ENOUGH IS ENOUGH: CONTROLLING FIREARMS
I have restrained myself from commenting on the Newtown tragedy until I have had some time to listen and think. And what has come into my mind in my life experiences as both police officer, sociologist and pastor is a number of thoughts and images –
- I find myself living in a violent society – my country has been at war for over ten years; our entertainment, our films, and video games are exceedingly violent. Such an atmosphere is not a healthy one in which to live and raise our children.
- I feel America has been bullied into thinking that somehow freedom and our way of life is somehow tied to our right to possess and carry a firearm through we really know in our hearts that the Second Amendment was constructed to permit our states to form militias – not to permit ordinary citizens to possess andcarry firearms.
- Our mental health system has been ignored and underfunded and our legal system reluctant to detain and evaluate persons who constitute a danger to either themselves or society.
- Gun makers and suppliers have spun out of control in manufacturing and selling weapons designed not for hunting but for military combat; e.g. the assault rifle with its high-capacity magazines and ability to be easily modified to fire fully automatic like a machine gun.
- In short, something in America has gone wrong – very, very wrong. (Although criminologists tell us that the numbers of mass shootings are not increasing [about 20 each year] the numbers, those killed, have increased because of both instrumentality and access.
As a police officer, I carried a gun for over thirty years, I knew that a home with a firearm was not a safe home but one that was more dangerous. The very presence of a guns is simply dangerous in a home. After my wife and I retired (both of us were police officers) we did not feel the need to carry or possess a firearm.
Now we have another tragedy on top of too many others – this time a score of elementary aged children and six adults have been murdered in a school in a quiet, bucolic city. No longer the terrible violence of inner city drug traffickers and gang members, but now it happens in hometown, so-called “safe” America.
So, I join with those of us who say, “Enough is enough!” Years ago, I gave up on the NRA when they refused to support the banning of Teflon-coated bullets designed to penetrate the body armor my officers wore on duty.
This is not an unsolvable problem. As an example, Australia took action after a mass killing in 1996 and changed their country. We can, too.
In this Sunday’s New York Times, Nicholas Kristof recalled what the Australians did:
- The government legislated a “buy-back” of 650,000 firearms.
- They crafted tighter laws regarding licensing and safe storage of firearms.
- While not ending gun ownership in their country, they reduced the number of firearms by one-fifth – (predominately the ones most likely to be used in mass shootings.)
- The result? In the 18 years before the law, there were 13 mass shootings. Afterwards? Not one in the last 14 years.
- And the murder rate with firearms dropped by more than 40 percent, and the suicide rate by firearms more than one-half.
We can also look north to Canada which now requires a 28-day waiting period to buy a handgun. They also require a very thoughtful and clever safeguard – gun buyers need to have two people vouch for them before they can purchase a firearm. (This, to me, would be very effective in preventing a lot of questionable, socially negative folks from purchasing a gun.)
Kristof also illustrates as an example what we have done as a nation to increase auto safety:
“As with guns, some auto deaths are caused by people who break laws or behave irresponsibly. But we don’t shrug and say, ‘Cars don’t kill people, drunks do.’ Instead, we have required seat belts, air bags, child seats and crash safety standards. We have introduced limited licenses for young drivers and tried to curb the use of mobile phones while driving. All this has reduced America’s traffic fatality rate per mile driven by nearly 90 percent since the 1950s. Some of you are alive today because of those auto safety regulations. And if we don’t treat guns in the same serious way, some of you and some of your children will die because of our failure.”
[To see Kristof’s entire article, CLICK HERE]
We are a smart nation. We can change, we can do better – improve. Just look at how we have reduced tobacco consumption and increased auto safety and made improvements in a number of other areas of public health. We can do the same by crafting smart laws and practices regarding firearms in America. Enough is enough. Let’s do it and do it now.
* Hear conservative commentator Morning Joe’s comments CLICK HERE.
* Read the data concerning gun violence in America from Harvard professor David Hemenway CLICK HERE.