Guns. Rifles, shotguns, handguns, machine guns, assault rifles, pieces, boom sticks -- whatever you call them, when the subject of firearms is raised, it seems everyone -- even the most reserved of personalities -- has an opinion on the state of gun control in our country. As of late, especially with the tragedy in Newtown fresh in our minds, it seems you cannot turn on the television or radio without a new proposed method to control the sale of guns being trotted out for our approval. Unfortunately, we are once again being reactive instead of proactive, and while these new laws and edicts may silence some of the critics of our supposedly "too lenient" gun laws, it really does nothing at all to curtail the sale or use of illegal firearms.
One of the things we love to do in this country is wait until a tragedy happens and then make a slew of laws in the wake of that tragedy, purportedly to prevent such a crime from happening again. We did it after 9-11 with all the TSA security changes and the passage of the Aviation and Transportation Security Act. We did it after the kidnap and rape of Megan Kanka in 1996 with Megan's Law. And here we are in 2013, ready to do it again after the tragedy in Newtown. While some good comes of these laws, for sure, passing statutes right after tragedy is much like going food shopping when hungry -- you end up with a pantry full of junk food and a refrigerator full of baloney. All the instant gratification foods we love are right at our fingertips, but the chop-meat and Idaho potatoes we use to make a healthy meal fall by the wayside. It is exactly the same with these laws. Instead of taking the time to consider the facts and design an informed and effective statute, we rush to put anything on the books in order to sate the bloodlust of revenge that the American public so overwhelmingly displays (if you listen to the media, that is).
While some reactionary laws, like Megan's Law, can actually end up doing some good, gun laws made in the wake of tragedy have little chance of doing so, and there is one major reason why. Let me begin by telling you the story of how pain medicine prescription handling has changed in New York over the last 10 years.
Since I have suffered from severe Rheumatoid Arthritis from more than 25 years, there is little left for me in the realm of medicine to provide quality of life other than copious amounts of narcotics. My joints have been damaged beyond repair, and the cartilage in many of them is non-existent. In addition, I have four prosthetic replacements, with a fifth scheduled for sometime in the next year. You get the picture -- I suffer constant pain and narcotic medicine is my only recourse. Ten years ago, when I began taking the more potent pills, it was very easy to obtain these medicines at the pharmacy. My doctor could write me a script for as much medicine as I needed, with at least three refills so I did not have to return to him for months. Suddenly and without warning, New York State changed the law so that only a handful of approved diseases could use narcotic scripts with refills. So, from that point on, I had to see my doctor once a month. That meant more money and time spent to see a doctor for a disease that had not changed at all, but I did what I had to do. A year or so after that, I became stranded upstate in New York, and needed my doctor to call in my narcotic prescription to the local pharmacy, as he had done many times in the past. Much to my horror, I was informed that the law now stated that only a seven-day supply could be called in, and in addition, the doctor had to mail a written script to said pharmacy as soon as possible. Once again, law changes that made my life more difficult. Finally, years later, I was planning to go on vacation, and I needed my pain medication filled a week early. Well, as you can imagine, New York State had a problem with this, and I was unable to fill my current script before the 30-day limit was up. The only way I was able to receive pills for my upcoming vacation was to have my doctor increase the amount of medicine I took in order to be able to fill the script early. Once again, another bothersome law change. I think you get the picture at this point. (All of these law changes and stipulations can be read about here.) The law changes inconvenienced me, the legitimate user, and likely did not do much to stop the illegal abuser. People who abuse narcotic pain medicine don't generally obtain pills legally, and if they do, the doctor is sometimes in cahoots so pharmacy rules don't prevent the dispensation of the narcotics anyway.
The situation with gun control is very similar to the pain pill situation. Gun laws will only inconvenience those who are willing to legally obtain their firearms. According to statistics, anywhere from 6 percent -- 14 percent of criminals obtain their guns legally. Conservatively, let's say that means 80 percent of criminals get their guns from sources that don't run background checks or obey gun laws. Many guns are stolen in burglaries from users who have legitimately obtained them. What this ultimately means is that the large majority of guns are obtained illegally, so knee-jerk reactionary laws made in the wake of tragedy do nothing at all unless you plan to ban the sale of guns entirely. Now, I know many of you out there feel that there is no reason for citizens to own anything more than a hunting rifle, and I can see the logic in that. There really is no reason to duck hunt with an Uzi, and there is very little danger of Queen Elizabeth II sending her Redcoats over to the colonies to collect 237 years of back taxes. So gun ownership is a mixed bag, at best.
Let's face it though, changing the Constitution to remove the right to bear arms would be near-impossible with the way that our opposing political parties fight these days. To achieve a passing vote in two-thirds of both the House and the Senate, and then to have it ratified by three-fourths of the states is a pipe-dream, plain and simple. So even if a state bans firearms totally, you can bet someone will challenge the law and the case will eventually end up in the Supreme Court, which I cannot see upholding the ban. So, it looks like guns are here to stay, at least for the foreseeable future. As with almost everything else, instead of reactionary laws, the best way to combat illegal gun use is with better education and increased vigilance. Either that, or stop making bullets.