COMMENTARY | Wayne LaPierre has gone public after the horrifying Washington Navy Yard massacre and restated that we need more guns, not fewer, circulating. His rationale continues to be that more guns in the hands of “good guys” will stop shootings, reports NBC. Though I support LaPierre’s stance that we must also strengthen background checks, I find his logic of more guns = less violence to be fatally flawed. He, and many like him, still operate under the assumption that mass shooters are rational thinkers who are dissuaded from violence by the presence of armed opponents. In the Washington Navy Yard massacre shooter Aaron Alexis clearly was not dissuaded from action by the presence of armed opposition, actually killing an armed security officer and taking the man’s handgun, reports USA Today.
More worrisome in LaPierre’s logic is the belief that “good guys” always remain good. While I believe that a gun in the hands of a rational, law-abiding, sober citizen is not a threat to public safety, I know that rational, sober, law-abiding citizens are not static. A rational, sober, law-abiding thirty-year-old man who buys a Glock 9mm at a gun store could be far from rational, sober, or law-abiding in ten, fifteen, or twenty years. The gun is still oiled and perfectly functional but the man wielding it has ceased to be a “good guy.” Perhaps alcohol addiction, drug addiction, mental illness, or a series of tragedies has turned him into an unstable, angry man.
A man can go from being a churchgoing, God-fearing, patriotic, red-white-and-blue apple pie on the fourth of July pillar of the community to an angry, bitter, irrational man. It may take decades, a few years, or even in the immediate aftermath of terrible tragedy and grief. The gun, once sworn only to be used to protect hearth and kin, is now in the hands of an unstable individual. Perhaps, after too many drinks, the now-unstable man, formerly a law-abiding citizen beyond reproach, grabs his gun to settle a score.
We had wanted this “good guy” to have a gun to make our streets safer, not less safe. Oh, how times have changed the situation! The man to whom we would once have turned for citizen protection is now the problem. This is why we must control guns and not just amplify background checks. While improved background checks and mental health controls may help stop unstable individuals from purchasing new guns, what of the guns they may already own? Or buy outside of a gun store? Or swap with a friend? Or steal?
No, banning high-capacity magazines and assault rifles makes sense because there are too many ways for an excessive weapon to end up in the hands of an unstable individual. They may have purchased it legally long before they became unstable, swapped for it, or stolen it. There is no substitution for banning what needs banned.
And remember: A real man doesn’t need an Uzi to hunt a deer.