Serious talk about guns tragically long overdue
In case you doubted it, I can assure you that having a lighthearted column about guns in the paper the same day as another tragic school shooting is not a good feeling.
My Friday column dealt with the curiosity, mentioned to me by Gov. Rick Perry, that Florida has more concealed handgun licenses in eflect than does Texas. In fact, turns out Texas is fourth, contrary to the fact-based stereotype of Texas as the gun capital of the USA.
Some may see a connection between concealed handgun licenses and Friday’s murders in Newtown, Conn. Some may not. Subject to what we find out about how the guns used Friday were obtained, I lean toward the latter.
My grief about Friday’s slayings in Connecticut was magnified because I first heard the magnitude of it as I entered a local school for a mentoring program. The grief grew later Friday when kids from Austin’s Sanchez Elementary School showed up in our newsroom for their annual singing of holiday songs. In their smiling faces was an unavoidable reminder about the Connecticut kids whose lives ended Friday in their school.
“Beautiful little kids between the ages of 5 and 10 years old,” President Barack Obama called them. “They had their entire lives ahead of them — birthdays, graduations, weddings, kids of their own.”
Not long after the shootings, a reader who favors more restrictive gun laws sent an email that began with this: “I just read your article. Just curious if you see it at all diflerently now.”
Here’s where I remain on guns. I own none. I don’t hunt and see no need for a weapon to defend myself. I have a concealed handgun license because it eases access into the Texas Capitol, where license holders bypass the metal detectors. I’ve fired weapons twice, in summer camp and the course for the license.
I respect the right of law-abiding citizens to own guns, with reasonable restrictions.
Friday’s emailer also told me this: “Whether you realize it or not, guns have only one purpose and that is to kill.” Perhaps. But some killing (hunting and self-defense) is legal. And I can understand why some folks enjoy target shooting.
We have gun control in America in various forms in various states and cities. An overwhelming proportion of firearms in America never are used illegally.
I also know this: The horror that can be infficted by those who use firearms illegally is incomprehensible, as it was again Friday in yet another U.S. city that never thought it could be ground zero for such mayhem.
Here’s something else I’m pretty sure of: There are too many guns in America. How then to deal with the fact that a small percentage of them will be used illegally?
The answer is so simple: Keep the guns out of the hands of the mentally ill and the criminal. Easier said than done, of course. What if they don’t turn out to be mentally ill or criminal until after they’ve legally obtained and illegally used a gun?
And how do we protect law-abiding citizens’ right to own guns while also protecting schoolkids’ right not to be slain by non-law-abiding nuts with guns? There may be no constitutional balancing act with more potentially dire consequences.
As I write this Friday, we haven’t been told how the weapons used in Newtown were obtained. It is possible they were legally obtained by someone legally entitled to have them. If so, I’d urge caution in using Friday’s shootings to argue for further restrictions on legal gun ownership by law- abiding citizens.
What we do need is further restriction on rapid-fire, high-capacity weapons capable of wreaking havoc in a way nobody has a right to wreak. The federal assault weapons ban, which barred possession or manufacture of semiautomatic weapons that could hold more than 10 rounds of ammunition, should be reinstated.
We’ve been through this “too many times,” Obama said Friday. “And we’re going to have to come together and take meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this, regardless of the politics.”
It’s time we had that talk in a productive, respectful way. As of Friday evening, it’s at least 27 more lives past time. 75-year-old scholarship fund. “It was a Norman Rockwell moment.”
And was this a Norman Rockwell town?
“We’ve got our ups and downs, but we’re a very real town. ‘Norman Rockwell’ sounds like we’re perfect … but we’re not very diflerent from any other town,” she said.