Gun Control: About Saving Lives, Not Personal Freedom

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It seems like every time I turn on the news, there is at least one more dead from a gunshot.  Every couple of months, we get treated to a mass shooting, or rampage, or spree by someone that is obviously off-their-rockers and attempting to take as many people down as they can before ending their own life.

This is life as an American.  If we are the “lucky” ones not to have already fallen to gun violence, we have become victims of the war of the Constitutionality of weapon ownership.  Much like what is done with the Bible, some try to interpret the 2nd Amendment literally, while others think it has more of a figurative meaning.  Both sides are nonsensical.  Interpretation of the Second Amendment by modern minds is not going to retard the gun murders occurring in almost every American city every day.

We all know the statistics and I will try to refrain polluting this diatribe with any more quantifiable data than necessary. You can use your favorite online search engine to verify any of these numbers, and I recommend you do.  First off, according to the Violence Policy Center, a non-profit organization that aims to curb firearm violence through research and awareness, over 30,000 suicides, homicides, and unintentional shootings result in occur every year in America due to easily-accessed guns.  About 10,000 of those are murders.

These numbers seem high, and are more eye-opening when compared to a few other countries (estimates based on the average of multiple sources):

Mexico: 2600  deaths per year            (pop. 116,901,761) (Gun laws similar to United States)

Germany: 250  deaths per year            (pop. 81,946,000) (Strict gun laws and ban on certain types of guns)

Canada: 150    deaths per year            (pop. 35,000,000) (Handgun and Assault weapons ban)

Japan: 50         deaths per year            (pop. 127,400,000) (Complete private gun ownership ban)

United Kingdom: 14    deaths per year (pop. 63,181,700) (Complete private gun ownership ban)

I chose to show these countries not because they express the point I want to make, but because they are all countries with similar laws, freedoms, and rights as those that Americans have.  However, with the exception of Mexico, all of these countries ban most or all firearm ownership.

The first thing you may notice is that all of these countries have a considerably lower population than the United States (pop. 350,000,000).  This separation could be a reason for less death.  However, if you multiply the population of each country to be the same or near the population of America, you still get considerably lower firearm related deaths each year:

Mexico:  7800 (with 351,000,000 population)

Germany: 1000            (with 328,000,000 population)

Canada:  1500 (with 350,000,000 population)

Japan:  150 (with 380,000,000 population)

United Kingdom:  84 (with 378,000,000 population)

These numbers do not take into consideration the population density increase that would come from increasing the populations by up to ten times (in the case of Canada).  A case could be made that in a more densely populated country, let’s say Japan, gun violence would increase.  However, it would not increase by 200% (which would be required to reach the same amount of firearm deaths annually in Japan as there are in America).  You would be hard pressed to find anyone that would make that claim.

I now draw your attention to the number of deaths in Mexico in a hypothetical instance of a similar population as the United States.  You will notice that it is the only country that is within even ten times the number of gun-related murders per year; it is also the only country listed with similar gun laws as America and no private-ownership ban on weapons.

The second quality to notice about these numbers is that the four countries with firearms bans, Germany, Canada, Japan, and the United Kingdom still have ten or less the times gun deaths that the United States has.  The closest country, Canada, would hypothetically have about 1500 per year. This number is can be accounted for by the fact that Canada does not ban hunting rifles or shotguns.

Plainly, the common denominator between all of these countries is a comprehensive private gun-ownership ban.

An argument made by gun-enthusiasts can be stated as such:  We do not need more gun control; we need better background checks and more money in the education of mental health issues.  If we can stop the mentally ill from getting firearms, we can cut gun violence.

The mentally ill are accountable for most, if not all of the mass shooting deaths in America.  In 2012, about 88 people died in mass-shooting massacres in the United States.  I will concede that more money spent on mental health education and training with increased background checks would probably prevent most of these occurrences. This, however, keeps alive the issue of the other 9912 people that die each year from petty crime, organized crime, crimes of passion, etc. It would be difficult to claim that even half of the remaining deaths would/could be prevented with mental health screenings and background checks.

Gun advocates also reason that they need weapons to protect themselves from criminals that come across guns illegally.  If you don’t believe that a gun ban would decrease amount of firearms in criminal hands (which would be irrational based on the statistics above), you may think that you need a gun to “protect yourself” or your family.

In a study done by the National Center for Biotechnology Information, over the course of 18 months of study, 626 shootings occurred in or immediately around a residence.

“This total included 54 unintentional shootings, 118 attempted or completed suicides, and 438 assaults/homicides. Thirteen shootings were legally justifiable or an act of self-defense, including three that involved law enforcement officers acting in the line of duty.”

The conception that you are in danger in your own home is justifiable, but it appears, only if you own a firearm.  You are much more likely to unintentionally harm someone (or commit suicide) with your weapon than you are to actually use the weapon in self-defense.

In an attempt to try to reconcile the dangers of owning a gun, many people have argued that they would keep their guns locked up in a safe until they are needed.

So, the next time a burglar attempts to break into your house, I hope he/she gives you time to recognize the situation, run to the safe, unlock the safe, arm the weapon, aim, and shoot.

The final strong case that the gun advocates can make is that we have the right to own guns.  Our founding fathers wanted us to have the rights to arm ourselves against our own countrymen, or Zeus-forbid, or own government.  And to this, I also concede.

