We Have To Do Better

Although I don’t want to carry a handgun for protection, I understand that other people might need or want one.

Similarly, I am not a hunter, but I recognize rifles or shotguns are part of the sport.

But what I cannot understand is why anyone except a military person on active duty in a war zone needs to own an assault rifle. By design, it’s meant to kill a lot of people very fast. Why would that ever be appropriate in civilian life?

Columbine, Aurora, Virginia Tech, Red Lake, Milwaukee, Seattle, and now, Newtown. No one thinks these mass shootings are acceptable. Yet, we are destined to see more tragedies like these, unless we as a country change our approach to gun control and to mentally ill people.

The problem is complicated and a solution won’t be easy, but we cannot continue to sit idly by while more innocent people get murdered. We have to do better.

Banning assault rifles is a good place to start.

I have heard the statistics saying that when assault rifles were banned during the Clinton era, gun violence did not go down significantly. I recognize that handguns and rifles are often semi-automatic, and therefore they too are capable of quickly killing a number of people.

But we still can still do a better job of regulating their sale and use.

Charli James, a Huffington Post blogger, points out eight things that require more time, information, or effort than owning a gun. Being licensed to drive a car (a potentially lethal weapon) and being allowed to drink alcohol (a potentially lethal activity) are two examples of activities that are more difficult than purchasing a gun.

Nonetheless, the prospect of changes in gun control laws prompted a surge in demand for permits among Twin Cities gun buyers, according to Paul Levy of the Star Tribune. The photo accompanying his article shows a gun store owner holding a huge assault rifle. What can a person even do with such a gun (besides the sickening obvious)? It won’t fit in a purse or pocket for protection. An animal killed with it would be in shreds.

What compounds the problem of gun violence is that, as a country, we do not care for mentally ill people effectively. There is a chronic shortage of mental health providers and facilities. Often families are well aware that their loved one is dangerously disturbed, but until the deranged person acts, there is no appropriate way to intervene. And then it’s too late.

I believe that even the staunchest NRA member would agree that mentally disturbed people shouldn’t be allowed to have guns; but obviously, insane people do own and use guns. Surely, we can do a better job of screening potential gun owners.

Considering all the assault weapons that are already in the hands of Americans – both law-abiding and criminals—a ban on assault weapons now won’t do much in the short term, but we have to start somewhere for a long-term effect.

Assault weapons turn the whole idea of “personal protection” on its head. Lots of innocent people are put at risk so one individual gun owner can feel “protected.” Instead, we need to protect our children and families from assault weapons.

As a country, we can do better—we have to.

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