Many years of documented mental instability and multiple arrests for “minor shooting offenses” weren’t enough to keep Aaron Alexis, the shooter at the Washington Navy Yard, from legally purchasing a firearm.
Take a moment for that fact to sink in. Can anyone tell me with a straight face that we don’t have a problem with gun control in America?
Let me get one thing straight: I do not believe in extremely restrictive firearm bans. I do not think they could be effectively enforced or defined. A big, scary AR-15 is mechanically very similar to your redneck uncle’s semiautomatic hunting rifle; it just has angry-looking black plastic bits surrounding the barrel instead of a wooden casing. This is difficult to legislate against: Do we ban the scary black plastic bits, or what?
That being said, we ought not to be selling firearms to people known to have a history of mental instability and firearm-related offenses. If you are mentally unstable, you should not be able to purchase a firearm. If you have previously been arrested for a firearm-related offense, you should not be able to purchase a firearm. Is this so difficult to get across to people?
These arguments ought to be perfectly reasonable to literally anyone who isn’t insane and sociopathic, but unfortunately, the dialogue has been distorted by a little organization called the National Rifle Association. This organization is, unfortunately, run by insane sociopaths.
The NRA has advocated for everything from complete immunity for gun store owners for crimes committed with firearms they have sold, to armed guards in public schools (to discourage shootings? I think there were more than a few armed guards at the Washington Navy Yard, and that certainly didn’t stop the perpetrator). The NRA has also pushed back against any kind of tighter gun regulation, using that same old tired “slippery slope” argument. One only needs to look at the political articles in the NRA’s magazine, Rifleman, to get the picture. The argument seems to run, “First they’ll stop selling firearms to the mentally unstable, and then it’s only a matter of time until Obama will send armed death squads in the middle of the night to take your guns away from you!”
These arguments are ridiculous and serve only to increase fear and paranoia in the readership. This encourages behavior like stocking up on guns and ammunition “before Obama bans them,” thereby increasing sales for Smith & Wesson, Winchester, and other manufacturers associated with the NRA. Paranoia makes money for gun manufacturers but is bad for the rest of us who just want to be able to sleep at night.
This is why I’d like to take a moment to call on all NRA members to reconsider their membership. Does this organization really represent your interests? Do you really think that armed guards in schools are the best way to prevent shootings? Do you really want mentally unstable people to be able to buy deadly weapons without background checks? The NRA certainly does. If you don’t, then send them a message and don’t renew your membership.
Justin Roczniak is the Op-ed editor of The Triangle. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.