So I started out the pre-writing for our discussion about guns by first asking – does America have a gun problem, a violence problem, a mental health problem, or a toxic masculinity problem? Do we have a combination of these problems? Why or why not? And of course, I got a variety of responses where many of you said that we’re experiencing a combination of these issues. And we watched this video looking at the history of the Brady Bill primarily (with a secondary quick look at the the Assault Weapons Ban in 1994) and a balanced look at how different people across the country view guns, both negatively or positively. See the video below:
Why We Can’t Have a Civil Conversation About Guns from Retro Report Cuts on Vimeo.
We then talked about America’s distrust of standing armies, the country’s reliance on an armed militia to defend itself in the early days, and we read the 2nd Amendment and briefly discussed its history of being interpreted by the SCOTUS (History and court cases found here). In a brief summary, there were very few legal challenges to the 2nd Amendment in the 19th and 20th Century, the cases primarily focused on the first clause of the Amendment on the well regulated militia, as exemplified by the Miller case in 1939 that seemed to tie gun ownership to being part of a militia. However, scholars and legal experts continued to debate the issue in the latter half of the 20th Century as it appeared that most American gun-onwers were NOT part of an organized state militia given the establishment of a large, permanent army. By the time SCOTUS determined D.C. v. Heller in 2008, the Court separated gun onwership from service in a militia officially and established an individual right to own a gun in your own home for protection. This right was expanded in the 2010 case, McDonald v. City of Chicago and in last year’s case, NYSRPA v. Bruen which expanded the right to carry guns outside of the home instead of just in the home for self-defense.
And so when we looked at the 5 gun control advocacy groups and the 5 gun rights advocacy groups and their websites, we found a variety of goals and arguments for gun control or gun rights. Some policy goals for gun control groups ranged from a new assault weapon ban, a limit or ban high capacity magazines (thanks to 4th hour, I found out that anything over 10 rounds is considered high capacity), increased stronger background checks, and limiting guns from “certain groups” as one of the groups put it, essentially enforcing or creating Red Flag laws or preventing those with a history of domestic violence from getting them. One group, like the Brady Campaign, had some interesting stats and graphics, a few of which I could not find the source of their info (like 3 graphics below).
They gave sources like the CDC for some of their stats on gun deaths, injuries, etc., but these three in particular I wanted to see the sources. Some of the groups relied on first-hand accounts of traumatic shootings to bolster their claims, but it seemed that one of the newest groups founded in the wake of the Oxford and Uvalde shootings, Teachers Unify to End Gun Violence, didn’t seem to have any solid policy goals or proposals other than no gun violence in schools. Looking across the five groups we analyzed, some groups have a state by state approach while others call for national legislation to achieve their policy goals. Nowhere did these groups promote gun confiscation, which would most likely (I won’t say 100% because as we have seen in the past few years, some federal judges will approve or pass injunctions on the flimsiest of reasons) lose in any court in the land as a massive violation of the 2nd Amendment. Personally, I believe that a confiscation law, first, would never pass Congress (no matter what kind of gun) though it might pass in a very liberal state but I still doubt it (because the law would never go into effect b/c gun rights groups would file an injunction in federal court to stop it from going into effect), and second, it is a direct violation of the 2nd Amendment. Confiscation is a punishment inflicted on all Americans who own and handle their guns responsibly and for legitimate reasons. Confiscation is fantastical thinking and completely unrealistic. And if it happened in other countries, their circumstances nd histories greatly differ from the U.S..
On the gun rights side, most groups were opposed to any type of gun control as being an infringement upon a person’s absolute right found in the 2nd Amendment. The NRA, the 2nd Amendment Foundation, and the Firearms Policy Coalition advocated for sport shooting and educating and expanding educational opportunities exposing teenagers to the importance of gun safety. One group, National Association for Gun Rights, has currently as its website banner a misleading banner claiming that President Biden has signed an Executive Order requiring Universal Gun Registration (assumed to be much like how all kinds of vehicles are registered) which you can see here.
But what Biden’s EO, signed in March of this year, has done was to push for something close to universal background checks before gun purchases (see the EO here). To be fair, the NRA paints an accurate portrayal of Biden’s EO here, but uses inflammatory headlines and pics (see below).
The main problem with these kinds of misleading and inflammatory headlines and graphics, as I see it, is likely intentional – to make the federal government led by Democrats out to be the adversary that must be defeated at all costs because your very rights – all of them – are at stake. This leaves no room for compromise, and several of the gun rights groups we analyzed proudly proclaimed that they are against any kinds of compromise with gun control advocates. And this kind of thinking can lead some small number of gun rights groups to engage in their own kind of fantastical thinking – that one person with their arsenal of guns will be able to prevent or stop a tyrannical government like the U.S. with the armed forces at their disposal (Don’t believe me? This is a quote from the FPC’s Constitution: “We believe that well-armed people make tyranny at scale significantly more costly and thus positively changes the economics of authoritarianism as against those People;”) (source). This might have been true in 1791 when the Bill of Rights was approved, and the federal government had a tiny army. But not now. Like I mentioned previously, confiscation of all guns (or even just existing assault weapons) is an unealistic and unconstitutional pipe dream, and given the adversarial kind of thinking outlined above, would result in massive death and carnage. But if some people think they can hold off or defeat the best-financed armed forces in the world, they are also engaging in fantastical thinking.
As you can see, we spent the majority of our time discussing attitudes about guns and why people might oppose or support gun control measures. What I would like you to do is to return to the original pre-writing question and answer that along with your choice of questions below:
- Does America have a gun problem, a violence problem, a mental health problem, or a toxic masculinity problem? Do we have a combination of these problems? Why or why not?
- Is there another problem that is plaguing America besides any of the four listed above? If so, what is it and how is it negatively affecting America? If not, don’t answer this question.
- Listening to some of the gun control measures we had discussed the past 2 days, which of those would you support? Why?
- If you think America has primarily a violence problem, what kinds of solutions can you envision would help address the problem? Explain.
- If you think America has primarily a mental health crisis, what kinds of solutions can you envision would help address the problem? Explain.
- What are your thoughts on the concept of toxic masculinity? Is it real or is it some kind of made-up thing to target men for being naturally aggressive? Or is it something else? Explain why. (This definition comes from Wikipedia – Toxic masculinity is thus defined by adherence to traditional male gender roles that consequently stigmatize and limit the emotions boys and men may comfortably express while elevating other emotions such as anger. It is marked by economic, political, and social expectations that men seek and achieve dominance.)
You must answer question #1 and then pick two additional ones to share your thoughts about. If you use anything that is not your own original thought, please follow my example here and cite your sources. Your total answer for all 3 questions should achieve a minimum of 400 words total. Due Tuesday night, May 23, by 11:59 p.m.