By Carol Schmidt
Apache Junction was well represented by silver-haired seniors among the 20,000 taking part in the Phoenix March for Our Lives Rally Sunday. It was part of a 1.2 million-person protest across the US organized by teen-aged survivors of the Parkland school massacre.
I am sure Apache Junction High School students and their parents and siblings were also marching. Though no armed shooter has made his way into AJHS, every student in the country worries sometimes that they could be next. Some young protesters made that point vividly with painted-on bullet holes in the middle of their foreheads. This is what they fear, not failing algebra.
It’s not an unrealistic fear. About 300 schools have suffered shootings since Sandy Hook. The student speakers at the rallies added to their protest all gun violence, not just at schools. Many black students pointed out that they learn to dodge bullets in their neighborhoods before they learn to read. Many students pointed out that people are massacred at the movies, at concerts, at night clubs and just walking down the street.
Some 30,000 die in the US every year from gun violence—many of those were suicides who had a gun available to them and thus, no second chance. Most people who attempt suicide by other methods and survive never try suicide again. So as many as 20,000 suicide lives could be saved each year if guns weren’t so easily available.
Other countries have mental illness and all the other factors given by gun lovers for why people die of gun violence. Every other developed country in the world has these same factors, but almost no gun deaths. The sole difference in the US is the huge availability of guns.
The US has 4% of the world’s population, but 42% of civilian-owned firearms. There is a gun for nearly everyone in the US, though the majority do not own guns. Only 3% of gun owners own more than 50% of the nation’s privately owned guns. About 7.7 million “superusers” own between 8 to 140 guns.
These “superusers” are mostly older white males of conservative beliefs who are afraid of people of color and who equate gun ownership with masculinity. Google it, this is what studies are finding. From the number of gun shops in Apache Junction, I wouldn’t be surprised if some “superusers” are our neighbors.
The NRA is not primarily a hobby membership organization, it is the lobbying and PR tool of the major gun manufacturers in this country, who fund the NRA so that they can continue to make exorbitant profits. Their suggested response to school shootings? Have every school buy more guns and ammo! Guess who profits, literally?
I do not go along with former US Supreme Court John Paul Stevens’ op-ed in the New York Times to repeal the Second Amendment as the easiest way to limit gun ownership. But I agree with Stevens that the Second Amendment was not designed for what the NRA currently claims.
The ugly background story behind the Second Amendment that many want to forget is that it was a compromise to keep the slave states in the fledgling Union. Those states’ “well-regulated militias” had a major purpose of tracking down escaped slaves and returning them to their “owners.” The Second Amendment had as one of its primary purposes to enable slavery, not just to prepare for an attack by England.
My dad owned many guns, and sometimes, when we lived in rural Michigan in the ‘40s, we survived on what he shot. Mom knew how to cook game from squirrel to bear.
I understand the need to have a gun for self-protection, especially for those who live far from first responders, or for the fun of skeet shooting, or for legal game hunting. I think a family owning a handgun, a shotgun and a hunting rifle is perfectly acceptable.
An assault-type weapon is good for only one thing: killing as many people as possible as fast as possible. It is not a hunting weapon. The rapid fire, high power bullets turn a deer into hamburger. They shatter a heart, lungs, liver or other organ upon impact so that the organs cannot possibly be repaired. The bullets leave an exit wound the size of an orange. The animal—just like a child victim—bleeds out almost immediately. No chance CPR can work, Mr. Santorum.
I do not understand those who want to build up their personal armories in case “the government” comes to get them. They profess to love police and the troops, but they are prepared to kill as many soldiers or police as they can. Their AR-15s will be no match against fighter jets, tanks, armored vehicles, helicopters, shoulder held missiles and sheer numbers of police and military.
I worry most about the lone white male domestic terrorist determined to kill as many victims as he can, whether at a school, theater, music concert, night club or street scene. These are the killers who choose the AR 15s, and AK 47s and other assault-style weapons with the biggest magazines so that they can spray hundreds of bullets in a few minutes. They’re not usually going for specific people who had “not been nice to them,” they’re going to break the latest record for the most kills. And these are the mass murderers that sensible gun control laws would limit.
What are these sensible gun control laws? The March for Our Lives concentrated on a few with the widest approval ratings among both Republicans and Democrats. Even 80% of gun owners approve of universal background checks.
With universal background checks, no weapons or ammo could be purchased at gun shows, or on the internet or in private sales without law officials verifying that the prospective buyer is not mentally ill, a gun use felon, on the “Do Not Fly” terrorist list, charged with domestic violence or under a restraining order.
When Reagan instituted a federal ban on private ownership of military-style assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, gun deaths dropped dramatically. When that ban was reversed, gun deaths soared again. At least 65% of the public wants assault weapons and high capacity magazines banned again. Bump stocks, and cranks and magazines holding more than 10 bullets would be banned in this gun control.
Allowing and funding Centers for Disease Control research into the effects of gun policies so that we know some real statistics on what works and what side consequences are is widely approved. Most people want the age to buy a gun to be raised to 21. A 14-day waiting period for buying a gun is desired by many. A child lock requirement has wide approval, as does a law requiring adults to lock up their guns when not in use, so that curious children can’t accidentally get their hands on weapons.
I would add that any adult whose neglect allows a child to get a gun should be charged with felony child abuse. If the child kills someone with the gun, the adult who owns the gun should be the one charged with manslaughter.
I believe that the same kinds of restrictions on use of automobiles and trucks should apply to guns. Like cars, guns should be registered every year. A prospective gun user must attend a class and pass a test on responsible gun use. Vision testing should be done as part of the gun registration.
Like for cars, every prospective gun user should have to show proof of liability insurance in case of accidental or intentional harm to others or to property.
All of these gun control measures would go far to prevent some of those 30,000 gun deaths every year and the almost daily school shootings that make our children and grandchildren live in terror. This is not normal. This terror is not acceptable. We must stop it now. A child’s right to grow up outweighs your desire for an assault weapon.