Dissecting the Gun Debate

Putting All the Guns on the Table

One of the biggest reasons that gun discussions often don’t gain traction is the two sides are often comparing apples and rocks.  Those who are for gun control are often discussing death and emotion, while those who are pro-gun may speak of technical aspects (semi-automatic vs. automatic) and entitlement (the 2nd Amendment).  Regardless of your position on the gun debate, it’s hard for even the most objective people to make sense of multiple dead and wounded lying in a parking lot.  When hardened Second Amendment advocates lecture the anti-gun lobby on the subject of firearm functionality, their comments often sound tone-deaf; resulting in a loss of support from neutrals and the undecided.

Add to the mix, self-serving politicians, lobbyists and commentators on both sides with political agendas, along with the media, who are compelled to fill 24-hour news cycles, you have the perfect recipe for misinformation and op-eds masquerading as facts.  Throw in terms like “military-grade” and weapons of war, and the sensationalism meter and emotional quotient goes off the chart.  What does military grade mean anyway?  Does it refer to the materials of the firearm?  Does it refer to the operating system; semi-automatic, automatic, or three round burst?  Consider at the military M4 rifle, which resembles the civilian AR15, while it may look similar, they actually operate very differently.  The military version of the rifle comes equipped with fully-automatic or three-round-burst capabilities (machine gun). However, that is not the same functionality as the AR15.  The AR15 operates like all modern handguns, one bullet per one squeeze of the trigger.

With the AR15, what causes death and injury is not necessarily the type of round fired.  Most modern firearms are deadly force tools designed to cause severe bodily harm or death, regardless of whether they are handguns, shotguns or rifles.  Every traditional hunting rifle on the market (i.e., 30-06, .270, .300) is significantly more potent than the AR15 round.  It isn’t necessarily the 30-round magazine either; it is the fact that active shooters are typically the only ones doing the shooting (they have a force monopoly) in an often highly confined space and with the absence of capable guardians to repel the threat.  That is why you see shootings in schools, malls, churches, movie theaters, etc.  If you gave a shooter five-shot revolvers and put them in a congested area, you would also have a high injury and death rate.

If we allow the mass public to become misinformed, it leads to bad policymaking, and bad laws; ‘feel-good legislation’ and over legislating doesn’t serve anyone.  Let me be clear, I too want to have a safe world for our children to grow up in.  I am just saying that many of the proposals brought forth will not mitigate violence.  Here is a perfect example; many people are for universal background checks, and I support the idea.  However, until the background check process also cross-references medical history, it will be woefully incomplete.  But you can’t cross-reference medical history because of the HIPAA privacy laws.  So, until you change the HIPAA laws finding people who are medically adjudicated not authorized to own a firearm, you will still have a voluntary checkbox.  Question 11F of the federal firearm form, 4473, states, “have you ever been adjudicated as mentally defective OR have you ever been committed to a mental institution.”  Had the authorities been able to cross-reference the Virginia Tech Shooter’s medical history, he would not have been able to purchase a firearm legally.  Also, just a reminder, he killed 32 people with a handgun, not an AR15.  Again, the absence of the capable guardians to initially repel the threat and not the type of firearm used is what caused the death and destruction.

When it comes to closing the private gun sale loophole, that could be instantly solved or significantly impacted by allowing private citizens to access the same National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), that FFL Dealers use, and could be done via the telephone or computer by entering the prospective buyer’s social security number.  Similar to when people go to auto auctions to buy automobiles, and some third-party mechanics can check the roadworthiness of a vehicle for a nominal fee.  Most FFL dealers charge $5.00 to run the background check process on prospective buyers.

I grew up in a very politically active family, and I learned long ago, “If you are not at the table, then you are on the menu.”  When it comes to safety and violence reduction, I don’t believe in outsourcing that responsibility to people who don’t understand violence mitigation.  The majority of the proposals surfaced are reactive ones or suggestions which don’t get us in front of the crisis. Also, everything is not solved by more laws, hell, we don’t even enforce our existing laws on the books!  Murder is already illegal, and it has not deterred one active shooter or terrorist.  Felons cannot legally own firearms, yet those laws have also not stopped criminals from securing firearms.  The majority of these firearms are stolen and thereby, once more, disobeying the law and avoiding background checks.

People often ask why does a civilian need an AR15? Why not, they are legal semi-automatic firearms just like most modern-day handguns? As a law-abiding citizen, I should have the enhanced ability to protect my family and home from extreme violence. I don’t care if the source of violence is religious extremism or desperation like we saw with the civil unrest during hurricane Katrina and Maria. I reviewed a video earlier this week, where seven (7) bad guys were trying to break into a property.  The roads may be impassable for law enforcement or the response time may be delayed or nonexistent due to the conditions. The speed of violence happens in seconds, not minutes, so every citizen must be prepared to be their own first line of defense, possibly for an extended time.

