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Gun and Done
4 actions that will end the reign of gun terror in America
After each mass shooting, after each school and church and shopping mall slaughter, a choir of voices screams out, “Why have we not done something to end gun violence in this country?” We ask this question as if we don’t know the answer, when in fact deep down we know exactly what we need to do. We just don’t want to say it out loud. We don’t want to be attacked. We are afraid of the anger of the gun owners.
But we also know if we don’t stand up and say the four things I’m about to say, four things we know must be said and must become the law of the land, then we are doomed to suffer hundreds more of these mass murders. Who is willing to take the leap with me?
I understand most of you don’t believe this cancer on our American soul can be expunged. You feel like it’s too late. There are too many guns out there. How will we ever get millions of gun nuts to cooperate?
Well, maybe it’s not as hard as you think. The strange thing about humans is that they want to live. How did we get 55 million people to stop smoking? In bars! How did we get the nearly 300 million of us to wear a government-mandated seat belt nearly every day of our lives? 78 million Americans have let the government order their dogs to get shots and a goddamn license! Although we’re nowhere near the herd immunity we need to stop the pandemic — and while we have untold millions calling the Coronavirus fake and the vaccine for it a plot to control us — how in the hell have we still succeeded in getting, to date, 201 million Americans fully vaccinated? So millions have agreed to get licenses for their dogs, for their bicycles, for cars, to cut hair, to burn leaves, even a friggin’ license so you can be hired to suck the shit out of someone’s toilet — BUT NO ONE HAS TO HAVE A LICENSE TO OWN AND FIRE DOZENS OF BULLETS OUT OF A GUN?! Who are we?
I grew up believing the Berlin Wall would never come down, Nelson Mandela would never be released from prison, the Soviet Union would be with us forever and, most certainly, a Black man in this racist country would never be elected President of the United States. If all of this has happened — and if every other democracy has virtually eliminated private gun ownership — are we that pathetic that we can’t do the same and save our children’s lives? I think we can. Here’s how:
1. Admit Who We Really Are.
Guns don’t kill people. Americans kill people. We’re great killers. Whether we’re invading countries, selling trillions of dollars of weapons to dictatorships, using drones to bomb a wedding in Yemen — or the 45,000 times a year we kill our spouse, ex-girlfriend, estranged brother, the neighbor we’re fighting with, the boss who fired us, the student who bullied us, or we simply decide to end our own life with the handy gun that’s already in the house, making it the quickest and easiest way to end our misery. On an average of once a day, nearly 400 times a year, we in the U.S. experience a mass shooting (defined as 4 or more people shot). There have been 303 school shootings since Columbine. This simply does not happen on a daily or even a yearly basis in Ireland, Japan, Germany, Chile, Tunisia, Australia, Spain or nearly 200 other countries.
So why us? What is so special and unique about us that we seek to kill not just our foreign enemies but each other? No other world power has ever thought that the way to stay a world power is to start a mass slaughter of its own people. Those who’ve done that eventually were no longer world powers. You’re supposed to kill off people elsewhere — not your own offspring, not yourself.
We must acknowledge, study, and fix who we are. We must treat this as its own pandemic, as a mass-murder mental psychosis.
And here’s why this should not be so hard to fix. We are not a nation of gun nuts. 78% of us do not own a gun! According to a 2016 investigation by Harvard-Northeastern, just 22% of all Americans own a gun, mostly for hunting. And here’s the good — and not-so-good — news: Only 3% of this country owns half of all our guns! This minuscule percentage of Americans literally has in their possession in their homes, garages, and bunkers, over 175 million guns. This is fucking amazing — and frightening. To be truly safe, to be able to avoid that coming civil war we’re all so afraid of, this piece of the puzzle must end.
