On a whim, I recently asked 10 of my fellow gunsmithing students what they believe is the biggest threat to private firearms ownership with the expectation they would blame “liberals” for the onslaught against gun rights.
Instead, eight out of ten identified the “media” as the biggest threat. It is their opinion the media highlights negative stories about accidents, shootings, suicides, and other harmful acts committed with guns, but does nothing to show the positive, sporting, self-defense, historical, and cultural aspects of gun ownership. Their ire toward the “media” is valid to the extent that firearms ownership is almost always portrayed in the mainstream media as evil, somehow deranged, and ultimately dangerous to us all.
As a liberal gun owner, I know this is not the case. Firearms ownership in our country has deeply ingrained cultural and historical significance, has helped people warn and fight off attackers, and provides numerous recreational benefits to millions of Americans.
I see the “media” issue as three-fold. First, there is the ignorance about guns portrayed by reporters who have no clue about gun safety, proper terminology, and the myriad issues related to private firearms ownership. Secondly, the media culture these days seems to preferentially promote negative stories about guns and gun ownership to the exclusion of stories that support the opposite narrative. As is often the case, “if it bleeds, it leads”. And, thirdly, they see firearms availability as the problem rather than addressing the underlying causes of their misuse. They fail to identify the root causes of violence, suicide, accidental shooting, and other societal and individual problems as the ultimate cause of people hurting and killing themselves and others with guns. In this way, firearms ownership becomes the scapegoat and completely removing guns from our society becomes the easiest answer. This avenue is both short-sighted and unconstitutional. Without addressing the root causes, they will continue to be a problem with or without guns.
And, as long as the Second Amendment is in force, Americans still have a right “to keep and bear arms” as upheld in recent court decisions. Although some limitations can and are placed on the right, primarily for specific public safety concerns, the Supreme Court has upheld the right cannot be abridged out of existence.
In order to keep this right alive and to address the issue, we need to take a deeper look. The Liberal Gun Club promotes the idea of “root cause mitigation”…the idea that the underlying issues related to violence and suicide need to be addressed and that use of guns in the commission of violence and suicide are symptoms of serious underlying societal and individual problems. As a liberal gun owner, I see one of the biggest threats to private firearms ownership as those influences and environmental factors that contribute to and cause people to commit violence, take their own and others’ innocent lives, and violate the tenets of firearms safety with resulting accidental and negligent shootings. In reality, people don’t hate guns so much as they hate what some people do with them that brings harm to themselves and others.
Every murder, robbery, domestic violence dispute, suicide, mass shooting, home invasion, and accident leading to death or maiming that occurs with the use of a firearm is another point against us in the court of public opinion and invariably shows up as a news story in newspapers and the six o’ clock evening news. They serve as potential nails in the coffin of gun rights. As gun owners we need to demand our country and communities address the causes of violence, suicide, and accidental shootings in our society.
Recently, it was noted that middle-aged men are dying at a much higher rate than other groups due to alcoholism, suicide, drug-dependency, and stress-related illnesses. Young people are experiencing hopelessness and despair as they find it increasingly difficult to pursue educational, vocational, and social goals. Violence in inner-city communities has been a serious issue for many years. Gang-related violence is on an upswing in many areas including the town where I live. This begs the questions: Why are young and middle-aged men killing themselves and others in fits of rage and frustration? Why is there so much violence in inner city communities? What do our youth find so appealing about gangs?
Psychological and sociological research gives us some important information about the sources of suicide and violence in our society. The societal ills that are highly correlated with suicide and violence are: poverty, lack of opportunity, feelings of powerlessness and hopelessness, drug and alcohol dependency, un- and under-employment, untreated mental health problems, and chronic and catastrophic medical problems. As a society, these can all be addressed as long as we have the political and financial will to do so. As a gun owner, addressing them is imperative if we want to minimize their effects on firearms misuse and the potential anti-gun fallout that is sure to follow. Access to affordable mental health treatment services for all who need them, effective anti-poverty programs, community-based policing, increased opportunities for residents in troubled communities, anti-violence campaigns and programs that offer solutions to our society’s violence problem, better ways of filtering out certain people from firearms access and ownership, and teaching people how to properly use and store firearms are all potential avenues for dealing with these issues.
Recently, there were several news stories highlighted in the media concerning gun dealers and range owners promoting suicide prevention programs. Currently, 48% of New Hampshire gun shops are displaying suicide prevention materials in their stores. Colorado gun shops are following suit. These are the kinds of initiatives that need to implemented and expanded. All Americans, and especially gun owners, need to take a stand against violence and mental illness and work to overcome the challenges faced by our most vulnerable communities. As responsible gun owners we need to take a stand for keeping guns out of the hands of the wrong people and holding irresponsible gun owners accountable. We need to support initiatives to combat these issues in order to protect our gun rights. If we don’t, we risk their continual erosion and inevitable loss.
Doug Cramer, President
Rocky Mountain Chapter of the LGC
Rocky Mountain Chapter of the LGC