Sunday, June 19, 2016

Some Thoughts On The Orlando Nightclub Shooting

This is a somewhat edited version of what I talked about on my Mixlr show on Monday.

This past weekend, on Sunday, June 12, 2016, there was a mass shooting at an Orlando, Florida, nightclub called The Pulse.  Forty-nine people plus the shooter were killed, and another 53, as I understand, were wounded in the attack.  I've heard this called the biggest mass shooting in US history, and perhaps that is the case, but that's a debate that I feel ill-equipped to participate in.  The other part of the claim, the one I will agree with, is that this very likely is the deadliest terror attack on US soil since 9/11.

That's what it was, after all.  A terror attack.  What only makes it worse, in my mind, is that it was carried out against a nightclub where the patrons were mostly, if not entirely, of Orlando's LGBT community.  I say this not because of my own orientation (I'm straight, for those who might be interested), but because it seems to me that killing a person or group of people because of something like sexual orientation is one of the dumbest reasons to do something like that.  It's not something they had much, if any, real choice in, so the clubgoers were killed for no other reason than that they were alive and doing something they liked.

This crazy thing also did something that it seems all attacks like this do.  It got us talking about gun control again, as the shooter used police- or military-grade weapons when he did this.  Since I can't recall if I've ever really said what my stance on gun control is in a post that's all my very own, here it is:

We need to limit the types, and potentially the amount, of guns that private citizens can own.  Note that I am NOT saying that we need to get rid of all privately owned guns and weapons.  I'm against that.  I really am.  I think we, as citizens of this wonderful nation we call the United States, should keep the right to own firearms we've had since our Bill of Rights was passed.  We just need to define what kind of firearms random citizens like myself can own, because, let's face it here, folks, a few things have changed since the original amendment was written back in the late 1780s, and we may need to update our laws to reflect that.

There are some kinds of guns I'm perfectly OK, and in fact, in favor of, people getting to keep.  I'm a hunter myself, so I understand the uses for things like shotguns, low-caliber, and even some higher-caliber manual-action and semi-automatic rifles.  To me, it barely seems like Thanksgiving without a table full of ducks and other wild game alongside the pumpkin pie and cranberry sauce.  Some of the best steaks and burgers I've ever had have come from deer, antelope, and other big game of that nature, which are the kind of animals one needs what I've always called a high-powered rifle to bring down, and I might even do some of that myself again, if I could just get my head around getting back into good enough shape to do it.

I can also understand the need for handguns in some cases, as well.  I have a cousin who runs a real estate business here in my home town, and she sometimes has to go into some potentially unsafe neighborhoods to collect rent, which can lead to hazardous situations requiring some self defense.  In those cases, yeah, I can understand the need for weaponry with a little more range and stopping power than the less-lethal alternatives currently available to private citizens.

This brings us to these things called assault rifles or assault weapons.  Clever readers will notice that this particular class of weapons has the word "assault" in the name.  Part (b) of the definition of the word "assault" in my handy-dandy Tenth Edition Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary says this of the word "assault": a military attack usually involving direct combat with enemy forces.

Along those lines, the same dictionary says that an assault rifle is, and I'm quoting here, any of various automatic or semiautomatic rifles designed for military use with large capacity magazines.

I bring all that up because we, as private citizens, don't tend to do terribly much of that sort of assaulting, far as I know, which limits the need for weapons designed for such to the point of being entirely pointless in our homes.

My opinion on owning assault rifles is that private citizens really shouldn't own them, simply because most of the reasons people say they have for keeping them in their homes makes them little more than extremely dangerous security blankets or teddy bears: something comforting to hold onto that really won't make the problem any better and may ultimately make it worse.

Now, I'm not about to say that people who already own these things should have to give them up or be subject to having them taken away.  This is private property we're talking about here, after all, which means that unless there's some demonstrated reason as to why a particular owner should not have such things, there's no reason to take them away like that.

What I do think is that we should stop selling assault rifles to the general public.  As I said earlier, I don't see private citizens having much need of weapons designed for storming strongholds.  It's not entirely impossible, of course, but not something your average person is all that likely to do, either.

The good news in this is that I read an article by an AR-15 owner that does suggest a good first step.  He suggests banning clips that hold more than ten rounds.  That's a fine first step by me.  I've never fired a gun capable of holding more than ten rounds anyway, that I can remember, and even then, I don't think I've ever killed anything with that particular weapon.  So at least limiting access to high-capacity clips is a good place to start, anyway.

From there, we're going to have to do something about the number of these weapons meant for attacking and killing one another we've got in private hands.  Sure, it's going to take awhile to get it worked out in such a way that everyone can at least agree to, but that's how everything of this scale worth doing is.

The sad reality of it is, though, that until we figure out how we're going to get that number down, attacks like the one in Orlando and a dozen others are going to keep happening, and each time, I'll find myself recalling part of a scene from a program called Babylon 5, which I'll embed below:

(The specific part of the clip I'm referencing starts here.)

It's simply because each time something like this happens, I start to wonder just what it will take to get us, as a society, to see this as a problem; who else has to die before we actually do something about it.

In the end, though, important changes are rarely as easy as they should be, and are oftentimes way more painful than they need to be.  This one will be no different, but I suppose there is some solace to be had in knowing that change will come eventually.

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