The mass shooting in Parkland, Florida has touched off yet another debate regarding gun control in America. The debate is not new, nor is it news to those of us who have become anesthetized to the number of reported shootings over the past several months, maybe years. But the death toll resulting from firearms continues to rise in our country. The mass shootings and the regular gun-related incidents in schools and on campuses has sparked some concern for our younger children, as well as a personal concern that my wife and I share for the safety of our granddaughter when she begins school. And while it’s very easy to detach ourselves from a situation that occurs thousands of miles away, believing it will never happen in our communities, some doubt lingers as our world community grows closer. Our concern should not be for ourselves alone, but for those who are directly impacted by such events.
I and many of a similar mindset are often branded as liberals and perhaps “a special kind of stupid” for believing that we can save lives by eliminating assault rifles. Yet, this goes beyond matters of partisan debate. The launching of verbal barbs at those branded as liberals (and those branded as conservatives, for that matter) is beyond old and serves no purpose. Those opposed to gun legislation are not warmongers; those in favor are not snowflakes. This is not a problem that affects only one political demographic. This is an American problem; this is human problem.
And this is not merely an issue that affects schools, as has been evident in Las Vegas, Orlando, and Sutherland Springs. I have recently reread Robert Fulghum’s All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten. The book is an enjoyable read, and one that helps center me when the world goes a wee-bit sideways. I reflect on how we have been taught to behave as a society, and the reality of how we behave when we are at odds with our ideologies. What I find striking is how poorly we treat one another when it comes to discussing how to deal with mass shootings and gun control. We treat each other as somehow dimwitted and uninformed. And rather than look within ourselves and closely examine our society, we tend to point fingers at immigrants or people who struggle with their mental health.
If indeed we have a mental-health problem in this country, it certainly has little to do with the proliferation and availability of assault weapons. And the abuse of such weapons can largely be attributed to the lobbying of the NRA and a variety of affluent and vocal supporters, this demographic that still believes a sound reason exists for the ownership of weapons that were not created for sport or for home defense but were instead manufactured for the purpose of warfare. And while I probably shouldn’t speak for our founding fathers with respect to what they may have intended when penning the 2nd Amendment, suggesting that they wrote the amendment with the possibility of semi-automatic and automatic weapons in mind as a means of protecting citizens from the government is indeed ludicrous. Such a notion is akin to suggesting that each home in 18th-century America should have had a cannon at the ready. Just in case.
Numerous arguments are made in support of assault weapons, some advocates suggesting that the AR-15 is no different than any other rifle or shotgun. I suppose with that mindset, we could argue that a machete would be no different than a pocket knife. What amazes me is that regardless of the relevant data underscoring the problem we have with gun violence in the United States, as well as data supporting the effectiveness of gun-control legislation, opponents of such legislation in general continue to place the blame somewhere else – anywhere else – for deaths associated with the misuse of firearms.
Somehow, the mass shooting at Parkland touched a nerve like no other incident before. We now have a dialogue that may affect change, and by change, I don’t mean arming teachers. Some teachers may be comfortable with the idea, but I suspect the majority are not. Teachers have enough on their plates without being placed in a situation where they must square off on potential shooters. Adding more guns to the mix is certainly not the answer.
Honestly, the time has come for our country to let go of this perversion for assault rifles. We don’t need them. We don’t have a “right” to own them. The time has come for owners of assault rifles to surrender these weapons. The number of deaths due to firearms is at least on par with deaths resulting from automobile accidents, and the number of citizens who own firearms are far less than those who own automobiles. No one has a right to lobby – either by bribery or other forms of persuasion – for the wholesale massacre of innocent citizens. We regularly reinterpret religious texts, classic literature, and history to suit our ends. It’s time to reinterpret the 2nd Amendment to fit the 21st century in such a way that we feel safe to leave our homes and go about our day-to-day business, without fear of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. It’s time for us to grow up.