There are few issues more divisive in this country than the continued disagreement over what causes gun violence. Lately it seems like mass shootings are occurring so frequently that they've become regular events. Here we are in the aftermath of yet another mass murder committed by an angry young man with a gun, who decided to vent his rage by killing nine people on a college campus and injuring many more.
With social media and other forums, people's reactions to these sorts of mass murders are shared almost immediately, and while most Americans, including quite a few who own guns, seem to share a feeling of shock and disgust that these types of crimes occur so often here, many hardcore gun culture people have a different take. Here are a few of the things that they seem to argue in the aftermath of every mass shooting.
6. They Don't Want Anyone Suggesting That We Need Better Regulations to Do So Publicly.
In the hours and days immediately following a mass shooting, politicians or others in positions of power who dare to speak out about our nation's bizarre obsession with guns will often be criticized for "politicizing the moment." They'll make the strange claim that anyone who wants to discuss why these kinds of crimes happen in the USA far more frequently than in other developed nations is exploiting the victims in some way. It's a bullshit tactic that's really used to keep critics from assigning any blame to a badly regulated system that allows too many guns to find their way into the hands of murderous assholes.
Recently, I wrote an article about how I was once the type of person who could've been categorized as a gun nut, but that over time my opinions about gun culture had changed. That piece got a lot of angry comments from pro-gun people claiming that I was some sort of liberal "operative" who'd made my story up, just to criticize attitudes about guns in this country. I have a thick skin, and those comments didn't bother me, but the reaction was telling. Some pro-gun people probably realize that the rest of us are angry and horrified following the news of yet another mass shooting, and they fear that if enough of us get outraged, the tide of public opinion could go against them and lead to new calls for gun restrictions.
As time goes by after a shooting, the same people who didn't want anyone taking the moment to discuss gun violence tend to dig in, and refuse to have any conversation about gun restrictions. To many of them, the time for that debate is "never," and it's understandable why — they must realize that their arguments supporting doing nothing are starting to look ridiculous to a large percentage of Americans and are losing ground.
5. It's Not a Gun Problem, It's a Cultural Problem.
I can't count how many times I've heard some variation of this argument in the wake of a mass shooting. People will say that guns aren't to blame for all the murders carried out with firearms, but that instead there are too many people in America with no sense of morality or value for human life.
I would agree that this country has long fetishized guns, portraying them in films and games as almost magical power totems the good guys and bad guys use to assert dominance over others, and that has created a toxic attitude that some people have toward firearms as ways to handle their problems. Still, this argument is another attempt at redirecting the public's attention away from the problem of guns being easily available to people who definitely shouldn't have them and onto a "culture of violence" scapegoat instead.
The thing is that even if America were home to a more violent populace than other developed countries, policies making it easier for potentially violent people to get their hands on guns aren't doing us any favors. So even if there is a rampant disregard for human life in America today, having so many guns available as easily as they are isn't helping. Which brings us to another, related argument...
4. Pandora's Box — There Are Already Millions of Guns Here.
This is an old pro-gun argument, and one that I used to support myself. In a country with millions of people owning millions of guns, isn't it too late to attempt to put a cork in this bottle? Wouldn't imposing any new restrictions on guns really affect only law-abiding owners and not the types of criminals who pose a threat to the public?
It's the old "If guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns" bit, and while that might look cool splashed across the front of a T-shirt at a Skynyrd concert, it doesn't really hold up well when examined closely. Sure, there are a few folks on the extreme end of gun control efforts who would like to see an immediate ban on all privately owned firearms, but most people aren't interested in that; they'd just like to see better regulations to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous and violent people.
Most Americans seem to understand that a total ban wouldn't be possible or desirable, but what we have now isn't really working anymore. Over time, sensible restrictions curtailing straw purchases and other gaps in our current laws that give the wrong people easy access to firearms could help. Making sure that people with certain mental illnesses or violent tendencies have fewer opportunities to get their hands on a gun might make our society a little safer, and frankly we're at a point where more and more people feel that outweighs the right of a potential gun owner to not be slightly inconvenienced when trying to purchase a gun.
It would be a slow process, but over time the number of guns "floating around" out there could begin to shrink. The argument many hardcore gun people make is that the only strategy that will help is arming the "good guys" more. That kind of arms-race strategy seems ultimately doomed to fail, unless you're a person who owns a lot of stock in a gun manufacturing company.
3. They Equate Any New Regulations As Leading to a Complete Ban.
I touched on this already, but in the aftermath of a mass shooting, gun rights advocates inevitably start to panic about a possible ban resulting from the tragedy. That's part of the reason they worry about the President or other politicians speaking out about gun violence soon after a shooting, since they realize that emotions are running high and the public just might throw its support behind new legislation supporting stronger restrictions on firearms.
While it's true that there have been assault weapon bans in the past, and certain parts of the country have regulations on other guns, there has never been a complete ban here, and there probably never will be. Obama hasn't come for everyone's guns, although some folks still seem to worry that's our government's ultimate goal, which seems paranoid to me.
The worry about some sort of draconian regulation is strong enough that in the aftermath of mass shootings, some people will buy up guns and ammo as fast as they can, afraid of new laws that could prevent them from legally owning them in the future. That's a pretty sad response to a tragedy where a bunch of people lost their lives to gun violence.
2. They Talk About How No New Regulations Can Reduce Violence.
After most mass shootings, when the debate turns toward the idea of creating new or better legislation to help prevent future crimes of that sort, many pro-gun people will begin to argue that no new laws will achieve anything positive. Usually that's coupled with their resistance to any regulations that might inconvenience people such as themselves, and some will argue that a law that would do so has to be perfect in order to be worthwhile.
For these people, any new gun regulations would have to almost completely eradicate all gun violence to be worth it. That's a pretty extreme standard to have to meet. Essentially they're saying that anything short of perfect results is not worthwhile, and their convenience is worth the price of a few more dead people every year.
No laws are ever perfect, and with an issue as complex as America's problems with gun violence, it will take some work. If some guy has to wait an extra day while a mental health background check is performed, it's probably worth the minor inconvenience to him for that extra measure of public safety. I constantly hear some version of "We already have 20 billion gun laws on the books, and none of them are helping." Well, that means we need to try new things and work harder, not just throw in the towel and then shake our heads when the next mass shooting occurs.
1. They Say America Is Safer Than Ever, and Mass Shootings Are Rare Events.
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!
One thing that many pro-gun people often point out is that there has been an overall trend of less gun violence over the past 25 years or so, and that is true. However, in very recent years, a large increase in the sorts of mass shootings that we've gotten used to hearing about has been occurring.
A recent study by Harvard University found that incidents of those types of shootings have tripled over the past three years, and that between 1982 and 2011, mass shootings in America happened every 200 days or so, but since 2011 have been occurring about every 64 days — a chilling increase.
The same study made several broad suggestions for things that might help, and it's unsurprising that better screening for risk factors and passing stricter gun controls are among those ideas. As a gun owner myself, I don't think either of those are bad approaches, and I don't understand people who think we should continue to keep the same regulations we have, even though society and the challenges we face continue to change.
"Stricter regulations" and "better screenings for risk factors" are not the same thing as demanding a complete ban on gun ownership, and reasonable gun owners should begin to support measures that might help reduce the number of mass shootings in this country. Stricter regulations alone won't fix a problem as complex as this, but they are probably part of any realistic solution, and we need to quit pretending that they aren't.