Full disclosure: Mr. S and I have guns in our house. We have the actual guns in one electronic safe, the ammunition in a second electronic safe. (We also talk openly about guns to the older children, about how dangerous they are, responsibility, etc. They have no access to the location of the guns. We routinely change the password, as well.)
He and I both know how to assemble and load a weapon in under 1 minute, including opening the safes. We have had to perform that act once in our lives, and it's something I'll never forget.
I was sitting in my living room of my older house late one night with a book when I saw a face in the glass inches away from me. I calmly said to my husband, "Go get your gun." He nonchalantly stood, went to the place where our guns were kept and went out the back door and apprehended the guy, who was trying to steal our neighbor's car. (An elderly couple with very little English.) I called 911 during all of this, and we later found out that that man was a part of a home invasion ring.
My husband takes routine exams to test his ability to fire his weapon safely. He also has to undergo psychological exams periodically, as he has a license to carry a concealed weapon, and that's the law here. I think that should be the law ANY TIME a gun is purchased. You should not be able to sell guns on eBay. You should not be able to sell guns at gun shows. You should not be able to put an ad in the paper and sell a gun to someone.
For the love of Mike, you can't buy CIGARETTES without regulation controlling their sale, but guns - the easiest weapon to take a life - can be sold to your neighbor without so much as a by your leave?
I got into a very friendly, yet emotional debate about guns last night with a lovely girl in school at Oxford. I'm not sure what her definition of "gun control" is, but I will tell you this: it's too late to do away with guns, and it has been since Leatherstocking stalked his first elk. Guns are a part of our culture, because we were founded on people who had to fend for themselves. (And ask the people sitting on their roofs in New Orleans how far we've come.) If you outlaw all guns (and note: I FIRMLY BELIEVE that no citizens needs an automatic weapon. NO ONE.) you'll just take them away from regular people who hunt for sport, or enjoy going to the shooting range. Criminals will still have them. Which... the point is to take them away from criminals, yes?
But here's the thing: it's NOT about guns. It isn't. Well, not completely. It's about (as Kita mentioned in her post earlier) MENTAL HEALTH CARE. It's about rage and violence and depression and mental illness. You ask ANYONE living in London if taking guns away meant no one is hurt/attacked/injured/killed any more. Guess what? There's a knife-stabbing every day. EVERY. DAY. People who want to kill, will. It may take them longer, it may take ingenuity, but they will.
The crazed man that destroyed the Federal building in Oklahoma City didn't use a gun.
The problem is how we find and treat people with mental illness.
Case in point, and I'll leave the rest for you to discuss, should you feel so inclined: Charles Whitman. Charles Whitman was a model citizen (aren't they all?), an altar boy, never in trouble, an Eagle Scout, and a sharpshooter for the Marines. Charles Whitman told his doctor that he was feeling "low" after his parents' divorce and hadn't been feeling well. He also told his doctor that he thought about "climbing the Tower [bell tower at the University of Texas campus in Austin] and shooting a bunch of people."
His doctor laughed, clapped him on the back, and told him he needed to go on a hunting trip and "unwind."
He shot with deadly aim and killed 23 people (some died later of complications), and wounded 20 more. He then turned the gun on himself. Later, an autopsy revealed a MASSIVE brain tumor, most likely the cause of both his depression and uncontrolled rage. Also, his father beat him without mercy as he grew up. I wonder if that contributed to his rage? Hmmmmm.
MENTAL HEALTH. We're sadly lacking in its care here. Ask anyone trying to find a mental health care professional how successful they've been. I'll be upfront. I've been through 4 in the past year (for my son) and I've yet to find someone that will sit in a chair across from me and/or my son and just LISTEN. Or even talk! Instead, I get to pay a large fee and be handed paperwork that was obviously printed from the internet. 3. 3 different therapists.
This is about our ABYSMAL health care in this country, how we don't really care about getting people better, because there is MONEY TO BE MADE off of Wellbutrin, etc. Pills generate money without wasting doctor's time. Doctors don't like seeing ADHD patients, for example, because the exams take longer. I've had a doctor admit that to me. They can see 4 patients in the place of my son. Our insurance companies, our public perceptions of mental illness, our ability to CARE ABOUT and NOT DEMONIZE those that are ill are failing us as a society.
Guns just give the ill a quicker route to follow through on what they'd do anyway. As I mentioned in Kita's post, a determined killer will use anything, even if it's a #10 can of beans to the head. Or in the case of a mother here with postpartum depression, a flagstone rock from her garden to the skull of her three children. Or Andrea Yates with her bathtub.
These people are SICK and they need care. But our government doesn't have a system set up to find them, treat them, help them, keep them from harming themselves or others. (just ask any of the mental health care workers who were powerless to keep Andrea Yates from going home the SECOND TIME she was admitted for depression. Why her husband wasn't jailed as an accomplice...)
Yes, guns shouldn't be so easy to get a hold of. But they're not the problem. Just like Goth music and violent videogames weren't the cause of Columbine, or military training wasn't Whitman's problem. Saying guns are the problem here will just act as a deepening of our heads in the sand, imo. We need an overhaul to our health care system. God knows we have the money. (We just spend it on the wrong things, don't we?)
[ETA] And now we know who the killer was. Or may be one of many. My heart goes out to the victims families, those poor, bewildered people.