[Captain’s Note: Not long ago I was lamenting that it seems blogging has run its course. Many of my friends who blog have been posting less, a few have quit altogether. And as I write this, I realize my last post was on January 3rd, almost three weeks ago. The reason for that is not because I’ve lost interest, but because I have been writing and re-writing today’s blog for the last three weeks. Apologies.]
With the presidential election but a vague memory – although only a mere two months ago – the nation continues to manifest its great divide, this time through a debate about gun control.
The December shooting of 20 school children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School (not to mention the shooter’s mother and the suicide of the shooter himself) has once again raised an emotional plea from the country that someone needs to do something to stop the senseless killing.
The more immediate response to the Sandy Hook tragedy was from anti-gun lobbies – among them the James Brady Center and former congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords – you know, public figures who have actually been shot!
They aren’t opposed to Bubba’s hunting rifle per se, but they want to remove the more extreme weapons from public access.
Is there a reason a person needs an assault rifle? A high-capacity magazine? Hollow-point bullets? I can’t think of a reason, unless they plan to go on a public shooting rampage.
But then again, I own a broadsword, and I don’t plan on laying siege to a castle anytime soon! I just think it’s cool!
The anti-gun people also want to tighten controls on who can buy guns. Currently, the National Rifle Association, a very active pro-gun lobbying organization in America, vocally opposes background checks on gun purchasers and other means of identifying who owns such weapons.
As one woman recently lamented, “It’s easier for me to buy bullets than birth control!”
Indeed, my own wife tried to buy Sudafed recently to fight her cold and had to go through a lengthy process of registration and identification at the pharmacy counter. Yet a gun enthusiast – or even a nut-job, as the case may be – is free to buy a high-powered assault weapon at a gun show without even giving his name!
On the other side of the debate is the NRA, which remained quiet for a week after the shooting, then publicly declared that the answer to the problem is more guns: arm the teachers and administrators of our schools. In the words of Wayne LaPierre, CEO of the NRA, “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.”
Point of interest here: While the NRA claims a membership of 4 million Americans, some 65 million Americans own guns; thus, the NRA only represents a small fraction of all gun owners. And while claiming to represent the gun owners of America, its Board of Directors is stacked with owners of gun manufacturers and suppliers – Steve Hornady of Hornady Ammunition (maker of an armor-piercing bullet); Ronnie Barrett of Barrett Firearms (designer of the .50 caliber sniper rifle); Pete Brownell of Brownells Inc. (world’s largest supplier of firearm parts and accessories) – just to name a few.
And as my carpenter/father taught me, “If your only tool is a hammer, all of your problems will be nails.”
I recall from my own high school days – a kinder, gentler time – when a new student arrived from Louisville, telling tales of National Guardsmen regularly patrolling the hallways of his former high school with loaded M-16s on their shoulders. I can’t think of a less-conducive environment for learning.
Following the shootings at Heath High (1997) and Columbine High (1999), public schools have been locked down as tight as prisons; exterior doors are locked with only one entrance by which to gain access; students wear ID tags and must walk through metal detectors each morning; bags are inspected at the door; no one is allowed to leave campus; and “All visitors must first sign in at the office.” In most cases however, the staff is not (officially) armed.
But what are all of these safety precautions actually doing to our children? Douglas Anthony Cooper, writing for “Huffington Post”, opposes the NRA’s idea:
“To preserve freedom in America, we’ll place children in a learning environment that would have been considered oppressive under Stalin. We’ll lock them in buildings that are – I guarantee it – more heavily guarded than any kindergarten in North Korea.”
“And why?” Cooper asks.
“So that the grownups can be free to stockpile weapons against tyranny. I mean, good lord, you don’t want tyrants. So let’s have our children spend their best, most carefree years under the watchful eyes of crack mercenaries…”
I don’t buy into the currently popular paranoia of the emergence of a tyrannical government. For one, even a fully armed populace would not stand before the awesome might of the U.S. military. You might own an AR-47, but the U.S. military uses tanks… and un-piloted aircraft… not to mention the piloted aircraft! My nephew, who is in the Army currently deployed to Afghanistan, operates a cannon that can throw a projectile more than 2 miles!
So don’t let anyone fool you into thinking your guns are going to protect you from the government.
Besides, I believe Democracy still works in America. We, the people, are blessed to get to vote on who we want to lead us. And if our candidate doesn’t win this time, we get another chance to vote in a few years. Furthermore, there are numerous checks and balances in our government that would make such a takeover next to impossible.
And frankly, I feel less of a threat from the government now than I did when President Reagan was shot and Secretary of State Alexander Haig, a former Army general, proclaimed to the world, “As of now, I am in control here.”
But I do accept the maxim that goes, “If guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have them.” In fact, during the Roarin’ 20s, Al Capone’s gang always carried more (illegal) firepower than the local police. One of the circumstances that makes schools easy targets is that they are (officially) gun-free zones. No one will shoot back until the police arrive, which gives the shooter plenty of time to wreak havoc.
And then there are the “Crazies”. Some of these are readily identified by their tin foil caps which protect them from the government reading their thoughts. Others have dug bunkers and are stock-piling weapons and ammo for… well… whatever. Those types are easy to sort out (although perhaps not so easy to disarm).
Unfortunately, some of the “Crazies” are normal looking people holding normal jobs who just suddenly snap one day, take up a gun, and go on a rampage. The phrase “going postal” was coined after a number of incidents where harried postal workers snapped and shot up their places of employment.
All of that is to simply say, there is no easy solution to this problem.
Having considered both sides of the argument for quite some time now (remember, the Heath High shooting was 15 years ago), I have come to the conclusion that the problem of gun violence is not about the number and availability of guns. It is not a legislative issue. The problem lies far deeper than the bunker where some tin foil-capped conspiracy-theorist is stock-piling weapons.
The problem of gun violence lies in the depths of the human heart. At some point – I suspect during my lifetime…
...we have lost all respect for the value of human life, and respect for one another.
...we have lost the ability to think and to examine the consequences of our actions – either before or after we act.
...we have become angry, an anger fostered by religious and political dogmatism.
...we have become selfish – taking to heart the trite bumper sticker motto of previous years, “The one who dies with the most toys wins!"
...we want power without accountability.
...we want our “rights” without responsibility.
That is not the America I grew up in. That is not the America I want to live in. And the truth is, that America is not sustainable.
Instead of reading the anti-communist fear-mongering of Ayn Rand, we should be re-reading William Golding’s “Lord of the Flies”, about how a will to power causes a group of civilized boys to regress to savagery.
Until we have a change of heart toward one another – until we can turn around the list above – the problem of gun violence in America will continue.
Until then, here’s my suggestion for dealing with gun violence in America:
When I was in college, when a member of a fraternity got into trouble – either on campus or out in public – the school administration referred the matter to the fraternity leadership. Sometimes, if the infraction was serious enough, the entire fraternity was disciplined for the actions of the one. It didn’t matter if the violation was a sanctioned fraternity activity or just one idiot misbehaving – he was a member of the fraternity, and therefore he was their responsibility.
So the next time someone goes on a killing rampage, let’s refer the matter to the NRA and other organizations who think gun ownership is a divine right. Make them responsible for the irresponsible actions of the shooter. Make them responsible for burying the bodies, and for comforting the grieving families. Make them financially responsible for the damages done. Make them responsible for counseling the shocked survivors, and make them explain yet again why the Second Amendment is so vitally important to our society.
* * *
Since the Sandy Hook shooting in December, there have been five other school shootings.