So what do you think? After the mass murder of 26 people, 20 of them children, small children, do we finally have the nerve to do the right thing?
Do we, or are we going to bow to the demands of the gun lobby, both owners and manufacturers once again, until the next time we're faced with a horror of this magnitude? There will be another, you know, and maybe sooner than later as they do seem to be on the increase. After all, for many of the mentally ill looking for some sort of relevance and recognition, our 24/7 news industry has clearly shown them the way, hasn't it? So, what do we do that makes us safer yet allows for the current interpretation of the Second Amendment?
It's not hard at all; it just takes nerve and more than anything a morally correct and politically neutral and unified stand on the part of elected officials who thus far have never showed that sort of class, sense of duty or clear moral compass. For once they need to forget or ignore the usual snippets forthcoming from the NRA and its minions, the "Guns don't kill people, people kill people" crowd, the flag-waving, red-blooded Americans who seem to recognize only one article of the Constitution, or at least deem it important enough to fight for, those collectively known as "The Gun Lobby."
Where do you start a project this large? How can we possibly even begin to gather up all of the guns currently out there that shouldn't be? You know what, it's not that hard. Quite simply begin with a ban on any civilian owning any weapon that fires semi-automatically. Any weapons of this type need to be collected and mostly melted down immediately. How about those already owned by people?
Easy enough, just give them 60 days to surrender them, pay them fair wholesale value, and after that sentence anyone hiding them to an automatic, non-negotiable 10-year stint in a prison. Do the same with criminals, but add an additional 20 years to the sentence of whatever else they were charged with. So when you see gang members pleading down to manslaughter instead of murder, those 20 years will be tacked on to their sentence with no parole or "good time" subtracted. Allow bolt action or double barreled shotguns and rifles for hunting, as well as revolvers for personal carry. Nobody needs guns with 50-caliber shells that shoot through walls at a mile or more. I think you'd find just as many deer taken in a season.
Target shooters will do just fine. Yes, any of those guns could kill people, but none of them faster than even unarmed civilians could attack and overwhelm the shooter. Those kids would probably not have died, or at least many of them, with only those kinds of weapons in the shooter's hands. Along with the above, seriously limit the types of ammunition available for those guns; no exploding shells, none of that. Black Talon ammunition was banned many years ago, it can be done again. Anyone buying .223 ammo had better show a single-shot or bolt-action rifle that shoots it. No ammo for AK-47 variants would ever be sold again.
I know that I'm going to be vilified for the sacrilege of my attitude toward guns, I'll probably be asked to leave the country. I don't care. What I care about is 20 dead children, and those that died before them at Virginia Tech, Columbine and the Aurora Theater in Colorado, and other places beginning to be too numerous to mention. Many do not know that the Aurora shooter did most of his killing with a pump shotgun. The Gun Lobby likes to mention this. What they don't like to say is that he also had an assault rifle with a 100-round drum magazine that jammed. Imagine the death toll if it hadn't? The Second Amendment was written when black powder muskets were the only weapons available. The framers of the Constitution could never have dreamed of the weapons now available or the horrific killings they've been used to accomplish.
I'd ban body armor as well for any civilian. Other than a criminal, who'd need that in normal life? If people want to play Army or cops and robbers, let them join the proper force. Marines and Infantry get to "play" with semi-automatic and even fully automatic weapons all of the time! They're also always looking for "a few good men." Feel free to sign up at any time.
I don't see this leaving me defenseless. For people who carry concealed guns for protection, this may surprise you but the police did quite well for decades with six-shot revolvers.
It was only with the flood of MAC 10s, AK-47s and Uzis hitting the streets that forced the police to "upgrade" their armaments. And how's that working out? Not so well looking at the murder rate in each and every large American city. Yes, murders occur without guns, but not in the same scale, ease and even distance possible with many of the guns we insist on owning.
Yes, we need our mental health system to return to what it used to be, to provide care for those in need, respite for families and most of all forced institutionalization of the most dangerous to themselves and others. Yes we need to do a better job of securing our schools, but then what about malls and movie theaters? How do you lock down a college campus, or better yet a McDonalds (Texas)? But most of all we need to make every effort to remove the worst weapons available, the ones designed for the sole purpose of killing people.
If you've never seen a dead child, close up, not cleaned up in a funeral home, maybe you won't understand. But if you had, you'd understand at least parts of what the residents of a formerly idyllic town in Connecticut are feeling right now. They look like broken dolls.
Paul Christopher is a Dunkirk resident. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org