The State of Guns: What Needs To Be Done

The State of Guns: What Needs To Be Done

We live in a country where a party won't pass laws because a group pays them off - and that's just one of the worrying issues involving weapons.
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Let's get one thing clear here - I do not want to talk specifically about the shooting in Parkland. That's a whole other story, about law enforcement failing to do their jobs and a movement started by people younger than myself. I'll mention it, but I'm not getting into specifics on AR-15s and the history of weapons and all that, nor look at what drives someone to kill, that's a story for another time. No, instead I want to look at gun culture and the laws surrounding it in general. The Second Amendment is clearly one of the first things the Founding Fathers wanted, considering it's the second one. But Thomas Jefferson also said the country should replace the Constitution every twenty years so society can evolve – he also held slaves, refused to even discuss slavery in the cabinet meetings or the Constitutional Convention, and also is half the reason we have a broken two-party system today. We live in a country where children as young as four or five are being taught what to do if someone comes in with a gun. The NRA pays out Congressmen to prevent laws or studies, and the government doesn't step in and everyone moves on to find a new topic to argue about. No, not this time. We need to be aware of what is going on and how we can actually take care of the situation before another child doesn't come home from school again.

The National Rifle Association (NRA) is the country's largest gun owner group. You'd figure if they had so many members, they would be more willing to take both side on an issue. But no, they heavily prefer Republicans and other right-wing groups. Millions of dollars are donated per year to Republican politicians, which while that's not a big deal, it becomes a major issue when you realize what that money does. Every single time there's a shooting or even just the topic of any form of gun control comes up, it's always Republicans who say “no, the Second Amendment allows it” and refuses to even hear any proposals – regardless of whether or not it's as simple as “maybe we need to limit the add-ons you can buy for a gun.” In order for legislation to pass Congress, it needs to get a majority of the votes – and usually, Republicans either have the majority anyway or use their power to silence dissidence from independents. It should be noted that the CDC every year proposes a study on gun violence and the effects guns/specific types of guns have on people, but for one reason or another, the budget is cut by just exactly what they need to do said study. That reason is that the GOP is essentially being paid off by the NRA to promote guns everywhere in the country and want every man, woman, and child to be packing heat. Usually instead of action, we get Republicans saying the survivors have their thoughts and prayers and that they stand with them, but that's all empty words when their job is to make law to protect and serve the American people, not the lobbyist groups that are paying them to not budge on the safety of our children. Now this is not to say that only Republicans are the only ones accepting unethical money, Democrats get a ton of money from pharmaceutical companies to prevent any changes to the broken heathcare system, but that's a story for another time. Right now, we have a ruling party that puts guns and ammo over life, and because the big donors are lining their pockets, won't do anything beyond offer empty condolences to families that are grieving thanks to the lack of gun control and protection that we are all deserve.

How despite the GOP trying to protect guns, states have passed laws pertaining to gun control and there has been a few weapon bans that have worked to varying degrees – including Ronald Reagan's automatic weapons ban, which is still in effect today, and Bill Clinton's assault weapons ban, during which gun crime went down considerably. And of course, this is America, so people have brought states and governments to court over gun rights and the Second Amendment. In 2008, the Supreme Court heard a case concerning Washington DC, where a handgun ban was in place, along with other strict guidelines over rifle storage (trigger locks and disassembled until use, etc). In the end, the Court ruled 5-4 in favor of DC's ban. Antonin Scalia, often considered one of the most conservative judges on the court at the time, wrote the majority opinion where he stated that “the right secured by the Second Amendment is not unlimited” and that the Second Amendment was not in fact “a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose.” So according to the judges who rule over cases involving Constitutional rights, it is totally within the right of the government to limit access to specific guns, so long as some kinds of guns are allowed to be owned by the people. Any limit can be placed on the ownership as well, but the right itself cannot be denied. Many gun-rights groups say this ruling does in fact say the government can't put any controls or bans, but you can read the full opinion of the court in black and white, written by a conservative who also ruled that burning a flag in protest is also protected under the Constitution. Of course, that would require people to actually read and understand the history of the Constitution, and let's be real, all people care about is the First and Second Amendments.

