Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Our nation stands challenged by yet another horrific, violent act at the hands of another deranged, damaged soul who had access to a weapon of mass destruction that should not have been available to him under any circumstances.

When, at long last, is enough enough? 

As President Obama so eloquently posed in his condolences to the grieving citizens of Newtown … “Can we say that we’re truly doing enough to give all the children of this country the chance they deserve to live out their lives in happiness and with purpose?
"I’ve been reflecting on this the last few days, and if we’re honest with ourselves, the answer is no. We’re not doing enough. And we will have to change.”

Indeed we must.
And if not now, when?
If not us, who?

There are such painfully simple, indisputable actions that can be taken, that do not infringe on fundamental constitutional rights, that do not conjure up threats of thought police, that do not limit adults from owning reasonable guns ... beyond simply enforcing current laws - which we do not do anyway - which will underscore school security efforts, and training, and begin to signal to parents, and teachers, and theater goers and mall shoppers and neighborhoods that the fears they harbor - which would have been unimaginable 20 years ago - are at long last being addressed, so that some day their children's children, and grandchildren, can once again live in the America we once had every right to expect.

Consider the following (and I'm citing from *Nicholas Kristof's compelling op-ed piece in Sunday's NY Times (16 Dec), "Do We Have the Courage to Stop This?" http://tinyurl.com/cezcr79)...
    More Americans die in gun homicides and suicides in six months than have died in the last 25 years in every terrorist attack and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq combined.
    Firearms claim one US life every 20 minutes.
    Children ages 5 to 14 in America are 13 times as likely to be murdered with guns as children in other industrialized countries.
    The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has five pages of regulations on ladders.
    We regulate toy guns - by requiring orange tips.
    We regulate food, medicine, the sale of alcohol, and on and on ...

But, put no restrictions on guns – as legions of steadfast clingers to some distorted interpretation of our 2nd amendment would have it? - because, after all, guns don't kill people, people kill people ...!

Well, cars don't kill people either, people driving cars kill people. But we didn't just do nothing on that front.   Not only do we strictly control who can legally drive a car, and in what condition they need to be in, but we regulate the hell out of cars, too:  require headlights at night, seat belts, air bags, child seats, crash safety standards, speed limits, stop lights, etc.

With guns, it's none of the above - especially since nearly half of all guns sold are sold at gun shows - and there are zero regulations on gun shows.

American school children are protected by building codes, school bus safety standards and licensed drivers, and cafeteria food is regulated for safety.  "The only things we seem lax about are the things most likely to kill," says Kristof.

What to do?

For one, stop depleting federal and state health care funds for mental health!  Since 2009, $4.35 billion has been cut from states' mental health spending (Nat'l Assoc of State Mental Health Program Directors http://tinyurl.com/bg5azr6).  And arguably this hurts those the most who need it the most.  Reinvest in this fundamental form of preventable health care to begin to get at the root of these troubled souls before they act out their rage, their fears, their distorted sense of themselves.

Plus - enact the following restrictions on the sale of guns - all within the 2d amendment and certainly built on fundamental common sense and moral values:
    BAN assault rifles except for the military (and police).
    BAN multi-round ammunition clips ...
    Limit gun purchases to one per month.
    Impose universal background checks on all gun buyers.
    Require a 28-day waiting period for purchases (like Canada).
    Make series numbers on weapons harder to erase.
    Back California in its effort to require all new handguns imprint micro-stamps on each shell.
    Include all gun shows in all of the above.

Will this eliminate homicides by murder?  Of course not.  Should all weapons be banned?  Of course not.

Will the above moves begin to reduce homicide by guns, and begin to reduce mass murders?  Absolutely.  Want proof?

Australia enacted a "national firearms agreement" (a decree by their prime minister), following a mass killing of 35 people in 1996.  It "... banned certain "rapid-fire long guns" and led to the buy back of some 650,000 guns and to tighter rules for licensing and safe storage of those remaining in public hands."  It did not end gun ownership.  It reduced the number of firearms in private hands by one-fifth, and they were the ones most likely to be used in mass shootings.

In the 18 years before the law, Australia suffered 13 mass shootings - but not one in the 14 years after the law took effect!  Their murder rate has dropped by 59 per cent!  And the suicide rate by firearm has dropped by more than half!  http://tinyurl.com/d49xle6.

Coincidence?  I don't think so.  More like substantiated documentation that all of us should take some learning from.  But at the end of the day, we don't need Australia to prove the need for some kind of gun regulations.  We have all the proof we need in the face of the mass shootings our country has become famous for.  And ridiculed for.  

Something must finally be done.  And I think this time it is going to happen.  The citizenry is outraged.  The dialogue is engaged.  Our president is committed to doing something.  West Virginia’s Republican Senator, Joe Manchin, he with his NRA A-rating, has called for a ban on assault weapons and a bi-partisan conversation on reforming gun laws.  Dick’s Sporting Goods stores have pulled assault-type weapons off their shelves.  It’s a start.  There is no ignoring it any longer. There is no ignoring the facts.  After all, how much longer can “craven, feckless politicians” refuse to stand up to the N.R.A in the face of all this?, as Kristof describes them in his op-ed piece?

Is our generation going to live in history as the last one to allow for all this horror without doing something about it?  Or are we going to be the first that did?

If not now, when.
If not us, who?

Tim Arnold

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