I had intended for this editorial to be a sequel of sorts to the essay I previously wrote about gun violence in this country.
Recent events in Connecticut have only reinforced what I had already believed. Guns are not just part of the problem, they are the problem. I am always puzzled by the public’s reaction to tragedies like what happened at Sandy Hook Elementary, the Amish schoolhouse, the movie theater in Colorado, Columbine...et cetera ad nauseam.
Specifically what puzzles me is the popular phrase “how could this happen?”, which invariably follows these types of incidents.
As a former member of a police department and infantry Marine, I have sent tens of thousands of rounds down range, with firearms ranging from a Glock 20 pistol to a Browning M2 .50 cal. heavy machine gun. Each and every time I fired these weapons I knew what I what was doing, a gun is designed to kill. There is no other purpose, in and of itself this is an amoral fact.
We know that firearms are easy to obtain and we also know that mental illness is not uncommon. So why are people surprised when the two coagulate into front-page news so frequently?
It is unfortunate that every time someone attempts to reform laws regulating firearms, that person is immediately labeled unpatriotic and becomes the target of a well-financed pro-gun lobby despite the need for reform.
The laws and governmental organizations that regulate firearms currently are laughable. It is literally more difficult to get a driver’s license than it is to purchase a Bushmaster AR-15 .223 assault rifle.
The gold standard many pro-gun lobbyists point to regarding a “successful” society with ubiquitous access to firearms is Switzerland. Fine, let’s examine that myth and see whether the situation is analogous. Aside from the very obvious of course, which is that Switzerland has a far lower rate of gun violence than the U.S. does. So by definition the scenario is already different.
It is absolutely true that most homes in Switzerland are in possession of a SIG 550 assault rifle, which is the standard assault rifle used by the Swiss military. Of course every single person who owns this firearm is also a member of the Swiss militia, ready to reinforce the government’s standing army in case of an emergency (such as invasion).
Commensurate with owning this weapon comes military training and accountability protocols. The government can, and does, inspect the weapon and ammunition for inventory purposes each and every year. No ammunition is issued and all ammunition purchased at rifle ranges must be used at that rifle range on the day of purchase. Free access to firearms does not mean unregulated access.
Compare that scenario to what we have in the U.S. Who tracks the shotgun after you purchase it at Walmart? How well do dealers in possession of a federal firearms license police their customers, the very same people on whom they rely for a living? How would Americans feel about allowing the government to inspect their homes for proper firearm storage?
As a society we must face the facts.
If we are to continue providing access to firearms, as the Constitution mandates, then we need legislation with teeth. Defend your home with a breech-loaded shotgun or a .22 cal rifle, or at the very least get used to watching grown men cry on television because the rounds shot through a teacher’s protecting embrace before they entered the child’s skull.