It’s true that there are too many people walking the streets who ought to be institutionalized or kept under close medical supervision; and background checks need to be tightened and loopholes closed. And, yes, the hands holding the guns are the wrong ones.
But what’s more wrong are the guns themselves. A 9mm semiautomatic handgun with a 30-round clip isn’t a pistol; it’s a weapon of mass destruction. Jared Loughner proved that by killing six people and wounding 13 others in not much more time than it took you to read this sentence.
Ann Telnaes animation: America’s cowboy mentality.
Today, tens of millions of such firearms are in circulation in the United States. If it were up to me, they would be regulated as strictly as fully automatic weapons, such as machine guns, have been for decades. All citizens, except those with federal firearms licenses, would be required to surrender them to law enforcement authorities (with fair compensation). And then I’d destroy them.
I served a tour of duty with a Marine rifle company in Vietnam; while covering the Lebanese civil war as a newspaper correspondent, I was seriously wounded by AK-47 fire. From both the giving and receiving end, I am intimately familiar with what these weapons are designed to do, and that is to kill people. As many as possible as quickly as possible.
I’m also a hunter who owns shotguns and bolt-action rifles, none of which can hold more than five rounds. Not only do regulations in most states prohibit hunters from entering the field with the firepower of an infantry platoon, it’s considered unsportsmanlike. Apparently, we value the lives of our deer and ducks more than we do the lives of our children. That’s partly why the NRA’s suggestion that all U.S. schools should have armed guards is as insulting as it is absurd.
Patrick Purdy’s awful deed provoked much the same shock, sorrow and outrage as Lanza’s has, the same vows from politicians to make sure nothing like that happened again. Recently, I searched to see how many mass shootings have taken place in the 23 years since then. The answer was 47, with 228 dead and more than twice as many injured.
What will it take before we acknowledge that the guns themselves are the problem?