• February 21st, 2024
  • Wednesday, 12:34:49 PM

Yes, We Should Control Who Gets to Own a Gun and How They Use It

Photo: Courtesy Arizona Mirror James E. García


James E. García


As I sat down to write about the mass shooting that left 19 children and three adults dead in Uvalde, Texas, it occurred to me that they hadn’t even finished burying the 13 people killed by a white supremacist in the gun massacre a week before in Buffalo, N.Y.


That’s how good we’ve gotten at slaughtering each other.


It’s not that we’re any smarter or tougher or more mentally disturbed than the rest of the world. What makes us No. 1 at committing mass murder at the point of a gun is just that we have more guns. A lot more guns. About 400 million guns at last count.


In 2018, there were enough guns in the United States for every man, woman and child to possess at least one, and still have 67 million guns left over. The U.S. has more guns per capita than any other country in the world.


It’s a shameful and increasingly fatal distinction.


According to an FBI report released just 24 hours before the elementary school massacre in Uvalde, there were “61 active shooter incidents” in 2021 that left 103 people dead and 140 wounded (excluding the shooters). That was a 52% increase over 2020 and 97% increase over 2017.


I can’t help but lament the fact that, even as we’re starting to leave the horror of the global pandemic behind, our country’s pre-COVID epidemic of mass shootings seems to have accelerated.


More than 42,000 people a year — about 125 people a day — die from gunshots in the U.S. (about half of them are suicides), and firearms are now the leading cause of death for children, according to a study in the New England Journal of Medicine.


Let me repeat that last point: firearms are now the leading cause of death for children — and the slaughter in Uvalde has only added to that macabre statistic.


Why does this keep happening?


It’s not a mystery. We not only have too many guns, but too much hate.


There’s a sickness that’s infected America’s soul, psyche and politics. It’s rooted in anger and resentment, part of a dark mentality that regards cultural and demographic change as a threat to the until now unchallenged white power base in this country.


For a major swath of Americans, this is “the greatest country on earth” — and that includes, ironically, the folks who insist we need to “make America great again.” For them, the implication is that America got to be great because white people made it that way, even if they won’t say so out loud.


Two points: Not all white people agree with that racist attitude and it’s an attitude that isn’t confined to white people. Plenty of Brown and Black people I know think the same way, even if people of color have often been excluded from the spoils of that so-called greatness.


It’s a perspective that some of us on the browner side have acquired by osmosis, because, frankly, for most of our lives most of our role models were white. Call it colorblind nativism.


What does this have to do with America’s perverse attraction to guns and the mayhem they cause?


Today’s unfettered proliferation of guns in our communities is a manifestation of the belief — the fear, really — by many in America’s still predominantly white, male power base that our God-given “greatness” is under attack by pretty much anyone who isn’t straight, white and Christian.


To make matters worse, a growing number of the people who think that way are also actively working to dismantle our democracy. That’s what last year’s assault on the U.S. Capitol and ongoing voter suppression efforts are all about.


These are also the same folks who think the only way to curb the growing wave of gun violence is to ensure that every red-blooded, law-abiding citizen (and they must be citizens) owns a gun, or two, or three.


These are also the same folks you’ll see in droves last week at the National Rifle Association (NRA) convention in Houston cheering on gun ownership, just days after the most deadly school massacre in Texas history.


The message at the NRA convention will be “guns are good,” even though 19 children are dead.


At the other end of the political spectrum, meanwhile, the Democrats’ latest gun reform proposals are probably too little and too late.


Tragically, the killing train has left the station.


All of this is to say that Congress must act now and it must act boldly. The American people are tired of piece-meal proposals that purport to promote “gun safety.”


Polls show a clear majority of Americans support legislation that better regulates who gets to own guns and how they get to use them.


Congress needs to pass legislation that does a much better job of controlling who gets to own a gun and how they get to use it.


And we should start by outlawing the possession of assault weapons, like the ones used in Buffalo, Uvalde, San Diego, El Paso, Las Vegas, Pittsburgh, Orlando and the countless other sites of horrific mass shootings we’ve experienced in recent years.


And, yes, that means some people will lose the right to keep their guns, and others may have their guns taken away.


It’s time to acknowledge that we kill each other as much as we do with guns because we can, because guns are so freely available to almost anyone who wants one.


What about the Second Amendment?


Can we also get off the fantasy that the Founding Fathers had a clue that Americans one day would walk around packing weapons powerful enough to massacre dozens of people in a matter of seconds. The authors of the Constitution, who owned weapons that fired a single shot and took at least 20 seconds to reload, didn’t envision AR-15s or fighter jets or tanks or killer drones. But a strict “originalist” and, frankly, dishonest reading of the Second Amendment could argue that I should have a right to own any one of those weapons.


If that argument seems absurd, it’s because it is. But it’s no less absurd than the argument being propagated today by the right-wing, pro-gun lobby that says the man in Uvalde who slaughtered those 19 children had an absolute right to possess the weapon of war he used to commit that unimaginable atrocity.


Congress needs to pass legislation that does a much better job of controlling who gets to own a gun and how they get to use it.


Because if we don’t, Americans will just keep finding themselves staring down the wrong end of a gun barrel, slaughtered in the name of the right to wield weapons of war.



James E. García is a Phoenix-based journalist, playwright and communications consultant. This article is republished from Arizona Mirror under a Creative Commons license.


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