America, you do have Second Amendment rights to own guns, and as interpreted by modern supreme courts, for just about any reason you want.  I ask you, however, is an outdated, overanalyzed, and unnecessary right worth the loss and anguish that it causes?  30,000 citizens die each year.  When will the genocide be halted?  This issue is no longer about personal freedom, it is about saving lives.

Is your fear of your neighbor so great that you must arm yourself, and give those who wish to harm the innocent a means of doing so much more easily by allowing open circulation of weapons of terror?

A comprehensive weapons ban on all private ownership of firearms is the only way to prevent the streets from continuing to run red with the blood of our future as a nation.

I implore you, put the gun down, extend your arms, and come together. Do not let our country become so divided that we have to use these weapons on each other, because the pen has failed.

Twitter: @dustin_mcmahon

Hollywood Can’t Take A Joke: A Response to MacFarlane’s Criticism

oscars-seth-macfarlane_510x411There is always a buzz about the mishaps and shining stars of the Oscars come the Monday morning afterward.  However, the most talked about part of the 85th annual academy awards was not, thankfully, the fashion, the stars, or even the winners.  It was the “offensive,” “crude,” and edgy humor of the host Seth MacFarlane.  MacFarlane needs no introduction to any Oscar viewer under the age of 60, and was an obvious choice to bring in an audience of the young, hip viewers that James Franco and Anne Hathaway failed to entice two years ago.

The Family Guy creator left the crowd, and the media buzzing, but for all the wrong reasons.  USA Today, the Los Angeles Times, and the New Yorker (to name a few) gave reviews of the show as if Seth MacFarlane had committed a murder on stage and laughed about it.  About MacFarlane’s comedy, Amy Davidson of the New Yorker wrote that “Watching the Oscars last night meant sitting through a series of crudely sexist antics[.]”  The entire media and viewing audience seemed to have been mortified by the off-color jokes of the host.

Seth MacFarlane was chosen to host the award show because of the type of humor he performs.  It should have been no surprise that his jokes that were bold and fearless, while also unsophisticated at times.  What was surprising however, was the uptight crow that seemed legitimately offended every time a punch line was hurled their way.  Even more curious was the response of the viewers at home on social media. Facebook and Twitter were riddled with posts of how MacFarlane’s jokes were sexist and unfunny.

One of the most controversial of MacFarlane’s jokes was one concerning domestic violence.  While talking about Best Picture Nominee Django Unchained, MacFarlane quieted the crowd by saying that the movie is a “story of a man fighting to get back his woman, who’s been subjected to unthinkable violence. Or as Chris Brown and Rihanna call it, a date movie.”

The problem is not with the joke.  The problem is with those that are offended by a shot at the poster couple of domestic abuse.  Throngs of fans idolize Chris Brown and Rihanna, even after numerous stories about Brown’s violent temper and woman-beating attitude at the same time in which Rihanna is releasing songs about being bound by an ill-tempered man and beaten because the “chains and whips excite [her].”  Brown and Rihanna pollute the airwaves and media stream with the message that domestic violence is cool, and we get offended at MacFarlane for cracking jokes at it?

Now that domestic violence is on the table, what else can we throw into the feast?  MacFarlane made notice of the women in Hollywood that could double as science classroom skeletons by saying “And those of you [women] who gave yourselves the flu two weeks ago to ‘get there’, it paid off.”

Uproar! Blasphemy! How dare MacFarlane make an observation about the unhealthy methods and images of the women of Hollywood?  You need look no further for the inspiration of that joke than award presenter Renee Zellweger. Zellweger’s unnaturally-thin frame (along with most of the other women of Hollywood) is the real offensive part of the show.   Those women are the cause of more pain and suffering, just ask the 500,000 American teens with eating disorders, than any joke made by the comedy writer that many of those teens idolize.

The case that Seth MacFarlane was just not quite as funny as he could have been is not the issue. I will concede that his hosting job was fit more for a Comedy Central roast (as he did in 2010 and twice in 2011) than an Academy Awards show. However, the fact is that Hollywood’s inhabitant’s need to get away from their holier-than-thou attitudes and the smug approach to life that they feel needs to be envied and praised. Actors and actresses, directors and producers can and should be the subject of any good comedy act.

MacFarlane’s jokes may have been less-than-appropriate at times and observed as slightly “self-indulgent” for an event like the Oscars, but that is exactly what they paid him to do.  The Academy Awards had turned into Sunday evening soap for senior citizens and MacFarlane was employed to change that. He was chosen to get the younger crowds watching because his comedy is what the younger viewers enjoy.  MacFarlane had every right to perform the way he did and used his rightfully unapologetic style extenuate his grievances, observations, and shortcomings about Hollywood.  The real media ridicule of the show should be aimed at the self-indulgent speeches, from people like African-American Director Quentin Tarantino.

Forget the headlines reading “self-indulgent” performance by Seth MacFarlane.  Quentin Tarantino, in accepting the award for Best Original Screenplay, gave a speech as though he had just found the cure for cancer.  “I actually think that if people are knowing about my movies 50 years from now, it will be because of the characters I created,” he spouted, ineloquently.  He goes on to say that this year is the “year of the writers” and that he is the best of the bunch.

If your inner monologue is shouting, “Don’t forget about MacFarlane’s racist joke” (even after a white man won Best Original Screenplay for  a script in which the N word appeared about 110 times).  If you believe it is insensitive to make jokes about Spanish actors and actresses, think really hard before laughing at any stand-up comedian’s observations about race the next time you attend a show.  If you don’t throw your hands up and walk out the door of the comedy club, you are a hypocrite.