The "Armed Gunman"


It sounds ridiculous. It’s obviously redundant. I heard it the other morning, this time by a network news correspondent. She’s not the only one, which says something about the state of television news writing and editing. It falls in line with our tendency to emphasis to the extreme; it’s not just television news reporters, we all do it. 

“Armed gunmen” has taken on a deeper and more terrifying meaning. It seems as if we hear it every few weeks. It makes us stop and think, “Oh, no. How bad will it be this time?” Gunman/gunmen doesn’t seem to be an adequate description in this era of mass shootings. It’s infected the very way we talk about guns.

We all have the constitutional right to be “gunmen.” Our Founding Fathers, unable to see into the future, thought owning a gun was something society needed in order to protect itself. I believe it turned out to play a big role in society destroying itself. 

“Armed gunmen” sounds more dangerous and criminal. If you’re holding a gun, you are armed like 20-year-old Adam Lanza was when he went into Sandy Hook Elementary School in December 2012 with a semiautomatic Bushmaster rifle. There were mass shooings before the shooting at Sandy Hook, and there have been many since. They shock us for a few days, but they fade away until the next one.

The recent mass shooting in New Zealand with over fifty fatalities between two mosques showed us the difference between the United States and just about the rest of the world. Within days of the shooting, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced gun laws would need to change to ban these types of weapons. The majority of the Parliament agreed, and the law was changed within weeks. They even started a buyback program. 

Of course, the difference in this country is that we have a constitutional right to bear arms. In New Zealand, as in many other countries, it’s a privilege granted by laws that can be changed. Changing a Constitutional Amendment is just about impossible. Supporters of the Amendment argue it’s as sacred as the right to freedom of speech or religion. They believe their rights as law abiding citizens shouldn’t be abridged because a minute percentage of citizens don’t obey the law. Plus, there are plenty of laws already on the books to regulate gun ownership. 

Despite this, the parents of the Sandy Hook children are not giving up. They are going after the gun industry much the same way anti-smoking groups went after Big Tobacco. They are suing Remington, the makers of Adam Lanza’s weapon for what they claim are the company’s dishonest and dangerous marketing and selling practices that disregard the dangers to the public. The parents want to prove the company knew these practices were deceiving and did it to sell guns. They want to see thousands of internal documents through the discovery process. Federal law protects gun manufactures from being sued if their weapons are used in a crime. But the Connecticut State Supreme Court ruled the families could go after the company's marketing policy under state law. The company is fighting the suit every step of the way, and the issue will probably be tied up in court for years.

Guns in America will never go away. The fight will always be: how do we protect ourselves from our constitutional right? It's the balance between society’s right to be safe and the individual’s right to self-protection. None of us ever want to face those “armed gunmen.”