We fully support the Second Amendment but ... we also believe children have a right to go to school, music lovers have a right to attend concerts and moviegoers have a right to sit in a theater without fear of being massacred by someone armed with a weapon of mass destruction.
It has become almost formulaic: After every mass shooting, this newspaper bemoans the senseless killings, offers prayers and condolences to the families of the victims and calls for “sensible gun laws.” We aren’t alone. A majority of the American people believe the right to bear arms memorialized in the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution would not be infringed upon if background checks on would-be gun buyers were strengthened, if mental- health histories were part of the application review process, if there were a waiting period before a gun is purchased and if devices such as so-called “bump stocks” were banned.
No one, not even the very articulate and impassioned students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., is calling for a total ban of firearms. That would be unconstitutional and, yes, silly. There are more than 200 million guns in circulation in the United States, including assault-type weapons. There also are millions of high-capacity magazines in private hands.
Thus, the current debate, triggered by this month’s Valentine’s Day massacre of 17 students and adults at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, isn’t over gun ownership, but over how to stop weapons getting into the wrong hands and how to prevent mass shootings.
But as the two front-page stories in Sunday’s Vindicator shows, the debate won’t quickly and easily bring about the changes a majority of the American people are demanding.
Why? The simple answer: politics.
Consider the reaction to Republican President Donald J. Trump’s very innocuous proposal to ban “bump stocks” and curb young people’s access to guns.
“Out in the firearms community, there is a great feeling of betrayal and abandonment because of the support he was given in his campaign for president,” said Tony Fabian, president of the Colorado Sports Shooting Association.
So, what did the president propose that Fabian, and by extension the politically powerful National Rifle Association, found so egregious?
After the 17 deaths at the Florida high school at the hands of a teenager, Trump said assault rifles should be kept out of the hands of anyone under 21. He also endorsed more stringent background checks for gun buyers and ordered his Justice Department to work toward banning rapid-fire “bump stock devices.”
Such a device was used last fall by the shooter in Las Vegas who killed five dozen people attending an open air country music festival.
In Florida, Nikolas Jacob Cruz, 19, responsible for the human carnage in Parkland, a well-to-do suburb with a median household income more than twice the national average, legally bought the AR-15 assault rifle about a year ago under federal law that allows people over 18 to legally purchase long guns.
In December 2012, Adam Lanza, 20, slaughtered 20 children between 6 and 7 years old and six adult staff members at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Lanza used an AR-15 assault rifle.
Before driving to the school, Lanza shot and killed his mother at their Newtown, Conn., home.
The Bushmaster semi-automatic rifle was able to rapidly fire multiple high-velocity rounds. Lanza was also armed with magazines that held 30 bullets each.
Since the Columbine High School bloodbath in 1999, more than 150,000 school students have been witness to senseless shootings on their campuses.
So, what’s to be done, given the power of the NRA and the unwillingness of the Republican-controlled Congress to take on the powerful gun lobby?
President Trump, who won the 2016 election by portraying himself as an outsider not controlled by any special interest group, should stand firm on his meager proposals for sensible gun control.
Trump’s idea for arming school teachers and other staff members is backed by the NRA, but opposed by law enforcement.
The president is trying to appease the powerful gun lobby when he should be sitting down with law enforcement officials and seeking their advice on what should be done to stem the tide of mass killings.
He should also listen to the young people of Parkland, Fla., who were witnesses to this Valentine’s Day massacre.