Many, including the NRA, several senators, President Donald Trump (who accepted over 30 million dollars from the NRA), have called for arming teachers in the classroom. Because the government tells teachers they have to buy their own paper and pencils and students aren't allowed to eat if they don't have money, but let's just give them a ton of weapons. And to add to that – how would this gun be stored? Locked in a drawer is fine, except for when you hear shots going off down the hall, are you going to grab your weapon first or try and help everyone hide? And for that matter, this would be expecting a teacher to have a fast enough reaction time and be calm enough that a pistol could be more accurate than say, an AR-15 or an Uzi. Additionally, what “guns in classrooms” advocates are ignoring is what if a teacher is leading kids out of the school, carrying a gun, and passes by a window – likely, police would fire out of reflex. Teachers could easily misunderstand a threat and fire on someone who isn't dangerous – and assuming they're carrying it or didn't forget the key on the desk, it would be too easy for a student to take the weapon and open fire themselves. Trump seems to think offering a bonus would help, but rather, he and the NRA and the GOP need to realize that if you put more guns, you might as well call school a prison. Some have suggested hiring armed veterans outside the school to guard – and just how do you plan on screening them? PTSD is a very real illness, and it would be a risk of someone perceiving another to be dangerous when they really aren't, as well as once again, making the school a warzone. That's not to say every vet will have PTSD and snap, but it would take a ton of health screenings to find people, plus the cost of hiring extra security. The resource officer had a sidearm in Parkland, but fear overtook him and he did not fight back. Explain to me why you seem to think giving guns to people who are there to teach is a good idea, but actually funding the schools isn't?

Let's look at how accessible guns are. You can go to any sporting goods store, or even Wal-Mart, and check them out, some stores you can even pick it up and hold the thing. Which isn't exactly an issue, considering shooting sports are a pretty common pastime worldwide, but it's the types you can buy. AR-15s right there, military-grade rifles and handguns just out there for anyone to come over and touch and check the price. They don't even keep them behind the counter like video game stores do with consoles. No, they're just right out for all to touch and see. Plus, as of right now, most stores only require the minimum to sell you a gun – over 18 and clear a quick check, and passing that means you're free to buy whatever weapon you want, regardless of whether or not the ID is fake or not because that's way too much work to find out if it's fake anyway. You can literally buy your groceries, a movie, a board game, a new shirt, and a gun all in the same place in America. Usually in other places in the world, you can only buy a gun from a specific gun store (like yeah you can buy beer at Target but if you want the good stuff, you go to a liquor store). There they are a lot more knowledgeable, they can point you in the right direction and help you figure out the exact gun you need for your purpose – plus, they're bound to know how to spot someone wanting it for crime. And it's not like there's not a lot of gun shops or sporting goods stores with protected gun sections. What's even stranger is that to buy a handgun, you have to be 21 anyway, so why can an 18 year old buy a rifle but not a pistol? Walmart did announce they will be raising the age to buy all guns and ammo to 21, and Dick's Sporting Goods announced they are no longer carrying the AR-15 and will also only sell a gun to someone over 21 – and because stores are allowed to make their own policies, this is just them being a decent company and trying to help prevent the wrong person from getting a gun. By the time this article goes up, it's likely others will follow in their paths. Which every gun seller in the country should be, but as we all know, the NRA runs the show. And in several viral videos, gun owners, specifically those owning AR-15s and other military-grade rifles, are destroying the gun or turning it into the authorities to be destroyed, as to prevent the wrong person from getting it. That's what responsibility is – doing what you can to protect others, even if it's as simple as removing one weapon from circulation. Of course conservatives and Republicans and proud NRA members are angry with people doing this, but you know what? Maybe if you actually cared enough about innocent lives to do something about this in the first place, people wouldn't have to destroy their guns. And for that matter, it is their property and they can do whatever they want with their property anyway, this is a free country.

