Human rights, gun rights and what is right.
by Michael Frantz
Let’s start where I hope there is less debate. Can we all agree that regardless of gender identity, sexual orientation, color, religious (or not) affiliation, age, mental and physical differences, veteran’s status or any other “identifier” that all humans should be inherently endowed with equal rights? That means zero differences under the law and our actions. We can all use the same water fountains, bathrooms, lunch counters, locker rooms, etc. We will provide for privacy as needed to gain adequate security for those on all sides of the issues to feel as comfortable as possible. Apparently, equal rights make some people uncomfortable, so we must attend to those that are uncomfortable as well, without removing any rights from anyone. I guess I’m okay with that if it helps us all to just get over ourselves. By my last count, I’ve been using gender inclusive bathrooms since I came into the world, as have all of you. I’ve caught zero diseases from water fountains used by those not like me. I’ve not had food taste any different in restaurants where others not like me are dining. I’ve not been accosted by those with different sexual orientations.
How is it we keep fighting the same fight over different groupings of people? At what point does human mean human?
The massacre in Orlando is a direct attack on our LGBTQ+ community and their supporters. I can’t imagine the heartache and fear this causes. I don’t want to minimize the direct assault on this community, but, to me, Orlando is yet another in a long string of attacks over generations that target individuals with a variety of beliefs. We’ve seen shootings over abortion rights, color of skin, religious beliefs and more. It has to stop now. That is why I started this missive with human rights.
Now, let’s get into gun rights. I’m a gun owner and user who acquired said gun via a background check. If I hunt ducks, I am not allowed more than three shells in my gun and must ensure a plug exists that prevents me from sneaking in any more rounds. But, if I go hunting humans I can use all five shells that fit in the gun. If I want to hunt deer in Iowa, I can only use slugs that have stopping power out to 80 yards or so. No long range smoke poles are allowed, nor am I allowed to use pistols. In other words, we have more restrictive gun laws for animal hunters than human hunters.
The gun rights debate inevitably challenges Americans to consider the 2nd Amendment, the right to reasonable personal security and the ability to defend oneself, and issues of psychological well-being. We don’t let kids drive a car, at least without adult supervision, until they are 14, yet we have kids going to shooting ranges, all quite legally, and firing assault weapons at ages under 10. A kid can’t get a hunting license until a hunter safety course is passed but the same kid can shoot an AK-47 without any training. A car is a deadly weapon. I would argue that an assault rifle is deadlier, yet our laws for guns are less restrictive.
I said after Sandy Hook that if that abomination didn’t change our gun laws, then nothing would. Sadly, I’m right. I doubt Orlando will change our thinking either. We knowingly and unknowingly allow those with severe psychological issues the ability to access guns, whether through purchase or home access. Yet, we punish parents who leave handguns accessible to little ones but do nothing to adults who leave even more deadly weapons available to the mentally ill. But, we take the car keys away from the elderly when they have become a menace on the road. You have to pass an eye test to get and keep a driver’s license, but I don’t need to do the same to buy a gun or get a hunting license. I can’t drive without my glasses but my hunting license has no such restrictions. Common sense has been trumped by a Constitutional amendment that was written to protect the people from tyranny. However, human tyranny caused by those with access to unreasonable gun ownership is part of the problem. It’s not the whole problem, but it is part of it.
We know that money is king in America. We also know that money often leads to an abuse of power. We see the abuse on Wall Street, on Capitol Hill and on Main Street everywhere. Where I see it the most is with the NRA. They have bought and paid for your rights to buy weapons that have no other real purpose other than to kill people. Enough. It is time to remove them from power. It won’t solve the whole problem, but we’ll be another step closer.
Another part of the problem is a federal system that begs for a complete overhaul. My background check was done via a phone call that lasted under a minute. I don’t think many databases were consulted.
Our law enforcement personnel do an outstanding job protecting us from more wannabe foreign and domestic assailants than we will ever know. But they are not, and will never be, infallible. Improving the system by which their collected information is shared with law enforcement across the country and with those legally selling weaponry is another part of the solution.
Another important step would be to require mental health testing before purchase of your first gun is allowed and at an agreed upon interval of time, just like we do when re-issuing drivers’ licenses. Make this part of the defense budget. I believe protecting ourselves from harm from our own citizens is as important as the same practice with foreign enemies. The government should negotiate a fair rate of pay and develop a set of standards by which to assess would-be gun owners, approved by the American Psychological Association. So as not to show economic discrimination, the cost of the evaluations will be borne by tax dollars in the defense budget and justified for national security. If you don’t want tax payers shelling out for this, then set a standard rate of pay, say $100, for this psych eval. If you can’t afford to pay this, I don’t see how you can afford a gun and ammo.
Next step, create a massive and mandatory government buy-back program for all weapons, again paid for out of the defense budget. First, we’ll need to legislate the legal reasons for gun ownership. I don’t think they need to be hugely restrictive, but you damned well better have a good and responsible reason to own seven rifles, eighteen handguns, and twelve assault rifles. If you can make a reasonable case before the judge, so be it. If you can’t, then you shouldn’t be allowed that many.
The second amendment calls for gun ownership for a well-regulated militia. Let’s make sure we are well regulated. The government will pay a fair market price for all guns purchased. This will also allow us to have a reasonably good accounting of weapons and who owns them. I know that there will always be a black market, that those with evil intent will never sell back their guns, thus we won’t get 100%, but if we can inch closer to that goal, what is the harm? Personally, I’d like a ban on all assault rifles and similar weapons of mass destruction, but I’m trying to find a little common ground here. Once approved by the mental health test and the gun judge, you can purchase back approved weapons with the money the government gave you to buy them back.
When is it okay to suspend human rights? When the greater good is more important than an individual. As mentioned, we don’t let those without the proper eyesight or ability drive a car. We don’t let those under 18 vote, although they can shoot guns and drive cars. You can’t scream “fire” in a movie theatre and be beyond the law. You’re not allowed to run naked down the street. I don’t think you’re allowed to own a nuclear weapon. In other words, there are all kinds of laws that restrict our rights for the greater good; it’s just a matter of where that line is drawn. I’d like it drawn outside the classrooms of Sandy Hook, outside the front door to nightclubs, outside the gates of university campuses, and outside the ticket counter at movie theatres.
Finally, I recognize we can’t stop all terrorists or others with evil intent. I accept that bad people will do horrible things to good people. All I want is to minimize the carnage. Can’t we give this a try for five years, evaluate what we are doing right and what can be done better and then improve it further? What is the real harm in that? I too often see what the real harm is in what we are currently doing. So, I know the danger of not changing our approach to human and gun rights. You know it, too. We may not know what is right but can’t we at least take some steps toward figuring it out a little more?
Mike Frantz resides in Storm Lake, Iowa, where he is Vice President of Enrollment at Buena Vista University. He holds a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Political Science and is an avid pheasant hunter.