Over the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, a shooting injured two innocent bystanders. A 52-year-old woman and a 23-year-old man both sustained gunshot wounds in this tragic incident of cosmic irony. It’s truly heartbreaking that after a parade to honor a man of peace, two people would be shot. This shooting is just one of many in Florida, and while people run to the slogan “guns don’t kill people, people kill people,” this surge of gun violence reflects a horrifying trend that needs to be addressed.
The National Rifle Association and our elected officials seem to think the solution to increasing gun violence is to make guns more accessible. While the open carry law being contemplated reflects our government’s worship of western films and Clint Eastwood, more sobered heads must win out in this debate. We don’t need assault weapons, and we certainly don’t need duels at high noon.
It almost seems like common sense. While concealed carry maintains a civil and nonthreatening environment, an openly carried firearm is needlessly disruptive. Still, there are far greater concerns to address. FBI statistics reflect that, of 616 law enforcement officers killed on duty from 1994 to 2003, 52 were killed with their own gun. These are law enforcement officers that are trained to protect their weapons when under attack. This type of training would not be required, and is not even being considered as a stipulation of the open carry bill.
While Florida is one of only seven states that don’t allow open carry, very few citizens in other states take advantage of their open carry rights. That, however, does not mean that this bill and the other state laws already in place shouldn’t be scrutinized and questioned. Some gun owners are lulled into a false sense of security by their firearms, and openly carrying that firearm exacerbates that misconception. The statistics still reflect that being disarmed is a distinct possibility, especially if an individual believes that they are not a target due to their openly displayed firearm. Likewise, thoughtless crimes of passion or rage could quickly escalate if a gun is introduced into the situation.
It seems the NRA is just as conscious of these dangers as anyone. Anxious to cover its tracks, complicate collection of accurate statistics on the issue, and paint an idyllic picture of gun ownership, the organization lobbied for a “don’t ask” gun bill in Florida. The bill, if passed into law, would make it a felony for doctors to ask patients or their families if they own a gun or store a gun in the home. This is especially alarming due to the common concern of children sustaining gunshot wounds from unsecured firearms. This bill would turn well-meaning doctors into felons when a child with a gunshot wound is brought to their attention. This would be the only area of inquiry by a physician in history that would be criminalized.
While the NRA is well aware of the dangers of gun ownership, it seems convinced that the framers had the idea of “guns anywhere, guns everywhere” in mind when they wrote the constitution. It’s funny that NRA lobbyists and PR goons forget to mention the first part of the Second Amendment, which specifies the right to bear arms as being for the purposes of a well armed militia, and not the general populous. The Constitution is an intentionally vague document. There will be debate about all of the amendments, what the framers intended and their meaning in the context of our modern society for decades to come. But the NRA can’t hide behind the Second Amendment forever. I can only suspend my disbelief so far, the framers never could have foreseen a gun that could empty a clip and reload in a couple of seconds.
The debate will rage on, but in the wake of tragic gun violence, it seems like an insult to the memory of those injured and dead that gun regulations should be mindlessly lifted as a response. Maybe we should be addressing the real problem: illegal weapons trafficking throughout our country. But the NRA would rather further its agenda and muddles the issue, with no concern for the results of its actions.