Oct 28, 2015

Posted by in My Viewpoints | 0 Comments

Gun Violence: Place the Blame on People

Foreword: This post comes from something I put on Facebook on July 22nd 2015, right after the Charleston shooting.

At this point I’m kind of getting frustrated by many of the ignorant comments I’ve read in the news by politicians and readers alike, so I feel strongly about speaking up on this one. I feel like I need to speak up on this one, to at least try to give a rational opposing voice (because thanks to today’s media, you’re only going to hear the voice of extremists, they make better headlines).

Before I start though, let me say that if you intend to comment on this post, do me the favor of reading the post in its entirety. There is no summary, and I have no intentions of debating. These are my honest thoughts, and I’ve spent about a month rolling them around to make sure I was as clear as possible in what I wanted to say without minimizing the issues at hand. That being said, onto the meat and potatoes of this post…

What happened in Charleston was a tragedy. There is no doubt about that. Nine people lost their lives to hate over something they had no control over that also had zero negative impact on anyone else (their race). It’s not the first of its crime though, and likely not the last, which is terrible.

However, I am growing rapidly tired about hearing guns be blamed for this, or any other tragedy caused by a firearm. As someone who has grown up in a household with firearms all my life, and who has had the opportunity to handle them all my life, I am well aware that they are not a force to be taken lightly. That being said, I have never once had the urge to use them against another human being. In fact, I was brought up under the strict rule that you didn’t so much as let the firearm point at even a toe, not even while shifting its position, because you never EVER pointed a gun at another person unless you intend to shoot (to the point that we never even had nerf guns, because there was to be no simulation either); and IF that is the case your life had best be in danger. So myself and my siblings were raised to respect these firearms my father owned for the purpose of hunting (and we also enjoyed the venison he might bring home once a year, because he didn’t take just any deer, he doesn’t just kill and walk away). We were never told we couldn’t hold the firearms though, which might sound crazy to someone who didn’t grow up in the situation, but we thusly never had a curiosity about them that would make us try to secretly handle them. My father was always present with us when we wanted to see them, and they were never loaded (ammunition wasn’t anywhere near them in fact). The firearms were kept locked in a case that was right in our play area (small house, our play area was not a room but a loft), and we never bothered them. Never even crossed our minds. Why would it, when Dad always satisfied any curiosity or questions we might have?

I suspect it was similar for all kids in my area, because most homes have firearms in them here. We’re out in the woods, it just seems to be a thing. You know what we don’t have out here? Deaths by guns. People do not shoot each other here. We have stabbings, poisoning, and other terrible deaths. But in my lifetime not one person has been shot and killed.

Curious, I looked up the rate of death by firearms in general, as compared to something else… traffic accidents. Traffic accidents take many lives in our town because kids think they’re cool drifting around bends on our unpaved roads, or driving too fast, or just plain not paying close enough attention to the road and missing a bend (mountain roads are very wind-y). I hate to think how many people I’ve known (at least by name), who have lost their life to a traffic accident.

There are no complete stats out yet for 2014 (which stinks, but what can you do), however the CDC reported MORE deaths by traffic accidents than by firearms. Not by much (just 0.1%), but the fact remains that you are slightly more likely to die in your car than to be shot. Source: http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/injury.htm

So why is it we are all up in arms over making it harder to get firearms, infringing on our 2nd amendment in the Bill of Rights, but we hear nothing about making our roads safer (and vehicles are not a protected right)? Because guns can be sensationalized, and we have become numb to traffic accidents, most likely.

Now, I’m not saying that we shouldn’t do something to try and lessen the deaths by firearms. But, shouldn’t we equally do something to lessen the deaths by traffic accidents too? I feel like of the two weapons (firearm and vehicle), the vehicle is an easier one to get your hands on (just steal the keys, done, and almost everyone has one; firearms are a little more tricky to locate).

That being said, what is it that actually kills people? It’s not the firearm, and it’s not the vehicle. They’re just the tools. If you leave them alone, they’ll harm no one. In safe hands, they’ll harm no one. It’s when someone who has ill-intentions gets their hands on this tool, that a problem arises.

What no one seems to be addressing, is that these deaths are caused by people who have no respect for others. Making things “safer” (I use quotations because those with the strong intent to harm will find a way to bypass all that) is not going to fix this lack of respect for fellow life. Trying to make things safer is not a bad thing, but it’s only putting a band-aid on the actual, underlying problem.

People need to be taught to respect other people, even if they don’t like the person.

I could care less about how a person feels about another person, so long as they give them basic respect and aren’t offensive. I’d like to quote my friend on this one: “You are not your thoughts.” Bear with me here.

What this means is, you can see someone of a different race or lifestyle on the street. The thought that can pop into your head might be very offensive. However, you don’t have to act on that thought. We see things in the media and from our peers and elders every day that may give us these thoughts unintentionally. It’s our actions that are going to affect the other person though. So even though your first thought may be offensive, you have the ability to dismiss it, smile, and greet them respectfully. No one says you have to become their best friend. But there’s no reason to strike them down with negativity, either. You are not your thoughts.

The thing we’re facing right now, as people are killed en-masse, is not about a lack of safety. It’s about a lack of respect. It’s kids being influenced by society, parents, and the internet; making poor decisions and causing destruction for reasons we thought we got away from.

You can make firearms safer. You can restrict vehicles more. But unless you address the actual problem, this lack of a respect for fellow life, people are still going to find a way to kill other people. Maybe they’ll only get six instead of nine, but someone is still going to be dead. Even one is too many. I’m going to repeat that.


But you can’t take away everything that kills, because you’d end up with nothing. ANYTHING can be used to kill, if the intent is there.

In the end there is no way to create a utopia. Too many people have too many differing opinions. However, I really think that if we take the time to teach the value of ALL life, we can make the world safer than just by putting more safety restrictions on the tools used by the hands of people who lack this value.

Firearms, knives, vehicles, poisons, blunt objects; they’re not the problem, just the tools. People are the problem. Education is the key. Parents need to put aside their hatred enough to teach respect. Teachers need to aid this teaching of respect. Bullies need to actually be punished (regardless of how much mommy and daddy claim they’re a good kid), and we need to instill that there is no excuse for disrespecting another, and that there are consequences to those actions. We need to make people think twice about what they say or do before acting on it, so it becomes second nature not to act like the scum of society. Most importantly, when we do this we need to be fair in the consequences to the actions. You cannot punish one more harshly than the other for the same actions, simply because one is a different race, gender, sexuality, ect. And, you cannot let it slide if the victim in the case stooped as low as the bully, because that will reinforce that it’s okay to meet hate with hate.

In essence, we need to do something about the human condition. We need to remove these invisible lines dividing us because we look and act different. News flash, unless you’re an identical twin, everyone looks a little different, and definitely acts a little different. We’re like snowflakes. And that’s okay, because it makes us beautiful.

Not everyone is taught this though (and the internet does not help, sadly). And therein lies the actual problem.

I won’t say we ought to be teaching love, because truly there are always going to be people you just cannot stand (sometimes for no other reason than their voice grates on your ears). I will say that we need to teach respect. Respect, not hate. Just because you don’t like somebody does not give you the right to treat them badly. That’s what we need to teach. And that, I feel, will help solve this problem [of mass killings] more than any gun safety or car safety ever will.

If you’ve made it this far, thank you for sticking with my long thought. Really needed to get it off my mind, and I hope I’ve worded myself clearly enough. I don’t excuse any of the terrible actions that have taken life, and I don’t disagree that we need to do something about it. I just feel we’re being pushed into a frenzy by the media, and focusing entirely on the wrong things.

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