My friend DC likes guns. DC is a good guy, a hard worker, a family man who spends a lot of time with his kids; he is calm and measured of character; he is that thoughtful neighbor you call with any kind of emergency, the guy who would do anything for you. DC is a responsible hunter, a good shot. I trust DC with guns.
But I do not like guns. I watched the men in my family terrorize their wives with guns; my step-grandfather shot himself shortly before my stepfather was born; my maternal grandfather liked to get drunk and threaten my grandmother with his shotgun; a boy in my first grade class accidentally shot his baby brother in the head, and when he came back to school he’d stopped talking and peed his pants everyday; a friend’s teenage nephew suffered from depression and shot himself in the chest in front of his mom.
I am, understandably I think, afraid of guns.
But do I want to ban guns? Of course not. The fact is, liking guns or not liking guns is irrelevant. What matters is what works.
In business, we look to other companies for best practices. And for best practices on guns, look no further than Japan.
Japan has a population of 127 million. Japan does not ban guns, yet Japan does not have mass shootings. In 2014, they had six gun deaths. Six, compared to 33,594 in the United States.
How? In Japan, you can own a shotgun or an air rifle. To become a gun owner, every three years you must attend class and pass a written test, attend shooting class and pass a test, pass a mental health exam, pass a drug test, and file your passing grades with the police along with where you will be storing your guns and ammo in your home, which the police will inspect once a year.
Here in the U.S., we will talk about anything but guns. There must be something else to blame.
Document the mentally ill. Are there no mentally ill people in Japan? What about anger and depression? Can being angry or depressed be adjudicated as a mental illness?
It’s the violent video games. Japan has some of the most horrifically violent video games out there.
It’s bad parenting. All of the parents in Japan are wonderful?
Raise the age limit to 21. The Vegas shooter was 64 years old. The Sutherland Springs, TX, church shooter was 26. The Emanuel AME Church shooter was 21.
Arm the teachers. Who will monitor their training and ability? Who will pay their liability insurance? What happens the first time a teacher shoots a child? Won’t school shooters — most of whom are current or previous students — know which teachers have guns? How does arming teachers prevent mass shootings like Vegas and Sutherland Springs?
Provide funding for active shooter drills. Again, school shooters tend to be students. They have been through the drills and will know how to circumvent the protocol, and where specific teachers and students are hiding.
Armed guards in schools. A good guy with a gun stops a bad guy with a gun. New York has 36,000 well-trained police officers. They report their officers only hit their targets one-third of the time.
Banning high velocity assault weapons won’t save lives. Dr. Heather Sher, the radiologist for the recent Parkland, FL shooting, argued in The Atlantic, “Routine handgun injuries leave entry and exit wounds and linear tracks.… If the bullet does not directly hit something crucial like the heart or the aorta, and the victim does not bleed to death before being transported to our care at the trauma center, chances are that we can save him.” But “an AR-15, a semiautomatic rifle that delivers a devastatingly lethal, high-velocity bullet to the victim, [leaves] nothing to repair.”
In math, we are taught to look for the common denominator. What is the common denominator in every mass shooting? Is it mental illness, video games, bad parents, age limits, or ‘gun free zones?’ No. It’s guns. Mass shootings are about guns.
Mass shootings are about easy access to high-velocity firearms by people intent on killing the most human beings, causing the most carnage, with the least need for accuracy, in the shortest amount of time.
My opinion is irrelevant.
My friend DC’s opinion is irrelevant.
Liking or not liking guns is irrelevant.
Mass shootings are about guns. And we will continue to watch our children die until we stop picking sides and talk honestly about that.