The gun issue isn’t about freedom, it’s about life


A couple of days ago, I heard a story on National Public Radio about a program that provides gun owners with the opportunity to store their guns in a “safe house” if they happen to be going through emotional difficulty. It’s designed to address the high rate of suicides in Montana, and it is one of the few examples that has garnered support from both gun rights advocates and gun control advocates.

Why? Because it makes sense. Because Montana’s suicide rate is the second highest in the country, and because 85 percent of the gun deaths in Montana are suicides. 

So, this seems promising. The two sides, so contentious for so many years, have managed to find one area of common ground where they see the benefit of temporarily taking firearms out of the hands of someone who’s at risk to themselves. 

And it begs the question of why the same approach can’t be applied to someone who is a risk to others? One of the people interviewed in the segment, a gun rights advocate, was worried at first that this could lead to “red flag” laws, where someone who has mental health issues might be targeted and have their guns temporarily confiscated. The reason he likes this program is because it’s voluntary. 

And here’s where the manufactured agenda that these people are so determined to hang onto comes into play. This hidden “liberal” agenda of trying to take everyone’s guns away, the agenda that has never existed and never will. 

The outrage that people feel for the lack of action by any government entities, either state of federal, is based on real-life incidents, where tens of thousands of people die every year in America. It is not manufactured outrage. It’s not based on the imaginary fear that we’re going to lose one of our precious freedoms. It’s based on gut-level, honest-to-God grief over people dying every day in America.

So let’s just imagine that this same program decides to tippy toe just one step further and offer the same option to people who might be a risk to their families, because the statistics show that most gun deaths are the result of a conflict between people who know each other, most often family members. These are facts, not manufactured theories. 

How is this different? Why is it OK to protect people from killing themselves, but it’s going too far to protect people from killing other people? This makes my head hurt.

We all know it’s a problem. We all know the National Rifle Association has made it a problem because they have the most to gain from it being a problem. This organization that used to play a very positive role in the gun community, focusing on gun safety, and even lobbying against assault weapons in their early days, has become the biggest advertiser for gun manufacturers, and they have followed a simple formula of fearmongering to make money. 

The election of Barack Obama is the most egregious example, when the NRA spread ridiculous propaganda about Obama’s plan to take everyone’s guns away. So right after he won, gun sales reached an all-time high. During Obama’s two terms, Americans spent more than $29 billion on guns, compared to just more than $20 billion during both the Clinton and Bush presidencies. 

The challenge of living in a democratic society often involves learning to live with the choices that the majority have made. But that’s where this issue is maddening, because the majority does not support the continued lack of initiative among our leaders. The majority never have been OK with the idea that we are going to lose s few kids here and there so we can have our freedom. So, we are beholden to the rigid policies of a few, and is there any doubt they are all for sale, even the Democrats?

Public records show that the NRA doesn’t just contribute to Republicans. We’re stuck in a cycle where even the most reasonable, commonsense suggestions for how to make sure guns don’t find their way into the hands of lunatics are stomped into the ground. And the same thing happens with any effort to ban assault rifles even though the number of mass killings in our country decreased dramatically during the years they were banned.

These are facts. During the 10-year ban, from 1994-2004, the average number of deaths per year that were attributed to mass shootings was only 5.3, according to a study done by trauma surgeons, compared with 7.2 per year for the 10 years before the ban, and 25 per year in the 10 years after the ban. In 2002, there were zero deaths from mass shootings. 

According the FBI, and using their definition, which is when “one or more individuals actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a populated area,” there were 107 deaths attributed to mass shootings in 2021 alone. Other studies show much higher totals, as many as 600. And the number of gun deaths for 2021 alone was an astonishing 21,000. Another 26,000 people died from gun-assisted suicides. 

We have all been worn down by this issue, and especially by the fact that nothing seems to matter to the people who have the power to do something about it. That makes the only answer pretty obvious, but not easy.

Politicians are the problem, and they always have been. Because for as much as they love to crow about freedom, they are consistently denying Americans the very first freedom, which is freedom of life.

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