Yesterday was an interesting day in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook massacre. The NRA (National Rifle Association) held a press conference which was billed as an opening of the dialogue needed to prevent any more of these tragedies. In reality, it was a farce. The CEO of the NRA stated the only way to prevent more mass shootings was to have armed police or volunteers at every school in America. His reasoning was, if there had been an armed guard at Sandy Hook, he could have “taken out” Adam Lanza before people were killed. The logic of the NRA defies reasoning. What the NRA does not seem to understand is this: Shootings happen all over the place; schools, movie theaters, office buildings, homes, playgrounds, airports, train stations, etc. Mass shootings can happen and do happen anywhere. So what is the answer?
During the press conference, in which no questions were taken, the NRA spokesman did something which has become the norm in this society: He pointed the finger of blame everywhere else but at what his own organization represents. In the immortal words of Herbie from Gypsy, “That seems to leave you over there and me here.” Well, that is all in how one looks at the situation. It is obvious the NRA is not going to add much to the dialogue in the coming weeks over gun control and how to best stop this epidemic of mass shootings. It is better to know that now than to expect something meaningful from them and be disappointed. Knowing where they stand helps to better shape the conversation.
In the week since the Sandy Hook tragedy, Huffington Post undertook an investigation into gun related deaths in this country. In one week, they found that nearly 100 people were killed due to gun violence. These were not mass shootings. These were domestic disputes, drive by shootings, accidental shootings, and rage shootings. People from all walks of life died this past week because of gun violence: From a four-year old to an elderly grandfather. The people who pulled the trigger were gang members and husbands and wives, children, police officers and teenagers. These killings were all due to guns, but not all of them were due to mental illness or to Hollywood or to violent video games. In the heat of a moment, bad things can happen to good people. That is just what happened this week in gun violence in our country.
Since no one is immune from the horror of gun violence, what can be done? The Constitution guarantees the rights of the citizens in this nation to carry firearms. Enacting laws which would make it illegal for ordinary citizens to own firearms would be unconstitutional. Yet, this epidemic must be stopped. Too many of our fellow citizens are becoming victims. Think about this for a moment: A person is shot; he or she has to go to the hospital for treatment. If that person does not have insurance, then the state has to pick up the cost of treating the victim. How many times a week does this scenario play itself out? If gun violence was reduced, wouldn’t that help alleviate some of the problems in the nation’s emergency rooms? There is a ripple effect. Fix one problem and other problems lessen.
It’s been said ad nauseam that there is no easy solution to the gun problem in this nation. But, that is just an excuse. The problem is, people are afraid to tackle this issue head-on. Congress does not want to lose out on all the funding the NRA doles out and does not want to be labeled “anti-gun.” To them, that is a sure-fire way to lose the next election. If Congress can stand-up to the NRA and actually pass meaningful firearms control legislation, there will be many grateful citizens. It would show constituents that they can do something positive and take a stand on an important issue. That meaningful legislation goes beyond an assault weapon ban. It must include licensing and registration restrictions. It must include mandatory background checks and at least a seven-day waiting period. Legislation must also include ammunition and online gun sale restrictions. There should also be a federally funding gun buy-back program to take guns out of circulation.
This is just one step in dealing with the problem at hand. There must also be better access to mental health providers and stricter restrictions to violent games and movies. But it is time. How many more people have to die? How many more mass shootings must there be? How many more of our children must be buried before the nation understands that this epidemic affects everyone?