The National Rifle Association’s steadfast defense of the Second Amendment right to bear arms is prefaced on two assumptions: that all people are sane, and that all people are adequately socialized.
Under scrutiny, neither of these assumptions turns out to be true.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, “mental disorders are common throughout the United States, affecting tens of millions of people each year, and that only a fraction of those affected receive treatment.”
Department of Justice statistics indicate that, in 2010, there were approximately 725,000 people incarcerated under state jurisdiction for a violent crime, and that number has increased since 2000. In 2011 (the latest year for which full data are available) there were 8,552 murders, 124,606 robberies, and 138,336 aggravated assaults nationwide involving a gun, with 59 percent of all murders committed using a firearm. That’s in just one year.
Clearly, based on these data, not all people are sane or adequately socialized.
But that is what background checks are for, gun proponents argue, which is true in regard to those who’ve already been convicted of a crime or diagnosed with mental illness. Neither was the case with Adam Lanza. Which is why such checks will not catch the next mass murderer.
Gun proponents press the issue by saying that guns don’t kill people—people kill people. Again, this is true, except that it is undeniably easier to kill everybody in the room with an assault rifle and a multi-round magazine clip than with a knife or one’s bare hands. Any casual student of combat will notice that weaponry has evolved to place more and more distance between the combatant and his target. What began as hand-to-hand or sticks-and-stones became blades, then arrows, and now guns, artillery, and drone aircraft.
The point being that a gun conveys a distinct advantage to the shooter over an unarmed victim.
Furthermore, when the Second Amendment was written, the pinnacle of modern firearms was a single-shot, muzzle-loading rifle. By my guess, it takes about eight seconds to reload and fire one shot from a muzzle-loader. Today, we have semi-automatic weapons never contemplated by the Framers of the Constitution. Depending on the estimate, a shooter can fire a semi-automatic somewhere between 40 rounds per minute and 3 or 4 rounds per second.
Using the NRA’s logic, if people are the key to whether gun violence happens or not, then a solution hinges on what we offer those people. Why is it easier, then, for a criminal, or someone with mental illness, or a socially awkward young man to get his hands on a gun than for that same person to find a program that will serve their needs and truly benefit the individual and society? I don’t know of anyone who can satisfyingly answer that question.
In the meantime, while politicians and special interests spar about what ought to be done, another confused boy is playing video games and withdrawing from purposeful contact with others. One day, he will reach for his legally-purchased semi-automatic weapon and enter whatever place where people congregate that he’s chosen—a school, a movie theater, a church or mosque—and he will use the skills he’s honed alone in his basement.
“At last,” he will think as he aims his piece at the moving targets, “someone will notice me. I’ve achieved what I set out to do.
“Won’t they be amazed….”