Thursday, February 21, 2013

The Shell Game

by Lisa Kight                                                                                                                     (opinion)
     When I began writing this article, I had a clear vision of what I wanted to say: “Who the heck are these people saying I can’t own a gun?” We always had guns in our house when I was growing up; my father was an avid gun collector. I have been shooting guns since I was a child, starting with bb pistols with a Tide box as a target. Heck, I can pick a pear off a fence post at two hundred yards! I wanted to use Charlton Heston’s quote: “You can have my guns when you take them from my cold, dead hands.” But then, I was speaking to a friend, and she said, “You can’t say everyone has the right to own a gun. There are people who shouldn’t own guns, such as the mentally ill man who recently committed the unconscionable act of violence in Connecticut. There are people who per our laws are not entitled to own a gun.” These two simple statements caused me to rethink my take on the situation and started me thinking about my stance.
     The first thing I did was read the Bill of Rights. I know that the second amendment, Article [II.] states, “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” Then I looked up the definition of the word militia and found the following in the Merriam-Webster dictionary: “a militia is part of the organized armed forces of a country liable to call only in emergency, a body of citizens organized for military service, or the whole body of able-bodied male citizens declared by law as being subject to call to military service.” 
     What does the amendment really mean? Does it mean you can bear arms only if you are preparing for participation in the Normandy Invasion or, volunteering to join the posse to chase down an escaped criminal, or does it mean you can protect your home with the use of a gun?  Since none of our founding fathers are available for comment, we have to count on the “powers that be” to define the amendment.

