I was going to write about jobs – the topic which, according to Mr. Gallup, is on the top of everyone’s “What’s-Keeping-Me-Awake-at-Night” list. But on Friday, another gun-wielding madman walked into a theater in Aurora, Colorado, and right now the political wrangling over who should be creating jobs, or who shipped the most jobs overseas has taken a backseat to an even more basic question: is this really the land of the “free” if we have to worry that our children might be gunned down in a movie theater? Is this the home of the brave when our elected officials are too cowed by the gun lobby that they won’t even question if it’s OK to purchase hand grenades over the internet, or why people need automatic weapons that fire 45 rounds without reloading to go hunting deer. Or to put it another way ... why do Americans continue to accept gun violence as a way of life, and refuse to try and do anything about it?
On Friday, my Facebook wall was awash in tears, filled with posts by justly horrified, well meaning people that exhorted me to “Pray for the Victims of Aurora”, and assured the people of Colorado that they were in our thoughts and prayers. So I did, and they are. And then, what? In my lifetime...
- we’ve prayed for the victims of Charles Whitman who killed 16 and wounded 30 more from a tower at the University of Texas.
- we’ve prayed for the victims of James Huberty who killed 21 adults and children at a California McDonalds.
- we’ve prayed for the students and teachers at Columbine High School who saw 13 of their friends and family members slaughtered, 23 more wounded.
- we’ve prayed for the students and faculty of Virginia Tech after a student went on a killing spree that left 32 dead and scores more injured.
- we’ve prayed for Gabby Giffords after an assassination attempt at a supermarket left her and 13 others critically injured and six people dead.
If thoughts and prayers could make gun violence stop, it would have happened centuries ago. People have been praying for an end to violence and for the victims of violence forever. We respond with empathy (and sometimes dollars) but we feel powerless to change things so we say the same tired, anemic words to offer comfort and support. And the killing continues. And the American arsenal keeps growing and our loved ones are still in the cross-hairs.
The Founding Fathers who penned the Constitution and Bill of Rights had not made provisions for a standing army, which, according to George Washington and others, would pose the greatest threat to a free people. So, they saw a need for a well regulated Militia that could be called upon on an as-needed basis and required that citizens bring their own guns. These were men who relied on rifles that had to be reloaded after every shot, and whose forged cannons weighed a ton and had to be hauled around by horse and wagon. Do you honestly believe that 18th century humanists would say the same thing about fully automatic weapons that continue to load and fire until the trigger is released or the ammunition is exhausted? These were enlightened men who were still impressed by lightening rods, steam engines and hand cranked printing presses. How could they possibly envision assault rifles with large capacity (>20 shots) detachable magazines?
So far this year 54,808 people have been shot in America.* And the carnage will continue unless we stop deluding ourselves that thoughts and prayers are a match for cold hard steel in the hands of someone determined to kill. Americans are fond of cheering wildly whenever a politician mouths the completely safe cliché that, “There’s nothing America can’t do when we try.” So let’s try. It’s time to draw the line and restrict ownership of certain kinds of weapons and certain types of ammunition. Are you listening Governor Corbett? Are you listening Senators Greenleaf, Washington and Leach? Are you listening Representatives Stephens, Dean, Harper, Murt, Gerber, Godshall and Boyle? Glocks, SKS automatic rifles and plastic tipped bullets are used to hunt people, not deer.
*(Source: Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence)