Guns , Bullets and What happens in Between
Owning a firearm is a responsibility. It begins with oneself and moves it’s way to all surrounding us. It is not trivial to own a weapon.
Yet, in the USA it is trivial, and you can walk into a store and purchase one, with virtually no questions asked. Triviality lessens the responsibility and allows weapons to land up in the hands of persons who could threaten society.
The array of legal weapons is also stunning, allowing anyone to purchase even assault rifles. It probably was not one of the US constitutions second amendment’s intention that military weapons which should only be on the battlefield would roam the streets.
So what is wrong here? It is probably not the fact that so many arms are available, but it is in most probability both the violent society we are living in, the ease at achieving weapons, education, irresponsibility of owners of weapons and of course an individual “snapping”.
All the above could be addressed, but unfortunately will never be permanently solved. The world is a violent place, weapons will always be around (even if greater restrictions are placed) and there will always be those who will either snap or intentionally go out to do harm.
Yet, it is governments duty, around the globe, to fight the violence, minimize and block the chances of someone, for whatever reason they may have, of going out and murdering people.
In the US it is not that simple. The problem lies within the normal society.
In contrast, lets look at a country that had thousands killed by terrorism - Israel. Contrary to the worlds thinking owning a weapon in Israel or even getting access to one by the public is very difficult, on the verge of nearly impossible.
Permits are rarely given and getting one depends if you live in an area considered dangerous, or your job justifies it. To clarify - dangerous - those are areas are for example in Palestinian held territories or adjacent to Palestinian villages or towns. Please note - I state Palestinian and not Arab villages or towns. Israeli Jews and Arabs (both Christian and Muslim) live in proximity, whether in neighboring villages and towns or whether within the same neighborhood in the same city.
Therefore most of the weapons that are in the “ general public area “ in Israel are those held by the police, persons with permits, persons working as private security guards and only certified military combat trained soldiers when on leave. There is of course the criminal elements as in all countries, who own illegal weapons. As of late the security forces, mainly police, are conducting a wide crackdown on all illegal weapons. The main rationale was in the past - block any opportunity of weapons landing up in hostile hands. Now a new rationale is also putting pressure on reducing weapons - criminal violence. Criminal violence as in the most western countries is also increasing. Police crackdowns on illegal weapons and now plans which will enforce individuals working as private security guards to hand in their weapons to their employers when not on the job, are measures to help decrease violent incidents.
It would have been expected that in Israel, a country that is and has always been, at war and under constant threat of annihilation by its neighbors that weapons would be owned by much larger numbers, or at least by all those who had military training.
Yet as said above , this is not so. The main differences between Israel and the US on this matter lie within a few factors. The attitude to firearms, legislation, “ knowing the enemy”, and the responsibility of government.
- Attitude to firearms - even though the early Israelites in Bible times were a warring nation when they entered the promised land, throughout most of history Jews were denied access to weapons and therefore relied more on wit and the mind.
- Legislation - it is only lately that the courts have ruled in favor of individuals protecting their property with weapons. If one is in immediate life threatening danger, using a firearm in self defense is legal, but this needs to be proven and in most cases in a court of law.
- Knowing the enemy - the enemies of Israel are known and can be watched. Prevention is the main task of the various branches of the security forces, and as of the past few years with success. But that is another long story.
- Responsibility - it is the governments responsibility to protect its citizens.
Two democracies , both which believe in self defense see the owning of weapons in different manners.
Back to the USA.
The major part of the violence seen with firearms is not from enemies of the state. It is from citizens who for whatever crazy reason go on a shooting spree. It will be very difficult to stop this, and probably impossible to entirely eradicate it. Not only are there so many weapons around, guns are both big bucks as well as a way of life for many. Join all this together, ridding the streets will be impossible.
Does this mean - give up and live on hoping that when the next attack occurs you will not be there? There are measures that authorities and individuals can take to minimize the possibility of individuals gunning down innocents.
· Legislation could be made as to which arms can be purchased and where they should be kept and used
· Awareness - educate the population to be aware of individuals who may have strange behavior for example that is channeled towards society, or persons, who post intentions on the net, who show sudden unusual interest in firearms etc. People should be aware of individual’s strange behavior at home and in public. This is very difficult as the line between harassment and false accusations will need to be carefully thought out. The enemy in this case in the USA is not one easily identified. It is from within, the motives are not always clear and not a group of identified individuals who are attacking as an act of terror. Yet, awareness can help and probably stop some shootings.
· Posting armed security personnel at sensitive public places. This is a possibility and can be easily carried out. Unfortunately this is the world.
Anyone visiting Israel would recall immediately that there are armed security personnel at the entrance to any mall, most restaurants and of course schools. It becomes so part of life that it is unnoticed but there for protection.
Checking individuals entering public places is a deterrent. It is not leak proof, but works.
· Responsibility - keep weapons locked away at home and not just in a closet with an easily breakable lock. Most individuals who are responsible probably do keep their weapons under lock and key, but even so are the weapons easily accessible if the door of the gun cabinet is broken. It is actually very easy to secure weapons without a safe and it is the owner’s responsibility to ensure this. Increasing and enforcing legislation against those whose firearms are stolen or lost due to negligence would also help.
This argument will only barely minimize the danger, yet, in the Newton massacre it may have helped as well as probably in others as well. Keep children or unstable individuals in the family away from weapons, and never leave them unattended.
· Banning weapons in public Places - Is this a possibility? Can one ban in the US someone from entering a mall for example with a legally held weapon? In a country such as Israel where the enemy is known and weapons are scarce in the general population the situation is easier and legally held weapons are allowed in most public areas. In the US however it’s more complex and armed security will do no good if anyone with a legally hold weapon is allowed into public place. A lot of the public shootings were with legally possessed weapons.
This issue can be enforced but will require legislation and public cooperation. Yet, restrictions could be applied, just as has happened in Michigan where the Governor vetoed a bill allowing anyone from entering public places with concealed weapons. Not allowing concealed weapons will increase public awareness to those carrying weapons and inevitably reduce such behavior. It will also cause individuals to think as to whether they want to carry a weapon into a mall or public area.
· Education - educate the public from an early age. Weapons are lethal. They are dangerous when they are used against the public, individuals or animals. This HUB is not about hunting as this is an issue of its own, but about the use of weapons against innocent people in society. If the weapon is held for example by a trained individual for self defense it is not dangerous, except of course for the attacker or the attacked individual if he does not use the weapon. Educate that weapons are for reasons and can be dangerous. Increase the amount of training anyone who holds a weapon needs to participate in. The latter will of course bring about quite a bit of objections but it is possible. The ramifications are obvious.
The issue in the USA is complex and certainly not entirely with a solution that will eradicate the danger.
It can be minimized but with great efforts from all.