I firmly believe in the Second Amendment rights guaranteed all Americans. The Founding Fathers meant just what they said. I own a pistol, inherited from my father-in-law. I’ve never fired it, though I’m not opposed to it. Growing up, my parents never had a gun in our home. I learned to handle weapons properly in the Army and became a decent shot.
We face an onslaught of reactions to the mass killings in Newtown, Conn., Aurora, Colo., and other places. Lots of knee-jerk proposals have been made. This is not the time for these; this is the time for careful thought and consideration, coupled with lots of courage, something which our political leaders and other prominent individuals lack.
Some say “Regulating guns and ammunition won’t stop the ‘bad guys’ from getting them.” True, but these mass killings mainly were not committed by criminals but by mentally unstable individuals. Neither Adam Lanza in Connecticut nor James Holmes in Colorado had records for violent crimes. Lanza learned firearms from his gun-loving, law-abiding but naïve mother. It’s harder to identify and isolate these folks than to control access to weapons; that’s why politicians and others choose this route.
Were I a gun dealer, approached by someone remotely resembling the photos I’ve seen of Lanza and Holmes, I hope I’d have the courage to say, “You’d do better finding someone else to sell you these items.” But my livelihood never depended on gun sales. If it had, I might have acted differently. I hope I wouldn’t, but I might.
William Spengler, the man who shot firefighters responding to the fire in upstate New York, is the lone exception of the armed “bad guy,” an ex-con who killed his grandmother years earlier. He got his weapon by asking a friend to buy it for him, standing next to her while she lied to the seller and said the gun was for her.
Those saying, “Having armed people in the schools, whether security guards or teachers with concealed weapon permits, will prevent this” beg the question. Lanza’s mother had five weapons at her disposal. They didn’t help her; she was the first to die. If having a gun accessible can prevent someone from acting violently, why are so many policemen killed annually in the line of duty? Locally, we’ve never heard an explanation of how the gunman, sought in an earlier shooting that night, managed to kill the Aiken County police officer, Scottie Richardson. Richardson’s gun was drawn. His partner was there, weapon drawn, wearing a bullet-proof vest; he also was shot, though not fatally. Even trained, experienced police officers are not safe simply by being armed. How do we intend to pay for all this added security while still arguing over taxes, deficits, the federal debt and spending? Also, can you envision any local school where having a weapon sitting unattended in a teacher’s handbag might not be a good idea?
Requiring background checks on sales at gun shows and between individuals is a good starting point. Regulating certain types of semi-automatic weapons requires very careful wording. State attempts at this resulted in cosmetic changes to the weapons that got around the new laws. Even these proposals won’t completely solve the problem. There are plenty of these weapons in circulation already. You can even find 3-D printers that turn out copies using a Lego-like plastic. One recently copied the components of an AK-47 that, when assembled, fired six rounds before failing. Better plastics might solve this early failure. These printers are expensive, but expect the price to drop as interest in them increases.
We’re dealing here with a complex issue, where the easy solutions all have serious limitations. This should lead us all to seek divine guidance. I hope so; we need all the help we can get, and human means alone doesn’t seem adequate.