We can’t shoot our way out of our mass killing problem

Friday, December 14, 2012, will be marked indelibly in our minds – the day a wild-eyed, highly disturbed young man, Adam Lanza – aided by his gun enthusiast mother, and America’s gun culture – snatched 20 tiny children and six educators from us in Connecticut.  Since December 14, 2012, this country has been in a period of collective shocked bereavement, and since last Friday, like it always does, this country has emotionally reached out to grieving parents and families of victims, and tried to console them with love and support.  The slideshows of these tiny children whose lives were snuffed out have been unbearably painful to see.  The names linger in our minds.  The faces of the parents who lost their little ones that day will forever haunt us.

Andrei Nikitchyuk, a Sandy Hook parent whose child made it out of the school alive that day, had a message for the purveyors of the gun culture that took the lives of so many:  ”I would offer NRA, return this country their kids . . . If they can do it, I would like that very, very much.”

It’s too late for those 20 kids, and that group of devoted, brave educators.  But there will be others, and they can be saved, if we act swiftly now to launch a preemptive strike against the next gun-wielding madman, and the gun culture that offers him succor and hands him the tools he needs to wage his war of destruction on human beings.

We need to stand firmly behind the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence as it seeks to implement stricter gun laws.  We need to lend support to the private equity firm, Cerberus Capital Management, which said it’s going to sell its interest in Freedom Group, which makes the Bushmaster rifle – the type of rifle used by Adam Lanza to slaughter our nation’s babies –  following the school shootings.  We need to applaud Pittsburgh’s Dick’s Sporting Goods, which is not only suspending sales of “modern rifles” across the nation because of the slain youngsters, but is also removing all guns from display at the store closest to Newtown, Connecticut.

We need to swallow our pride and our politics, and lend support to NRA-backed lawmakers, such as Democratic Rep. Mike Thompson and 10-term House Republican Jack Kingston, as they at least try to put their politics aside to offer up gun control as part of an anti-violence effort.  We need to cautiously offer support to lifelong NRA member and hunter, Democratic Senator Joe Manchin, who, explaining why he might be in favor of a ban on assault weapons and/or high capacity clips, told CNBC, “. . . I’ve never been hunting with anyone with an assault weapon. I’ve never been hunting with anyone with multiple clips of ten, fifteen, thirty rounds in it. In deer hunting we maybe have 3 shells in our gun, and that’s the sport of what we do . . . We’ve had horrific crimes throughout our country but never have we seen so many of our babies put in harm’s ways and their life taken from them. That’s changed me and it’s changed most Americans, I think.”   We need to prop up conservatives, such as MSNBC host Joe Scarborough, who – though backed by the NRA when in Congress and a fan of gun rights – made it clear that he believes it’s time for reform.

We need to allow Republicans to have a change of heart, allow them, without our censure, to come around to the progressive way of thinking about gun control.  More importantly, though, we need to hold them to it, and not allow them, or anyone else, to pay lip service to gun control now, for political expediency, only to reject it later.

We need to reject the propaganda put forward by the NRA and other pro-gun rights groups that if only everyone were armed, killings would decrease.  A gun on every hip, claims the NRA, would give criminals pause and result in less death and carnage.  It’s as if the NRA believes that the mentally ill, or simply the sadistic psychopath, is the poster child for rational thought and a law-abiding mentality.  That notion is nothing more than hogwash, and it’s been debunked over and over again.  As Mother Jones reported, “. . . [W]e set out to track mass shootings in the United States over the last 30 years. We identified and analyzed 62 of them, and one striking pattern in the data is this: In not a single case was the killing stopped by a civilian using a gun. Moreover, we found that the rate of mass shootings has increased in recent years—at a time when America has been flooded with millions of additional firearms and a barrage of new laws has made it easier than ever to carry them in public. And in recent rampages in which armed civilians attempted to intervene, they not only failed to stop the shooter but also were gravely wounded or killed.”  (Emphasis added.)

As Mother Jones also noted, Dr. Stephen Hargarten, who’s an expert on emergency medicine and gun violence at the Medical College of Wisconsin, asserts that “there is no evidence indicating that arming Americans further will help prevent mass shootings or reduce the carnage . . . To the contrary, there appears to be a relationship between the proliferation of firearms and a rise in mass shootings.”  And at the Harvard University School of Public Health, a study “found strong statistical support for the idea that, even if you control for poverty levels, more people die from gun homicides in areas with higher rates of gun ownership.”

A guy in China – on the same day that Adam Lanza was slaughtering 26 innocent victims in Connecticut – went berserk and attacked a group of children with a knife.  22 were wounded; none were killed.  The notion that more guns lead to less violence is nonsensical on its face.  The notion that mental illness or violent video games or rap music is responsible for mass killings – and guns aren’t – is even more ludicrous.  Mass killers can’t strangle 26 people in minutes, can’t club 26 people in minutes, can’t wield a knife and murder 26 people in minutes.  We’ve handed mass killers tidy tools in the form of automatic and semi-automatic weapons to accomplish their grisly tasks.  The gun-mongers among us need to get on board with rescinding our generosity to mass killers.

Mental illness and desensitization to violence and video games and gansta rap and Die Hard may all contribute to the culture that creates mass killers.  But the one way – the sure way – to ensure that mass killings such as those in Sandy Hook and Virginia Tech and Columbine do not become a weekly event is to take away their tools.  An assault weapon is thus named for a reason; and it’s only common sense that the military and law enforcement should be better armed than civilians.

The same people who recoil in horror when we have discussions about restrictions on the 2nd Amendment have no problem with the idea of repealing the 14th Amendment to prevent “anchor babies,” or repealing Obamacare, the law of the land.  It’s only the right to bear any arms at any time in any place that churns the emotions of gun-toting NRA supporters.

We’ll see what the NRA has to say Friday in its press conference.  It’ll blame mental illness, no doubt, for this recent slaughter.  It’ll exclude guns from the equation, par usual.  It’ll advocate arming 5-year-olds and family dogs.  But only an idiot – or a group of idiots – would believe that we can shoot our way out of our mass killing problem.