had possible terrorist ties, he was placed on FBI's terrorist watch-list. Despite any substantive evidence to arraign Manteen, his place on the watch-list remained. Manteen was not barred from legally purchasing firearms and ammunition, which led to his purchase of a Sig Sauer AR-15-style assault rifle and a glock handgun.
Mirroring President Obama's own proposal to push for an implementation of a preventive measure that would bar those placed on the terrorist watch-list (or no-fly list) from purchasing firearms, presumptive Republican nominee, Donald Trump issued a statement to that same effect on Wednesday.
This restriction, a restriction Congress has so far refused to pass, and Obama's proposed resurrection of a assault rifle ban, would have prevented Omar Manteen from purchasing both of the weapons he used to perpetrate his shooting at Pulse. Would that have stopped Manteen's attack? We cannot say for sure. Would it have eradicated the hate that inevitably fueled this vicious attack? No. But it would have prevented the government from essentially handing a hateful and dangerous man the weapon used to physically manifest this hate? Yes.
Another example of gunmen purchasing guns despite the FBI's knowledge of possible radicalization and terrorist ties is the 2015 couple that opened fire at an office party in San Bernardino, Calif. Again, the proposed gun restriction potentially could have prevented that attack from occurring.
For many, this restriction makes sense. Suspected terrorists should not be able to legally purchase weapons. This should be common-sense initiative, yet, it has been met with harsh criticism. As Americans, we value our rights too much to allow anything to threaten those rights. After all, our rights are what distinguish us as American citizens. For many, gun regulations sound a little too much like an infringement of personal rights.
However, that couldn't be more inaccurate. We still wish to see a retainment of the 2nd amendment, we simply wish to see that right modified to protect us.
Another modification President Obama proposed to regulate firearms was his proposal to prevent those struggling with potentially volatile and dangerous mental illnesses from purchasing firearms. Obama's proposal ensured that history of mental illness be included in the background checks preformed upon potential firearm consumers. This proposition was also paired with a $500 million investment plan to increase access to mental healthcare, as well as lifting legal barriers that bar states from reporting the names of mentally ill patients who are unfit to possess firearms.
This proposition could have been critical in preventing a double homicide (with nine injured victims) in July of 2015 in Lafayette, La. In 2008, the shooter, John R. Houser was admitted to a psychiatric hospital following, and just six years following his court ordered psych visit, Houser was able to legally purchase a .40-caliber semiautomatic pistol that he bought from a pawnshop. Houser purchased the pistol despite a domestic violence charge and family concerns that he violent and mentally ill.
President Obama's proposal would have prevented this transaction from ever occurring at the federal level, just as it could have prevented James E. Holmes from killing 12 people and wounding 70 at a movie theater in Aurora, Colo., using a Smith & Wesson semiautomatic rifle, a Remington shotgun and a glock .40-caliber semiautomatic pistol. Holmes had been seeing a psychiatrist for a serious mental illness just months prior to legally purchasing his firearms, and inevitably opening fire in the movie theatre. Because there is no restriction against prohibiting patients suffering serious illnesses from purchasing hand guns, or a mandate to include such medical information in background checks, Holmes' was able to purchase firearms without any question or scrutiny.
Per President Obama's 2015 proposal, "communications between federal and state authorities on criminal history information [will be greatly encouraged]. The Obama administration seeks to increase the dialog with states to ensure the background check system is as comprehensive as it can be."
The application of this proposal could have been integral in preventing the murder of nine people in a Charleston church in June of 2015. In February of 2015, just five months before his infamous shooting, Dylann Roof, was charged with possessing Suboxone, a prescription drug strongly associated with illegal street sales. Roof's record of drug possession should have barred him from legally purchasing a gun, however, the F.B.I examiner conducting Roof's background check failed to be retrieve the police record from his February possession charge. Better communication between state and federal authorities would have hindered this incident from ever occurring.
As is the case with a October of 2014 gun violence incident, where four students were shot and killed at Marysville, Washington high school. The shooter's father, Raymond Ray Fryberg was legally unable to purchase a firearm following a permanent domestic violence protection order. However, that did not deter him from purchasing the Beretta used in the 2014 shooting, due to the protection order never being entered into the system. Had the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) been held to a higher standard, more strictly ran and enforced, and more comprehensive these shootings may have never occurred.
I'm sure you've noticed my use of "potentially," "could have," and "may have's." This was not done accidentally. The truth is, despite whatever barriers we implement, or how many regulations we enforce, the acquisition of firearms will still be possible. Sometimes we really are powerless when it comes to preventing crime. Sometimes.
But if we simply give up and accept the narrative of, "Well, criminals will be criminals," we have given up on Americans. We have given up our humanity, and succumb to the belief that we truly are impotent and powerless -- that lives are not worth protecting. Why have we given up without even trying? Well, we shouldn't accept that.
Nobody is saying we should ban guns, or revoke the Second Amendment. We're simply demanding for a better, stronger system -- one that prohibits known criminals from purchasing weapons, one that enforces the scant regulations in place, one that works effectively and efficiently between state and federal authorities.
And maybe just maybe we're saying that you shouldn't be allowed to buy a military grade weapon that serves little purpose outside the military. Maybe we're saying that semi-automatic weapons shouldn't be so accessible. Maybe we're saying you shouldn't be able to purchase weapons at pawnshops and gun shows, where rules are regulations are more lenient and lax (as they were in this video, where a 13-year-old was able to legally purchase a gun:
Maybe we're even saying you shouldn't be able to buy a hand gun alongside a gallon of milk and a tube of toothpaste.
But whatever it is, our point remains, our war is not the Second Amendment; it's with an obviously broken system that places guns in the hands of known criminals. It's with a system that has turned its back on its citizens -- a system that has long since devalued our lives. It isn't with the Second Amendment at all.