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Monday, October 5, 2015

Broken Human Beings

I was grocery shopping the other day and witnessed a toddler throwing a tantrum.  Screaming and twisting in the seat of the cart, he threw his bottle on the floor. Mom calmly picked up the bottle and gave the boy a pacifier, which he threw back at her.  "Fine", she said as she put the bottle and the pacifier in her purse.  The boy turned, reaching for items from the shelves to throw and when mom moved the cart to the middle of the aisle, he reached into the cart behind him and grabbed a bag of chips.  As he was winding up to throw, she quickly unbuckled him and scooped him up out of the seat and into her arms.  Cradling his head against her chest, she rocked back and forth whispering, "What's wrong, My Little Man?  Why are you so upset?"

"Owie!" he cried.  By this time I was at the far end of the aisle so I did not see what she found or did but when she put him back in the cart a moment later he was babbling happily, asking for his bottle.

Later that same night I woke up to the sound of my dog chewing on his bed.  I told him "no" and I took it away.  He immediately began to search for something else to chew on.  He grabbed a pair of pants from the hamper.  I took those away as well.  When he started to gnaw on the corner of a cabinet I put him in his kennel with a few toys until morning.  This morning I will take him for a long run because I know that I cannot cure the anxiousness or boredom that is causing the destructive behavior by removing the objects he wants to chew.  For every object I remove he will find another.

I believe that most people, regardless of their religion, political views, or personal beliefs would see the reason behind the actions taken to resolve these two very different problems.  That is why I'm having a hard time understanding why so many people's attention, when faced with another instance of violence in the news, is focused on the weapon rather than the fact that a human being is compelled to not just end the lives of others, but to do so in a way that terrorizes all of us.  If a person has a desire to kill and they do not have access to a gun, there a many other ways to accomplish their goals that are just as accessible.  Home made bombs are quite simple to make and the ingredients can be purchased at any Walmart.  Driving a vehicle into a crowd would certainly cause massive damage.  Poisoning food?  Water?  Air?  These are just the simple, obvious choices.  Someone with a true desire to cause harm would, I'm sure, come up with more creative and media worthy ideas.  Timothy McVeigh did.  So did Andrew Kehoe, who executed one of the largest school related mass killings in US history.  And the two brothers who killed their family in their home just a few months ago. We didn't even hear about them on the news.  There are many more examples here under point #3.

I am a gun owner.  I am not a member of the NRA.  I am not opposed to background checks. I am completely in support of keeping guns out of the hands of criminals and the mentally ill however, I do not believe that is an attainable goal. Rational thinking tells us that someone who intends to use a gun to break a law (homicide,  theft, assault, etc. ) will not be deterred by the fact that owning a gun is against the law.  Historically, gun laws have not reduced instances of gun violence.  During the years in which the D.C. handgun ban and trigger lock law was in effect, the Washington, D.C. murder rate averaged 73% higher than it was at the outset of the law, while the U.S. murder rate averaged 11% lower. In 1997, Britain passed a law requiring civilians to surrender almost all privately owned handguns to the police. The homicide rate in England and Wales has averaged 52% higher since the outset of the 1968 gun control law and 15% higher since the outset of the 1997 handgun ban.  In 1982, the city of Chicago instituted a ban on handguns. This ban barred civilians from possessing handguns except for those registered with the city government prior to enactment of the law. Since the outset of the Chicago handgun ban, the Chicago murder rate has averaged 17% lower than it was before the law took effect, while the U.S. murder rate has averaged 25% lower.  On October 1, 1987, Florida's right-to-carry law became effective.  Since the outset of the Florida right-to-carry law, the Florida murder rate has averaged 36% lower than it was before the law took effect, while the U.S. murder rate has averaged 15% lower.  Guns are not the problem.  Knives and bombs and poison are not the problem.  Broken human beings are the problem.

I've been thinking a lot about the hero, Chris Minz, in this most recent attack.  An army veteran, he rushed in from the classroom next door when he heard the attack instead of running away.  Unarmed, he tried to talk the gunman down and was shot several times.  I wonder how things might have turned out differently if Chris Minz had been carrying a gun that day.

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