When I heard about the shooting last Friday in Connecticut, I was devastated. Not only were there many victims but the majority were young children. No matter what a person is thinking or what’s going on in their head, children should be off limits. Right now, the whole country is in shock and everyone agrees to what we all really knew a long time already: something has to change. That is whether you’re pro guns or against guns.
Right after the tragedy, social media posts started pouring in with anger, shock and different messages. One of them was that guns should be banned. What you’ll read further in this article is simply thoughts from me, it’s not meant to be confrontational whatsoever. After all, gun control is an extremely heated topic.
As a native Belgian, I have some thoughts about the issue that may or may not be right. However, there are certain things that I have picked up and I am also able to compare different policies. First of all, let me address what the policy is like in Belgium.
Any adult and 16-18 year old (with approval from parents) is allowed to possess a firearm. I personally had my first firearm when I was 17 years old. The process isn’t easy and there are many restrictions. I had never seen a semi automatic rifle until I came to the US, but Belgium doesn’t have the expansive nature and predators either. When you want a firearm, you have to pass a safety test in the shooting range, as well as an interview with the local sheriff. There are also background checks, you are obligated to be part of a shooting range for the duration you possess your firearm and the police is allowed to make a home visit and make sure that the firearm is safely locked away in a safe.
That raises the question, what can we adopt from this policy? Perhaps that the tests and background checks are more thorough and expansive. You can’t just walk in a store and walk out after a quick check with a firearm. Maybe firearms should be required to be locked in a safe and police can come and check on that. That only might have prevented Adam Lanza of getting his hands on his mothers weapons.
I like firearms. I consider them valuable for sport shooting (target shooting, I don’t hunt personally) and for home defense. If it meant it would resolve all these issues with shootings and people hurting each other, I would gladly give them up. However, it would not be the solution. After all, it’s people hurting people. If they are motivated, they will find other ways unfortunately. That doesn’t mean that we can’t do anything about the law, purchasing process, requirements and background checks though. We can make sure it’s harder for individuals to get them. I personally have nothing to hide and applaud a stricter and slower purchasing process. It might be enough to demotivate certain other individuals who are out to do harm. On the other hand, would this increase the number of firearms on the black market? I don’t know.
When clients ask me about weapons for self defense, I always tell them it can be either really helpful or it can be used against them. That is why it’s a completely personal decision. As with any weapon, you need to know how to use it in a safe way instead of making things more dangerous for yourself or others. Maybe everyone who wants to purchase a firearms should follow a mandatory class which discusses their legal obligations and safety procedures?
Nobody can disagree with the fact that more needs to be done for mental health research and helping patients. There should be a database in which doctors (not only law enforcement) can share their concerns. As it is now, many mentally unstable people can still purchase firearms if there have been no previous charges against them. That is something that needs a major change.
Another topic is the assault weapons ban. After doing some research, I figured out the assault weapons are weapons that have certain requirements such as having military style and/or cosmetic features, as well as having high capacity magazine holders.
As you may already know, full automatic weapons have no place in the general population and are thankfully heavily restricted. The problem with an assault weapons ban is that so many firearms aren’t considered assault weapons but can still do the same damage. There are an extraordinary amount of semi automatic weapons out there and many or most owners will not give these up. It would be very doubtful the government would ever ask them to as any law would not be retroactive anyway. This means that all weapons already in circulation stay there, it only restricts manufacturing and possession going forward. Whether the ban from 1994 - 2004 (banning only certain firearms) worked is up for debate. But keep in mind that the tens of millions of weapons and magazines under the ban stayed in circulation.
I don’t want to get too much into the topic of banning firearms because it’s such a controversial topic. I personally don’t believe the biggest problem is gun control or possession. After all, let’s say you take them all away. The black market ‘criminal’ guns will still be out there. People can’t defend themselves against criminals, predators etc.
Saying that the world is safe enough now and we don’t need guns is incorrect in my belief. Things happen every day all over the map. There are carjackings, homejackings, violent assault, burglaries etc. Take a look at the 2011 riots in London and talk to the people who were stolen from, assaulted and whose residences were lit on fire. History tells us the world is not as stable as everyone wants it to be.
I don’t think there is a definitive answer to the problem, at least not for gun control. I think responsible owners should have the right to possess a firearm for home defense, hunting and sport shooting. I don’t think people should judge others for possessing a firearm as long as they are responsible. I don’t think it makes me look any cooler to have them and I don’t brag with it. It does make me feel safer and I enjoy going to the range every once and a while.
Besides the possibility of banning certain features and making the process stricter and more thorough, there are still a few other issues that have a direct influence to the problem:
- The media needs to stop making lists of who was the deadliest, the most devastating etc. That only motivates other individuals who are out to do harm and want to beat that number. It gives them ideas. Let’s please focus on the victims and how we can solve the problem, not indirectly make it seem like we praise this monster. Of course it’s human curiosity to find out who he was and why he did it but you can see my point.
- Mental health research and guidance (after diagnosis). Many people out there need help and if they got it, they wouldn’t do actions such as these. This is a hard goal to reach but imagine how much heartache we can prevent if we can catch a tendency or unstable temperament etc. in individuals. I don’t know much about the topic so refrain from making it seem like I’m an expert but a better safety net is necessary. Why not have a system in which doctors can ring the alarm bell?
