Once again the individual’s right to bear arms has been called into question given recent events in Aurora, Col., and Milwaukee. Once again wholly innocent lives have been taken, by individuals who obtained guns and ammunition legally. The resulting massacres occurred in a movie theater and home of worship, places usually assumed to be safe.
One has to wonder how high the body counts have to climb across the nation before our politicians will act. We have had incidents on college campuses, public high schools, and street-corner political rallies, in addition to the movie theater and house of worship. In almost every instance, the weapons used were obtained lawfully by persons with little or no criminal record history. They were able to obtain numerous semi-automatic weapons with the capacity to discharge a large number of rounds in seconds. They were also able to purchase huge amounts of ammunition without any questions being asked (6,000 rounds over the Internet by the Aurora suspect).
As a body politic, we seem to react with great haste in far less serious matters. Why isn’t there such alacrity with gun control? Things that seem so obvious and simplistic run into continual road blocks. While the Second Amendment and the number of people who lawfully carry or possess guns for a variety of reasons have some strong political clout, the real reason appears to be fear.
Politicians seem to fear gun activists and the National Rifle Association. Hunters and individuals who own guns fear that the government is going to take the guns away, or limit their ability to obtain the weapons. Ordinary citizens, whether gun owners or not, are afraid of crime and their own personal safety and security, and equally afraid that the federal government will use force to deprive an unarmed population of their rights.
Recently in New Haven, a man watching a movie (The Dark Knight Rises, no less) was spotted carrying a pistol by a number of other patrons attending the movie. Numerous 911 calls were phoned into the police department, whose officers came into the movie theater with guns drawn in SWAT-like fashion.
Movie patrons were justifiably concerned given recent events and nobody should question their contacting police officials. The individual with the pistol responded that he was in fear of walking home in the middle of the night without protection, and that he had a valid permit to carry the pistol. The police obviously approached the situation with caution and fear, not aware of what kind of circumstance was at hand.
Unfortunately, we have historically and politically overreacted based upon our own fears. The old adage that “we have nothing to fear but fear itself” is so apt when speaking about guns. Given the daily onslaught of shootings we see, read and hear about from today’s media coverage, and the frightening recurrence of mass homicide with military weapons designed solely for killing people, these weapons should not be available to the public.
We strongly urge our state and federal legislative and elected executive branch leaders to place principled, constitutional and pragmatic gun-control legislation as a top priority now. We are under no illusion that such comprehensive legislation will end all the violence, however doing nothing will only lead to greater tragedies. While it seems to be a little too late to be talking of prevention, the technology of weaponry, unknown to our constitutional forefathers, leads us to the conclusion that many more deaths will occur down the road without intervention.
Let’s put fear aside before it kills us all. •