To the Editor:
Last week we witnessed yet another senseless massacre in a series of what has become an all too familiar event. I have a number of friends on the Island who are responsible gun owners who use their guns for hunting deer and for shooting the occasional raccoon that comes after their chickens. The reasonable use of firearms is not a bad thing, but neither is the enacting of reasonable laws that may help keep the public safe. Yet, just recently we saw two Colorado state officials recalled for supporting such laws. One of these banned ammunition magazines with more than 15 rounds, and the other required background checks for private sales and transfers. I don’t know much about guns or hunting, but it seems to me that if a hunter needs 15 rounds to bag a deer, he might consider another sport. If the deer doesn’t fall with the first or second shot, it’s unlikely that the next 13 will do the job. And if 15 shots are required, I suspect the venison would not be too tasty.
With regard to background checks, it’s probable that they only filter out a small number of those who should not possess guns, those with mental problems or a former occupant of a penitentiary or someone who has been arrested on a weapons charge. But suppose one such person is denied access to a firearm, suppose it’s five or ten or more. How many lives could be saved? How many children would live to be adults? How many families would not have to mourn the loss of a loved one?
None of the proposed laws governing the size of magazines, background checks, requirements of mental health professionals to make information available, registration, if not the banning, of assault weapons or stronger gun trafficking laws violate the Second Amendment. Yet it is the Second Amendment right that most opponents of gun laws fall back on. How many of us really know what the Second Amendment says about gun ownership? The text of the amendment reads, “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” When the Bill of Rights was ratified in 1791, the security of the state did indeed depend on a well regulated militia. There was very little in the way of a national armed force. But today, we have the largest military in the world and, if you don’t trust the federal government (and I assume there are many who don’t), there is a National Guard unit in every state
which presumably the governor has access to in the event of an uprising. The Second Amendment is as obsolete as the Eighteenth Amendment, which prohibited the sale of alcohol and, like the Eighteenth, probably should be repealed or at least revised for the 21st century.
Now, at this point I assume many gun owning readers of this left wing, bleeding heart letter are rushing off to their computers to write a response, either reasoned or vitriolic. Before you do, let me add a few more lines. First, be sure that the safety on your weapon is engaged and don’t shoot yourself in the foot. Secondly, I’m in no way proposing that anyone relinquish their firearms. This is the freest country in history, and it must stay that way. But there are some numbers that should be considered. According to a 2012 Washington Post article, the number of gun-related homicides (reported in 2009 or 2010) in Italy was 417, in Canada 173, in England and Wales 41, and in France 35. In the United States, the number was 9,960.
While there are countries with higher numbers, our nation, like those noted above, is supposed to be among the most civilized. Furthermore, while these nations have smaller populations than the U.S., the number of homicides per capita in this
country is 4.5 times greater than Italy, six times greater than Canada, 45 times greater than France, and 50 times greater than England and Wales.
I realize that Americans always do things in a big way and are world leaders in a number of areas — millions of cars on assembly lines, billions of hamburgers, trillions in debt — but do we have to extend it to gun deaths? We can keep the guns (270 million, about one for every man, woman and child, and about six times the number of the second most country), but we can and must be sensible about how they’re used.
The poet dreamed of a world where there would be “nothing to kill or die for.” I doubt that anyone alive now will ever see that world, but we can make the one we live in a bit safer for those who just want to go on about their business and not worry that some disturbed individual with a multi-round weapon will snuff out their life.