Weekly newspaper of Three Rivers, California, and Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Parks

Don't Shoot

By: 
Sarah Elliott

 

#NeverAgain
 
I have had this op-ed in the can since the summer of 2012. It was originally written after a 24-year-old gunman killed 12 movie-goers at a Colorado theatre and injured 70 others.
 
Although it never saw newsprint, I have revised it at regular intervals in the past years as the mass shootings continue.
 
Less than six months after the Aurora, Colo., massacre, along came Sandy Hook, where the unthinkable happened. A 20-year-old gunman terrorized a secure elementary school campus and murdered 26 people, including 20 first-graders.
 
I updated this editorial again after Isla Vista, near the UC Santa Barbara campus (May 2014). That was when a 22-year-old gunman killed six UCSB students and injured 14 during his deadly rampage.  
 
Since then, there have been numerous other massacres: San Bernardino in December 2015 (14 dead), the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, Fla., in June 2016 (49 dead), Las Vegas in October 2017 (58 dead), a church in Sutherland Springs, Texas (26 dead), and, as of this Valentine’s Day, a
Parkland, Fla., high school (17 dead, including 14 students ages 14 to 17).
 
The epidemic is escalating. And since inaction is obviously not a solution, it’s time to try something else.
 
 
Recent poll
 
Here is what a national Quinnipiac University poll, released February 20, says:
 
American voters support stricter gun laws 66-31 percent, the highest level of support ever measured by the independent Quinnipiac University National Poll. Support for universal background checks is 97-2 percent, including 97-3 percent among gun owners.
 
The poll also reports that two-thirds of Americans support a nationwide ban on the sale of assault weapons; two-thirds of Americans believe it’s too easy to buy a gun in this country; and 83 percent support a mandatory waiting period for all gun purchases. And 75 percent of
Americans believe Congress “needs to do more to reduce gun violence.”
 
“If you think Americans are largely unmoved by the mass shootings, you should think again,” said Tim Malloy, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll. “Support for stricter gun laws is up 19 points in little more than two years. In the last two months, some of the biggest surges in support for tightening gun laws comes from demographic groups you may not expect: independent voters, men, and whites with no college degree.” 
 
 
Made  in the U.S.A.
 
In recent years, we have heard the phrase “worst mass shooting in America” too many times. In the last year, this country has had the deadliest mass shooting, the deadliest church shooting, and the deadliest high school shooting. 
 
This nation’s leaders are complicit because they have taken no action to curb the trending violence. These murderous acts are happening at places where any one of us or our friends and family members could be at any time: schools, movie theaters, concert venues, nightclubs, shopping malls, restaurants, workplaces, churches.
 
The gun debate in this country is volatile. But whether someone is a “pry it from my cold, dead hands” gun supporter or has never handled a weapon, it is likely they are united in the commitment that an assault on a concert crowd by a sniper with a converted machine-gun-style weapon is a sickening, contemptible act or that walking onto a school campus and shooting defenseless students is downright repulsive.
 
 
The Second Amendment
 
The issue of gun violence has several sides: Gun control vs. gun rights. Innocent victims vs. the powerful gun lobby. Politics vs. public safety. 
 
Our forefathers had impressive foresight when writing the Bill of Rights. But the Constitution is a living document and must adapt to the times. 
 
The Second Amendment has become misconstrued over the last two centuries. It was never the intention of the Founding Fathers to provide more freedoms to a mass shooter than it offers protection to a first-grader to be safe at school. 
 
The Second Amendment’s original intention was solely a military context. Nathan Kozuskanich, an associate professor of American History at Nipissing University in North Bay, Ontario, after researching newspapers, pamphlets, and public records of the time, documented that the term “bear arms” was reserved for militia action and never used in the context of an individual’s right to own a gun for hunting or personal defense.
 
“...The carrying of private arms for self defense is not supported by the historical record,” he wrote. “Recognizing that the meaning of ‘bear arms’ does not fit either modern gun rights or the gun control model should hardly come as a surprise. The Founders wrote the Second
Amendment to solve their own problems, not ours.” (University of Pennsylvania Journal of Constitutional Law, Volume 10:3, July 2012, “Originalism, History, and the Second Amendment: What Did Bearing Arms Really Mean to the Founders?”)   
 
 
Guns today
 
Most gun owners would never commit the heinous act of taking another human’s life. And most people living with mental illness will not carry out a mass shooting. 
 
