Love them or hate them, guns are continually showing up in the headlines. What has changed the face of the gun debate is the increased number of shootings around the world. Whether it be from war, terrorism, mentally unstable citizens or rogue police, the question of guns in society will slowly force its way back to the top of people's minds. The question of whether or not to ban guns outright or to better regulate them is a hot-button issue with almost every American. Is there a middle ground to gun rights?
Guns have been a part of our society for generations. In my own family, I grew up with guns, having a dad in the U.S. Marine Corp and a grandpa in the U.S. Army. Like having a skateboard or a dog, having guns in our home was never a question. Guns were respected for what they were but were never associated with anything evil. Even with all the news about various shootings, assassination attempts and murders, the thought that guns were "evil tools of death" never came to mind.
Americans who are for gun rights point to the Second Amendment, which talks about the right to bear arms. But the reality is that laws and rights can be interpreted in many ways, giving light to both sides of the argument. In theory, one can find ways to support either side, depending on whether you're a gun advocate or a gun hater. Debates that reply on laws and rights will always eventually end up locked in court battles, but that does little to solve the current crop of gun-related problems.
There are large institutions like the NRA that gather pro-gun folks in attempts to fight those who would ban guns from U.S. citizens. The NRA, while started as a grassroots organization to help gun advocates find a voice, has grown to such a size that it is seen as more of a bully than an advocate. Outrageous claims that guns should be in teachers' hands or carried around in every Starbucks can be incredibly dangerous -- "Would you like a shootout to go with your tall latte?"
The incident in Ottawa yesterday puts an exclamation point on the benefits of guns -- when in the right hands, at the right time. Note that if either of these qualifiers is not met, then there is no guarantee that a gun will be used safely or socially. If a gun is in the wrong hands, like the Sandy Hook case of a mentally unstable person, then disaster is the result. The Ottawa case is an example of the right hands and the right time. If Sergeant-at-Arms Kevin Vickers had happened to forget his gun at home that day, who knows how many more people would have been killed?
Anti-gun advocates call for guns to be banned altogether from citizens. Although it sounds nice, the reality is that bans only take away guns from law-abiding people who register their weapons. We see cases of this in England, where even constables are limited in their ability to carry guns, that show bad guys shooting at unarmed cops who end up hiding behind their Fiats while being shot at. One of the biggest arguments for gun rights is the mere fact that crooks don't follow laws to begin with. This means that the bad guy keeps his AK-47 while lawful citizens are forced to turn their guns in.
This same effect is an issue with our U.S. immigration policy, where law-abiding undocumented immigrants, who work and pay taxes, get deported simply because they registered with the government, while undocumented immigrants who come here to sell drugs are protected because they can hide so easily. Such is the case with crooks with guns, because they typically use stolen or unregistered guns.
I'm glad that Sergeant-at-Arms Kevin Vickers had his gun that day. And I'm glad for every day that guns save countless lives in the hands of good people, like soldiers, guards and law enforcement. Sure, there are issues, and nobody is perfect. But bad guys don't care about bans or laws when they have guns to work with.
It's a tough call to try to ban something that only takes away from good people.
How many more shootings have to happen until people realize this?