For the sixth time in the past four years, and the third time in just the last six months, we have another mass killing, the most recent being by far the most heart-rending. All of these tragedies have two things in common - a deranged mind and mass-murder weapons.
Attempting to prevent more of these deadly events from happening in the future will require serious actions relating to both these issues. The problem is too great to attempt to remedy by focusing on only one.
It's like our federal budget deficit - too large to correct by only increasing revenues or cutting expenditures. It will require both.
Identifying deranged minds in a population of 310 million is like looking for a needle in a haystack, and determining who is likely to become a threat to society, is as daunting a challenge as searching out and preventing potential terrorist threats.
We definitely need to intensify our efforts in this area, but we have to recognize that no matter how hard we try, those efforts can never be 100 percent effective.
Hence we also need to concentrate on the other issue - the semi-automatic pistols and assault rifles which are the weapons of choice for those bent on the indiscriminate slaughter of large numbers of innocent people.
This brings up the "right to bear arms" as set forth in the Second Amendment to the Constitution.
We really need to take a careful look at the wording and the intent of the Second Amendment, and the circumstances at the time in which it was written. "Amendment II. Right to keep and bear arms. A well regulated Militia, being necessary to a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed."
We need to define what constitutes a "well regulated militia." The dictionary defines militia as "a part of the organized armed forces of a country liable to call only in emergency," e.g. the National Guard.
Individuals, and hate and anti-government organizations who call themselves "Militias" and "Patriots," do not meet the "well regulated" requirement.
In 1789, when the Second Amendment was written, the new country was confronted with hostile Indians along its western frontier and faced the possibility of a renewal of its war with Britain. It had no standing army with which to defend itself, so obviously needed a "well regulated militia" for its self-defense.
We greatly admire the wisdom of the framers of the Constitution and the first ten amendments, referred to as the "Bill of Rights". What do you think their response would be to the growing number of mass murders being committed with assault weapons?
In their time, there were no rapid-fire weapons, only single-shot muzzle loaders.
Wouldn't their judgment have progressed with the changes that have taken place over the past two centuries, and wouldn't they have enacted regulations that would have prevented the needless tragedies that are taking so many innocent lives? We are living with 18th century regulations over 21st century firepower, a situation crying for correction.
Even though it results in 32 gun murders every day (nearly 12,000 per year), I do not have an argument with individual ownership of pistols and rifles designed for hunting, target shooting, or self-defense, but there is no reasonable justification for equipping them with multi-round clips, the sole purpose of which is mass killing. The only place those should have in our society should be for military and law-enforcement purposes.
It is time to reject of the uncompromising ideology of the gun lobby and its tired arguments against any form of gun control, like "we don't need any more regulations, we just need to enforce the regulations already in place," or "if everyone was armed, that would serve as a deterrent to anyone bent on mass murder."
Neither of these arguments hold water: in most cases the weapons used in mass murders were obtained legally, and the perpetrators of these crimes often end up killing themselves. Nor does the false analogy used by gun proponents that if we are going to outlaw semi-automatic weapons and multiple-round clips, we should also outlaw automobiles to end the thousands of deaths every year caused by drunk drivers. What they conveniently ignore is that, unlike these weapons, the automobile is not designed for the purpose of mass murder.
We regulate the freedom of speech guaranteed by the First Amendment. There is no justifiable reason not to outlaw the personal ownership of weapons of mass killing.
- "As I See It" appears on the first and third Thursdays of the month. Hal Sundin lives in Glenwood Springs and is a retired environmental and structural engineer. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.