For a small frame person, an AR15 will be far easier for them to shoot accurately than a handgun or a 12 gauge shotgun. And just because one person commits a crime, you should not treat another law-abiding citizen like a criminal. When another person commits a DUI (Driving Under the Influence), no one proposes taking your car away, so why would you propose limiting my right to own a firearm based on another’s actions?  There are over 10,000 deaths per year in vehicles due to DUI.  Every 48 minutes, someone is killed by a drunk driver. This means you are far more likely to be killed by a drunk driver than an active shooter with a rifle.  Look at FBI statistics for the last 10 years, and you will see that deaths by all rifles – hunting, sporting or assault rifles account for less than 500 deaths per year or 1 – 2% of homicides.

As for the argument that other civilized countries don’t have the same problem with mass murder, they do they just change the tool of destruction. Outside the US, 70% of the acts of mass murder are committed with IEDs because of limited access to firearms. The UK had over 41,000 crimes involving knives in 2018. So, it is never about the tool of destruction but the environment that spawned the monster.

Those who follow me know I have been preaching violence reduction for years.  However, if you really want to mitigate violence, you have to start getting in front of the crisis.  That begins by understanding aggression, particularly emerging aggression, not merely focusing on the tool of terror.

Understanding Aggression

Root Causes are often:

  • Religious Ferrer

  • Political Extremism

  • Mental Illness

  • Criminal Intent

  • Workplace Challenges

  • Domestic Issues

  • Disenfranchisement

  • Loss of Face

How Does It Manifest Itself?

  • Verbal Abuse

  • Discrimination

  • Bullying

  • Militancy

  • Violence

  • Terrorism

When it comes to mounting anxiety or emerging aggression, there are typically three phases.  A trigger phase, an escalation phase, and a crisis phase.  When people stop coping, they usually move into the escalation phase.  We have to start recognizing the signs of people at risk before they turn to the point of crisis whether the tool of violence is a firearm, knife, improvised explosive device (IED) or vehicle.  Something you have not heard any politician or lobbyist focus on whether they are pro or anti-gun.  I chose to avoid the rhetoric and soundbites; and speak in facts and try to help people become more informed, instead of telling them how to vote. Because an educated voter helps generate better solutions.  Below are some behaviors we need to stay attuned to.

Pre-Incident Indicators

  • Verbal Abuse

  • Discrimination

  • Increased use of alcohol and/or illegal drugs

  • Unexplained increase in absenteeism; vague physical complaints

  • Noticeable decrease in attention to appearance and hygiene

  • Depression/withdrawal

  • Resistance and overreaction to changes in policy and procedures

  • Repeated violations of company policies

  • Increased severe mood swings

  • Noticeably unstable, emotional responses

  • Explosive outbursts of anger or rage without provocation

  • Suicidal; comments about “putting things in order.”

  • Behavior, which is suspect of paranoia, (“everybody is against me”)

  • Increasingly talks of problems at home

  • Escalation of domestic issues into the workplace; talk of severe financial problems

  • Talk of previous incidents of violence

  • Empathy with individuals committing violence

  • Increase in unsolicited comments about firearms, other dangerous weapons, and violent crimes

Monsters always start out as Gremlins, so if we ever want to mitigate the violence truly, we have to reduce the rhetoric and stop drawing lands in the sand.  We have to focus on developing an army of first observers; to help recognize those at risk and helping them receive assistance before they move to the point of crisis.  We also have to encourage our government officials to provide both the money and manpower to stop homegrown violent extremism (domestic terrorists) as they are the greatest threat to our collective country’s safety.  The Anti-Defamation League did an analysis of Domestic Terrorist attacks in the US from 2009 to 2018, and it found that 3% of the attacks were by Left-Wing extremists, 23% of the attacks were by Islamic extremists, and 73% of the attacks were by Right Wing extremists.  So, we must also come to terms with the fact that the terrorist’s name is more likely to be Patrick or John, and not Muhammad.

Putting All the Guns on the TableMark “Six” James CPO, EPS, CAS

Mark “Six” James is Founder and Executive Director of Panther Protection Services, LLC.  He is an internationally published author, keynote speaker, security consultant to educational institutions and frequent contributor to several print, broadcast and online media.  Panther Protection Services is a full-service protection agency focusing on Risk and Crisis Mitigation, Protective Services, Self-Defense Training, and Firearm Instruction.   www.pantherprotectionservices.com.

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