Many say “it's not guns, it's a mental health issue.” Which is weird, considering there is mental health issues in the United Kingdom, Japan, and Australia, and they passed gun control measures with no problem. None of them have banned guns in general, rather they require permits and classes and a system designed to keep only responsible users owning guns and ammo. For example, in Japan, anyone can get a gun, but you have to apply for the permit with the police, take a class and pass a written test, then pass a psychological exam and a background check, then go buy your gun – but then register it with the police and prove you have the correct ammunition and appropriate storage. After all that, you just have to get the psych exam every year or two, and you can keep the weapon forever. Australia did a buyback program, which surprisingly even criminals wanted in on because they were paying the value of the gun and deep down people are greedy and want money. You can get a gun there too, it just has to be registered and you have to have a firearms license, which much like Japan, proves you're fit to own a weapon that can be used to kill. And in the United Kingdom, you may own a rifle for sport or for hunting, so long as you have the proper paperwork/license, but handguns (save for muzzle-loading pistols) were made illegal because of how easy they were to obtain. They don't make all guns illegal, but they only allow those of sound mind and body to own one. And how exactly is that a bad thing? The guns are registered with the local police so in case of theft, they can track it down easier. Owners are certified safe and sane. And for the most part, historical guns or family heirlooms are still totally allowed, but the police do need it registered for the same reasons. Nothing wrong there. But this is America ruled by a party that allows the NRA to make law and also would sooner see the country be a theocracy then an actual free nation, so logic in America can be totally ignored.

And yes, schools are even teaching kindergarten students what to do if an active shooter enters the building. Some are teaching them to hide in a closet or a corner, which okay, that's not bad in case of any emergency (like if a parent is getting angry and violent in the office or something like that), but others are saying to actually throw papers/chairs, turn over desks, scream, run around the room if the shooter comes into the room. Why? So they'll take more time killing them so that the police can evacuate other students. Children four or five or six years old are being told to sacrifice their lives for others. All because, as I've said several times in this article, Congress won't budge on any gun control measures that would prevent this. Kids are being told not to wear sneakers that light up because if they're in a dark room and they move wrong, the light would reveal the location to a shooter. These are children. Not “kids” like the students in Parkland that are teenagers and can hold a job or drive, no, these are elementary school kids that have been told that if need be, they need to let themselves die so others may live. These are kids who run around the playground pretending to be the Avengers, Jedi, wizards, cops and robbers, and so on. And some people seem to value a gun and the NRA over the lives of these kids who don't understand life and death and shouldn't know what it's like to stare down the barrel of a loaded weapon that will end their life decades early, much less should they be prepared to be killed. Is this the country we want our kids to grow up in? One where they are being treated like soldiers and being trained to die? Like imagine being a kid after being taught to distract the shooter. That is way too heavy to ask of elementary school kids to think about – I might never come home again. High school students shouldn't be thinking that either, but it's scarier knowing that kids who weren't even born when Sandy Hook happened will be learning how to die nobly. Do you actually want that for our country? For our kids?

