Here are some thoughts concerning the epidemic of mass shootings in our country. Why is the purported “right” of anyone to own a gun more important than the right of our children to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, which school shootings take away forever? To my mind, the second far outweighs the first.
The Second Amendment is predicated on the idea that a “well regulated Militia” is “necessary to the security of a free State.” What does that mean today? What militias do these shooters (and other semi-automatic gun owners) belong to, and who is regulating them? The National Guard would seem to be the modern-day version of the colonial militia for those desiring to become “citizen soldiers.” Moreover, the Second Amendment was written in the days of muzzleloaders. The founders never could have anticipated that ordinary citizens would someday have access to (and be allowed to travel the streets with) weapons that can fire hundreds of rounds into a school or a crowd in a few minutes. It’s the 21st century; let’s not hide behind an archaic notion that virtually anyone is entitled to own a military-style weapon.
What private citizen, over or under the age of 21, actually needs to own a rifle designed for military use, the sole purpose of which is to kill as many people as possible in a short time? Likewise, for high-capacity clips. What legitimate civilian use is there for anyone to have that much firepower? If a hunter needs more than one or two shots from a bolt-action weapon to kill a deer, they either need more target practice or to consider another avocation. Or, if you simply get a kick out of firing off an enormous number of rounds in a short time, if that is your thing, then by all means go to a gun range, rent a weapon and blast away, but please don’t tell us that you have to bring that gun home for any purpose, including self-defense.
We have been told by the Supreme Court that money is speech. That certainly works to the advantage of the NRA and to their ability to influence national and state laws and legislators. If money is really held to be speech, then we must also consider guns to be an even more powerful form of self-expression, to which we listed at our peril. We have also been told “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people.” That may be true, but it is also undeniable that an angry or otherwise disturbed person can dispatch many more victims with a gun than without one. Putting our heads in the sand about the role semi-automatic weapons play in the tragedies we have been witnessing won’t do either. Focusing on “hardening” schools into fortresses or arming teachers ignores the elephant in the room, which is the widespread availability of semi-automatic weapons.
Sadly, there is a truculent minority of people in this country who seem to believe that too many guns are not enough. This is not merely a partisan political issue or a point of contention in our tribal culture wars. Despite strong feelings on all sides, we need immediate and concrete action to end the gunning down of innocents. Given all the violence that has occurred and continues to occur, it’s past time for timid, half-hearted, token or superficial measures.
‘DISASTER CAN HAPPEN HERE’
Three recent incidents in Vermont schools involving gun threats (including one resulting in a death) serve to emphasize how alarming and dangerous it is that Vermont requires no permit, registration or background check for either handgun or long gun possession, does not ban assault weapons or large-capacity magazines, allows open or concealed carry, lets 16-year-olds buy handguns, and anyone can go to a gun show and avoid a federal background check when buying an AR-15 or similar weapon. Our legislators have prohibited carrying weapons in the Capitol building. They have also seen fit to ban them in schools. They should extend the same protection to the rest of us. It’s time for responsible gun owners to accept reasonable restrictions on the ability to own and use firearms in the interest of the common good. It is encouraging that Dick’s Sporting Goods has promised to stop selling assault weapons and large-capacity clips. I hope other gun dealers will do the same and put social responsibility ahead of private profit.
Many years ago when I was young and foolish, I ran to the aid of a woman who was crying for help outside the house where we lived in California. Off I went into the rainy night. The incident occurred kitty-corner from our place. The victim had been assaulted by a purse snatcher and when I got there she was standing on the upper landing of the stairs to her apartment building. Seeing me, she pointed down and started yelling, “There he is!” A minute later a man who lived up the street arrived on the scene, pulled a pistol from his pocket and announced, “I brought this.” If he had shown up a few moments earlier and mistaken me for the perpetrator, I might very well have been shot by an armed but well-intentioned do-gooder like myself.
Today I am a senior citizen. I have gotten by very nicely all my life without owning a gun. Other countries seem to do just fine with strict prohibitions on firearms (and without all the senseless killing and high murder rates). If you believe that gun control has finally become an urgent national priority, please join the young people who will be part of the upcoming national March for Our Lives on Saturday, March 24, at noon at the State House in Montpelier. In addition, urge our legislators to prohibit semi-automatic weapons, large-capacity magazines and bump stocks, require background checks and close the gun show loophole, and ask the governor to join New York, Rhode Island, New Jersey and Connecticut in the new regional gun control coalition. And, for good measure, how about adding a buyback program for assault-type weapons now in circulation? How much more havoc will we have to endure before we get serious gun control? Show that you care. Stand up and say, “Enough! No more!”
Paul Hanke lives in Warren.