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By JOE SHELTON
Once again, this time in Newtown, CT, our nation faced an unspeakable tragedy when 26 people, mostly children, were slaughtered by a raging lunatic who killed his mother before beginning his psychotic rampage at the Sandy Hooks school.
The National Rifle Association and similar organizations responded with their normal rhetoric: Second Amendment Rights, “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people,” “If more people carried guns it would be safer,” and recommended having guards in schools to protect children. On the other side of the issue politicians immediately called for new legislation banning certain weapons because making laws rather than necessarily solving problems is what they do.
It’s time for everyone to stop and rethink the problem.
The NRA’s statements aside, guns didn’t kill those innocent people, Adam Lanza, a deranged 20-year-old, did. If we’re going to solve this problem we must be willing to honestly address the fact that there ARE people that could go postal at any time. With approximately 309 million people in the United States, if even a very small percentage are mentally unstable enough to potentially commit mass murders, the number of actual incidences is surprisingly small. That doesn’t make even one incident acceptable, but the record’s better than it might be. Mass killings are almost always the result of one or more people that have become psychologically or emotionally unhinged. This, as I see it, is the crux of the problem not the method used to kill.
Also, our sensitivity regarding death has changed. Remember when the good guys wore a white hat, rode a horse, and their six shooter usually shot the gun out the bad guy’s hand? Television and the movies have embraced “reality,” and the being shot is often bloody and brutal. Even worse is the realism in electronic games. Youths throughout the world, mostly males, and it’s mostly males that cause mass killings, sit in front of computers playing war or fantasy games against each other. The games are realistic, the weapons are realistic, and the deaths are almost always visually more horrific than in real life. Worse, in one hour a game participant can “kill” literally hundreds of opponents, each with almost nauseating realism. And each player can be killed only to be instantly resurrected to continue playing. There’s no finality to death in the digital world. The question that must be answered is, does participation in these games desensitize gamers to violence, or worse, encourage actual violence?
By recent statistics, there are somewhere between 50 and 80 million gun owners in the United States and possibly over 300 million guns. Banning assault rifle sales or the unlikely banning sales of all guns might have some effect. But to make a real difference, you’d have to confiscate all remaining guns. That’s probably an impossible task given our national culture and the Second Amendment.
The gun-related homicide death rate in the United States is around 3.7 per 100,000 population. That puts the United States 14th in the world — the worst being El Salvador at 50.36 — but tops among First World countries. We simply have to do something!
Not surprisingly, restrictive laws don’t mean a lower incidence of gun related homicides. For example, Chicago has some of the strictest gun control laws and the largest number of police officers killed by gunfire.
If Lanza had used a knife or a baseball, bat would there be a cry to ban knives or bats or would there instead be a movement to figure out what caused him to do something so heinous? I believe guns are such an easy patsy that when these tragedies happen it’s politically easy to go for the simple, but ineffective answer: ban guns.
So what do we do? I am a registered gun owner and strongly believe that, having been trained in the use of a legally owned weapon, I am better prepared to protect my family should the need ever arise. However, on the day of the Sandy Hook tragedy, my initial thoughts were that the Second Amendment was outdated and guns should be banned. Realistically, however, I don’t believe that’s possible, nor would it solve the problem.
When someone reaches the state that Lanza must have been in to commit such atrocities, the choice of weapon was secondary to his intent. On Dec. 14, the day of the Sandy Hook murders, 22 children and an adult were knifed at a school in China. Least you think that was an anomaly, there were similar knifings in April, May, August and September.
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