After the most recent school shooting, the media and law enforcement are, once again, attempting to find out what motivated the shooting. They’ve analyzed his social media posts. They’ve interviewed his friends, family members and teachers. They’ve speculated that he was suffering from mental illness. They’ve explored his relationships. Everyone wants to know why he brought a gun to school and opened fire. Such analysis may be helpful in preventing future killers. But it overlooks the only thing we really need to know.
Like all of the other school shooters, he had easy access to a gun.
This was not a hunting rifle or a shotgun. That would be bad enough in the hands of an unsupervised 14-year-old, but at least hunting firearms are difficult to hide. This was an easily-concealed 40-caliber semi-automatic handgun – a weapon that does not belong on our streets, in our schools, or in the hands of a troubled 14-year-old boy. His access to such a weapon begs many questions: What kind of parents allow a 14-year-old access to a semi-automatic handgun? Why would he need one? Did they think he needed it to defend himself in school; after football practice; at a school dance, on the mean streets of Tulalip? Did they think he was going to defend us from Ebola-infected ISIS terrorists who might be crossing our border with Canada? Did they not know? Did they not care?
Had the shooter not had such easy access to a concealable weapon, he might still be alive today along with the girl he murdered. And other children would not be in the hospital fighting for their lives.
His ready access to weapons is most certainly not unique. In most states, children of any age can legally purchase guns from gun shows and individuals even as they are prohibited from buying tobacco, alcohol, lottery tickets and most other items intended for adults. Want to buy a gun? No problem. The only questions are handgun or long gun? What caliber? How much ammunition? Would you like some extra clips with that? Greedy gun manufacturers represented and encouraged by the National Rifle Association are even marketing child-sized, but no less lethal, guns to kids. To make them more attractive to kids, they even offer such weapons in candy colors.
What normal human being thinks this is a good idea? For what social benefit? We’ve already seen what can happen when an Uzi is placed in the hands of a supervised child on a firing range. Have gun manufacturers ever considered the consequences of their actions? Of course, they have. But their judgment is blinded by visions of increased profits and higher share prices. Unfortunately, the more guns they sell, the more dangerous our streets and schools become. That generates more paranoia. And that, in turn, generates more sales.
In reality, the only way to stop school shootings and other mass shootings is to limit the sales of guns to keep them out of the hands of the mentally unstable; to keep them out of the hands of criminals; and to keep them out of the hands of children. And the only sensible way to do that is to follow Australia’s lead. Like Australia, we should immediately pass legislation calling for a nationwide buy-back of the most lethal types of guns, such as rapid-fire semi-automatic handguns and semi-automatic assault rifles. We should immediately institute mandatory background checks on all transactions involving guns and ammo. We should ban guns in cities and other public places as was the custom in the Old West. We should limit the sale of the most lethal types of ammunition, especially so-called “cop killer” bullets. And we should ban the sale of guns to anyone under the age of eighteen.
In 2010, more than 30,000 Americans died from gunfire…nearly 3,000 of them children. That year, another 73,505 Americans recovered from gunshot wounds… more than 7,000 of them children. Yet Americans seem willing to accept those statistics. Indeed, the only response to our endless murder and mayhem has been for even more Americans to arm themselves. By contrast, our nation seems paralyzed by the fact that a single person in the US has died from Ebola…ONE! Yet our media and politicians are disproportionately reacting to the threats. While they ignore more than 100,000 shootings in a single year, they are demanding immediate action for…wait for it…Ebola.
Fear-mongering conservatives have raised alarms that we could all die if we don’t react to Ebola fast. Yet the very same people are unconcerned about mass shootings. They cower from the NRA. Instead of limiting access to guns, they pass laws making it easier to buy and carry firearms. They tell us that the Second Amendment is more important than the lives of thousands. They tell us that the number of gun victims doesn’t matter. They talk about freedom and call anyone who disagrees with them unpatriotic.
Keep that in mind as you go to the polls on November 4th.