By Ben Smith:
Sometimes this column is an outdoor piece and other times it’s about baseball, but it’s always about something that folks in Mississippi and the Southeast can most likely relate to. Mississippians love the outdoors, we love baseball, and we’re really good at both so why wouldn’t we? It’s just a way of life down here. That said, we’ve got plenty of other things that we love, as well, but this week I want to crank the volume up to 11 and rip the knob off on another thing that Mississippians love: guns.
I don’t know the statistics, but I’m pretty sure that Mississippi ranks toward the top in private gun ownership and our love for the Second Amendment. If you ask most folks down here what they can’t do without, they’ll likely tell you that you can’t take away their guns and Jesus. Remember those old bumper stickers that read, “You can have my gun when you pry it from my cold, dead hands”? Or how many times have you heard someone complain about the removal of prayer from schools? Guns and Jesus…that’s how we roll, and sometimes seemingly in that order.
Before I go any further, let me preface by saying that I am not far right, nor am I far left. There are certain issues that I will lean right on, and there are issues that I will lean to the left. I don’t vote based on political party, but rather on the candidate and how I feel they will best solve the issues that matter most to me. I don’t believe that you can legislate morality, nor do I believe that it’s the government’s place to teach our children. I don’t believe the government should tell you what you can and cannot do with your body, but I believe that you should look for your answers Biblically. I do believe in the separation of church and state that Thomas Jefferson wrote about in his 1802 letter to the Danbury Baptist Association. I also believe that the Second Amendment wasn’t written solely for protection against foreign invaders, but for protection against our very own government. So where am I going with all of this?
A little over a week ago, my heart sank with news of another school shooting. I sat and wondered how a person could be so evil to walk into an elementary school and shoot innocent children. What could possibly motivate a human being to carry out such a horrific event? I watched videos and interviews of parents that had children at the school, and I was horrified. I cannot fathom the physical and mental anguish of that community, and of the others that have endured such senseless tragedy throughout the years. Something has to give, but what’s the answer?
The most obvious and hotly debated topic when something like this happens is guns. In many, if not most, of the recent school shootings that have occurred an AR-15 rifle, or a similar high capacity rifle was used to carry out the attacks. It’s almost always the first thing that gets mentioned. Media personalities get on TV and lose their minds about “assault rifles”. “We’ve got to ban them”, they’ll say. Or my least favorite media cliché, “We don’t want anymore of your thoughts and prayers”. Now, I’m about to cause your heads to spin a little…they’ve got a somewhat valid argument. Before you send me a dirty email, or use this newspaper to start a fire, hear me out.
Banning AR-15’s is not a feasible option and let me tell you why. In 2020, according to the NSSF, there were more than 20 million AR-15 rifles in the United States. It’s too late to try and ban them because there is absolutely no way to recover that many. Not to mention, who is going to go door to door and take them? You think Danny Rigel and his officers are going to knock on doors demanding that you hand over your constitutionally protected property? Yeah, not happening. So, let’s silence that idea for now. Buy back program? Nope, not happening either. Given the fact that we are well beyond getting rid of, or taking back, AR-15 rifles, let’s look for an actual solution to our problem.
PEOPLE!! People are our problem today. People have always been the problem. When the good folks of the lofty and morally superior media tell us that they don’t want anymore of our “thoughts and prayers”, they are somewhat missing the boat. This country absolutely, 100%, without question could use all of the thoughts and prayers that it can get. However, I do agree, it’s not enough. We have to do more. Since we’ve already, for the sake of this article, agreed that banning, or taking, AR-15’s is not an option, what are our options?
I think that the first option, and it may not be enough, is a more extensive background check. If someone seeing counseling for not knowing what bathroom to use can go to several different stores buying up guns and bulk ammunition, we’ve got a problem. I know that wasn’t very politically correct, but you’ll have to excuse my lack of respect for someone that murders children. Mental health issues are at an all-time high in our nation and I believe one needs to be of sound mind to obtain a firearm. Once a person seeks counseling or medication for an emotional, or mental disorder, they should require a release from a physician before being able to purchase a firearm.
Gun registration is another hotly debated topic. This is one that I’m a little more on the fence about. I actually understand the argument against registration, somewhat. Many people don’t want the government knowing what they have, and I totally get that. A national registration could also fall into the hands of a foreign nation which would be detrimental in the event of an invasion. To me, those are both good arguments against it. On the other hand, if there was a way to track large purchases of ammunition, or purchases of multiple weapons over a short period of time, that might be beneficial to halting some of these events.
Once again, before you threaten to burn my house down, I’m not against the ownership of high-capacity semi-automatic firearms, the AR-15 included. However, I think we’ve reached a point in our nation where maturity, responsibility, and morality are at an all-time low and something has to change. The ideas that I listed may not solve a single problem, then again, they might. Either way, it’s time that Congress does something aside from squabbling over a 32-hour work week, or bills named for criminals, and do something to help save the children of the United States.