No easy answer for gun control

Written by Muleskinner Staff

By LEAH WANKUM
Managing Editor
(WARRENSBURG, Mo., digitalBURG) — I don’t know much about guns. I spent the past six years of my life thinking the first gun I shot was a .22, but it turns out a .22 is just the kind of bullet I used. For the record, I still don’t know what kind of gun it was.
I do, however, know about people. More specifically, I know about journalists. With three years of experience working for the Muleskinner, plus summer internships with the Sedalia Democrat and KC Magazine, I’ve learned a lot – especially about the complications of being a journalist.
You have to learn how to work with different sources to get the full story. Don’t burn bridges, but do meet deadlines. Sometimes you have to spend countless hours waiting for documents you requested through Missouri’s Sunshine Law, and you sometimes never hear back about them.
You usually don’t have to worry about getting shot.
Now this isn’t a “woe is me and my life as a journalist – I risk my life every day covering the news for you ungrateful people” kind of thing. I’m simply telling it like I see it.
Of course I was shocked when I first heard about the Virginia shootings of WDBJ reporter Alison Parker and cameraman Adam Ward. My initial thought was “Journalists getting shot on live TV… while they’re working?? Is it that unsafe to be a journalist??”
And then I started having conversations about it with other journalists. One of my colleagues brought up a valid point. Anyone can get shot, no matter what their profession is, no matter where they are or what they’re doing. Sure, statistics show you’re more likely to get shot in the South. However, I’m pretty sure I can get shot any place where there are guns (I know, what a great observation, right?).
That leads to my next point. I know I don’t have the credentials to even talk about something I don’t know. Like cars or sports or computers, I can’t exactly say some things should be banned just because I don’t understand them. But there are some things I want to point out about the polarizing subject of gun control.
A 2004 Harvard study published in “Aggression and Violent Behavior: A Review Journal” found that there are more homicides where guns are readily available.
I grew up in the countryside, in a small-town home near Jefferson City, Missouri, where my dad kept guns for hunting and for protecting our family if he needed to. These are the only reasons why I stand by the Second Amendment, which states that a well regulated free militia is necessary to the security of a free state.
Now, would I own a gun? Eh…
One of my colleagues just told me he has a real gun. I even got to see it and hold it, which gave me vertigo because I started watching “Breaking Bad” again (yo), and now I’m determined everyone I know smokes pot and deals meth and shoots people, which is just not true… right?
So when I asked him why he has a gun, he said, “Just because.” Another colleague said he personally owns guns because he wants to be able to defend himself and his loved ones in times of danger.
It’s just not for me though. I know I shouldn’t own a gun because I’d lose it faster than necessary, or I’d somehow end up hurting myself with it (I’ve been known to hurt myself just by sitting in my desk chair empty-handed, so there’s that).
And actually, I couldn’t own a gun because I’m not prepared to shoot someone, even in self-defense.
Might I suggest stricter laws on gun control? Nobody freak out, rural America, puh-LEASE.
Economist Richard Florida studied the correlation of gun control laws and gun deaths. He and his colleague Charlotta Mellander found that firearm deaths are significantly lower in states with stricter gun control legislation.
People on both sides of the argument are trying to simplify their points, but I still don’t think it’s that simple. On one side, we’ve got “Guns don’t kill people. People kill people.” On the other side, it’s “Guns kill people. So let’s ban guns or at least make it super hard to purchase and possess them.” I’m sorry, but it’s really not that simple, people! Both sides are making good points but just aren’t listening to each other and willing to come to an agreement.
As I struggled over the issues involved in gun control and mass shootings and even trying to come up with my own opinion about them, an acquaintance brought up a good point: We could make tighter gun restrictions, such as requiring more intensive gun safety training and stricter background checks, but people will still be able to purchase guns without going through the process (It’s called the black market or something).
So no matter what we do, people will still become victims of violence, gun or no gun, which is the very sad truth. So, it’s not a matter of controlling guns. It’s a matter of controlling people, which we can’t do because we are humans and have free will, plus that wouldn’t be very democratic. See where I’m going with this?
The United States is not the ideal democracy, but I firmly believe that a democracy needs free speech and free press. After all, that’s how I’m even allowed to write my opinion in the Muleskinner! Without this open forum for readers to write letters to the editor and for reporters to write their opinions (i.e., without the First Amendment), we couldn’t even talk about the many issues of gun control (i.e., the Second Amendment).
And that’s what scared me the most about the Virginia shootings. As a former reporter, Vester Lee Flanagan knew how to use TV journalism against them by making sure the killings would be on live TV. Yes, Flanagan was their former co-worker, “an unhappy man” apparently always looking for reasons to take offense, according to an article by the Associated Press. But I still find that disturbing. The journalists weren’t even covering war, corruption or crime. They were at a shopping center.
Anyone can get attacked, no matter their profession. You can get hurt anywhere by just being a person. But I don’t want isolated incidents like this to turn me away from journalism.
And as I seek out and deliver the news, I get to learn something new. And that, to me, is the whole point. I get to exercise my First Amendment rights in the face of adversity.
I still want to be a journalist.