We Have the Power to Stop the Carnage

LOS ANGELES

BELL VIEW-I have a few friends from my old neighborhood who qualify as legitimate “gun nuts.” Am I afraid these guys are going to snap and start picking people off from the roof of the Motel 6? No. But I remember being about 15-years-old at a friend of mine’s house for one of those parents-are-out-for-the-night parties. We were drinking beer, shooting pool in the basement, and – eventually – we wandered up into my friend’s parents’ bedroom and took out his dad’s 30-ought-6 hunting rifle. 

Now, this guy – my friend’s dad – would also qualify in Silver Lake as a gun nut. He had a lot of guns and he shot them every chance he got. But he was also obsessed with safety and overall respect for guns. He taught his kids how to shoot, how to clean and care for a gun, and how to respect the power of a gun. He could have done a better job of locking them up – but I honestly believe he never imagined his own kids would do something as stupid as we were about to do. 

Nonetheless, after guzzling a couple of beers, a few of us 15-year-olds decided to take a few pot shots across the vacant lot at the light on top of the park field house with a high-powered rifle. I remember when my turn came the rifle jerked in my hands and the scope left a small cut between my eyebrows. Blood trickled down my face and I got a kind of queasy feeling. 

Needless to say, the police showed up at my friend’s house within minutes of the shooting. Many of the same people who actually attended that party and took their shots out the window now blithely deny that white privilege exists. But, suffice it to say, no one was cuffed or shot or hit with a baton when the police showed up that night. They simply broke up the party and stuck around to tell my friend’s dad what had happened.  

The point of this stupid story is to show that even responsible gun owners can’t be sure something crazy isn’t going to happen. I’m certain the parents of the murdered children at Sandy Hook Elementary School would have liked to know that Adam Lanza’s mother was a gun nut, and she had a disturbed son living in the house with her. Just like the people playing basketball at the field house the night my friends and I decided to risk their lives for a cheap thrill might have liked to know that a bunch of tipsy adolescents were playing with guns. 

But we can’t know that. All we really know is that the minority controlling our government has decided that the Second Amendment guarantees the right for people to own as many guns as they want, and we all just have to bear the burden of that freedom. 

There’s a meme going around the red parts of Facebook about how "guns didn't change, we did."  The argument goes that – in the good ole days – people had guns everywhere and nobody shot anybody. Now, our entire society has gone crazy. People play videogames that give you points for raping and killing people. Gangs are glorified. Life is cheap. 

To which I say – “Okay. Now what?” If everyone has gone completely off his rocker, then maybe we need to take away some of the guns. In the good ole days, it was fine because everybody was nice and decent and sane. But now we need an intervention. 

Why do we call it "gun control?" The law can't control guns. The gun nuts are right. Guns don't kill people, people do. If that's true, then gun control is the responsibility of the gun owner. That means if you periodically have psychotic breakdowns, if you live in the house with a teenager you don't really understand, if you have an out-of-control anger problem -- then you have to get rid of your guns. If the price of your freedom to be a reckless gun owner is some stranger's life -- then the price is too high. If you own a gun to protect yourself, but you can't guarantee that someone else might not get killed, then you have to assume that risk -- not someone else. 

We don’t need gun control – because we can’t get it. We need gun regulation. We need rules about what we can and can’t have. And we need politicians who value human life above re-election.

Gun owners claim they need guns to protect themselves -- but thousands of people are shot or killed every year by guns owned by otherwise unremarkable people. It's not the mafia; it’s not ISIS; it’s not the Klan, or the Nazis, or the Crips or the Bloods who have killed the equivalent of the City of Pittsburgh in the past ten years. It's the lady down the street with the depressed teenager. It's the pissed-off ex-boyfriend. It's the raged-out commuter on the 405. It's the guy up the street who's tired of taking his meds. It’s the toddler who found his daddy’s revolver in the night stand. At what point do we say that the treatment is worse than the disease? 

I won't link to the video of the Las Vegas shooting because it's just too disturbing. But if you've seen it, you know that the shooter had a fully-automatic weapon. That's how he was able to shoot 500 people in ten minutes from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Hotel. That's not a self-defense weapon. There are only three reasons to have that kind of weapon: (1) it's fun to shoot; (2) murder; or (3) treason (i.e., the bogus argument that the Second Amendment is designed to allow angry people to decide when it's okay to overthrow the government by force of arms). 

Murder and treason aren't valid arguments for anything. So, okay -- they're fun to shoot. I'll take your word for it. Then go regulate when and where you can shoot them. Pass a law that says only licensed, regulated facilities can own fully-automatic weapons and people can go there and shoot them. The idea that, because some people like to shoot crazy guns, a whole bunch of innocent people are going to have to be murdered is just plain ridiculous. When are we going to be able to stand up and say it. 

The answer to that question is really quite simple: we already have said it. Vast majorities of ordinary people in this country favor reasonable gun regulations. But America is ruled by an angry, resentful, insane minority. Yesterday, California held a special election for a seat in the State Assembly. Fewer than 8% of registered voters turned out to vote. 

Let’s say that one more time: Fewer than 8% of registered voters took the time to vote. 

And we wonder why we can’t have reasonable gun regulations. Why our leaders don’t take climate change seriously. Why Donald Trump is president of the United States. It reminds me of the old joke about Morty, who prayed every day to win the lottery. Every day, Morty got down on his knees and prayed to God to please just let him win the lottery. After 30 years, one morning, the clouds parted and a voice boomed down from the heavens: “Morty,” God said, “Give me break. Buy a ticket!” 

If you don’t want to get shot, then vote. Every chance you get. Vote. It really is that simple.

 

(David Bell is a writer, attorney, former president of the East Hollywood Neighborhood Council and writes for CityWatch.Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.)

-cw

 

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