A relative of mine in Mississippi began hunting as soon as he was big enough to hold a gun. His first deer rifle was taller than he was. In his 50s, he quit. When asked why, he said, “I got tired of killing things.”
I wonder just when we, in this country, will “get tired of killing things,” or rather “get tired of seeing innocent people killed.”
Back in October 2017, after the Las Vegas shooting, I wrote a column for this paper entitled “And if not now, when?” The title is a quote from the Jewish teacher and philosopher Hillel, who lived in the late B.C.-early-A.D. period. Even after 2,000 years, this simple but profound question is still relevant.
If something needs to be done, why wait? Rarely, if ever, does a problem solve itself. It’s been almost two years since the Las Vegas shooting. Very little has changed, and the problem is getting worse.
A sizeable majority of Americans think we need gun-control measures and that number is growing daily. Then why is there little response from those we’ve elected to represent us?
They give us thoughts and prayers and platitudes but no substance. They point to the ban on bump stocks and claim real progress. Who do they think they’re kidding?
Of course, I’m writing this a few days after the shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio. Statistics tell us it’s getting worse. The Gun Violence Archive classifies an event as a mass shooting if four or more people are shot or killed, not including the shooter(s). USA Today reported that by the first weekend in August, there had been 251 mass shootings this calendar year. That’s in 216 days meaning an average of more than one per day. That translates to 520 deaths and more than 2,000 injured.
And those are only the stark statistics.
Couple that with photos of memorials of flowers and religious symbols, the tears and wails of anguish from those who’ve lost loved ones and the traumatized looks in the eyes of the survivors and you see all too plainly the human side. Why can innocent people not go shopping or to a nightclub or to work or to school or to worship without fear of being gunned down?
This is a crisis in our country. When are enough of our weak-kneed leaders going to step forward and face this? And if not now, when?
Just as in earlier mass shootings, after El Paso, our public officials released their statements offering sympathy to the victims, condemning the act and proposing ineffective solutions. It is reminiscent of that scene in the movie “Casablanca,” when, after a major crime comes to light, the head of the police says “Round up the usual suspects.”
It’s gotten to the point where our political leaders say “Round up the ‘usual solutions.’”
Of course, they know or should know by now that these “usual solutions” are not going to solve the problem.
What are some of these “usual solutions?” Among the more popular ones are “red flag” laws, focusing on mental health, closing loopholes in background checks, setting up universal background checks, banning violent videos games, having more security guards everywhere. And there are others on the fringe.
Researchers have not been able to find any correlation between violent video games and mass shooters.
Undoubtedly, the most popular “solution” these days is to focus on mental health, that is, determining which people are going to be mass shooters and stopping them before they act. Well, good luck with that. Such a program would take decades to implement and would be somewhat hindered by the fact that mental health professionals have no way of determining accurately who will be a mass shooter.
I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of reading these namby-pamby responses from our leaders. Some of their solutions may chip a little around the edges, but we passed these usual solutions several shootings ago.
Almost all refuse to address the elephant in the room. Several, along with one of our senators, said that the solution to gun violence should not compromise our rights as citizens. That’s political speak for “I’m not going to support anything that steps on the toes of the gun lobby.” And that brings us to the crux of the problem, which most of our leaders continue to tippy-toe around because they are fearful of the power and influence of the gun people.
The heart of the issue is making all these military-type weapons and large-capacity clips/ magazines off-limits to the public. They are made for one purpose” to kill as many people as possible in the shortest amount of time. They are not for protection.
There has not been one documented case in which an assault rifle has been used to protect a home or a person. No matter what you think the Second Amendment says, you do not have the right to possess a military assault weapon. What about the right to live possessed by all those innocent victims in El Paso?
I’ve heard people say they enjoy firing assault rifles on the range, that it makes them feel manly or womanly. Why don’t you folk join the military? You’ll be given an assault rifle, trained on it and sent to a place where you can shoot at “things.” Of course, these “things” will shoot back, providing a whole new experience.
Now, how can we go about getting this military ordinance out of private hands? First, make a list of all of it. Then, pass legislation making it illegal to own or possess. Give the public one year to turn this stuff in and be paid for it. Note: Bump stocks were just banned, but we should not take property without reimbursement.
Yes, it will be expensive, but think of the lives it will save. After one year, items could still be turned in, but with no payment. Anyone caught with the stuff after the year will face fines and probation but no jail time. This is just a basic, rough outline for the action needed.
I know this will take several years to accomplish and some people will hide their AK-47s, but if we stay the course, it can be done.
Other countries do it and it’s no accident that countries with more stringent gun laws have fewer gun deaths. There are any number of examples. This is not the wild West anymore. We claim to be civilized. It’s time we begin acting like it. Winston Churchill said, “Americans always do the right thing — after they’ve tried all the wrong ones.”
I would posit that this division point is at hand.
Dr. Lucas G. (Luke) Boyd is the retired principal of Battle Ground Academy. He lives in Franklin and
may be contacted at