The Norman Transcript

May 20, 2013

U.S. must address shootings

The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — Editor, The Transcript:

This is sent in reply to the letter from Earl Herfurth regarding Second Amendment rights. Certainly, the Second Amendment is an important part of America’s history, but the argument set forth in support of gun rights, as exemplified in the letter, fall flat in the face of a more fundamental reality.

In Colorado and Connecticut, people carried guns. Adam Lanza’s mother was a proud supporter of the Second Amendment and bought her son guns, which he, too, carried proudly. What is absent from this letter is the reality of the nigh impossibility to tell which proud gun bearer will be the next mass killer.

Anyone who has worked in mental health knows that the difference between sane and out of control can be a single breath. Not always, certainly, but most of the time.  In most cases, that violent person was, just before he or she acted out, your friend, neighbor, family or lover. And the difference between anger and a killer can be as simple as access to a gun.

Staunch gun rights advocates, including those who suggest that anyone seeking limits to gun rights must be communist or dictatorial, tend not to see that there is a larger issue here. Especially in Oklahoma, people should recall that Tim McVeigh was motivated by his warped view that the government might infringe his Second Amendment rights.

Every year, guns are used to kill 33,000 or more Americans. They injure more than 70,000. These are not guns generally used by criminals or the insane. Most of the time, they are guns used to commit or attempt to commit suicide. Guns are used because guns kill easily.

Falling closely behind suicides are the guns used to kill women whose only crime was to be involved with a man who owned a gun. The single largest cause of injury or death to women between the age of 15 and 65 is violence in some close relationship. Women who are murdered are far more likely to be killed by their partner.

Those guns toted by people in Walmart are almost never used to protect the innocent. The vast majority that are used to kill will be those used to injure or kill an innocent.  (Forutnately, most will never be used at all.)

If the NRA were to follow through with its suggestion to remove guns from those most likely to use them to commit crimes, they would find that they just suggested taking guns from white males between the ages of 16 and 75 who work for a living and are in a relationship. In states where such men lose access to guns because of an incidence of domestic violence, murder rates involving women in relationships with such men plummet.

Simple cause. Simple solution. And the NRA called it, even though it never realized it.

Still, the larger problem is the inability of this country to have a reasoned discussion on the topic. When the president proposes gun law, he is cast as a dictator. When schools want additional safety, the extremist position of arming more people is suggested casually, as if adding fire to fire will dampen the flames.

No one seems to realize that putting armed guards in schools will result only in mass shooters moving to the other soft targets that exist — day care centers, retirement centers and movie theaters come to mind quickly.

The bombers in Boston didn’t take guns to their killings. Security there was already tight, so they ramped it up a notch and took bombs. They were, of course, armed to the teeth. Remember, these people might be unstable, but they’re not idiots. More than 250 million guns are in civilian hands already in this country. Not a single one stopped the recent mass shootings. Not one stopped the bombing.

America doesn’t need to ban guns. It couldn’t even if it wanted to. America doesn’t need to destroy the Second Amendment, but America does need to find targeted solutions to a very real problem.

Americans cherish their right to travel, yet automobiles are regulated. Cars kill 40,000 or more each year. Hundreds of thousands are injured or maimed. Having to register a car, get a license, maintain insurance and be responsible for the potential harm caused by a car has never damaged the equally important right of Americans to live where they want to live and go where they want to go.

There are, because there must be, similar limits to gun access that can allow freedom and yet help keep innocents alive. The false deontology that any limits to gun rights results in the destruction of the U.S. Constitution is just as baseless as the notion that the right of women to vote would lead to the destruction of the family. 

Proponents of extreme views were equally convinced that freeing slaves or opening the clergy to women (at least in some religions) would be the end of America.  Fortunately, extremists, bound by a false perception that all things live in black or white, are very often wrong.

Mary Fallin is wrong. So is Tom Coburn. So is the NRA and many, many others. Not in all things, but certainly in their positions that compromise must always be defeat. The fact that they stand blindly by open access that kills thousands each year shows not heroism but shallow ignorance. 

Regardless, the real solution is not a rush to ban. It is not a rush to get armed before a pretended ban. The solution is not to increase the instability of an already unstable system.

The real solution is to talk. Discuss. Converse. Think. Listen. Consider. Concede the possibility. Realize that this issue is far more important than the simplistic jingoism and fear mongering put forth on both sides. Agree that other things can be just as important as a gun. And, most importantly, put aside the fear.

If someone wants to owe a gun, fine. If that can be done while protecting the equal interest of an innocent not to die because of that gun, fine. The solution is to look squarely at the situation, not in the darkness of fear but in the reality of day. There a hundreds of efforts that can be undertaken which protect the Second Amendment but still ensure that 6- and 7-year-old children will live to see another day.

As for me, I choose to live bravely without a gun. My government isn’t perfect, but it’s still among the best, even when it does things with which I disagree. The Constitution isn’t perfect, but I don’t want to trash it. I do want to find ways to make it fit within the reality of a country that strongly values fear and poorly requires maturity.

Jim Johnson