A critical point in the gun control debate

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With the ongoing slaughter of our children, with the latest massacre occurring in Florida, there is no other topic possible for this month’s column except how to seriously discuss all options to end these horrific murders. We will talk about what we’ve tried so far, what other countries with a similar problem have tried, and what we might try here in the USA.

America has a long history of guns, and from the frontiers of Kentucky to the Wild West, guns have provided food and security to many of us. But even in our Western movies, Sheriff Matt Dillon (of Gunsmoke fame) knew to ask the cowboys coming in for Saturday night fun to check their guns first at the jail. He knew there was a time and a place for guns, and when the cowboys were “messed up” with alcohol and testosterone on Saturday night, it was best to not have guns around. Epic fistfights occurred and the saloon windows suffered greatly, but everyone was still alive the next day. It’s a point to think about.

In any culture, there will always be a few people “messed up” on teenage angst (school shootings), anger (work place shootings), unknown reasons (Las Vegas shooter), or just people with mental health issues that may or may not be treatable or discoverable (big category there).

So how do we stop these people from slaughtering the rest of us?? What we are doing now, i.e. the status quo, clearly is not working. Should we place armed guards at every school? The Florida school had at least one armed, trained police officer on campus, who for unclear reasons did not stop the shooting (which only lasted a few minutes). How about turning the school into an armed fortress? Well, the Florida shooter set off the fire alarm first, sending all the students out the doors. Arm all the teachers?? Some may be willing, but lightly trained teachers with handguns probably don’t stand a chance against a surprise attack with a high capacity assault gun. Do we pass more laws that are ineffective and halfhearted? We have lots of those now, that are sparsely enforced. Do we ban all sales of assault guns?? There have been those also, and skirted by technical details of what makes a “assault gun”.

Again, so how do we stop these people from slaughtering the rest of us?? The status quo is not working, and the chump change offering of raising the age to buy an assault gun from 18 to 21, or increased mental health programs, or changing video games, is not going to change anything. And I REFUSE to accept this status quo, this endless and ongoing slaughter of our kids, family, and friends.

To change, we must all make a serious effort to talk about answers. We must consider all options, discuss all possibilities, learn what has worked and what hasn’t, and come to our own solutions. But we must be SERIOUSLY COMMITTED to solving this problem, and not just pushing around the table old platitudes that do nothing. Or the slaughter continues.

What are possible solutions? Other countries have faced somewhat similar problems and come up with solutions. We should study and consider all of those. I visited a pro-gun cousin in Norway last summer who leads hunting expeditions for a living. Norway requires gun locks, gun safe storage, reasonable amounts of ammo, and yearly inspections. He has no problem with these reasonable “gun control” laws and appreciates that something as dangerous as a gun is safely regulated. Australia had a gun buyback program, etc, after a horrible shooting event, and it seems to have worked well. Switzerland has a required armed citizenry, but very low murder rate. What are they doing that we are not?

What could we do now to help? Laws that allow taking dangerous unstable people off the streets and confiscating any guns they have would be helpful. We can increase security at schools, and all public events. We can ban bump stocks and high capacity magazines. We can require EVERY GUN to have quality trigger locks, secure storage, and verification inspections. We can require gun owners to be LEGALLY RESPONSIBLE for misuse of their guns, and to have insurance to cover any misuse. We can offer a full price buy back from willing owners to reduce the number of guns in circulation. Please note that NONE of the above involve “taking” anyone’s guns away.

When I was a kid, the NRA was a hunter-safety organization, everyone took their 2-weekend class to get a hunting license.  But now it is a PAC, funneling money to legislators to buy their blood-soaked votes. It is so powerful, and so entrenched in the cultural war we have going in America, that there is no middle ground, and they “allow” the slaughter of our kids so to promote their own agenda. Until now, they have gotten away with this crime, but the last mass murder in Florida may have crossed the Rubicon for them. The articulate voices of the survivors, their adept use of social media, and the support of major donors may have been a watershed event. With the mid-term elections coming, and a potential realignment of congress, the NRA may regret their (lack of) actions. And so, the most powerful action you can take is to VOTE this June, and in November, for candidates who clearly state they will take action on gun safety.

To recap, America has a long, complicated history with guns, and opinions are strongly held. But the horror of the slaughter of our children, families, and friends may have finally reached a critical point, and public opinions are changing. I am especially encouraged by Moms who are finally fed up with the murders of their children and are forming groups to change this. Remember that it was Mothers tired of their kids dying in drunk driving accidents that caused Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) to form up, and they were very effective in changing public opinions and laws about drunk driving. There are similar groups forming now, Google them, but the local action is with “central coast moms demand action” (on Facebook) who are joining with the Women’s March San Luis Obispo (on FB) for a giant march and rally March 24 in SLO to protest gun deaths. Be there, care about all our kids, put aside your personal agendas and join with others to save our kids. Really, it’s just that simple.

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