Eds Note: This was sent to us as a comment on John Lawrence’s piece Two Year Old Girl Shot and Killed by Five Year Old Brother Wielding ‘My First Gun’. It was on the long side for a comment, so, with the author’s permission, we are publishing it here.
By Paul Broadway
I know that a young child was killed. I hold the parents accountable, that being said, I know the gun control issue is a divisive and polarizing issue in America. I believe that this divisiveness and polarity is due to the fact that our country has a “Gun Culture” that is based in our laws and traditions. I also believe that the gun violence in America is directly associated with our business, media, and political system and not the product of the actual guns that are available to the American people.
The reason that I believe this?
Let’s take a look at the National Rifle Association. The NRA was once an honorable organization that trained youth organizations and police departments in firearm safety, marksmanship, and responsible gun use.
Today, the NRA is a political shill for any private interest that contributes to their organization. I go to the San Diego Police Range on a regular basis to practice my pistol and revolver skills. I don’t see much good the NRA is doing for the citizens of San Diego at the San Diego Police Range.
As a matter of fact, I was a federal law enforcement officer from 1995-1998. The NRA called me a jackbooted thug when I was risking my life keeping the violent convicted felons inside the walls of a correctional institution. I am not a member of the NRA, but I constantly get the fear mongering propaganda in the mail from them. The NRA is always asking me to become a member, contribute to the NRA to protect my gun rights.
How do they get my mailing address? Every time I buy ammunition, accessories, or firearms, there is a data mining involved with the purchase account that spits out my personal information to the NRA. Who pays for this data mining? The NRA of course. Does the NRA have it in its best interest to permanently solve the gun rights issue? No, they would have to go back to serving the American shooting public in a nonpolitical way. There is no money or glory in that.
On the other hand, as a person who has run for local public office I get solicitations from many nonprofit groups. One of these non profits is Handgun Control Inc. They are the opposite end of the Gun Rights group from the NRA. They are just as interested in ending gun violence as the NRA is. If gun violence disappeared tomorrow, Handgun Control Inc. would have no reason to exist. No reason to pay their executives, directors, and employees the salaries that they make.
This is also true of the Center to Prevent Gun Violence and all of the other non government organizations that reap massive donations after some insane person shoots up a business, school, church, or other gathering place. Over the years, I have received many solicitations, surveys, and other correspondence from these organizations.
I have noticed in all of these solicitations, they don’t post, write, or even reference the four firearm safety rules. You would think that an organization that espouses the need for firearm safety would be interested in helping their fellow citizens understand the four basic rules for safe firearm ownership.
Since I have brought up the Four Firearm Safety Rules, I feel that I must post them for everyone’s personal knowledge:
- All firearms are always loaded
- Never let your muzzle cover anything that you are not willing to destroy.
- Never place your finger on the trigger, unless your sights are on target and you are ready to fire.
- Be sure of your target, what is behind your target, and the range conditions around you.
The first firearm safety rule means that all guns, including toy guns, BB guns, or any other type of projectile platform must be considered to be loaded and ready to fire at all times. There is no such thing as an unloaded gun.
The second firearm safety rule also applies to all of the classes of guns from above. This rule pertains to every case a firearm in in the hands of a human being.
The third firearm safety rule is probably the most broken rule of the four. It is also the rule that causes the most unintentional discharges of firearms.
The fourth firearm safety rule is the one that experts and beginners seem to forget in the heat of the moment the most. This leads me to believe that everyone should be especially vigilant about all shooters following it.
The next issue that has to be addressed in our gun culture is education. In America today, there are over 300,000,000 firearms. There are also 100,000,000 gun owners who own those firearms.
Why does our public school system not have a portion of health education dedicated to firearm safety? Why do our academic scholars, teachers, and public safety professionals not have answers about firearm safety in their education and syllabuses?
We have 20,000 firearm homicides, suicides, and accidents a year in this country, but no tangible assets assigned to educating the American people about the safety issues, morality, and legal implications for the use of firearms. If this situation involved automobiles, power tools, or industrial equipment, there would be a comprehensive education program that would concentrate on promoting and improving safety.
The next factor that affects our gun culture is the media. The media has to be the most mercenary factor in the gun issue. The news media needs circulation. This is true of television, radio, and print. The news media loves sensationalism, sensationalism sells papers, commercial content, and advertisement. Movies show heroes and villains alike violating the four firearm safety rules, callously killing other human beings, and using firearms to solve problems that are simply out of the realm of possibility.
Video games are worse, the video game’s popularity has trained many young Americans to believe that gunning down another human being is completely wonderful and good. There are no legal or moral implications in the virtual world for killing human beings. Couple this with a market that pays the most to the game that is the most violent and young people are going to have the wrong idea about firearm use and misuse.
Then there is the hypocrisy of the television news media.
The news media constantly screams that there are too many guns and gun deaths in the United States of America. They scream how the evil NRA and gun factories are at fault for these horrific events. Yet, I have never seen a talking head on any network use his access to the American people to state the four firearm safety rules.
