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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Austin Alexander Burridge, Volunteer Advocate, Shares 3 Great Reasons to Volunteer and Help Others

Austin Alexander Burridge is an avid academic who studies Environmental Science at Winona State University and believes that work in the service of others is a key pillar to personal development.

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Sometimes it's easy for someone to adopt a "me, me, me" attitude. While focusing on oneself, a person may feel nice in the moment, but serving and helping others will bring lasting benefits. While there are many great reasons to serve and help others, there are three universal truths that resonate with volunteers around the globe.

Austin Alexander Burridge's 3 Reasons to Volunteer:

1. Accomplishment

Often, people fall into a trap of focusing on themselves when they are feeling down. Maybe someone did not get a job they wanted. Or perhaps a person gets dumped by an expected lifelong companion. Maybe someone feels they have underachieved after looking at Facebook and seeing great things a high school classmate has accomplished. When feeling down, helping others is a proven way to improve one's mood and attitude, and it can provide a sense of pride and accomplishment. The act of giving to those in need is an inherently good action and leaves people with a wonderful feeling of joy.

2. Gratitude

One can become more appreciative of life by serving others that have less. Whether volunteering at a soup kitchen, visiting the elderly at an assisted living center, or helping families after a natural disaster, service enables people to be grateful for what they have. Seeing people who have fewer advantages, especially those who are spirited and thankful for small things, allows one to realize just how fortunate he/she is in life.

3. Friendships

Volunteering is a great way to build meaningful friendships, not only with other volunteers but also with those who are served. One of the most profound and fascinating aspects of these relationships is how volunteers will learn from those served and vice versa. As these special bonds are built, they lead to impactful connections that last for years to come.

Of course, these are just a few reasons to volunteer and serve others. One can never go wrong by helping others as opposed to merely focusing on oneself. Volunteering invariably and inevitably contributes to personal growth, development, and satisfaction.

About Austin Alexander Burridge: Helping others has been of paramount importance to Austin, and as a part of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA), Austin gave back to the community around him. He also has participated in annual peanut butter drives, The Minnesota Sandwich Project for the Homeless and collected canned goods for local food shelters. Additionally, Austin has a passion for the environment, which he pursued when visiting the Galapagos Islands, Ecuador, and the Amazon Rain Forest while studying at the School of Environment Studies, which investigates ecological systems and their sustainability

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Saying You "Don't Take Political Stances" IS A Political Stance

All you're doing by saying this is revealing your privilege to not care politically, and here's why that's a problem.

bethkrat
bethkrat
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I'm sure all of us know at least one person who refuses to engage in political discussions - sure, you can make the argument that there is a time and a place to bring up the political happenings of our world today, but you can't possibly ignore it all the time. You bring up the last ridiculous tweet our president sent or you try to discuss your feelings on the new reproductive regulation bills that are rising throughout the states, and they find any excuse to dip out as quickly as possible. They say I don't talk about politics, or I'm apolitical. Well everyone, I'm here to tell you why that's complete bullsh*t.

Many people don't have the luxury and privilege of ignoring the political climate and sitting complacent while terrible things happen in our country. So many issues remain a constant battle for so many, be it the systematic racism that persists in nearly every aspect of our society, the fact that Flint still doesn't have clean water, the thousands of children that have been killed due to gun violence, those drowning in debt from unreasonable medical bills, kids fighting for their rights as citizens while their families are deported and separated from them... you get the point. So many people have to fight every single day because they don't have any other choice. If you have the ability to say that you just don't want to have anything to do with politics, it's because you aren't affected by any failing systems. You have a privilege and it is important to recognize it.

Martin Luther King Jr. once said, "history will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people."

We recognize that bad people exist in this world, and we recognize that they bring forth the systems that fail so many people every single day, but what is even more important to recognize are the silent majority - the people who, by engaging in neutrality, enable and purvey the side of the oppressors by doing nothing for their brothers and sisters on the front lines.

Maybe we think being neutral and not causing conflict is supposed to be about peacekeeping and in some way benefits the political discussion if we don't try to argue. But if we don't call out those who purvey failing systems, even if it's our best friend who says something homophobic, even if it's our representatives who support bills like the abortion ban in Alabama, even if it's our president who denies the fact that climate change is killing our planet faster than we can hope to reverse it, do we not, in essence, by all accounts of technicality side with those pushing the issues forward? If we let our best friend get away with saying something homophobic, will he ever start to change his ways, or will he ever be forced to realize that what he's said isn't something that we can just brush aside? If we let our representatives get away with ratifying abortion bans, how far will the laws go until women have no safe and reasonable control over their own bodily decisions? If we let our president continue to deny climate change, will we not lose our ability to live on this planet by choosing to do nothing?

We cannot pander to people who think that being neutral in times of injustice is a reasonable stance to take. We cannot have sympathy for people who decide they don't want to care about the political climate we're in today. Your attempts at avoiding conflict only make the conflict worse - your silence in this aspect is deafening. You've given ammunition for the oppressors who take your silence and apathy and continue to carry forth their oppression. If you want to be a good person, you need to suck it up and take a stand, or else nothing is going to change. We need to raise the voices of those who struggle to be heard by giving them the support they need to succeed against the opposition.

With all this in mind, just remember for the next time someone tells you that they're apolitical: you know exactly which side they're on.

bethkrat
bethkrat

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