Gunning for the gun lobby

Published 10:02 am Friday, December 21, 2012

The unspeakable murders in Newtown last week have served in many ways as a tipping point for a renewed effort at curbing gun violence in one of the most violent societies on the planet, the United States.

It seems likely that there will be actions taken in light of Sandy Hook and the 20 children and six adults murdered at the hands of a heavily armed, insane man who, in a few moments harmed so many lives so permanently and grieved a nation so deeply.

The pain and the sorrow, may never entirely go away for the loss is so impossible to grasp and understand. Why these so innocent children and their teachers? Why a man so inhuman to kill his own mother, then these who have done no wrong and promised so much in their short lives?

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It seems only fitting then that, as recognition that our society has somehow fostered a form of violence that none can countenance, we must act to stem the issues, policies, and cultural realities that permitted Newtown to occur.

To change will not be easy, for so much has to happen and so little is acknowledged as truths contributing to such inhumanity among our people.

Gun industry lobbyists and gun loyalists will tell us that guns do not kill, people do. They are, of course, literally correct, but equally, dishonest. For guns in the hands of people unfit to possess them become extensions of those people, offering pathways to make the violence more potent than anger alone could ever accomplish.

Perhaps the most disdainful comments of any during this time of national mourning have been the comments of those who argue not only for all weapons to be protected, but who actually, in light of these horrific events, proclaim that the only answer is more guns in more places.

Republican congressman Louis Gohmert from Texas expressed his heartfelt wish that some of the tragedy could have been averted if only some school personnel were armed and ready to enjoin a firefight with the killer in the classroom.

Only slightly less reprehensible are those who have suggested that any discussion about regulating weapons now is purely a political ploy; that cynical view ignores the depth of concern of so many Americans.

But, for those demanding change, let there be reason as well as genuine passion for change.

The federal government already largely bans fully automatic weapons and semi-automatics are so widespread in circulation that their proliferation practically denies any prohibition.

Certainly Congress can end the production of large round magazines carrying up to 100 bullets, and restrict magazine capacity to some number under 10 shells. To do so would result in any attacker having to stop to change magazines, granting time for others to react for their own safety.

And the flawed background check system that currently allows almost half of gun buyers to avoid the procedure can be remedied. More than 80 percent of gun owners support requiring background checks for all potential purchasers.

Further, there can be no justification for not strengthening gun trafficking laws as felonies, a solution again supported by gun owners and advocates. Illegal use and possession of firearms should bring stiff penalties and high fees.

Finally, we are a culture of violence.

America, with its rugged individualism, its frontier history, and its broad rural hunting experience, is, and has been, a nation that embraces guns almost as much as football.

But we must nuance that cultural acceptance with a backing away from guns as solutions to our problems socially and culturally.

We can no longer afford to embrace shootouts on screen as “fun” expressions of entertainment.


Jim Crawford is a retired educator and political enthusiast living here in the Tri-State.