from: The Rifle
by Gary Paulsen
Harcourt Inc., 1995
Gary Paulsen’s account (in the quote above) of the normalcy of gun ownership goes back to the Revolutionary War. Americans have owned guns before that war and since then. My concern is not about gun ownership, per se. It is not about one interpretation of the Second Amendment to our Constitution or another. My concern is more about keeping all of us, including children, maybe especially children, safe.
Before the 1970s, mass shootings were rare. We can all recall many of those that have taken place since. Looking over reports of these crimes, those ending in suicide and those ending in capture of the gunman, (not always one person, and certainly not always a man, young or old) it seems to me that we *can’t* just say the person with the gun is a wackadoodle or nutcase or any other derogatory word for a mentally unwell person that comes to mind. After all, who could pull a trigger with the intention of killing someone (or many someones) but someone who is thinking and acting irrationally?
My concern is also not about whether a shooter is rehabilitatable or not. That is most definitely a subject for another time. My concern is more about prevention than anything else. And like most important issues, the answers are both simple and complex.
Accidents happen. Once I stepped on a pin I was using to sew a dress for my daughter. I ended up in the ER for a tetanus shot to stop a small infection creeping up my leg in a most ugly and painful way. Kids fall out of trees they climb and break limbs (the tree's and their own). A car moves into your blind spot and suddenly sirens and insurance companies are involved.
A kid finds a gun on the top shelf of a closet and is curious. Bang! No one knew it was loaded. His friend is dead.
Accidents by their very definition are unplanned. Sometimes even unavoidable.
Some states have taken that matter into their own hands.Twenty-seven states and DC have Child Access Prevention laws. CAP laws take a variety of forms. You can find a description here: https://lawcenter.giffords.org/gun-laws/policy-areas/child-consumer-safety/child-access-prevention/
Sometimes the shooting is intentional. Some states have taken up that matter, too.
- Nineteen states and Washington, DC, require background checks for at least some private gun sales.
- Twelve states and Washington, DC have laws that require gun-buyers to apply for permits or licenses.
- Some states require would-be handgun-buyers to pass safety training.
- A study conducted in 2015 found that 75% of Americans (and nearly 60% of gun-owners) support licensing laws. Almost everyone wants broad background checks.
But we need to do more. Right now we have a patchwork of state laws that sometimes reciprocate from one state to another, and sometimes do not. Seems to me that federal law(s) would be more efficient, less confusing, and more enforceable than requiring the states to continue going it alone.
Sometimes shootings are motivated by fear and hate, or by fear or hate. Sometimes there seems to be no reason but a person’s tenuous hold on reality. Maybe the fuel is the unsettling feeling of not knowing what is real or true or factual. Maybe the fuel is violence in the media. Maybe it is unfocused anger. There are thousands (maybe millions) of maybes.
We can not allow mass murder, especially when it is driven by fear and hate and a tenuous grip on what is real, to become our new national normal.
I have joined Everytown for Gun Safety. In my small way, I’m working for peace and sanity. You can join, too. https://everytown.org
—stay curious (and involved!)