This is the 274th day of the year. In that number of days we have had 273 mass shootings in this country. This year. 273 mass shootings resulting in 347 deaths and many more times that many injuries. According to The Guardian, in the past 1735 days, there have been 1516 mass shootings. Mass murders. Or attempts at murder. On average, there is a mass shooting 9 out of every 10 days in this country. Let it sink in a minute.
The horror of the Las Vegas murders is still unfolding for everyone involved: injured victims, parents, spouses, children, friends, co-workers. These people will be haunted by this tragedy for years to come…maybe even forever. We as a nation used to be haunted by such senseless slaughter, too. Columbine. Sandy Hook. Orlando. Now Las Vegas. And all of the hundreds of other places where a man with a gun wreaked mayhem and destruction, resulting in thousands of deaths and incalculable suffering. Now these assaults are so commonplace that it takes a massacre of the scope of Las Vegas to get our attention.
After each tragedy our governmental officials all lament the pain caused by the shootings. They offer their prayers and condolences. But they don’t do a damn thing to change the certainty that tomorrow, or next week there will be another mass shooting and more lives will be lost to violence with guns. It is too easy to offer “sincere” words of comfort and then go on about the business of supporting the NRA.
In the wake of a mass murder such as just happened in Las Vegas, some believe it is inappropriate to bring up gun control because it is a “political” issue. Why in God’s name is preventing the senseless loss of life political? We have some simple facts:
- The United States has 4.43% of the world’s population, yet we own 42% of the world’s civilian-owned guns. (vox.com)
- Based on 2012 data, the U.S. had 29 gun homicides per 1 million people; Canada had 5.1 and Australia had 1.4 (United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime) The rate of gun deaths in the United States far outstrips the per capita rate of other developed nations.
- More guns in people’s hands results in more murders.
- More guns in people’s hands results in more suicides.
- Guns contribute to domestic violence. (CityLab)
Unless we demand action, we can be 100% certain that the horrific mass murder in Las Vegas will not be the last one.
More than perhaps any part of the Constitution, the meaning of the second amendment has been hotly debated almost since it was written. The amendment reads: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” When we think of the context in which the amendment was written, consider that our fledgling country had just fought a war with Great Britain. Access to guns was limited because of Britain’s concern that guns would fuel the militia against their troops. A militia–a military force raised from the civilian population– is the equivalent of our well-organized armed forces. In 1791 when the second amendment was written, those forces did not exist as they do today, so “the people” were called on to fill the ranks of the militia in defense of our new country.
Many consider the second amendment to be a guarantee that anyone can own and use any gun. The framers of the Constitution surely never envisioned assault weapons; they did not envision a man in a hotel room with high-powered rifles killing dozens of people at a concert. They did not envision children being murdered in their classrooms. When the amendment was written, firing a gun was an ordeal that took time and skill to do. Now anyone with a finger can fire 200 rounds per minute, mowing down everyone in their path. I can only imagine that the Constitution’s framers would be horrified to consider that the amendment that they wrote to protect our nation from foreign attack would be perverted to the extent that it has been.
Do I think that no one should have guns? No, of course not. Let hunters have their rifles and shotguns. Let them have regular rifles with a capacity of six rounds, not automatic or semi-automatic weapons intended to cause mass destruction. Let people have their handguns–with six rounds and no automatic capability. Pull the trigger and shoot one bullet, not hundreds.
What do I believe is common sense gun control?
- Require rigorous background checks; no one on a “no fly” list or with a history of violent mental illness can purchase a gun
- Develop a National-Permit-to-Purchase guns including national licensing
- Limit or eliminate the instances when people can carry guns in public areas
- Require mandatory safety training
- Eliminate automatic (illegal now but still obtainable) or semi-automatic weapons. Period.
- Eliminate silencers
- Regulate the sale of firearms in every instance, not just sales from dealers
- Require gun safes and gun locks to prevent children from accessing the guns
I do not believe that any of these would violate the intent of the second amendment, and they would certainly make ours a safer country.
It’s time for Congress to get out of their cozy beds with the NRA and take action. If they refuse to carry out their obligation to the public trust, we can count on another Las Vegas. Or Sandy Hook. Or Orlando. Or…