OPINION — Thoughts and prayers may bring relief to some, but it will not bring back the 17 innocent victims who perished at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, during the latest mass shooting to scar the American soul.
We’ve had a lot of occasion for thoughts and prayers.
From 2006 to 2017 alone, we have had more than 340 mass killings where four or more people were cut down, according to a study prepared by USA Today. That’s about one every two weeks.
We’ve had mass shootings since 1949 when a man named Howard Barton Unruh, 28, took a 12-minute walk through his neighborhood in Camden, New Jersey, and killed 13 innocent people. Unruh was taken alive and, subsequently found to be insane, was held in a secure institution until his death in 2009. His last public words? “I’d have killed a thousand if I had enough bullets.”
Tragically, we have seen the frequency of these killings accelerate over the last couple decades.
They happen on the streets; on elementary, high school and college campuses; on military bases; at fast food restaurants; movie theaters; a nightclub; a big, outdoor concert; a church.
They are seemingly random, although we will never know for sure what was going on in the shattered minds of most perpetrators who end up dead either at their own hand or by engaging in a firefight with law enforcement.
And, instead of seeking answers in the aftermath, we are told that it is too soon to discuss, or that it is society’s fault, the educational system’s fault, the internet’s fault, the entertainment industry’s fault.
We’re told by politicians who are in the pocket of the National Rifle Association, which gave more than $800,000 in donations to those running for federal office in 2016, not to politicize it. That donation alone was most certainly political in nature, with the money going to Republican candidates who promised to toe the line when it comes to the NRA’s interests, a fact they neglect to share when they deride Democrats or fellow Republicans who are sick of this senseless loss of life.
In fact, if any issue demands being politicized it is this one because, even more so than tax reform, this one cuts sharply between parties.
We’re told we cannot talk about this issue in the immediate aftermath of one of these massacres.
Don’t be angry, we’re told.
Let’s keep a civil tongue, we’re told.
But, how can even the most even-tempered among us keep a civil tongue when the first thing we hear or see is the defenders of guns and their inconsistent interpretations of the cryptic 2nd Amendment?
Then as the news cycle turns, the horror is put on the shelf.
Until the next time.
Until more innocent lives are lost.
Because, you know, it is more important to make sure we allow people to have as many guns as they can afford without concern about what they plan to do with them.
We’re told this is a mental health issue.
That is, obviously, true. No sensible human of sound mind takes up arms against another in a civilized society.
But, the fact is, the numbers on mental illness are not that far apart as you look around the globe.
Why don’t other nations have soaring incidents of mass violence like the United States?
Why do we not see this horror in Great Britain or Australia or Spain or elsewhere?
Why is the violence pretty much contained to the United States?
Could it be the ready access to assault weapons and other arms?
Besides, a 2015 study estimated that only 4 percent of all gun deaths in the United States could be attributed to mental health issues.
In the aftermath of the Parkland massacre, former Vice President Joe Biden said, “Congress has a moral obligation to take action and spare more families from this violence.”
That would work, of course, if Congress had a moral compass.
Look, in this instance, the system failed us.
The shooter gave plenty of warning signs.
Concerned individuals alerted the authorities.
The information, however, fell through the cracks; the FBI failed with the tools it had that made this guy pop up on its radar.
But, it rarely works out that way.
Normally, we hear shock from family, friends and neighbors who say “he seemed so normal,” except he – yes, this is a male-dominated crime – wasn’t.
Finally, we hear that there are no simple solutions.
Excuse me, but there are.
The problem is that the so-called “law-abiding” gun owners wouldn’t like them because they would be held accountable.
The solution might not stop it all, but it would go a long way.
Simply make every gun purchase go through a background check, even when sold privately.
If I sell you a weapon, if I do not have a background check from the authorities on your status for purchasing a weapon and you commit a crime with that weapon, I go to jail with you, whether it is a strong-arm robbery or murder.
You have to register a vehicle when you sell it privately, do the same with weapons of every caliber.
A new weapon is, in almost every instance, sold through a federally licensed dealer, whether selling through the internet, at a gun show or in a store. The licensee is issued the right to sell arms by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and Explosives, which requires all dealers to run a background check regardless of the manner of the sale. That means that originally, just about every gun out there was bought legally by a so-called “law-abiding gun owner.”
Somehow, a lot of those guns have ended up in the hands of gang members, criminals, the mentally ill through private party sales.
Make the last person who sold the weapon accountable, make them do a background check on every potential buyer and I guarantee things will change.
Take assault weapons off the market, period.
Please, don’t go into little loopholes here. We all know what constitutes an assault weapon. To play otherwise is disingenuous and detrimental to the discussion.
The AR-15 is an assault rifle. So are the many other models built in its fashion.
It can be used to kill varmints and small game, particularly in the instance of small coyote and whitetail deer or very aggressive animals like wild hogs where the hunter can suddenly find himself faced with a pack of angry animals. The AR-15, in that particular instance, offers firepower, meaning the hunter can get off a lot of shots in a short period of time. But, in general, the .223-ammunition round is not terribly efficient at taking larger game like deer and elk, often shot at longer distances. The AR-15 is quite good, however, at killing human beings at close range, especially when outfitted with a bumper stock that virtually turns it into an automatic weapon.
If the cops pick you up with a weapon, that weapon should be confiscated until it is proven that the owner has passed a background check. If the gun was purchased privately, the opportunity should be given for them to apply for ownership of the gun. If they fail, they forfeit the weapon.
Tighten up the concealed carry permit laws.
Utah is one of the easiest states in the Union in which to get a CCP. And, it recognizes CCPs from all other states. Yes, there are reasons for some people to carry a concealed weapon, but the Utah numbers are over the top. A total of 662,720 CCPs have been issued in a state with a population of only approximately 3 million people.
The argument, of course, is that a bad guy is less likely to commit a crime if he thinks his victim is armed.
All evidence, however, points to the contrary. In fact, overwhelming research shows there is a greater risk of suicide or homicide in homes that are armed.
It’s also time for Congress to either rewrite or constitutionally define, in modern terms, the Second Amendment, which was written when muskets and erratic cannons were the state-of-the-art weaponry.
Again, “Congress has a moral obligation to take action and spare more families from this violence,” Biden said in the aftermath of the latest tragedy.
Except Congress has no moral authority on this issue, especially considering how it has been fed millions upon millions of dollars by the NRA in campaign contributions.
This latest shooter was a 19-year-old.
The warning signs were there.
He made his intentions clear on social media.
It was pointed out in one article I read that it was more difficult for him to buy beer than the weapon he used.
People alerted the authorities, yet he slipped through the cracks somehow, and now we are burying 17 young people whose only mistake was showing up for school.
RIP, Alyssa Alhadeff, 14, Scott Beigel, 35, Martin Duque Anguiano, 14, Nicholas Dworet, 17, Aaron Feis, 37, Jaime Guttenberg, 14, Chris Hixon, 49, Luke Hoyer, 15, Cara Loughran, 14, Gina Montalto, 14, Joaquin Oliver, 17, Alaina Petty, 14, Meadow Pollack, 18, Helena Ramsay, 17, Alex Schachter, 14, Carmen Schentrup, 16 and Peter Wang, 15.
Your rights were forgotten because our government has allowed the NRA and gun lobby to dictate policy and the law.
Your lives were ended because reason flew out the window, replaced by ill-conceived notions that force is better employed than reason.
Your voices have been silenced, but many of us promise to continue to speak for you.
Ed Kociela is an opinion columnist for St. George News. The opinions stated in this article are his own and may not be representative of St. George News.
Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2018, all rights reserved.
Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2018, all rights reserved.