Our gun problem: Getting past all the noise

Man buying a handgun

This article may feature affiliate links, and purchases made may earn us a commission at no extra cost to you. Find out more here.

With yet another school shooting still fresh in our minds, social media is once again filled with opinions and memes and debates on the topics of gun control and mental health.

An opinion by Gen Xer Missy Mitchell

Normally, I scroll past these posts. I choose not to take part in political discussions. I won’t get involved in a virtual debate. Mostly because I don’t do well with ignorance — which I’ve realized is in no short supply on the Internet. Obviously, I am not talking about you. I’m referring to the masses posting and commenting on Facebook, Twitter, personal blogs, and anywhere else they can voice their opinions.
Getting past all the noise

All the talk on social media seems to start with the issue of gun control, which then unfolds to “our crappy healthcare system,” which, in turn, always seems to make its way to “Our President sucks.”

It drives me nuts. I’ve seen so many “Guns don’t kill people — people kill people” debates I want to shoot my computer screen. I’ve read comments that make us, as humans, look damn stupid. Almost embarrassing. Like why am I still paying for my graduate degree when I’ll never be better than the same species as the moron who just wrote that comment? Somewhere, in the land of fairness, I should get a break on my student loans for having learned, if anything, to argue my point with some kind of intelligence and clarity.

So because I don’t like to comment (i.e. start a virtual sh*tstorm) on individual posts, I figured I should find another way to address all the issues littering my Facebook and Twitter pages.

Here’s the thing: We don’t have a “gun problem” in the United States. I say this carefully because I’ve already pissed off a bunch of people, and I’ve already made the wrong people cheer for the wrong reason.

Look, I don’t like guns. I’ve had one held to my head once while being robbed. At my father’s dental office. Seriously. Some dumbass thought since my dad made gold crowns, he must have Aladdin’s treasure’s worth of gold in the office. This happened more than once. It’s why my dad started packing heat to work. Stay with me here…

My dad was no stranger to guns. He was a hunter. We had guns in the house. We also had three children in the house. The guns were registered; my dad was an educated owner. The guns were legally purchased and legally owned and legally accounted for.

What’s our gun problem? Debating gun control on social media

I don’t think the United States has a gun problem, per se. What we have is an “ease of obtaining guns” problem. We have a lack of mandatory gun education and safety problem. We have an irresponsible owners problem. We have an “I’m not willing to budge, because I believe in the Second Amendment” problem.

It’s just too damn easy to obtain guns in the United States. That’s why they end up in the hands of so many wrong people. Your first thought is the “wrong people” are those crackpots — the mentally ill. The “They must be crazy so how’d they get a gun?” group.

You’re right. How did those people obtain guns? How do people with criminal records obtain guns? How do minors obtain guns? How are there not enough checks and balances to make it so difficult to purchase guns, that the average weirdo Joe doesn’t make it through the cracks?

Guns won’t go away, so we can give up on that idealistic dream. However, if they’re going to be accessible, we need to make it a pain in the ass to get them.

Row of rifles in a gun shop
Photo by NomadSoul1/Envato

Help me out here. Should there be (more and better) mandatory training and education? Because whatever’s being done now clearly isn’t enough.

Should new owners not be able to leave the dealer unless they go through this mandatory education/training?

Should registration become an annual requirement, meaning you must renew the license/registration every year? Should you have to register the ammunition you purchase?

And should that mandatory registration requirements be met with stronger rules, meaning in order to re-register, owners would be required to do more education and training (like the equivalent of medical professionals’ continuing education credits — but for gun owners)?

Should we control how and where guns and ammo are sold?

Before you say, “there will always be a black market” and all that, let me say, “No sh*t.” However, making guns less accessible to the mass market and making it more difficult to own a gun without being forced to be a responsible gun owner will certainly help.

The issue of irresponsible owners

Speaking of gun owners, we might as well bring up the subject of irresponsible owners. We’re moving past the ‘hood and mental institution here. These owners aren’t criminals, gansters or crazies. These are your neighbors. These are soccer parents. These are the people with whom your kids share play dates.

The number of irresponsible gun owners is surprising and parents top the list. Count the number of children who’ve accidentally or purposely shot themselves or others because the gun was too accessible in the house. Ask almost all gun-owning parents out there and they’ll say, “My kid would never touch the gun. He/she knows better.”

Guess what? Little Jimmy doesn’t. Sure, he nods his head when you tell him the rules, but come on, guns are cool. Kids are intrigued. Guess what else? Kids and teens are currently living in a new world, one that parents have nothing relative to compare. Our pasts didn’t include the social pressures, the video games, the media and the world violence that our kids witness today.

Hell, when we were young, bullying usually just meant the big dude on the playground stole your lunch or tripped you every time you ran past him. Bullying now takes all different forms, and reaches many different levels. Some kids get to a point of no return. Having a gun in the house — one that’s not secured — is sometimes their answer.

Don’t forget that young people watch movies and play video games, during which hundreds of (virtual) people may be killed in a minute. And it’s no big deal because it’s not real. I’m not lecturing parents about the downside of video games — I’m just saying when you’re so numbed by the damage caused by guns, the weapon loses its clout. It’s “just a gun.” Anyone who plays enough Call of Duty and Grand Theft Auto knows this. (Even I admit to laughing at some of the violent acts.) My point is that even the best parents aren’t always responsible gun owners.

