Gun bans are not the an­swer

The Mercury (Pottstown, PA) - - OPINION - Chris Freind Columnist

In the wake of an­other mass shoot­ing, the de­bate has, pre­dictably, turned to guns.

That’s a good thing, be­cause hon­est de­bate is needed to cut through the white noise and as­cer­tain the truth about both guns, and, more im­por­tant, why th­ese mas­sacres keep oc­cur­ring.

Hope­fully, both sides will shoot straight with the facts and aim for the moral high ground by re­spect­ing each other’s views.

But if the tar­get re­mains those whom we can most de­mo­nize, we will have ac­com­plished noth­ing.

To that point, sev­eral state­ments made in the wake of Las Ve­gas are un­for­give­able. Com­men­ta­tor Keith Ol­ber­mann la­beled the Na­tional Ri­fle As­so­ci­a­tion a “ter­ror­ist or­ga­ni­za­tion,” which is akin to hold­ing a beer com­pany re­spon­si­ble for drunk driv­ers killing peo­ple.

Then we had psy­chi­a­trist Michael Wel­ner on Fox News say that “CNN is go­ing to have to an­swer for how they de­mo­nize gun en­thu­si­asts and how CNN ac­tu­ally con­trib­utes to mass shoot­ings” — which in­ex­cus­ably de­flected full blame from the sole per­son re­spon­si­ble: The shooter him­self.

And a now-fired CBS ex­ec­u­tive had the gall to state, “I’m ac­tu­ally not even sym­pa­thetic be­cause coun­try mu­sic fans of­ten are Re­pub­li­can gun-tot­ers.”

Com­ments such as th­ese aren’t just salt in the wound of vic­tims — and all Amer­i­cans, since we share this tragedy — but make both sides dig in fur­ther. Re­gard­less of one’s po­si­tion, those shame­ful state­ments merit our scorn.

Now on to the guns. Con­sider:

Ex­cept­ing wars, the two great­est mas­sacres on Amer­i­can soil did not in­volve a sin­gle gun.

The 9/11 at­tacks killed 2,996 while wound­ing 6,000. And Ti­mothy McVeigh, the all Amer­i­can boy-next-door, killed 168 and in­jured 680 when he blew up the Ok­la­homa City fed­eral build­ing.

Some­one as un­sta­ble as the Ve­gas shooter, hell-bent on killing as many as pos­si­ble, will find a way to do just that — re­gard­less of gun bans.

Un­hinged peo­ple plan­ning crimes of that mag­ni­tude will sim­ply not be de­terred by laws reg­u­lat­ing how many weapons can pur­chased in a month, what types of guns can be bought, and how much am­mu­ni­tion they hold. Crim­i­nals, by def­i­ni­tion, don’t abide by the law.

Gun bans won’t work for a sim­ple rea­son: Math. Let’s as­sume that from this day for­ward, it would be il­le­gal to man­u­fac­ture any guns. That would leave at least 300 mil­lion in Amer­ica, a stock­pile from which a mass mur­derer could steal, buy on the black mar­ket, or pur­chase at gun shows.

Fact is, the Sandy Hook school mass shooter mur­dered his own mother (ob­vi­ously a se­ri­ous crime), and stole her guns (an­other se­ri­ous crime) be­fore he en­tered the school to com­mit his heinous act. Even Con­necti­cut’s strin­gent gun laws couldn’t pre­vent that mas­sacre.

Keep in mind that when the Columbine school shoot­ing oc­curred — the first “big one” — the Clin­ton-era as­sault weapon ban was fully in place, thereby prov­ing that such bans are in­ef­fec­tive.

Many com­mon sense reg­u­la­tions are al­ready in ef­fect, but we can do bet­ter, from out­law­ing de­vices that trans­form weapons into a ma­chine guns (bump stocks) to pass­ing Sen. Pat Toomey’s bill man­dat­ing in­stant back­ground checks for gun show and in­ter­net pur­chases.

Those op­pos­ing such mea­sures hurt their cause in the eyes of the Great Amer­i­can Mid­dle, who de­cide all elec­tions.

The 2007 mas­sacre at Vir­ginia Tech claimed 32 lives, which, up to that point, was the na­tion’s dead­li­est shoot­ing.

The vic­tims were mur­dered by one stu­dent us­ing just two hand­guns, as op­posed to rapid au­to­matic fire by nu­mer­ous ri­fles from the killer’s ad­van­ta­geous night­time perch.

An as­sault weapon ban won’t solve the prob­lem.

In­stead, it’s time to roll up our sleeves and do the heavy lift­ing, start­ing with a hard look in the mir­ror.

We need to fig­ure out what changed so rad­i­cally from just a few short decades ago to now, as we’ve mor­phed from rel­a­tive peace to reg­u­larly-oc­cur­ring mas­sacres.

We need to put par­ti­san­ship aside, work to­gether, and move quickly. If we don’t, the next tragedy will be upon us faster than a speed­ing bul­let.

Lit­er­ally.

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