And so, once again, we all play the role of passive, horrified bystanders as yet another mass murder erupts into the news headlines.
Last week it was three dead in a shooting in a crowded mall, with police saying it was remarkably fortunate that “only” two were shot before the gunman took his own life.
This time it’s 20 Connecticut elementary school children gunned down in their classrooms, along with seven adults. Again, the shooter himself is dead, so it will be hard to ever know for sure what in the world led him to commit such a wanton act of violence.
And let’s not forget about last summer’s shooting in a crowded cinema in Aurora, Colorado. The violence just goes on and on, and no one seems to have the will to put a stop to it.
What would it take?
It would take politicians with the gumption to stand up to the gun lobby and bring the “right to bear arms” code up to 21st century standards.
Back in 1776, citizens were encouraged to bear arms in territorial wars against the French, British and the Native tribes. That’s the context in which the Second Amendment should be read.
Today there is no reason why anyone who is not a soldier or a law enforcement officer should be bearing the kinds of handguns used by today’s school shooter.
Hunters can keep their shotguns, provided they receive adequate training in how to use them, and maybe some small, simple handguns could be allowed for personal defense, although those tend too often to backfire—just last week two small boys, ages 7 and 11, were taken into custody for threatening a woman with a cocked, loaded gun that they must have taken from their father’s desk drawer.
But the semi-automatic assault weapons like the one used by the cinema shooter, or the high-powered pistols used by today’s school shooter should not be casually floating around in civil society.
It is just too easy for a kid undergoing a psychotic break, as today’s 20-year-old shooter must have been—to grab these weapons and go crazy with them, slaughtering innocent people.
It is also too easy to imagine what could happen in situations of shortages and crises brought on by climate-change-induced storms, if men with guns are calling the shots in neighborhoods and villages cut off from law enforcement.
We’ve seen it happen in places in Africa and the Middle East, when the toxic mix of desperate civilians and power-hungry men with guns erupts on to the streets. Does anyone really think we’d be immune to these kinds of scenarios here?
It’s past time for peace-loving Americans to stand up to the NRA and insist that the long-awaited gun control laws be enacted.
How many more children have to die unnecessarily before we stop being silent witnesses and start taking action?