WHAT I THINK: With emotions so raw, I asked friends this weekend to ditch the gun debate until we’d all had time to fashion an explanation of the Newton massacre that our kids could grasp.
I also wanted to be careful that we model best behavior for them — not flashing anger, not getting into battles with other adults, showing our youngsters that they’re safe, that their world (and ours) isn’t out of control, that we got this.
It’s time, though, that we came up with a holistic, common-sense approach to the wanton violence that breaks so many lives.
Coming up with a way to better identify those who could do us or those we love serious harm should be a priority — no question. We also need to hire school security officers, in the form of retired police officers who still got game, same as federal marshals on airliners.
But that’s not enough: Among other approaches, we must limit the ability of certain people to easily obtain the kind of weapons that can inflict such widespread damage.
Before you go off, I’m not talking blanket bans. I’m not using yet another horrifying bloodbath to politicize an issue. I don’t have some long-range plan to rob you of your freedoms.
Bear with me (no pun intended):
We all agree that these isolated incidents will not only continue but will, in all likelihood, increase, yes?
We all agree we need to do something, right?
And we all understand, yes, that it’s within our power to deal with?
So how about a discussion, rather than a debate, about restrictions that don’t infringe on reasonable gun use?
(Stop. Don’t go there. Let me finish.)
The military-style high-powered rifle and other assault weapons that Adam Lanza brought to that school aren’t designed for hunters. They’re built to kill people — lots of them — in a very short amount of time. That’s why they are so highly prized by the countries, rebels and gangs that buy them by the truckload. It’s the same reason why hunters and genuine gun owners have no use for them.
I’m not saying we end the conversation there. But what if we start there?
Yes, people who want to find semiautomatic assault weapons somehow will. But is it necessary for us to make it easier for them than getting a driver’s license?
When you think about it, those who really want crack and heroin and meth can get their hands on it, too. Same for those who want to piggyback on your cable — or, worse, steal your identity and drain your bank account.
But something keeps even larger numbers of people from doing the same: Laws.
Making these into crimes that are punishable by prison stretches doesn’t, in itself, make it impossible to get drugs or cable or a copy of a key to your safety deposit box. It just makes it much more difficult. And that’s what we should be looking for here.
You’ve no doubt heard of the deranged man who slashed 22 students with a knife in China. Swap the blade for a semiautomatic with a big clip and what are we looking at?
It’s no a stretch to say that people intent on killing someone will claim far fewer victims without access to heavy weaponry. Aim-shoot-aim is a hell of a lot tougher than spraying a room with a press or two.
Or try this: Say you walked into a casino with $1,000 in your pocket and a fat stack of Benjamins back at your hotel. How long would it take you to go through that first grand?
Now imagine entering that same casino with $100 and no fallback cash. How long would THAT take?
Restrictions don’t eliminate the ability of nutjobs to get any gun. It just makes it tougher to get the kind that contras would trade for. And making it more work for them, in the end, cannot help but reduce the death toll.
Emotions pull in us in various directions when we’re visited by horrors such as Friday’s. But a few days later, after we’ve been able to sleep and absorb and process, some truths must emerge.
Not everyone, of course, will consider slightly adjusting certain beliefs, no matter how many people die.
There are those, for instance, who’ve been invoking Timothy McVeigh’s name, making him a poster child for a type of crime that only he committed. Thing is: Neither fertilizer nor racing fuel nor a boxed truck was used in Colorado on July 20, in Wisconsin on Aug. 5, in Minneapolis on Sept. 27 or this Friday in Connecticut.
Then there’s U.S. Rep. Louie Gohmert of Texas, who, on “Fox News Sunday” said Mary Sherlach, the brave Sandy Hook principal, should have been armed.
“I wish to God she had had an M-4 in her office locked up, so when she heard gunfire, she pulls it out and she didn’t have to lunge heroically with nothing in her hands,” Gohmert said. Then, he said, “she takes him out, takes his head off before he can kill those precious kids.”
Giving principals, teachers and others guns doesn’t make our kids, or us, safer from a heavily armed psycho. It does create crossfire, though. And it’s no sure bet that the well-intentioned defender, in a moment of crisis, can use it effectively without hurting innocents or giving the monster yet another implement of destruction. I’d much rather have a retired professional who knows exactly what he or she is doing.
Making military-grade weapons easy for said psycho to obtain just creates more opportunities to enact a live-action video game with no emotional connection whatsoever to those dying. Who knows? The more killed conceivably could produce a greater thrill. In that kind of mind, are you going to tell me dozens of downed targets (or maybe someday hundreds) don’t beat three or four or more?
And once those totals start climbing … well, we’ve all heard of how Lanza turned one of the guns on himself as police closed in, with hundreds of rounds unspent ammo left. Goodness knows how far he would have gone.
All I’m saying is: Certain weapons. Not all.
Not a cure-all, by any stretch. But more than a Band-Aid.
In a recent study, Mother Jones found that three-quarters of the guns used in more than five dozen mass executions the past 30 years were obtained LEGALLY. That includes James Holmes’s AR-15 assault rifle, as well as both handguns and the .223 Bushmaster semiautomatic assault rifle that Adam Lanza used.
We can abridge free-speech rights, among many others contained in our Constitution’s amendments. An ex-con can walk the streets a free man, but he can’t buy or carry a gun. The government can’t search my house or car without a warrant, but it can make me strip at the airport.
This should be no different.
The vast majority of legally owned guns should stay right where they are, where they belong. What I’m talking about is a reasonable exception, one that we all know, in our hearts, will dramatically reduce the number of innocents lost.
It doesn’t even have to be the second coming of the federal assault weapons ban, either. We can go state by state.
Is that too much to ask?