Like most people who enjoy writing, I appreciate life's nuances and shades of gray. I love thoughtful debates and open ended questions. Rarely do I believe an issue to be so black and white. But this one is. I'm not naive enough to believe we as a nation will come to our senses and outlaw semi-automatic weapons and handguns, but I'm hopeful that we might, in the wake of these senseless murders, go back to the way things were before 2004.
Because I'm not excited about the Grape growing up in a place where just about anyone can buy a weapon designed to massacre people. Quickly.
We have a problem in this country with people using firearms to commit mass murder.
The NRA would have us believe that guns aren't the problem, mentally disturbed people are. To those who lose loved ones, like the parents of 9-year-old Christina Taylor Green, it's rather academic whether the killer suffered from mental illness for a long time, or whether a hyper-aggressive yet previously law abiding individual just snapped and went on a rampage.
Either way, in the United States, such individuals have access not just to guns, but to guns designed for the sole purpose of inflicting mass human casualties in a very short time period.
By now, unless you live in a cave, you've heard that the Tucson gunman killed six people and wounded over a dozen more using a German-made Glock pistol with an extended magazine.
The Glock is used by many law enforcement agencies, including the FBI. Many of Mr. Loughner's fellow Arizonans carry the same (or similar) handguns. Someone else in that Safeway parking lot almost certainly had a legal concealed handgun on his or her person at the time of the incident. Did Arizona's permissive guns laws save lives?
What did? The quick thinking and action of innocent bystanders who tackled the shooter when he was forced to stop firing to reload. He shot 31 bullets before that happened. Had he been limited to a standard Glock magazine, he could have been intercepted after firing nine rounds (still a tragedy, but perhaps some one's grandmother or nine-year-old child would have been spared a bloody death).
If you Google "gun control" you will find all kinds of NRA sponsored propaganda, arguing that guns make us safer.
This is probably the greatest fraud perpetrated by a special interest group on the American people. Bigger than the Iraq war. Bigger than Ethanol.
A few things you may not know the NRA lobbies for:
The legalization of fully plastic firearms. You know, the kind designed for the sole purpose of slipping through metal detectors. Excuse me? What kind of absurd society would we inhabit where we could not take a juice box on an airplane, but a plastic semiautomatic pistol would pass inspection? Fortunately, Congress voted to ban such weapons after the Reagan administration introduced legislation to do so. Only four members voted in favor of plastic guns at the time (Dick Cheney was among the four). The GOP(until last week) wanted to bring the question up again.
The legalization of magazines such as the one used by Mr. Loughner. It's bad enough that President Bush allowed the assault weapons ban to expire in 2004. The ban on extended magazines expired with it. Mr. Loughner bought those extended clips perfectly legally. Anyone need 31 rounds to take down a deer? No? That's what I figured.
The preservation of gun show loopholes, whereby gun dealers can sell weapons to those who would not meet the lax background check criteria. I'd prefer the Grape to grow up in a society where gun shows are a thing of the past, like the other trappings of the Wild West. Right here in Massachusetts, an eight-year-old boy died while handling an Uzi (an Israeli made automatic assault rifle) at such an event. I hope this boy's father goes to jail for the rest of his life.
If any pro-gun folks are still reading, they're indignantly screeching about the second amendment. The second amendment preserves the right of the individual to bear arms in order to maintain a well-ordered militia. It was drafted in the days before the nation had well established national armed forces and relied on locally organized regiments to defend the country. I know all about the second amendment, having actually graduated from a very good law school. The ban that President Bush allowed to expire back in 2004 had passed Constitutional muster. Courts have long held the right to bear arms is far from absolute.
Furthermore, the historical context under which the amendment was conceived no longer exists. Indeed, the United States military is the most advanced centrally managed fighting force on the planet. Every one-horse back water no longer requires a militia. The NRA knows that, but playing down the pesky militia language serves their goals.
Here's the bottom line: Guns do not make anyone safer. The vast majority of children who die from gunshot wounds aren't killed by crazed criminals. They're shot by other children, or by themselves, while playing with guns that their parents or their friends' parents keep "for safety."
I don't care if your gun is a unloaded and locked in a cabinet. I don't care if you just have a rifle to shoot Bambi, or a pistol to shoot clay discs.
If you have firearms in your home, my child will never visit you. Ever.
I can do that much to keep him safe from the crazy gun culture.
I can only hope that Congress does its part in passing sensible restrictions, so that the next time some lunatic goes on a rampage at a school, or an airport, or a parking lot or an amusement park filled with little kids, at least the damage might be limited. That won't happen if the NRA gets its way.
And that's precisely why, in the wake of this latest slaughter, no good parent can support their agenda.