Do we really have to live with mass killings?
Walking along a busy San Francisco thoroughfare the day I got out of the Marine Corps, I was amused to see so many guns for sale in store windows.
I woke up that day to a barracks full of trained, disciplined Marines who knew what they were doing. We kept our guns in a locked rack, and when we had a good reason to look for them, the officer of the day would watch us check in and take out the gun. There wasn’t a canister of ammunition nearby.
Yet there I was, on a downtown street with my muster pay in my pocket and all kinds of guns at the ready.
It seemed strange, in my youthful naivete, that well-trained military personnel zealously guard their weapons while civilians impose more regulations on dogs than on instruments which, in the wrong hands, are deadly. But at the time, I probably hadn’t heard much about the Second Amendment or its political power.
Covering politics and government in several states for over 50 years, I’ve heard all the legal arguments and cheap sticker slogans – usually in stories of unimaginable tragedy. And now we hear it again; this time it’s 19 small children and two adults in a West Texas elementary school.
When in God’s name are we going to stand up to the gun lobby? asked President Biden. “When, in the name of God, do we do what must be done? »
Probably not this time. Even if Biden was popular and had strong support in Congress, the guns are politically untouchable.
As if by script, the shock and horror will dissipate and both sides of the never-ending gun debate will be tossing around Facebook memes and slogans for a while. Neither side will even admit that the other is right.
This second amendment that Republicans hold so dear refers to “a well-regulated militia”. But our Supreme Court is likely to skip over “the right of the people to keep and bear arms.” And opponents of gun control rightly argue that criminals don’t obey any law – that’s why we call them criminals – and you can’t deter illogical people with logical laws.
But shouldn’t we try? Drunk drivers and heroin dealers don’t obey the law either, but we try to stop them.
Should we live like this? Is burying 10 innocent people in Buffalo one week and 21 in Texas the next just a price we pay so some people can get guns like the ones Rambo uses?
As a journalist, I won’t give an inch on the First Amendment. But it is tempered by laws against plagiarism, defamation and slander. And we register our companies so you can find out who owns the presses and what they publish.
In different cities, I registered my house, my car, my marriage, the birth of my son and my dog. The government didn’t confiscate them, so why shouldn’t guns be registered?
But it’s harder than ever in the current political climate.
More from Bill Cotterell:
The day Nikolas Cruz murdered 17 people and injured 17 others in Parkland, my wife and I landed on vacation in Australia. Sydney TV networks were full of commentators saying it was all so simple – just ban private gun ownership and collect all guns. Problem solved!
I was tempted to phone the TV station and ask if they knew how inconvenient it was – no, impossible.
And of course, then-Gov. Rick Scott and the Legislature responded to Parkland with a few lukewarm measures, which were quickly blocked in court.
Biden is right about one thing: other countries don’t have this massacre. If our leaders weren’t afraid of the gun lobby, maybe they could find out what these countries are doing and, even if it takes a constitutional amendment or two, go for it.
More likely, our leaders will issue statements about how our society is too violent, about the need for families to instill in our young people the values of responsibility and respect that we grew up with a generation ago. Then they can keep those statements handy for the next time it happens and the time after, and the time after.
Bill Cotterell is a retired journalist from the Democratic capital of Tallahassee who writes a column twice a week. He can be contacted at [email protected]
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