Shots rang out again this week in yet another mass shooting. We've seen too many of these in recent memory. The shooting of Congresswoman Gabriel Gifford in Tucson. The Aurora, Colorado movie theater massacre. The shootings at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut. And now a rampage at the Navy Yard in Washington, D.C.
I am a proud gun owner and a firm believer in the Second Amendment in its strictest, word-for-word interpretation. I believe that our founders wanted each individual to have the right to own a gun for the protection of the their homes and country, a right that "shall not be infringed."
Infringed: a breach or infraction, as of a law, right, or obligation. But, after a solemn occasion like this week’s D.C. shooting, the politicos will take to the air and restart the debate about gun control in this country. Because, as Chicago mayor, and President Obama's former chief of staff Rahm Emanuel stated, "you never let a serious crisis go to waste."
You see, it's not so much about policy as it is about money. If this becomes a "war on guns," both sides get wealthy. The NRA stockpiles cash from anti-Obama folks, while the Brady camp fills its war chests to fight against tea party wackos. It's not about whether gun control is right or wrong, it's about money.
So, they won't talk statistics, but I will. I will talk policy.
Using the most recent numbers I could find, as of December 2012, gun-related murders, aggravated assault and robberies in the United States were all down last year as gun ownership skyrocketed. In Montana, for 2011, total firearm murders were down 42 percent from the previous year. And only 39 percent of all murders in our state were committed using a gun. Nationwide, in 2008, there were 16,200 murders.
Of those, just over 10,000 were commissioned using a gun, or 67 percent.
But, in the negative column, gun-related suicides were up in 2012. For that year, 19,400 people took their own lives using a firearm. This was the highest rate since 1998, and almost double the rate of gun related homicide.
How is that last number related to guns? In my opinion, it has more to do with the mental health of the trigger puller than the availability of guns.
In each of the "mass shootings" mentioned above, the alleged gunmen had some sort of psychological "disorder." Congresswoman Gifford's assailant had been kicked out of college for mental "issues," where the Aurora shooter dressed up like the Joker from Batman. In Connecticut, he "lacked his faculties."
Notice the political correctness to which I refer to these "men." We live in a society that is morbidly obese in its PC gluttony. If we were to call it what the Greatest Generation called it, crazy, maybe these people would not have been given the opportunity to accomplish these heinous acts. They would have been involuntarily incarcerated and "treated." But since we prance around the issue by changing the name, these persons can't get help. And some of them have access.
There must have been early signs. Signs throughout school. But with 30-plus kids per class, what teacher could corral all those cats and notice the warning signs of mental instability? But didn't the parents notice? Probably not. Nowadays, adults desire to be their children's friend over being their parent.
But, let’s not lose sight of the fact that, although tragic, these crimes were not committed by guns. These were brought on by a crazy person. And, even if they lacked easy access to a gun, they would find yet another way to act out. But it was the person, not the instrument.
In America, we have a history with firearms. After the Civil War, General Ulysses Grant allowed Confederate soldiers to return home with their rifle and their horse. How else could they provide for their family without meat brought forth from hunting? I've known friends and neighbors where big game hunting season isn't about sport as much as it is about "filling the freezer." I know others who have a concealed weapons permit for personal protection, and the Feds allow certain trained pilots to carry firearms on aircraft.
Let's keep our eyes on the ball on this one. Let's not get distracted by the talking heads that will use this as an opportunity to promote their pro- or anti-gun agenda. These shootings should be about the person behind the gun. For there are millions of us — law abiding, good, and responsible gun owners. We are not part of the problem. Please don't diminish our rights just because of a couple of crackpots.
(William Bennett is a husband, dad and fifth-generation Montanan. An airline captain and former candidate for the Montana House of Representatives, he lives in Belgrade. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Facebook.com/bennettformontana.)