The tragedy last week at Sandy Hook Elementary School has both saddened and infuriated the citizens of our nation. We will all remember where we were and what we were doing when the first grim flash of information came over the radio, TV or computer, followed by the poignant, indescribably-awful details. But so far it doesn't look like this most recent example of the rampant, gun-fueled violence that permeates America, with both major political parties held in check by the money and political power of the National Rifle Association, is going to play out as quietly as the past ones have.
We've had Columbine in 1999 (13 dead). We had Virginia Tech in 2007 (32 dead). We had three more mass assaults/executions in 2009 in New York, Alabama and Texas that cumulated in 36 dead and 40 injured. We had Aurora, Colorado just last July (the "Batman" shootings) leaving 12 dead. And now America is grieving once again, this time the tears falling for 20 slain children, all between the ages of 6 and 7, along with six adults, including several teachers, the murderers' mother, and the very, very heroic school principal Dawn Hochsprung who, by tripping the intercom in her office while struggling with the young monster who eventually killed her, prevented even more carnage from taking place. Adam Lanza's name has joined Jeffrey Dahmer, James Holmes, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold on an ever-growing list of infamy.
There isn't much to add to Patrick Griffin's superb "The Time Has Come" article in Monday morning's PATCH. His excellently-delineated arguments for re-introducing the assault weapons ban that president Bill Clinton instituted and George W. Bush let discontinue in 2004, as well as a government mandate on background checks on new gun owners, should both be common sense statutes with any reasonable person on either side of the aisle.
But with the administrative body of the NRA, we're hardly talking about "reasonableness" in any form. The organization is buttressed by the dues of millions of members, most of them decent citizens with the very natural desire to protect themselves and their loved ones in their homes, hunters who pursue the sport during their respective seasons, and marksmen and women who enjoy target practice and skeet shooting in their spare time. All well and good.
But how sensible is it for the NRA to spend millions of dollars annually in their state-by-state "manifest destiny" of weakening gun laws, laws that exist to protect Americans from the very types of monstrous acts that we're all brooding over now? Why do they fight to eliminate 5-day waiting periods before a potentially lethal weapon can be purchased, a period when any hidden "wants and warrants" against the applicant can be scrutinized to ensure that the wrong guy isn't getting the guns? What possible excuse exists for ANY Second Amendment defender not to understand that AK47s and AR15s weren't made to shoot a deer or a wolf during hunting season? They are WAR ORDNANCE and nothing less, devised for the expressed purpose of killing as many of the enemy in as short a time as possible.
It is a laughable canard whenever this organization or its adherents intone their knee-jerk responses to the idea of gun control by quoting Charlton Heston's "dead fingers" howler, or endlessly repeating the cliché "If guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns", etc. And it is a bald-faced lie whenever they fret about a citizen's gun rights being taken away by president Barack Obama or anyone else.
Fact: NO ARM OF THE GOVERNMENT, STATE OR FEDERAL, IS GOING TO TAKE AWAY A HUNTER'S RIFLE OR RIGHT TO HUNT.
Fact : NO ARM OF THE GOVERNMENT, STATE OR FEDERAL, IS GOING TO STOP A PERSON FROM POSSESSING A REGISTERED HANDGUN(S) IN THEIR OWN HOME.
And the people who espouse a fully-armed populace where there's a gun in every pocket everywhere in society would instead create danger lurking behind each accidental bump on a crowded bus or any nudge of the wrong drunk at the end of the bar. And they are only fooling themselves, because their perfect scenario is that every time an evil, sick individual pulls a gun, whether it's in a school classroom or the workplace, there'll usually be someone there to cleanly and quickly shoot the intruder, no muss or fuss. But in reality this widespread armament of nearly every adult would simply lend itself to an abundance of cases DAILY throughout the country of "Old West"-style shootings at bus stops, music shows, sports events, street corners...you name it. And after a few years of even MORE gun violence than our nation already faces every day, we'd be changing the laws once again. But all those many thousands of victims wouldn’t be coming back.
The (so far) silence of the NRA since Sandy Hook is both deafening and, admittedly, somewhat surprising. After all, they are usually the "first respondents" after every gun-spawned atrocity to do their preemptive strike with the media, talking about stronger enforcement of state/federal gun laws to prevent another tragedy from occurring, et al. This is even as they spend their time and money behind the scenes neutering those same laws, from the Brady Bill, curtailing assault weapon ownership, ending ID checks for purchasers at gun shows, and everything in between.
As Barack Obama movingly stressed during his healing speech on Sunday evening in Newtown, Connecticut, a national conversation is necessary regarding this issue, and has been for many years. And it shouldn't just encompass the above points which have been covered a million times (and better, including by Griffin). Keeping assault-style weapons away from the general population and making sure that we don't allow criminals the simple means to kill people should be the obvious objective. But going deeper into the human problem behind these mass executions should be more awareness by all of us of the mental state of the people we're surrounded by: friends, family and work acquaintances. Perhaps if Lanza's mother had notified someone in authority (doctor, police, etc.) re: the violent and disruptive behavior he demonstrated daily against her and his acquaintances a tragedy could've been avoided and 26 people would still be alive. Or maybe if she had done all the right things it wouldn’t have made any difference at all.
But what every sensible person knows is that America can't keep allowing the worst examples of humanity such easy avenues to acquiring the weapons they need to "make a statement", a statement that invariably involves killing innocent people and creating as much collateral damage as they can through the grief of the survivors. We need tougher gun laws, but we also have to develop a greater understanding of the noticeable symptoms demonstrated by a potential killer before he makes his move, ending the lives of even more angels and emotionally destroying their surviving loved ones' existences forever.
And the time to do this is now.