The Good Life: It’s Time To Rethink Our Laws About Shootings
We are stuck.
People are dying, yet we are stuck.
We are afraid of changing laws to keep some of us alive, because we might, maybe, give someone in government some information about our private lives – as though “private lives” still exist.
Have you sent your DNA to 23andme or Ancestry.com to discover whether you have wed your second cousin?
The government has your entire DNA map.
Have you invested in a retirement account? Government has a list for that. Do you click on pornographic web sites? Yep. List. Somewhere. Oh, the CIA and the National Security Agency will deny having such lists. That’s their business, to deny having stuff that they have.
If government runs background checks for prospective gun buyers, it can know who is buying guns — as though it does not already have a pretty good idea. Gun dealers file tax returns. BATF (the “F” is for “firearms”) agents inspect records of gun dealers.
No, background checks will not stop mass shootings.
They will, however, damn sure cut down on the number.
Limiting the availability of rapid-fire semiautomatic weapons and limiting the capacity of ammunition magazines will not stop mass shootings.
Those limits will, however, slow the rate of fire of shooters. Fewer people killed within a given time allows for countermeasures — in plain language, kill the shooters, create fewer victims.
We ought not to eliminate the right of people to have handguns of reasonable power and capacity. Concealed carriers can stop mass shooters; home defenders can stay alive by killing home invaders.
But we ought to, in effect, license gun buyers, just as we license motor vehicle drivers and owners. We can harshly penalize misuse of such records. But we need to look, as much as we can within the constraints of a free society, at whether people exhibit clear and present danger — a legally precise term — of dangerous behavior.
We ought to lock up a few of those people, in mental hospitals, for months or longer, for treatment, not just defuse this or that crisis or detoxify this or that weirded-out addict with a weekend stay in a community hospital’s psych ward. And we need to pay the increased taxes needed to cover the costs of those hospitals and those staff people.
Weaponry has advanced to where we need to change our attitude toward weaponry.
As for those who claim that they need semis or full autos to defend against “the gum’mint,” ask the people of Iraq how their weapons stacked up against the 101st Airborne or the Third Infantry. Ask the people of Afghanistan.
Modern armies do not march in Civil War ranks to shoot it out with “patriots” or lunatics. No, modern armies kill rifle toters before the rifle toters even know they are targeted. They use drones, B-52s, cruise missiles, tanks.
Yes, we still need to keep and bear arms, for defense against criminals, against lunatics, against gangs or even aggregations of government-protected evildoers, as in the Ku Klux Klan of a century and more ago.
But we need to keep our people alive.
The U.S. Constitution does no good for dead people.
I own guns. I am a member of the National Rifle Association. Politically and philosophically, I am between a centrist and a Libertarian, certainly not a left-wing liberal.
I have seen and heard enough.
The shooter in Dayton on Aug. 3 was in the same suburban high school graduating class as was one grandson. The shooter’s sister, whom he murdered, was in the class of another grandson. A son knew the shooter, and his family.
Other families, and extensions of families, were ripped apart by the shootings in El Paso.
The shootings come closer and closer. Unless we change things, it is only a matter of time before we or our own loved ones become victims.
I am not naive enough to believe that changes in laws will do away with hate and evil.
Hate and evil cause mass shootings — but too-loose gun buying laws, too-powerful rifles, too-large magazines and too-twisted mental processes do contribute.
A cliche is appropriate: “Do not let the perfect become the enemy of the good.”
With nearly 400 million weapons for fewer than 300 million American adults, we cannot stop mass shootings — and if we curb gun deaths, there are other weapons.
But because we are afraid we might do the wrong thing, we have become paralyzed and we do nothing.
A half-century ago, we succumbed to “If he’s old enough to die in Vietnam, he is old enough to legally buy a beer.” We lowered the drinking age to 18.
But “he” did not buy “a beer.” People aged 18 to 21 binge drank, then drove, then slaughtered themselves and others.
We changed the laws. The drinking age is now back to 21. Alcohol-related deaths are still with us — but we cut back on their numbers, significantly so.
It is now time to change the laws that affect our vulnerability to mass shootings.
Denny Bonavita is a former editor at newspapers in DuBois and Warren.
He lives near Brookville. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.