- Why not have security people or a few police officers in institutions (schools, hospitals etc.)? This requires funds and time but also creates jobs right?
- Change the mentality of the population. Violence is put too much in the spotlight. Not everything has to be bigger, better, more violent and aggressive. There is much violence in the media, Hollywood and video games. Why not put the focus on something less destructive?
Our thoughts are with the survivors and the victims’ families. These tragedies happen too much and shouldn’t.
By Sander Vanacker, owner, head instructor and personal trainer .
Define Defense in Boulder, CO
- Mixed Martial Arts
- Brazilian Jiu Jitsu
- Self Defense Classes & Workshops
- Personal Training
- TRX / Cross Training Classes
- Kettle Bell
1805 11th Street Suite B
Boulder, CO 80302
(720) 340 6254
I'm sure you've heard or read about the 20 year old CU student who got ticketed for falsely reporting an attack on University Hill. You can read more about it here.
Her initial story was that she was walking alone when she was grabbed by a 200lbs. knife wielding man. After a struggle, she got away with some minor scratches.
Doesn't add up does it? It may be possible if she was very lucky and the attacker only had the intention to scare her with the knife but did not plan on actually using it. It is definitely possible if she acted and overwhelmed her attacker (you want to take away the attacker's confidence, therefore the Golden Rule of self defense: ACT CRAZY). However, if a 200 lbs. man was wielding with a knife, it would be extremely hard to walk away the way she did. Not just for her but for anyone, including me!
False reports are unfortunate and prevent law enforcement from investigating real crimes. For example:
The armed robbery which turned fatal for Todd Walker (March 2011)
The gunmen who robbed multiple people and sexually assaulted a woman (August, 2011)
A gunman outside the Boulder Community Hospital (April, 2011)
Bank robbery in North Boulder (September, 2011)
CU campus robbery (January, 2012)
Sexual assault attempts (October, 2011)
Does this mean Boulder is an unsafe or bad place to live? Absolutely not! However, as in every big town (and college town), you need to be aware and more importantly, not be naive. Not everyone is trustworthy, you need to be cautious and use common sense.
After all, things happen and you don't control everything or everyone. None of the above victims ever thought this would happen to them but unfortunately it did. We should all try to keep ourselves and others safe. There are many ways to do this but the first step is to realize bad things do happen. Being prepared doesn't hurt. The last thing you want to do is putting yourself in a situation in which bad things can happen.
As a self defense instructor, I spend a lot of attention to all aspects of self defense. It is not simply about the techniques and how to get back to safety but it's also about preventing, scanning, communication (verbal and non verbal), knowing vital points and very important: your mental state.
My wife pointed out an article about self defense a few weeks ago and Linda Fairstein (a former sex crimes prosecutor) addresses a few very bad choices that turned for the worst.
- Kenia Monge from Denver was planning on going to college to become a crime scene investigator so she was an intelligent woman. When she left her friends to go to the restroom when partying, she never came back. Travis Forbes was found guilty for the murder of Kenia. She made one mistake but it cost her and her family dearly. It is very important to use a buddy system when leaving the group, no matter how close or easy your destination is.
- Holly Bobo, a 20 year old student was kidnapped outside her Tennessee home. It seems like Holly did not resist enough, at least not in the initial part of her kidnapping. Traces of resistance were found but it was probably too late. If you feel unsafe, draw attention to yourself. It will lower your attacker's confidence and other people may be able to assist or call 911. Do whatever you can to draw attention and target vital points to maximize damage and pain. Please note that every situation is different and everyone's response is different. When there are weapons involved, it is also a very different scenario so this response may not fit all situations!
- Paula Sladewski had a fight with her boyfriend in a club, it came to a point that her boyfriend was thrown out and she stayed. When she left later, cameras show a man was following her. She didn't make it and up to this day, there is no suspect. Paula made the mistake of making a decision based on her emotions at that time. This affected her safety and it turned for the worst. Always be careful and don't take risks, even if you are upset.
The article focussed on these three situations that were caused by a certain decision. Other people doing the same actions may be fine and many other decisions will also turn out to be the wrong one. Should you lock yourself up and don’t take any risks? No but take calculated risks and please use common sense. It’s better to be safe than sorry. In my mind, every person should take a proper self defense course and know the basics (not because we teach these but I believe things can happen and you should be able to help yourself if needed).
We teach self defense classes 4 times a week and offer punch cards to give our clients the freedom to choose their own times. We focus on every aspect of self defense and make sure you leave with a strong basic knowledge and skill set. All levels and ages are welcome. More info about our self defense classes and workshops here.
By Sander Vanacker, Define Defense’s certified personal trainer and head martial arts instructor, based in Boulder, Colorado. Take a look at www.DefineDefense.com, www.TrainerVanacker.com or check out our videos on YouTube.com/DefineDefense ! Define Defense in Boulder, CO
- Modern Martial Arts
- Brazilian Jiu Jitsu & MMA
- Self Defense Classes & Workshops
- Personal Training
- Cross Training / TRX Classes
1805 11th Street Suite B
Boulder, CO 80302