Since National Rifle Association (NRA) Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre’s nationally publicized comments after the tragic circumstances of the Sandy Hook Elementary School murders in Connecticut I have been thinking about how any one could distinguish extemporaneously a good guy with a gun from a bad guy with the gun. I envision 2 guys, each believing fervently to be ‘good’, shooting at the other, of course, believing the other to be bad. Impromptu gunfights have that inherent aura about them, a ready, shoot, aim mentality. The other aspect about them is that they tend to be final, or should I say, fatal.
With over 300 million guns in the hands of Americans, distinguishing good guys from bad guys is admittedly a daunting task. Perhaps, like the concept of sanity where we assume everyone is sane unless proven otherwise, we should assume everyone with a gun is a ‘good guy’ until proven otherwise. That assumption would have been deadly wrong, of course, for the perpetrators of mass killings at Columbine, Tucson AZ, Aurora CO, Newtown CT and over 60 other mass shootings in the United States since 1982. We tend to establish ‘bad’ only after the carnage is complete. This also takes no account of approximately 33,000 deaths a year by firearms in the US.
If the murderous rampage in Newtown Connecticut could not ignite a sustained and vigorous demand by Americans for immediate, effective gun control legislation, perhaps nothing ever will. Since that December 14, 2012 catastrophe, gun sales have again skyrocketed, establishing a consistent pattern of spiked sales immediately following mass shootings. It represents the settled, hopeless expectation of a paralyzed nation embracing the fearful philosophy of be armed or be killed. Sadly, it also represents no end in sight to the ever-increasing loss of life via firearms. Fueled by the gun nuts that self-righteously spout indignation at any measure of gun control, and cloak themselves in incomprehensible Second Amendment rhetoric, the needless loss of life will predictably continue unabated.
Utah and Indiana already have laws that permit teachers and other school staff to carry firearms into their schools presumably to protect the students. One of the next bizarre tragedies that we will bear witness to will be perpetrated by some angry student who overpowers an armed teacher and injures or murders innocent students and unlucky bystanders with a gun made available to him or her ostensibly for the purpose of student safety. These imbecilic laws may not be mainstream legislation presently but incomprehensibly other similar laws are soon on their way.
The New York Times reported this week that 2 Texas legislators have proposed bills that would expand existing gun laws to allow for “deputizing school employees” with special training to carry firearms into the classroom to be used during an attack. The NRA supports these bills, apparently envisioning the United States as an armed camp of good guys and bad guys.
Yet another problem in this uncontrolled gun-happy environment is the so-called straw purchaser of guns. William Spengler might have been prevented from purchasing the guns that he used to kill 2 firefighters in Webster New York on Christmas Eve because of his prior conviction for murdering his elderly grandmother. Spengler had bludgeoned the old woman to death with a hammer because she would not provide him with drug money. But his questionable mental state and prior conviction proved to be easy hurdles to avoid by simply using a straw purchaser. He used the daughter of former neighbor.
He shopped for the guns with her, pointing out to her the very guns that he “needed”, an AR-15 semiautomatic rifle similar to the one that was used in the Newtown massacre, and a 12-gauge shotgun. He then set a fire and waited for the 1st responders from the fire department to show up. Predictably, he killed the first 2 firefighters to attend, and, wounded 2 other firefighters and an off-duty police officer on his way to work. Then he killed himself. The NRA will no doubt recommend that all firefighters now should arrive armed and ready to shoot their way into the blaze! In the badly burned remains of his home investigators found the body of the 67-year-old sister.
Is there anyone alive that can seriously argue that more guns are the answer to these senseless tragedies? Could the framers of the Second Amendment ever have envisioned this mess? Will sensible politicians finally step up to the need for dramatic changes in gun control? Stay tuned.