Guns also end up in the hands of irresponsible hunters. Yeah, I know. Hunters need guns. Hunters have been trained. Hunters use them correctly. Etc. Etc.

Like I said, my dad was a hunter. I grew up with hunting rifles in the house. These guns were secured like money in an armored truck. To this day, I couldn’t tell you where the ammo was stored. I know my dad was trained (however long before I came along) to use the rifles and to be a “responsible” hunter. However, I’ve met hunters who didn’t store their rifles properly. Some even gave their kids free access, with the idea that there’s no ammunition, so there’s no danger.

Well, guess what? Your kids found the ammo. I watched them find it and load the gun. I knew hunters who drank alcohol while hunting or while camping. Everyone does that, right? Yes, except when you’re on a hunting trip and you’re wasted, you’re not fully aware of your guns’ proximity or safety. Add children/teens/young adults to that mix, and you’re asking for trouble.

It’s not all about the healthcare system

So, to that statement I love to avoid, “Guns don’t kill people; people kill people,” I must say, “Sorry, but yes, guns kill people. Guns that end up in irresponsible hands.”

Before you start forming your argument in your head, let me throw this at you: You can’t complain about the mentally ill, and the healthcare system, and how you have to pay more every month to support those who can’t pay for healthcare.

It’s not the healthcare system causing the explosion of mass shootings. Comparing the number of mentally ill gun-owners to the number of irresponsible parents who own guns, you’ll find quite a difference, with the scale tipping in the direction of the parents. No healthcare system in the world, no matter how good, tests parents on ignorance. (God, I wish.) Our system’s not meant to weed out irresponsible people. No doctor will be able to diagnose a “wake the f*ck up, you have guns in the house” parent or a “turn a blind eye, because only psychos with guns kill people” gun owner.

Wake up. It’s not the healthcare system. For the first time in a long time, people who wouldn’t be able to seek treatment now have access to it.

Pro-gun-ownership people can’t just say, “Fix the healthcare system,” because they think the problem exists with mental health care. Instead, they must be willing to give a little, meaning help create legislation that will work hand-in-hand with the healthcare system (i.e. mental health/gun ownership).

They must be willing to get their hands dirty by (a) actually learning about the healthcare system, and (b) doing something about it, instead of sitting around BSing about how the system doesn’t work and how our President sucks. I think people should take a look at irresponsible gun owners. (Not you, of course.)

Let’s talk about this

What we need are open-minded discussions between gun owners and non-gun owners about some intelligent regulations.

Gun owners know this: We live in a f*cked up world. That’s just how it is. If you want your Second Amendment freedom to bear arms and so forth, you’re going to have to understand that. And you’re going to have to give a little.

“Why me?” you ask. You’re a responsible owner. You have your guns stored safely, your ammo stored separately, and understand the damage such weapons can cause.

But guess what? Unfortunately, the assholes of the world have prevailed once again, making it difficult for the good guys. So, if you want your gun freedom, suck it up and give a little.

No denying it anymore

Honestly, I don’t believe taking away guns is the answer. I don’t think that wouldn’t even work if we tried.

Instead, we need to clamp down on ownership. Sorry if it’s a pain. Sorry if it’s annoying and a waste of your time. Sorry if the “crazy people” have raised it to this level. But it is what it is. It’s come to this. There’s no denying it. There’s no reason to whine about it.

I’m pretty sure you love your guns — but I’m also pretty sure you love your children, family and friends more.

You want to help? Don’t just spout off about freedom and the right to own guns; don’t rag on the healthcare system or the President. Do something productive. Educate fellow gun owners about gun safety. Teach people in your area.

Start with your own home. Are your guns locked? Is the ammo separate? Educate and quiz your kids and any children who come to your house. (Also ask questions about mental health care so you have the facts — because, believe me, you probably don’t.)

If you want your guns, get over yourself and your Second Amendment BS. The world is very different today — different even from just a decade ago. Too many people are sitting around, posting crap on social media about “freedom” — and the NRA isn’t helping.

We have a problem, and pretending it doesn’t exist — or that it will resolve itself somehow — isn’t going to work.

Whether you’re for guns or against guns (or something in between), it’s time to do something positive and productive to advance the discussion. I’ve said my piece. Now it’s your turn.

Missy Mitchell

Missy Mitchell

Missy earned her BA in Kinesiology from San Diego State University, and has worked as an athletic trainer helping people get fit and heart-healthy. She’s done marathons, 100-mile bike races and even a few triathlons. In addition to being national in-demand speaker and representative for the American Heart Association, a member of several CHD (congenital heart disease) advocacy and advisory committees, Missy has written a memoir and a YA novel. She and her two children survive every day with congenital heart disease, and are the fundraising campaign faces for several large organizations supporting research and CHD care. She is also the creator of Growing Up Zipper™, incorporating books, videos and social media, as a virtual world for for tweens, teens and young adults, and their families and friends, to share their life experiences with congenital heart defect/disease.

don't miss