After 2017’s Las Vegas shooting, my 20-year-old son texted me: “If your generation doesn’t do something about this, we never will. You guys still freak out every time there’s a shooting, but this is normalcy for us.”
His words shot me down.
… this is normalcy for us.
I’m a gun owner. I sometimes carry concealed with my 40 caliber snug against the small of my back. It’s loaded with hollow points because (as I was taught) … If a situation calls for you to shoot, it had better count. And if somebody’s good enough for one bullet, he’s good enough for all of them. Most of the men in my family are hunters. My wife’s stepdad is among the President’s Hundred (the top military and civilian shooters in America).
What, exactly, did my son expect my generation to do? As my friends and family point out, gun legislation won’t fix this. We already have lots of gun laws. Crazy will still find a way to kill you with fertilizer if it can’t get hold of an assault rifle. Gun laws just don’t seem to reduce the odds of burying your kid after another mass shooting in America (although they seem to work in other countries, but we don’t live in other countries).
Still, Ben’s text haunted me, so I looked into it.
What I found confirmed what I already knew: After major gun legislation, American gun violence statistics didn’t decline. Our country did not become safer. That’s a fact.
In 1994, former President Reagan helped push for legislation that banned certain “assault” weapons (an overused label, defined by the bill here) and limited magazine capacity. The hope was to reduce someone’s ability to kill large numbers in a short amount of time. Indeed, it was a noble effort with a logical argument. Unfortunately, we have to accept the reality of statistics.
In the twelve years prior to that legislation, America experienced roughly 1.5 mass shootings per year. During the decade of that assault weapons ban, we suffered approximately 1.5 mass shootings per year. There was a statistical spike and decline, but overall, the average remained the same.
My conclusion: Gun legislation didn’t reduce the violence.
Restrictions on gun ownership simply didn’t make our kids safer.
But what happens in the absence of such laws?
That 1994 legislation expired in 2004. It disappeared because of a “Sunset” clause.
Mass shootings climbed from an annual average of 1.5 to approximately 4.4 per year. And that’s just through October, 2017 when I crunched the numbers. That figure has since climbed even higher. My soul simply can’t take adding in the increased body count. We’ve already had multiple school shootings in 2018. School shootings, folks. Our kids. Not to mention all the other mass shootings (there have been several). And we’re only 46 days into the year.
I can hear what’s being said in response to these numbers:
“But crazy people will still find a way to kill you! This is a problem of the heart and mind!”
I not only agree with that, but I’ve said it myself. Still, the fact remains: Since Sandy Hook, literally thousands of gun bills have been proposed in America with less than 10% of those becoming law. However, of those passed, approximately 70% actually relaxed prior gun restrictions. In other words, we added more gun laws, but they didn’t tighten restrictions; they crippled or eliminated prior limits. The result: Our kids are now living with the normalcy of a war zone we created.
We have to do better. We have to be better.
“If your generation doesn’t do something about this, we never will. You guys still freak out every time there’s a shooting, but this is normalcy for us.”
I am assaulted by the words of my son.
No doubt, gun legislation can’t guarantee the safety of our kids; nor will it ever fix “crazy.” However, that pivotal 1994 legislation did (as Reagan urged in his comments to Congress) “dry up the supply” and kept things from getting worse.
Which they are now.
Indeed, there are too many tentacles on this monster—mental health, education, parenting, media, socio-economics, religion … (it’s a long list) … to just harp about gun laws. Gun restrictions won’t fix the multitude of core problems; nor will they turn back the dial. But if effective gun legislation can at least halt the escalation of mass shootings, isn’t that enough for now?
I could live with not being able to buy a new 30-round magazine while we work together to figure out some of this other stuff.
It would be crazy for us to do nothing.
And as it now stands, crazy has legal, open access to military grade weapons.
Friends, we’re struggling because very few people are willing to talk. We find our camps of like-minded people, dig our trenches and settle in for a long siege. When met with an opposing view, we just write off “the other” as a Nazi, Libtard, White Supremacist, Snowflake, Gun-humper … (I’ve seen some dandies).
If we disagree with someone, we can’t just categorize them as the enemy. We can’t continue down that path. It won’t end well for any of us. We’ve got to come together and have some hard conversations. And if our leaders can’t do the same, let’s replace them with people who will. I’m sick to death of the political lines in the sand from both sides of the aisle.
Just remember — Be kind. Be respectful. Be open. We could all stand to learn something by listening with our hearts.
I know I have.
You might not agree with the former president on many things, but in this case, #ReaganWasRight
Please share this in kindness and keep the conversation going.
Our kids need us to at least try to fix this.