Go ahead. Ask your conservative/Republican/gun-worshipping friends and family why they willingly support a party that accepts money from a group that has called for removal of legislation, members have openly threatened these kids, and even have told other members they are not “true Americans” because they don't worship Trump and the GOP. I'm serious. Ask them to their face, look them in the eye, and ask how many kids need to die before they'll actually care about anyone other than themselves or their party's checkbook. Ask why if the NRA cares so much about responsible gun owners, why don't they help pass legislation to make sure only those responsible can have a weapon. Or why the GOP won't budge and senators like Marco Rubio don't want to see any control on items designed to kill other people. Or why the NRA/GOP is trying to discredit the survivors of a shooting where many saw their friends die or be otherwise injured – do they not get to speak because they actually have seen things people shouldn't ever see? If they don't answer, or try and defend these anti-control groups and parties and say the Parkland kids don't get to speak, then get away from them fast. And if they would rather anyone be able to get their hands on any gun no matter what and no limits and all that, run fast because they clearly put inanimate objects of murder over human life. If they are upset that people are destroying their weapons in protest of the lack of movement within Congress, don't expect them to actually care about you or anyone else unless you're metal and can fire a hundred rounds a minute. Because they are just as complicit in allowing death and murder and things people shouldn't have to ever deal with by simply allowing senators to be paid out by the NRA. Other countries have gun control measures, and they don't have this problem. Why? Because they know that people's lives are more important than a weapon. But hey, who cares – anybody should be able to get their hands on a weapon designed for combat, so that if the government turns, you know, with their jets and bombers and drones and tanks and even a small group of blindly loyal troops, we can try and fight back? Good luck. Of course it's not all of them, many are open to discussion – but discussion means nothing when the party of choice accepts money and refuses to work on law because a gun group demands they don't. That's the opposite of patriotism, that's a sign of a weak party when they bow to other's demands.

Grow up and decide whether you want to carry a kid out in a body bag with gunshot wounds because you didn't support gun legislation. Look at places like the United Kingdom, Japan, Australia, and Canada, where they have reasonable gun control and procedures in place to prevent those who should not have a weapon from having one. Here you can buy a rifle in Wal-Mart, not far from where the kids can get a Lego set or where you can replace your tires. Yes, we should be able to buy guns, we use them for hunting and maybe one for home defense isn't a bad idea these days. But being able to get a military-grade weapon to just shoot for fun? Like what purpose does it serve beyond making you look tough on the range? Do you value the lives of yourself and your family, or do you care more about a steel tube that explodes? We need to do something to prevent shootings. We need to have people who are educated about proper gun use, make background checks near vacuum sealed, and limit what kinds of guns we can buy. A true responsible gun owner would totally agree with making sure only said responsible owners could have weapons like this – and many do, that's part of what the word “responsible” means. I would rather live in a country of certified responsible and safe gun owners than one where anybody can just buy a gun from the supermarket and kill someone or shoot up a school or a movie theater or a concert or a convention. And if that's what the “patriots” at the NRA and the proud “true American” Republicans want, then they better be prepared to pay for every funeral for everyone gunned down because someone who shouldn't have the weapon has one. Are guns more important than lives? No, they aren't. The sooner the country sees that, the better.

Cover Image Credit: Jesus Aranguren

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This Is How Your Same-Sex Marriage Affects Me As A Catholic Woman

I hear you over there, Bible Bob.
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It won't.

Wait, what?

I promise you did read that right. Not what you were expecting me to say, right? Who another person decides to marry will never in any way affect my own marriage whatsoever. Unless they try to marry the person that I want to, then we might have a few problems.

As a kid, I was raised, baptized, and confirmed into an old school Irish Catholic church in the middle of a small, midwestern town.

Not exactly a place that most people would consider to be very liberal or open-minded. Despite this I was taught to love and accept others as a child, to not cast judgment because the only person fit to judge was God. I learned this from my Grandpa, a man whose love of others was only rivaled by his love of sweets and spoiling his grandkids.

While I learned this at an early age, not everyone else in my hometown — or even within my own church — seemed to get the memo. When same-sex marriage was finally legalized country-wide, I cried tears of joy for some of my closest friends who happen to be members of the LGBTQ community.

I was happy while others I knew were disgusted and even enraged.

"That's not what it says in the bible! Marriage is between a man and a woman!"

"God made Adam and Eve for a reason! Man shall not lie with another man as he would a woman!"

"Homosexuality is a sin! It's bad enough that they're all going to hell, now we're letting them marry?"

Alright, Bible Bob, we get it, you don't agree with same-sex relationships. Honestly, that's not the issue. One of our civil liberties as United States citizens is the freedom of religion. If you believe your religion doesn't support homosexuality that's OK.

