• Another shooting: do we ignore it?

    by Kelvin Wade

    In 1996, Martin Bryant walked into a restaurant in Tasmania, Australia, and ate lunch. After finishing he pulled out an AR-15 and killed 20 people in 90 seconds. He left the restaurant and killed another 15 people.

    The conservative Australian government reacted quickly. They required mandatory gun licensing and registration and banned most semi-automatic weapons including pump action shotguns. They’ve seen gun violence drop.

    DC Snipers. Amish school shootings Pennsylvania. Virginia Tech. New York civic center. Fort Hood Texas. Gabby Giffords. Aurora theater. Sikh temple Wisconsin. Portland shopping mall. These are just some of the mass shootings since the Columbine massacre in Littleton, Colorado. There have been many more shootings in workplaces, colleges and supermarkets. Some of those incidents I haven’t listed took up to nine lives.

    After each incident there was hand-wringing about gun control and then we go back to our national slumber until the sound of gunfire awakens us again. Australia didn’t wait for multiple incidents to do something about gun violence. We’re in limbo because it’s been decided that nothing can be done.

    To be honest, I don’t know what can be done. While proponents of gun control say we need to at least have a conversation about guns, I don’t hear many proposals.

    The biggest problems are that solutions in other countries won’t necessarily work here. Those other countries don’t have gun ownership enshrined in their constitutions. And it doesn’t matter what gun control advocates think of the Second Amendment because the Supreme Court has ruled it means Americans have a right to own guns.

    The other hurdle is just the scope. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) did a survey in 2007 showing gun ownership around the world. In a map they produced, most of the world is shaded light green, meaning there are zero to 10 guns per 100 citizens. Only one country is shaded brown, meaning there are more than 70 guns per 100 citizens. That’s America with 88 guns per 100 people. Second place is Yemen with 54.

    If a law even passed that required mandatory licensing and registration of all guns, why would anyone think it would be any more successful than Prohibition or the War on Drugs? We don’t even know how many guns Americans truly own. And we’re not going to go house to house. The U.S. military couldn’t disarm Iraq, so they don’t stand a chance of disarming Texas, let alone the country.

    But how do we pass a law that would prevent the Clackamas mall shooting? The shooter allegedly stole the gun he used. What gun law would stop that? I’m not interested in passing feel good laws.

    I’m a gun owner. I own guns for home defense and they’re fun to shoot. And there are new laws I would support like banning private sales unless they go through a licensed FFL dealer. That’s the law in California, but it’s worthless if it isn’t national. Uniform laws on training and gun storage are reasonable laws.

    Large magazines have been banned in California as well. I don’t have a problem with limiting magazines but the reality is semi-automatic weapons can be reloaded in a matter of seconds, so capacity isn’t going to do much to slow down a mass shooting. The Virginia Tech gunman used two handguns with relatively small magazines.

    The Supreme Court has said gun ownership can be regulated, so it’s not as if government’s hands are completely tied. Perhaps something can be done with ammunition sales.

    Mass shootings are difficult to prevent. One of the things we might want to consider is metal detectors. They’re already in use in airports, some government buildings, many schools and concerts. Inconvenient? Yes. But so is being shot. Maybe we need more trained armed security in public places. Put armed guards at mall entrances. We may not be used to it in this country but when I go to Mexico and I see police or military walking the streets cradling machine guns, I feel safer.

    Those are changes that can go into place a lot faster than any gun control legislation. What ideas do you have?

    After all, we do need to have a serious, frank discussion on what we can do to make our nation safer. Even though I’m a gun owner, I’m not on the gun owners’ “side” or the gun control advocates’ ”side.” I’m for what can realistically be done to make us a safer society.

    • Such irony that you wrote this just before the tragedy in Connecticut. I’m thinking the armed guards should be at mall entrances, and maybe schools too. Maybe it’s come to that.

    • http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/16/opinion/sunday/kristof-do-we-have-the-courage-to-stop-this.html?_r=0

      Check this out Kelvin. Same ideas as you but just said differently. It is so weird you wrote this before the latest tragedy.

      • Kelvin

      • December 16, 2012 at 12:44 pm
      • Reply

      In the wake of the Sandy Hook killings, I’ve continued my thoughts on my blog. http://othersidecolumn.blogspot.com/2012/12/another-shooting-do-we-ignore-it-part-2.html

      • Juliane Toews

      • December 16, 2012 at 1:32 pm
      • Reply

      I say Arm and TRAIN law abiding citizens. Then we are not as defenseless as fish in a barrel. Address mental illness and ban assault weapons

      • Maya North

      • December 16, 2012 at 5:38 pm
      • Reply

      I remember going to school in 1960. I was in kindergarten and I walked the mile to school mostly in parallel to the other kids going there, too. Later, when I could ride a bicycle, that’s how I got there. The doors were open and the playgrounds could be entered by anybody. Kids streamed and swarmed and laughed and shouted and not once did it cross anybody’s mind that we could possibly be in danger.

      Our society is ill and it’s been coming on for a while. Not that it wasn’t before–bigotry and misogyny saw to that. A lot of things people swear weren’t happening back then like rape and incest and abuse certainly were, but speaking about them ‘just wasn’t done.’ Still, the scale of it was different and people could not conceive of something happening like it did in Connecticut.

      I think we have a malaise that is merely exacerbated by the number and sophistication of our weaponry. I don’t quite have my finger on it yet, but my lovely, wise right brain tells me that it is connected to too many people, too many of which are unconnected to one another in any meaningful way, our materialistic society and the speed at which we all live.

      I’ll keep you posted, my brilliant writer friend. I cherish you…

      • Jesse

      • December 17, 2012 at 8:21 pm
      • Reply

      Kelvin, I think all states should have a test like a driver’s license. Guns should be kept in safes. Also, people should carry insurance on their guns and renew licences every 4 years, just like driver’s licenses.

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