     My quest for information led me to begin my search to prove or disprove the statements that the opposing sides were using as examples. I researched the validity of the right-to-carry laws in regard to reducing crime. This is what I found in an article written for the Maryland Law Review: “There have been five qualitatively different tests confirming that right-to-carry laws reduce violent crime. These studies show that violent crime falls after right-to-carry laws are adopted, with bigger drops the longer the right-to-carry laws are in effect.” These results seem to show the more people have guns the safer we are. But, there is no black and white when it comes to this debate, so my quest to reach an informed opinion on the subject of gun control continued.
     I decided that I needed more perspectives on the subject. I looked for diversity when it came to the people I asked to ensure I heard different points of view. I consulted a woman who is a therapist and life coach, who happens to be a naturalized citizen. I contacted a friend whose husband is a decorated Marine Corps veteran as well as an avid sportsman. I also spoke to someone in the field of federal law enforcement. I came away with varied opinions.
     The first person I spoke to is a naturalized citizen. It took her almost five years to become a citizen of the United States of America. The process required her to take many tests, to learn English, to study the history of the U.S., to pass a background test, all to be able to have the right to vote. She had to endure five years of tests, invasive questions, and numerous interviews in the name of becoming a U.S. citizen. Hell, she probably knows more about our history than most people I know. In fact, I would bet on it.
     Her point was:  “If it takes five years of tests, inquiries and numerous other passages to be given the right to vote, why should a person be able purchase something like a gun in an hour.” She is of the opinion that gun control has a place in our society. She did bring up a valid point. When you are trying to get a driver’s license you have to have your vision tested, take the written test for a beginner’s permit, after that drive with a licensed driver for a period of time, then take the actual driver’s test. But none of this applies when it comes to purchasing a gun. All you have to do is provide some identification with your picture on it and be of age. Anyone who wants to purchase a gun need only enter a business that sells guns and say, “I want to buy a gun.” 
     We have a society that makes weapons available to anyone who can manage to come up with some money and some identification, which is something that the government would like to change. Gun advocates see the government’s efforts to control guns as our nation moving one step closer to the dystopian society we know from science fiction novels and movies. Not the ideal to say the least.
     So how about a compromise?  I will agree that there is room for improvement when it comes to what a person must do to become a gun owner. Perhaps there should be a process.  This seems reasonable in a time when people are not being reasonable. 
     The retired veteran made a comment that resonates within me even now. He said that “Is this the most important issue we should be addressing?” The trillions of dollars in debt that the U.S. has amassed will not come from our pockets; it will come from our children and grandchildren’s pockets. I say if they have millions to spend on an issue, it would be better spent on our health care. I believe the money that our government does not have to spend in the first place should be used for an attainable goal, not an illusion.
     I did some research on two issues; people who have lost their lives by firearms and people who have lost their lives because they did not have health insurance. The sobering facts say it all. According to the Census bureau, Physicians for a National Health Program, a group that advocates for universal health insurance, says the Census numbers show 48,000 Americans died needlessly in 2011. “The estimated death toll is based on a peer-reviewed Harvard study published in the American Journal of Public Health in 2009, widely cited during the health reform debate, which found that for every 1 million persons who were uninsured there were about 1,000 related, preventable deaths.” A report stated that by 2015 the death rate by firearms will reach 33,000. The 33,000 figure is a projection for 2015, the 48,000 was from 2011, as the population grows the number of needless deaths increase. To our Congress I pose the question, “What say you to the facts that show that lack of health care is more dangerous than owning a gun?”
     In my opinion – yes, my opinion - the gun control debate is no more than a “shell game” with the public playing the part of the “mark”. As deplorable as it sounds, the government has seized the opportunity to lure the citizens of the United States of America into a dubious game of chance. There will be no winner in this game. There is no possibility for success, only failure. History will repeat itself. This aspect is what makes the actions of our elected officials all the more repugnant.
     Millions will be funneled into the latest effort of the government to distract “us”, you and me, the citizens of the U.S., into believing they are working toward a common goal. The government is using the tragedy that took place at the Sandy Hook Elementary School to divert our attention from seeing the real end game. All eyes are on our “dedicated” public servants as they orchestrate a plot, perverse and deliberate by design to distract us from what they are not doing; balancing the budget, preventing or not preventing our country from plummeting over the fiscal cliff, and finding a common ground about healthcare and other important issues.
     Why all the rhetoric at this time?  Sandy Hook is not the first incident where a shooter has exacted his revenge on the public. Please understand I do not mean to lessen the unconscionable act this man committed. I am a mother of four and grandmother to almost ten grandchildren, and I cannot imagine the horror, heartache and absolute misery everyone involved has endured. I know the suffering will not end. I know there may be a time the event may be a little easier to think about, but I know it will be in our minds and hearts for a long while.  Now, we have something new, something powerful in front of us, and we need to act, not watch the politicians fight about it.
     What is the solution? What will it take to put the public’s needs first?  The veteran I spoke to believed in our political system, but the newly naturalized citizen believes it is out of whack.  I say force the hands of the politicians. Let them know this will be their last term if they do not follow up on their campaign promises. Avoidance is the only stance being taken by the Congress on these difficult issues at this time. The healthcare debate has raged on through one presidential term for President Obama and now continues on into his second. The Congress refused to find a common ground and has put their personal agendas first, leaving the American public to suffer. Now they need to find common ground on the issue of gun control.  Something has to change. 
     I believe it is the responsibility of the citizens to make a change. I vote in elections, so I and all the voters are somewhat responsible for who is in office. The Marine Corps veteran brought a very important point to my attention. He said, “The public must be responsible for the politicians they vote into office. Where are the checks and balances?  Have they followed up on the campaign promises to see how our elected officials voted on the issues that made up their platform?” I will confess that I have never followed up on the voting record of the officials I voted to put in office, so on some level it is my fault for not being more diligent when it comes to the failure of our officials to put the public first.
     It is up to the citizens to elect officials in our government that will no longer put their personal agenda ahead of the voters that put them in office. We must no longer allow our Congress to base a decision or refuse to address an issue because it may anger the Special Interest Group that is a major contributor to their campaign. Make our elected officials accountable. Check their voting record to see if their campaign promises have been met. Are they saying one thing just to get elected and when in office doing just the opposite?  When will the public grow tired of the veil of lies and half truths being fed to them by our government? The gun control issue is the latest distraction being served up by our so-called public servants. Are we the American public going to keep putting people into office that run this country using the code of ethics of a flim-flam man? How long are the citizens of the United States of America going to allow ourselves to be taken in by the politician’s “shell game”?


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