Point Blank

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By Jeff Kazmierski, Copy Editor/Columnist

Another day in America, another gun crime.
Last month, barely a week before Christmas, the nation was shocked and horrified when a young man armed to the teeth with semi-automatic weapons blasted his way into an elementary school in Newtown, Conn., then proceeded to shoot and kill 20 children and seven teachers.  
The killing spree ended when the police showed up and the gunman took his own life.
In the weeks that followed, we were treated to almost daily reports of gun-related crimes and violence from around the nation.  
This should come as no surprise; in 2009 the United States ranked among the top ten nations with the most firearm-related deaths, with 10.2 per 100,000 people.
 The only places with higher incidents were Jamaica, Honduras, Guatemala, Swaziland, Colombia, Brazil, Mexico and Panama.  America also has more guns per capita than any other country, nearly 89 per 100 people.  
Interestingly, there doesn’t appear to be a direct correlation between these two statistics, since the other countries above us in murder rates have far lower rates of gun ownership (that we know of, at least).
And after every new tragedy, we heard the same tired chorus from the usual suspects, about how it’s “too early” to talk about guns, how we need to give people “time to grieve” or whatever.  
Regardless of public anger toward the issue, it was just “not the right time” to talk about gun control.
Of course, if the talking heads have their way, that time will never arrive, because every week there are new reports of school shootings, mass killings or other gun crimes.
More deaths, more delays.
Which begs the question, if now isn’t the right time, when will it be?  If we can’t talk national gun policy in the immediate wake of an atrocity like the shooting in Newtown, when can we?  Nearly 32,000 people lost their lives due to gun violence or misuse in 2011, and that doesn’t account for the injured and maimed.  If current trends continue, we can expect 2013 to be even bloodier than 2012.
No other industrial nation has as high a murder rate as we do.  We are a nation awash with guns, and teeming with people willing to use them.  Our peers look at us now not with envy but in shock and horror.  
Yet, as the body count grows, so do the calls from the right to further expand gun ownership.  If gun ownership were spread evenly, we’d already be able to arm 90 percent of the adult population, but apparently that isn’t enough for some.
National Rifle Association CEO Wayne LaPierre, in his remarkably tone-deaf speech a week after the Newtown massacre, called on the government to put an armed guard in every school.  But would this really make our kids safer?  
Is it really the answer, to turn every school, mall and public space into an armed camp?
And what about the cost?  The demand was particularly ironic, since the party his organization supports is adamantly opposed to raising taxes.  
Putting an armed guard in every school wouldn’t be cheap – some estimates put the cost at $80,000 per school.  
Where does LaPierre expect the billions of dollars to come from to pay for it?  Maybe the NRA would be willing to kick in a few bucks.  After all, we’re talking about our children’s safety.
Then, of course, there’s the question of efficacy.  
There’s little evidence that such measures actually work – Columbine, for example, had an armed guard, yet the gunmen who shot up that school were able to carry out their bloody mission nearly unopposed.
What if everyone is armed?  In the wake of the shooting in Tucson, AZ that wounded Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, Arizona Rep. Trent Franks wished that there had been “one more gun there…in the hands of a responsible person” at the scene.  Actually, there was.  The owner did not draw, out of concern for hitting innocent bystanders.
Which raises a point that should be obvious – that in a situation involving an active shooter, the only person who really knows what’s going on is the shooter.  
Everyone else is just a target.  
One more gun on the scene is more likely to compound the tragedy than prevent it.  
Sure, occasionally we get lucky, as happened in Pearl, Miss. when a school principal stopped a shooter by retrieving his .45 pistol from his car.  
But the truth is, the average person is neither trained nor prepared to deal with a real-life combat situation.  
Besides, has it really come to this?  Must we arm ourselves against each other?  I want no part of it.  That’s not civilization, it’s barbarism.
For too long the conversation has been dominated by the loudest voices.  
It’s time we stopped listening to the hysterical rantings of people like LaPierre, Ted Nugent or Alex Jones, the fanatic who screamed about “1776” to Piers Morgan on CNN.  We need voices of reason at the table, not screaming lunatics.
If gun rights groups want to be taken seriously, they need to stop railing about tyranny and fascism.  They need to stop spinning wild conspiracy theories.  
They need to stop arguing false analogies comparing guns to cars, pencils, spoons or other devices whose primary purpose is not killing.  No more pointing fingers at video games, movies, television, or anything else the industry they love uses for product placement.  In other words, they need to behave like the rational adults they say they are.
Now is the time.
Come, let us reason together.
 

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