As for the other 50 million American gun owners, I say this to you: YOU have had decades to create easy fixes to our gun problem and you didn’t. So now the window for “responsible gun reform” has closed. Your refusal to back good gun legislation, your brazen mission to block every single attempt to pass even the weakest of gun control laws, will now result in the more than 200 million of us who don’t own guns — i.e., the vast, vast majority of voters in this country — having to shut you down because you chose not to clean up your own mess. And just the fact that you arrogantly think you’ve bought enough politicians and bullied our lawmakers into cowering before the NRA shows that you’ve mistakenly believed that we, the people, are going to continue letting you take your 15-year old boys to a gun store during the Christmas season to buy a fully-loaded semi-automatic handgun for them. I am here to tell you a brutal fact which you must certainly already know: There is something bold and brave and uncompromisingly relentless coming your way.
The vast majority of the country that doesn’t own a gun.
We respected your right to own a gun even though we, the vast, vast majority, didn't want one in our homes. But when we said we were OK with you having guns in your homes, it was with the explicit understanding that your guns would never bring tragedy and death into our homes. You may be a law-abiding citizen, but far too many of your fellow gun owners have crossed that red line that we, the vast, vast majority of non gun owners, had drawn.
It is now time for you to learn to live like all the other gun lovers in all the other democracies in the world.
Without your guns.
2. All Guns Whose Primary Purpose Is to Kill Human Beings Must Be Banned.
We’ve been trained to believe our Constitution is sacred, and what it says about guns is to be treated like the Word of God. If our Constitution said “The Earth Is Flat,” would we still believe it today? Of course not. God said it in the Bible that the sun revolves around the Earth, but we know better now and we no longer believe Him, so why do we treat the Constitution like a holy decree when it comes to guns? Start with this: the word “gun” appears nowhere in the Constitution. Why is that? Because "the gun" was not invented until 1825 — 38 years after the Founders wrote the Constitution! So when they talked about “the right to bear arms,” they had never even seen a bullet yet because the bullet hadn’t been invented! They had no concept of holding something in their hand that could massacre hundreds of people at once. Do you honestly think when they created this Amendment that it was to protect personal weapons of mass slaughter? It is a Big Lie, a wackadoodle myth, to say our Constitution was written to protect your “right” to own an AR-15 with a magazine that holds 100 bullets.
We need to amend the Second Amendment, by repealing it and replacing it with a brand new amendment: The 28th Amendment. It will read like this:
“The People have an inalienable right to live their lives free of gun violence. All weapons intended primarily to kill human beings are prohibited. Those few guns allowed for legal hunting or public safety, or for sport on private ranges, must be strictly regulated by the government. States may form a National Guard or regulated Militia to protect the safety and well-being of the residents of a State. Citizens suspected of committing a felony crime are, as noted elsewhere, not only innocent until proven guilty by a jury of their peers, they have a right to live to see their day in court and not be executed by a law enforcement officer with a gun. This Amendment nullifies and voids Amendment II.”
It is time to do what we all know we’ve needed to do for some time: remove nearly all guns, especially handguns and assault rifles, from private ownership.
This is what they have done in Great Britain, in Japan, in Australia, in Canada — the list goes on and on. In many of these countries, they enacted their gun bans immediately after a tragic mass shooting at a school. They didn’t want to wait to see more of their children killed, so they got rid of most of their guns. Just like that. After 45,000 gun deaths every year, we Americans are still waiting for the evidence to come in. You must realize the rest of the world just shakes their collective head at us. They think we’re nuts.
Many of these countries offered cash to all their gun owners who were required to turn in their weapons. We can do that.
Hunters can still hunt. But, like in Canada, they may be required to store and lock their hunting rifles and shotguns at a local gun club. (It should be pointed out that the sport of hunting is dying out in the U.S. Two generations of young adults now have little interest in spending dozens of cold, wet hours in a deer or duck blind. The percentage of American hunters has gone from more than 7% of the population in 1982 to 4% today.)
