Let's talk about guns

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

"Cain killed Abel with a rock," says a popular Internet meme. "It's a heart problem, not a gun problem."

A few weeks ago in my hometown, a 5-year-old boy died after being shot by a 2-year-old sibling. I'm not sure there's a meme for that.

It's not the first time someone in my little town of about 1,200 residents has died because of an accidental shooting. When I was in high school, a younger student died after being shot by his cousin. The two had been squirrel hunting, and the victim thought it would be funny to hide behind a corner and jump out to startle his cousin. The cousin, armed with his squirrel rifle, fired. The victim bled to death waiting on an ambulance.

I'm admittedly a bit hesitant to write this column for this audience, because I know that some of you will have a negative reaction to it. But I believe this needs to be said, and I hope my readers will keep an open mind.

I believe that we have a serious, complex gun problem in the United States. I believe that unless and until we address that gun problem with some sort of meaningful legislation, we will continue to experience deadly mass shootings like the school massacre in Newtown, Conn., or last week's vicious murders of nine people at a black church in Charleston, S.C.

President Barack Obama addressed the issue last week, the 14th time in his presidency that he has made a statement after a mass shooting.

"At some point," the president said, "we as a country will have to reckon with the fact that this type of mass violence does not happen in other developed countries."

I don't pretend to know what the answer is. I absolutely do not advocate taking hunting rifles or shotguns away from law-abiding Americans. But I also don't believe that simply pointing to the Constitution and our founders' endorsement of Americans' right to keep and bear arms is a rational defense for the ease with which modern Americans can lay their hands on the kind of military assault rifles that are so often used in these mass shootings.

Our founders were brilliant men, but their ideologies weren't perfect and although they did have great foresight, it's hard for me to believe that they could possibly have imagined the kind of gun culture that now exists in America.

I can't recall the comedian who said this (perhaps it was Robin Williams) and I'm paraphrasing a bit, but there's a great deal of truth in this statement: "People say the founding fathers would be upset about this talk of gun control. But if the founding fathers were here today, they'd probably want to know 'what's this business about women voting? And who is THAT in the White House? Is that one of Jefferson's kids?' "

The fact is that the founding fathers, even in their infinite wisdom, could not have foreseen the kind of weapons that exist today, or how efficiently we can now kill one another.

Yes, Cain killed Abel with a rock. I suspect killing nine people with the same rock in a matter of minutes would have been significantly more difficult.

There's an old saying: If you do what you've always done, you'll get what you've always gotten. It applies here. As a nation, we can either take a long, hard, honest look at our gun laws -- or we can simply accept the fact that we will continue to experience mass tragedy.

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Scott Loftis is managing editor for Carroll County Newspapers. His email address is CarrollCountyNews@cox-internet.com