Why Gun Control is the Wrong Conversation [Opinion]
In regard to the title of this post, I am referring specifically to these mass shootings that are plaguing our nation. I know that these crimes account for a relatively small percentage of the overall gun fatalities in our country, but these are the crimes that elicit the biggest emotional response from the public at large and inevitably lead to gun control debates.
I am going to do my best to not fuel political fires here, because that is not my intention. I have no desire to sway anyone's belief, for or against guns, I just want to go on record as saying that I hope we address the larger issue of mental health at some point.
I was raised in a house with plenty of firepower. After 21 years in the Marine Corps, including 42 months in Vietnam, my dad was accustomed to having a certain amount of security measures in place. We lived out in the county and sheriff response time would have been somewhere in the 40-minute range. Of course, even if they were just "down the street," they would likely have gotten a call after things had been dealt with. For our family, guns, and the ability to use them properly, made sense.
From a very early age I was taught to respect certain things: weapons, elders, life, animals, electricity, etc. I never touched a gun unsupervised because I knew better -- and because dad scared the hell out of me when I did something wrong.
In my middle and high school years I had my share of conflicts, some of which lead to bloody noses, black eyes and busted lips. The funny thing is, it absolutely never entered my mind to go get a gun out of the house and shoot somebody. I certainly had access, but it just never crossed my mind. Since I was never shot, I'm apparently not special in that sense. Where I grew up, I would say more than 90 percent of the households had one or more guns, but our gun crimes, especially juvenile ones, were virtually nonexistent.
So what has changed? We hear reasons citing everything from family values to violent video games. Personally, I am certain that there is no video game I could play, movie I could watch, music I could listen to, or conversation I could have that would turn me into a murderer. I just know better. For people who are mentally unstable, however, I do think any of those could be catalysts to their crimes.
In the most recent mass shooting tragedy to date, the Oregon shooter's mother was well aware her son was suffering from mental problems. He was allegedly coping with Asperger's syndrome and was sporadically taking medication to control his mental state. To be clear, just because someone is suffering with Asperger's does not in any way mean they're a violent person, but in the case of her son, his frustrations with the world around him were apparent. In spite of this knowledge, she shared a love of guns with him and kept her house armed with accessible, loaded weapons.
This woman is a nurse. I don't know her criminal background, but I doubt tougher gun laws, barring an outright ban, would have prevented her from owning a firearm. In my opinion, since she admitted on multiple occasions that her son was mentally unstable, I feel she had a responsibility to keep him away from weapons of any kind. Even though her son was an adult and she can't legally be held responsible for his crimes, I can only imagine how the victims and their families feel toward this woman. She had a ticking time bomb in her house and enabled him to live out his violent fantasies.
People on both sides of the gun control debate have acknowledged that mental illness is the key factor in these mass killings. There are, of course, cases where people seem to snap without warning, but that isn't what happened here. Shouldn't this woman share some of the responsibility for what happened at Umpqua Community College? Shouldn't she have been concerned with her son's disgust with people and obsession with firearms rather than fueling both?
I see no need to echo all of the reasons we have heard for pro or anti gun control, but I do want to say this: Crazy people shouldn't have guns. I know that sounds trite and obvious, but it evidently wasn't obvious to the Oregon shooter's mother.
If you know someone who is mentally unstable and is collecting an arsenal, or making comments about hurting people, for God's sake don't stay quiet. Don't turn into one of those people on the news who says things like, "Well, he said he was going to go shoot a bunch of people, but we didn't believe he'd actually do it." You may not be guilty of a crime by assuming someone is joking, but you very well may have a huge burden to carry for the rest of your life if it turns out you're wrong.