Why not be a patriot, show how much you love your fellow Americans and give up your guns. Both sides in Northern Ireland did that — and if they could do it, why not us? What good have all these guns done for us? I first went pheasant hunting with a gun at 12 with other kids in the neighborhood. No adults with us. Crazy! I went on to win the NRA Marksman award as an Eagle Scout. What’s the point? If you have a gun in the house, the chances of it being used to shoot you in a moment of anger, or for someone in your home to use it in a moment of despair to kill themselves — it’s just not worth it. Oh, but you say you’re afraid — you need the gun for protection. What if you had something better to protect you? What if you became less afraid because we made the world safer? Relax. Breathe. Step away… step away from the gun…
3. We Can Prevent Violence by Eliminating Its Root Causes and Creating a New Peace and Public Safety Center in Our Neighborhoods.
What are you really afraid of? Why do you have that gun? Who is it that you think might hurt you? You’re white? You live in an area with little crime? A suburb. A rural area. That’s where most of the guns are in America. That’s where nearly all of the school shootings, mall shootings, and workplace shootings take place. Have you stopped to think about why that is?
Do you know that your kids know where you keep your gun, and they know how to get to it? Just like they know how to bypass your parental controls and codes.
Most murders happen between people who know each other. You, the gun owner, are the problem. You alone — and those like you — can bring so much of this violence to an end.
Most police show up after the crime has taken place. They are so misused and they know it. What good are the police after you’re dead? Their job is to catch the bad guy (By the way, if you’re dead — do you really care if they catch the bad guy? Because that’s not going to bring you back). Their other job is to secure the crime scene and do some crime scene cleanup — but usually they just hand you a business card for a local company that can come and get the blood out of the carpet).
What if we had officers, social workers, mental health professionals and other non-violent interveners whose main job is to prevent crime and violence? Police showing up after the crime or murder has been committed — what good is that? What if they actually stopped the shooting in the first place — before anyone even thought of pulling out a gun?
Crime is caused in large part by the stresses of poverty, hunger, lack of health and mental health care, anger over the life one has, injustice, unfairness, shitty schools, bullies, intoxication, addiction, etc. Most of these social issues could be prevented if we lived in a more caring, more equitable society. Hey — let’s give that a try! Why not? We’ve tried everything else, including incarcerating millions. What if we restructured things and had a Department of Peace and Public Safety. It will take letting a lot of cops go, and hiring a whole bunch of smart, empathic, antiracist women and men. And pay them really well, as they will now live in the towns they serve. Because, seriously, we really have to rethink this. Because I know a lot of you won’t want to give up your guns if the neighborhood isn’t safe. So let’s make it safe by fixing the root causes of what makes us so afraid.
But we all know race is a big root cause. And the majority of the guns are out in Whitey-ville. You’re going to have to admit you’ve got that gun not because you’re afraid of freckle-faced Jimmy down the street. You’re scared of DeAngelo or Lamar or whatever Black or Hispanic name you’ve made up and placed in your head, where it grinds away, making you stupid and scared. Stop it! They are not on their way to your doorstep. You have to knock this off. You need to examine and own the racism that fuels your fears and your need for “protection.”
Also — give this a thought. Do you think that if you joined in to help eliminate poverty, despair, mass incarceration — if you did your part to make sure every child went to a great school, everyone had three meals a day, clean water to drink, a good paying job, a nice home, doctors on call for any of their needs, free tuition for their kids to go to college — if you committed to doing any of the above, wouldn’t this create a safer city, neighborhood, or farm? OK, not the farm. Lamar told me he really doesn’t want to live near you.
Finally, the worst way to prevent a break-in is to have a gun under the pillow which can result in accidentally shooting someone you love. Get a dog. The last thing freckle-faced Jimmy wants to deal with is your dog putting her teeth into his leg.
4. Learn from Women and Canadians.
In addition to 78% of us not owning a gun, thus making us all safer than we think we are, there is another demographic element that makes us even more safe. 51% of the American population will likely never pull out a gun and shoot you!
They’re called women.
