arms on the Internet

Why does anyone need 6,000 rounds of ammunition? How is it possible to buy this much firepower within a short period of time via the Internet, without any human contact? Would the suspect in the Aurora shooting have been so emboldened if he’d had a little more hoops to jump through to get his weapons? The following statement from Aurora Police Chief Dan Oates is one that I find particularly chilling:

“My understanding is all weapons he possessed, he possessed legally. All ammunition he possessed, he possessed legally.”

The gun lobbyists should have some serious explaining to do to defend their “right to bear arms” arguments in the wake of the Aurora massacre. Yet the National Rifle Association isn’t specifically accountable (understandably), nor do they feel the need to respond to the actions of a member of the lunatic fringe. In what seems to be me to be a typically American, black or white dialogue, gun enthusiasts refuse to admit that some limitations might be reasonable. I suppose they fear if they give an inch, gun regulators will take mile. They have a right to own guns for sport. They have a right to self-defense. However, despite the fact that as of 2011, the Gallup Poll reports that one in three adults in the U.S. claims to own a gun, none of the theater-goers in Aurora used one for protection. How’s that self-defense argument working for you, NRA?

(Admittedly, many of these guns are kept at home, decreasing the opportunity for self-defense use.)

Meanwhile, gun control advocates attempt to shoot holes in the NRA’s arguments, to little legislative effect. Bill Moyers explains on salon.com: “With the weak-kneed acquiescence of our politicians, the National Rifle Association has turned the Second Amendment of the Constitution into a cruel and deadly hoax.”

To help us understand how a life-and-death discussion became so divisive, Natalie Wolchover offers some insight on LiveScience.com. Quoted in Wolchover’s article, Art Markman, professor of psychology at the University of Texas, describes how our impersonal world can isolate us from those who think differently, to negative effect:

“Regularly interacting with people whose views oppose one’s own has a moderating effect, Markman explained. ‘When you have a conversation with someone who disagrees with you, your opinions become more similar, just because you have to take their perspective for a moment in order to understand what they’re saying.’

Today, thanks to cable TV and the Internet, one can easily avoid the unpleasant but valuable experience of disagreeing with people. ‘I can choose my TV news network on the basis of my beliefs. I can subscribe to email lists, websites, chat groups full of people whose opinions are quite similar to my own.’ ”

Human interaction with people who think differently has a moderating effect on our thinking and thus our behavior. Could personal contact when purchasing weapons and ammunitions have a similar “humanizing” effect? Couldn’t we take a baby step down the road to more gun sanity by banning Internet sales of weapons and ammunition? Why the need to hide in the anonymity of online purchasing anyway?

Not one day after the Aurora shooting spree, the press is reporting that gun control policies are unlikely to be affected by this latest gun-related tragedy. Why jump to that cynical conclusion, which encourages people to give up without even trying?

We may not see the whole solution clearly at this point in time, and the history of our relationship to firearms may be blurry. But that doesn’t have to lock us in the eternal return of dysfunctional gun violence. We don’t have to accept what has perennially existed in our post-Wild Wild West culture. We can make a move in our own self-defense and admit:

No one needs 6,000 rounds of ammunition.

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