The biggest misconception about the epidemic of mass shootings and gun violence is that Americans are forced to suffer this scourge.
In reality, we choose this nightmare.
Most Americans live under the illusion that the calamity of more than 600 mass shootings this year, and every year, is inevitable.
Despite what gun rights activists and lobbyists profess, the United States can reduce gun violence of all kinds.
There would be no greater tribute to those killed and maimed last week at Club Q in Colorado Springs, earlier in Uvalde, Texas or a decade ago at Sandy Hook Elementary School and during the Aurora theater shooting than to finally act as a nation to stem this national tragedy.
Like a growing number of American communities, the hindsight of Aurora victims is crystal clear: America should have acted before, but we must act now — and we can.
The once-honorable National Rifle Association has evolved to become a ruthless political arm of the nation’s $71-billion-a-year gun industry, an economic impact estimated by National Shooting Sports Foundation. The clear focus of the NRA and, locally, Rocky Mountain Gun Owners, is to ensure the easy and prolific procurement, use and sale of firearms and ammunition. Over the past few decades, the NRA and others have deviously woven a gun-rights mythology with fierce patriotism.
There is nothing patriotic about turning firearms on fellow citizens about 80,000 times a year.
Americans are the unwitting subjects of a vastly expensive and relentless marketing scheme coupled with an ocean of money spent annually on ensuring compliance from obedient and fearful members of Congress, Republicans and Democrats alike.
The NRA mythology is pegged on equating the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment, guaranteeing free speech, with the Second Amendment, preserving the ability of citizen militias to help defend the nation against foreign invaders. They have worked tirelessly to persuade Congress and voters that there should be no regulation of firearms in the same way there is virtually no regulation of speech.
The result is a chaotic free-for-all where about 80,000 Americans are killed or maimed each year by firearms. We are killed and wounded by guns at a rate that is 25 times higher than any other developed democratic nation. It is our nation’s biggest embarrassment and preventable tragedy.
Just hours after the Club Q massacre, as newspaper and TV cameras poked in the face of Americans just like they’ve done after every other American mass shooting, people said they had little hope anything would change. Offering thoughts and prayers, many say these massacres are simply the price we pay for our Second Amendment freedom.
It is hard to fathom anything more un-American than that cynical despair. This is the nation that has conquered the Moon, slavery, Nazi Germany, polio and even Donald Trump. We can and must find remedies to this deadly nation scourge.
First, we must compel our elected officials to review and decide gun legislation on its merits and not under the crushing political weight of the NRA and other gun-industry lobbies.
Their decisions must be in our interest, not that of the NRA and the gun industry.
Second, we must allow the Centers for Disease Control and other U.S. agencies to freely conduct firearms research, analysis and policy development. Currently Congress limits this, as directed by the NRA.
Third, all firearms must be registered and licensed, and all purchases must include a background check. The licensing must at least parallel what we demand to license cars and drivers. Scholars have long agreed this is possible under the Second Amendment, even after controversial recent Supreme Court rulings. It’s just been banned by the NRA for years. Annual licensing could ensure training, safe storage and even a medical exam to help detect dangerous mental illness. Licensing would greatly help to reduce the number of weapons legally and illegally carried and used by gangs and other criminals.
Fourth, Congress must vastly reduce the quantity of firearms and ammunition now easily purchased and legal that is nothing less than weaponry designed and needed only for military application. Large quantities of firearms and ammunition should warrant review the same way we require review of large quantities of any lethal substance or device.
We must reject the ludicrous arguments from gun-activists that, in the words of GOP Colorado Rep. Ken Buck, popular assault rifles are just rural farm implements used to kill bothersome raccoons.
For those who faithfully believe they need military weaponry to protect themselves against an attack by our own government or by foreign agents, we suggest psychiatric care, not military weaponry. The U.S. military and our state militias are not shorted any weapon to ensure our defense. All other arguments are nothing but NRA deflections and fatuous complaints.
For those who insist these and other measures won’t reduce gun violence and mass murders, the dozens of free, Democratic nations across the globe that protect the rights of hunters and sportsmen and reasonably regulate firearms are proof that it can be done.