For some reason I can’t explain, there must be something in women's DNA (or in their souls) that does not make them want to grab a gun and start spraying bullets.
When CNN cuts in with “Breaking News” that there’s a gunman on top of a Las Vegas hotel firing a gazillion rounds into a concert crowd of 20,000 people, you don’t stop and question the anchor’s choice of gender in using the word “gunman.” The anchor has no idea yet who’s up there. He just knows it’s a man. And we all know there is absolutely no way he could be wrong in calling him “gunman.” There is no need to call in the fact checkers, even though it will be hours before they drag his dead carcass downstairs and verify his gender (and in the case of this shooting, it was another millionaire mass killer).
If you happen to turn on the 11pm news and they say, “Coming up - a south side woman guns down a 52-year man!”, my first thought is (because it’s so friggin’ rare to hear a line like that on the news), “Damn, what did he do to deserve that?” Because for a woman to have to go to the bother of going to some seedy gun store, and then to a shooting range 30 miles outside of town to learn how to fire it and not miss — that deceased guy must’ve treated her pretty badly — and the only way to stop his violence was to put him down like a rabid dog.
So let’s just say, with a few minor exceptions, no woman is going to jump out of the bushes and cap you, no woman is going to take you into a dark alley and plug you, and no woman is going to charge into your child’s classroom and execute a dozen fourth graders. Not happening. Why? I think it’s worth it for the CDC and the NIH to study this and see what we can learn. But for now, just know you're safe from half the population, and if you see three women at night walking toward you, there’s no reason to cross over to the other side of the street.
As the great satirist Sarah Silverman once told me, “Someday! Someday we’ll know we’ve achieved true equality when women can be mass killers, too!”
And finally, as is often the case, the answer to our problems is right in front of us on the tip of our nose — that spot called Canada.
Even though Canadians share a similar culture to ours, and their teens watch the same violent movies and play the same violent video games, they rarely kill each other the way we do. Last year there were 277 gun murders in Canada, a nation of 38 million people.
Canadians have done two things to not be like us, and thus reduce the potential for extreme violence:
1: They make it almost impossible to buy handguns and assault rifles. If you want to try and get a permit for a handgun, you must get the women in your life — your wife, ex-wife, girlfriend, ex-girlfriend, etc. — to agree that you are not a threat and do not have a history of violence against them. They have to sign a document stating it’s OK for you to have a gun. If any of them object, you’ll have to use a hockey stick if you want to kill someone. Whoa. That is some evolved thinking. I guess their government also doesn’t believe in controlling women’s bodies, either.
2: While Canada is not a perfect nation, Canadians do try to treat each other differently than we do. They believe health care is a human right, and that you should not go bankrupt if you fall ill. They refused to join us in our invasion of Iraq. The list goes on. There is much we can learn from our neighbors when it comes to living in peace, without weapons that are only intended to kill human beings.
Thank you for reading this. I’ve written this piece on December 14, 2021, the ninth anniversary of the massacre of 20 little children and six staff at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, CT. The majority of these first graders had their heads blown off, or their faces blown off, or their internal organs spewed out of their bodies due the massive holes in their chests and torsos that the ammo blew wide open.
Feeling sick reading this? Why? You’re still alive. So are your kids. Just keep sending your thoughts and prayers and NOTHING will happen. Me? I, along with the Parkland kids and numerous new citizen groups that have arisen in the years after Columbine, we no longer have any interest in half-measures, inaction, compromise, or centrist Dems who can’t get shit done on this issue. We want the guns gone. GONE! And we want all of us to be kinder and more loving to each other. End the wealth gap. Capitalism and racism are the real killers. Please join us. We can stop this.
If you’d like to help support people who are trying to fight for a safer, more peaceful America, consider supporting March for Our Lives, Everytown, Guns Down America, Women Against Gun Violence, the Violence Policy Center, or get involved in your own community. You can also always contact your Congressperson’s office and tell them you want Congress to pass serious gun control NOW.