What isn't OK is thinking that your religious beliefs should dictate others lives.

What isn't OK is using your religion or your beliefs to take away rights from those who chose to live their life differently than you.

Some members of my church are still convinced that their marriage now means less because people are free to marry whoever they want to. Honestly, I wish I was kidding. Tell me again, Brenda how exactly do Steve and Jason's marriage affect yours and Tom's?

It doesn't. Really, it doesn't affect you at all.

Unless Tom suddenly starts having an affair with Steve their marriage has zero effect on you. You never know Brenda, you and Jason might become best friends by the end of the divorce. (And in that case, Brenda and Tom both need to go to church considering the bible also teaches against adultery and divorce.)

I'll say it one more time for the people in the back: same-sex marriage does not affect you even if you or your religion does not support it. If you don't agree with same-sex marriage then do not marry someone of the same sex. Really, it's a simple concept.

It amazes me that I still actually have to discuss this with some people in 2017. And it amazes me that people use God as a reason to hinder the lives of others.

As a proud young Catholic woman, I wholeheartedly support the LGBTQ community with my entire being.

My God taught me to not hold hate so close to my heart. He told me not to judge and to accept others with open arms. My God taught me to love and I hope yours teaches you the same.

Disclaimer - This article in no way is meant to be an insult to the Bible or religion or the LGBTQ community.

Cover Image Credit: Sushiesque / Flickr

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No, David, We Should Not All Be Progressives

The Founding Fathers may have been progressive FOR THEIR TIME, but the progressives of today are not the same

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I was scrolling through Facebook when a David Pakman video showed up on my timeline. The video's title was "The Founding Fathers were Progressive, and You Should Be Too" and let me just say this: It actually wasn't a bad video.

But you just said we shouldn't all be progressives. Why are you contradicting yourself?

The reality is that while the video itself is informative (although I do wish the sources were linked in the description instead of just shilling his social media, I digress) there are some serious problems.

The biggest problem with this argument (among others) is that Pakman is relying on what Progressivism would have meant during the 18th century. Keep in mind, many of the big European powers were, at the very least, constitutional monarchies. To be a conservative in colonial America would have meant staying under the oppressive tyranny of the British Empire. The founding fathers established a government system that would have promoted liberty, property ownership, capitalism, etc.

It is also important to remember that the Founding Fathers also held a wide array of beliefs in how government should be run. Some were even willing to uphold the institution of slavery (which is not very progressive at all) in the name of ensuring that a central government would not rule in the same tyrannical way the British did. Others were fiscally conservative. Others still were social conservatives, and so on and so forth.

The bottom line is that, in the sense of the word during the 18th century, any form of liberalism would have been considered progressive. And all of the Founding Fathers were liberals. So yes, at that time, they would have been considered progressives.

Of course, definitions change. Movements change. As time goes on, the Progressive movement began to reject the founding principles more and more.

At the turn of the century, a time that became known as the Progressive Era, the likes of Woodrow Wilson declared that the Declaration of Independence was "irrelevant", and many in his camp began to reject natural law as arrogant. These rejections spurred the massive government expansion under Franklin Roosevelt and his New Deal.

Progressives today want to take this rejection of natural law even further. They openly embrace socialism, a system that has killed over 100 million people in the span of a century, and has caused countries like Venezuela to become absolute dung holes.

Progressives today are calling for censorship on college campuses on social media. They conflate legitimate criticism with bigotry, calling anyone who disagrees with them racist, sexist, or homophobic. They use the terms "white nationalist" or "white supremacist" or "Nazi" just to shut down any arguments before they can even begin. They are sowing division to keep us distracted from their failings

The progressive media peddles fake news and propaganda. They will bury news stories that go against their narrative. They are keeping information from the general public. Does any of this sound like a society changing for the better?

The founders would be appalled if they saw what was happening today. So no, David, I'm not going to be a Progressive.

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