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October 21, 2014

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Sun Editorial:

The old gun debate

Nation needs to break inertia, address gun violence issues

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It has been a little more than a week since the horrific shooting at a Connecticut elementary school, and already much of the national discussion has returned to the bumper-sticker mentality about gun issues.

“Guns don’t kill people, people kill people.”

“You don’t hunt deer with an assault rifle.”

“When guns are outlawed, only criminals will have guns.”

“How many people have to die before there’s change?”

On their own, those statements raise valid points, but they mask serious and complex issues, ranging from gun use to the Second Amendment. For example, guns, by themselves, don’t kill people, but a person with a grudge and a gun, particularly a high-capacity weapon, can kill many people.

What do you do about that?

It’s difficult to discuss rationally because this nation has been locked in a vitriolic debate, filled with scare tactics on both sides, between pro- and anti-gun positions. You’re either for them or against them, and the gun lobby is strong. The result has been inertia on gun policy.

The National Rifle Association, which has led the pro-gun movement, once again proved that Friday. After summoning the media, Wayne LaPierre, the NRA’s executive vice president, let loose a tirade, essentially blaming gun violence on the media, politicians, movies and video games. His speech was political, intent on stemming criticism of his group and heading off proposed gun regulation. LaPierre even offered his own bumper-sticker thought: “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.”

LaPierre proposed arming people on school campuses and pledged the NRA’s support. There was, however, no talk about any other issue regarding mass shootings, such as preventing “bad guys” or mentally ill people from getting guns, much less any regulations to improve safety. Essentially, the message was: more guns. That was a disappointment given that his group had promised to make “meaningful contributions to make sure this never happens again.”

The nation needs to move beyond this stilted debate and have a frank conversation about violence, particularly gun violence. Before anyone starts talking about regulations, can we at least concede that there’s a problem? The level of violence the nation has seen in recent years can’t be acceptable, can it?

So, instead of arguing about guns, let’s ask this question: How should America provide for the safety of its people, whether it’s shoppers at the mall or children at school?

As part of that discussion, the nation needs to consider the place of guns in society. For the record, we’re not opposed to guns, private gun ownership or concealed weapon permits, and LaPierre’s proposal should be honestly considered. Having a designated person who is well-trained and competent with a weapon on campus could be a good protection.

But let’s not think that simply adding a “good guy” with a gun is a panacea and leave it at that. Even the best good guy can make mistakes, have a bad day, be in the wrong place or be outgunned.

Rather than just proposing more guns, the nation should look at the root causes of mass shootings. A recent analysis of 62 recent mass shootings showed that more than half of the killers had their guns legally. How is it that the “bad guys” get these guns? Let’s address that, and let’s look at the screening process, background checks, training and regulations for gun ownership.

The issue of mental health, both in the gun debate and in society at large, also has to be considered. How is it that someone who is mentally disturbed goes through society unchecked, much less gets guns? How does the nation change that?

Political leaders and groups like the NRA need to find a way to move beyond the old talking points and start answering questions like these. It will take that type of honest discussion to move forward, curb violence and protect future generations.

Now that President Barack Obama has taken the lead on the issue, it would help if we all followed, but it would help more if we stood shoulder to shoulder to find and implement the answer.

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  1. It is interesting that since the gun ban talk has begun again, the guns are flying off the shelves in stores.

  2. So, the NRA proposes armed secirity for every school. By the same alleged logic I suppose we would also need to have armed security in all shopping centers, malls, restaurants, movie theaters, churches, and who knows where else. All necessary so we can maintain gun laws that cater to the most paranoid elements in our society.

  3. peacelilly, I don't trust what the gun store owners are saying as they are in it to make a profit. More guns are why we have these horrific slaughters.

  4. In order for progress to take place both sides have to make concessions. The left has to stop telling lies for starters with their persistent misuse of terms and language that are false or don't apply in hopes of controlling the masses which are ignorant on gun issues. The right will have to acknowledge that Dad may now longer be able to pass his guns down to his sons without them going through a national criminal records check as if they were buying them retail. That is an example of what the left calls the gun show loophole.

    That would be start but it is unlikely to happen. The left will never stop the lies and the right won't agree to national registration which is at the bottom of all this.

  5. Enjoyed the editorial.

    And I am glad to see people waking up to the complete joke the NRA and other pro-gun lobby groups have been revealed to be.

    There needs to continue to be a rising tide against these groups. Because we did it their way before of buying more guns. It don't work. It never has worked.

    It's way past time we start disregarding blowhards like Wayne LaPierre. And especially Grover Norquist. Not only his pro-NRA stance needs to be popped like a bubble, but his no tax pledge empire needs to be utterly destroyed, breaking the deadlock on our politicians from doing anything worth a hill of beans.

    The tide needs to keep mounting. The American people run this country. Not special interests who want everyone in the U.S. packing heat, thereby getting you to buy guns and be afraid, be very afraid, be afraid of anyone who even looks at you funny, feed that paranoia.

    No. It stops right here and now. We ain't listening to 'em. Because they're only in it for themselves. And most importantly, to save innocent lives, we simply CANNOT afford to listen to their outrageous beliefs.

    I just hope people wake up and understand the NRA and other pro-gun lobbyists simply don't have the political power they have been attributed with. They are of no consequence in the political arena.

    They need to understand that our First Amendment rights, the ability to speak out on their greedy and selfish nonsense, eclipses any and all of their thinking they have cornered the market on the Second Amendment. They no longer get to hold that up in the air and wave that around for protection. Like I say, we simply can't take the chance to do the same thing and expect a different outcome.

    We need to bust apart these special interests and ground them into dust. People are counting on that to happen.

  6. Dickerjd: Your idea is good, but the NRA (and other ultra-conservatives) would never accept it. YET ANOTHER TAX!!! Naturally the NRA wants armed guards - but unpaid ones. That way their masters will be able to manufacture and sell even more expensive assault weapons.

    The NRA said it would assist the effort to provide armed guards. I await their announcement that the NRA will provide all the funding to recruit and employ the needed guards, provide all the necessary training, and have its masters provide the all the needed weaponry. I await it...but I certainly am not going to hold my breath.

  7. The NRA doesn't mind raising taxes so long as it improves their incomes. Grover Norquist, NRA board member has led the fight to reduce public school funding, social security, medicare, urban housing, etc. but is now willing to raise taxes to buy guns and install armed guards (retired police and military) into all schools.

    The NRA sees a gold mine by inciting and backing paranoia.