There is no way to profile who will be the next mass shooter. That’s why it has to come back to the guns and how to keep them out of the hands of those who should not have access to weapons.
 
The talking points that trickle into the communication channels after a mass-shooting incident are losing steam. 
 
Baseball bats and knives kill too. Anything can become a deadly weapon, and people who want to kill will find a way, but victims deserve a fighting chance, something an AR-15 doesn’t provide. 
 
AR-15s and similar weapons fire rounds quickly, accurately, and at a high velocity. AR-15 semiautomatic weapons can also be legally altered to fire like an automatic weapon. The Las Vegas shooter had an altered weapon, the Parkland high school  shooter did not, but AR-15s are the weapons of choice by those who are intent on killing a lot of people in a short amount of time.
 
If everyone was allowed to have a weapon at <insert school, church, or other venue here>, then there would be protection. And... The only thing that will stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun. The element of surprise and high-powered weapons ensure a killer can claim
victims before the rest of the general population could draw their guns. And when the shooter’s planned outcome is suicide, armed citizens aren’t going to make a difference. This philosophy, whether open carry or concealed, wouldn’t have changed the course of the violence at the
Las Vegas concert, in a dark movie theatre, at a church, on the streets of Isla Vista. 
 
And there are so many reasons that arming the nation’s three million teachers isn’t a practical solution. But it would be a definite boon for gun sales.
 
If guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns. The prohibition of guns is also not realistic. The guns are out there, millions of them. But if there are stricter laws, such as expanded background checks, an assault weapons ban, a limit on high-capacity magazines, and a universal database, there will be a reduction in violence. It’s been proven in other countries.
 
Don’t take my guns. Nobody wants your guns. But everyone damn well wants to know if you are fit to own one. The U.S. tops the list of countries with the most firearms, owning about half the world’s guns while making up just 5 percent of the world population.
 
Now is not the time to politicize the debate. Yes, it is, because any elected official who parrots this phrase just did. Any politician who takes large sums of money from the gun lobby politicizes the issue with every vote.
 
The issue is political because no action is being taken by legislators to stop these massacres due to the influence of and funding by the gun lobby. It’s all about reelection, and that’s political.
 
Most U.S. citizens would prefer that guns not be politicized. The National Rifle Association did that by buying members of Congress with dollars, endorsements, and an A-through-F letter grading system. 
 
 
The NRA
 
All of the above talking points are intended to keep Americans divided on the issue. In recent years, the NRA’s campaign is all about driving the wedge between us even deeper. It’s  working; we are all their pawns.
 
The gun lobby knows that it won’t be good for sales if we collectively agree to take steps toward ending mass shootings and gun violence.
 
Historically, the NRA was about gun safety, training, and responsible ownership. They still dabble in that, but at the forefront of its present-day activities, the NRA lobbies for the gun and ammunition industries. As with our politicians, follow the money. 
 
 
Gun owners
 
Most of the one-third of Americans who own guns are sensible, compassionate folks who detest these mass shootings, so what is a solution that allows sportsmen and collectors to retain their firearms while keeping all Americans safe from a deranged person with a duffel full of ammo and a trunk-load of military-wannabe weapons that have one purpose: to kill a lot of people fast?
 
Why can’t reasonable, rational people from all sides of this national crisis come together, study the statistics, ask hard questions, and figure out a solution that benefits the greater good? Why can’t we agree to stop defending, or ignoring, the slaughter of innocent people and work
together to prevent a Las Vegas, a Sandy Hook, a Virginia Tech, a Columbine, a Parkland from ever happening again?
 
The NRA needs to step away from this conversation. They’ve got blood on their hands and ulterior motives. 
 
And any politician who takes contributions from the gun lobby is on the wrong side of history, ignoring their constituents’ inalienable right to be safe, and should be voted out of office or, better yet, never elected. 
 
 
Votes count
 
“The heart of our nation breaks with the senseless and tragic loss of these young students. Our prayers are with them and their families.” This was the tweet from Congressman Kevin McCarthy after the Valentine’s Day massacre in Parkland, Fla.
 
Congressman McCarthy, who represents a large swath of California that includes Three Rivers, is ranked number seven of 435 members of the House of Representatives for contributions accepted from the gun lobby as of October 2017, which basically means he’s in the NRA’s pocket
as a vote against gun control.
 
This is not the time for sensible, compassionate people to be silent. We have obligations to each other to break this morbid trend of gun violence in our country. 
 
We must solve this national crisis before the next shooting occurs. Oops, it just did.

 

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