Those talking heads are always in favor of hunting and target shooting. They are always against those evil assault weapons. They are always in favor of this gun ban or that new law. I have never heard a talking head state honestly that the 20,000 gun laws that are on the books are not enforced. I have never heard one of those talking heads follow up on a mass shooting in regard to the people who assisted the shooter in his deed.
Why do the talking heads never give the names of the people who provided guns to minors or crazy people who commit mass shootings? Why are these people given a pass? Why doesn’t every American know the names of Robyn Anderson, Mark Maines, and Philip Duran? These are the people who provided the Columbine idiots Klebold and Harris the firearms that they used to gun down 13 human beings.
What happened to these individuals? How were they charged? Were they charged with a crime? Why are the news networks not reporting these facts? The prior mentioned individuals obviously violated firearm laws that are on the books. Why doesn’t the average American know what happened to them or even their identity? I guess that kind of information is not newsworthy This is only one example of the media’s inability follow up and live up to their responsibility.
Speaking of journalistic responsibility, sensationalism always comes first. In a recent “Meet the Press” episode, I watched the commentator, David Gregory hold up a 30 round standard NATO assault rifle magazine. I know that this show is filmed in Washington D.C. I also know that it is a crime to possess, transfer, or sale one of these magazines in the Washington D.C. jurisdiction.
Why was Mr. Gregory not arrested and charged with a crime? How did Mr. Gregory obtain this magazine? Who provided it to him? Why does this magazine exist in a jurisdiction that it is illegal to be in? I won’t hold my breath for the answers to those questions. Firearm laws have to pertain to everyone. No one should be able to deal their way out of a firearm violation.
I believe the term “Zero Tolerance” was coined exactly for situations like this. Imagine Mr. Gregory charged, tried, and convicted for just possessing that magazine. Imagine how the populace would view breaking firearm laws if they knew even the powerful and connected could not get away with violating those laws.
Finally, there is the perception and law as it pertains to firearm violence. Perception is one area that the American people are misinformed. The term “Assault Weapon” and “Assault Rifle” are thrown around by every media talking head day in day out. The problem with these terms is they have actual meaning that most Americans don’t understand.
The first “Assault Rifle” was the Sturmgewehr 44. It was invented by the German military industrial complex during World War II. The weapon was designed to provide the German army with a weapon that could fire both semi automatically and fully automatically. That means that it could fire one shot for every pull of the trigger or multiple shots for a pull of a trigger. The weapon had a selector switch that changed the mode of fire.
The German war machine was in a desperate situation regarding raw materials. Because of this, the Sturmgewehr 44 was manufactured using cheaper processes like metal stampings. It was also chambered for a new cartridge. The new cartridge was 7.92 X 33 Millimeter. This cartridge was dimensionally and ballistically weaker than the standard German military cartridge, the 7.92 X 57 Millimeter. This cartridge was designed for three reasons:
- The new cartridge used less brass, gunpowder, and lead, and was weaker.
- The new cartridge was more prone to wound enemy soldiers, rather than kill outright.
- Because the new weapon was produced using cheaper methods, it would not handle the standard German military cartridge. The weapon design was weaker.
Now that you know the history of the “Assault Rifle”, you must take most of what you hear from the media with a grain of salt. Today, in America, we have a law named the “National Firearms Act of 1934”. This law makes it illegal to make, transfer, or sale any weapon that has the ability to fire more than one round per pull of the trigger. Violation of this law is a federal felony.
So those ugly black guns that the news media show on television are not “Assault Rifles”. No gun store can sell machine-guns or assault rifles to the public. Speaking of those ugly black semiautomatic rifles that you see for sale in gun stores and at gun shows, they are chambered for rounds that are too weak to hunt with.
Most of those rifles are chambered for 7.62 X 39 or 5.56 X 45 Millimeter (.223 Remington.) These cartridges are not allowed to be used to hunt animals like Deer, Bear or Elk. The reason that they are not allowed is because they do not kill the animal humanely or at all. These rounds are designed to wound enemy soldiers. The thought behind this choice is a wounded soldier takes several people to support, a dead soldier no one has to care for. So much for the media hype.
To sum up the problem of firearm violence in America, we must consider more than the tool being misused. We must consider our role in promoting violence. We must consider the legal system’s inability to enforce the 20,000 gun laws that are already on the books. We must consider being our brother’s keeper, in regard to our family members, neighbors, and friends who are mentally ill.
We must consider that many of the groups who profess to be solutions to the gun violence problem do not have a vested interest in solving it. We must change our education system to better serve the American people from becoming victims of firearm violence. We must hold our media, television, movies, and radio to higher standard regarding reporting the facts and reducing the sensationalism.
Finally, we must demand that our political leaders quit using the firearm violence issue to raise contributions and exacerbate a problem that is above petty partisanship. In closing, the American people have a right to keep and bear firearms, but we also have a responsibility to use them correctly.
The American political, legal, and civic ideals are based on compromise and consensus. Let’s move ahead and use the best aspects of American life to work together to solve this problem.