Wissot: We’ve got to do something about school shootings, but you know we won’t (column)
February 16, 2018
Mikaela Shiffrin, 22, won a gold medal in giant slalom at the Winter Olympics on the same day that Nikolas Cruz, 19, murdered 17 students and teachers at a South Florida high school.
Two young people moving in diametrically opposite directions: Mikaela did something terrific, and Nikolas did something horrific. Mikaela is likely headed for a glorious future, and Nikolas is headed for a jail cell, where he will likely spend the rest of his life.
Rest easy, gun rights activists, this is not a column on why we need gun control legislation more than ever. If it didn't happen after Sandy Hook Elementary more than five years ago, then why is it any more likely to happen now? It isn't.
Rather than get into a technical argument over why banning scary-looking weapons such as the AR-15 rifle used by Cruz would not have prevented his deadly rampage from happening with you who prize gun ownership, and know way more about guns than I ever will, I would prefer conceding the argument in your favor.
We aren't going to ban scary-looking weapons in this country because we like owning scary-looking weapons. There are 300 million guns in this country (almost one for every person) owned by a little more than a third of Americans ("Guns and self defense: Statistics that might surprise you," L.A. Times, June 19, 2015).
The AR-15 weapon used by Cruz is favored not only by mentally disturbed school shooters but also by law-abiding, mentally healthy gun owners who favor the weapon for peaceful, harmless sport, like target shooting. Asking them to accept restrictions on how they obtain or can use that weapon is like asking them to accept restrictions on when and how they can drive their pickup trucks, motorcycles and sports cars. Not going to happen.
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Our gun culture in America is like our car culture, a revered part of our past, steeped in historic tradition, an expression of who we are as Americans and where we came from. Growing up with guns in this country, seeing them as normal objects in our homes, is as American as growing up with a Camaro in your garage. Guns and cars are part of the rites of passage from boyhood to manhood. Being taught how to use both responsibly is what good fathers do for the sons they love (and daughters, too).
I'm not a gun owner, as you can easily tell from what I have written. I've never owned a gun. I've never fired a gun. Don't plan to. Don't need to. Don't care to. If I'm ever the victim of a home invasion involving robbers flashing weapons, then I will probably be killed and you have my permission to laugh at me for my foolishness. I won't care. I won't be around to hear you.
If we lived in a different culture, such as in Australia, then we would do what they did in the late 1980s after a gun massacre: buy back all the guns in the country and severely restrict their future purchase. We aren't going to do that. We aren't Australia, just as we aren't
England, Germany, Japan, the Scandinavian countries and much of the rest of civilized societies around the globe who limit gun ownership to law enforcement.
We are gun-loving, gun-toting, gun-happy Americans, and while we all mourn the victims of countless school shootings and pray for their family members, we aren't about to allow their tragedies to interfere with our pastime pleasures.
I have lost faith in my liberal colleagues' attempt to enact "sensible" gun control legislation. We would be better off trying to abolish or at least modify the basic tenets of the Second Amendment.
Hold onto your holsters, gun lovers. I was just yanking your revolvers a bit. Lighten up. If we can't pass legislation restricting gun ownership by terrorists on watch lists and the mentally ill, I think the Second Amendment is safe from liberal tampering.
So this column doesn't end as it began — on a totally pessimistic note. I do have some suggestions to offer about what we might do to reduce the number, if not prevent the inevitability of, the next round of school shootings. Here they are:
1. Let's for heaven's sake restrict the age that a young man in this country can legally purchase any kind of firearm to 25. Nikolas Cruz was too young at 19 to buy a Glock pistol or a bottle of beer in Florida, but he was old enough to purchase an AR-15.
2. Tax the gun manufacturers, the real culprits, not the National Rifle Association, which is just the manufacturers' stooge, in the proliferation of gun violence, and use the monies to fund mental health treatment for young, disturbed men with fantasies of becoming the next school shooter.
3. Hold parents responsible for keeping weapons and ammunition locked safely away from young men in their homes who might use them for insane purposes. The penalty for failure to do that would be complicity in the crimes committed by their wayward sons.
I hold out some hope that these measures might have a chance of being adopted because they don't threaten either the gun lobby or gun culture in this country.
I might be naive in thinking that, but that's about what you would expect from someone like me. I'm not even smart enough to protect myself by owning a gun.
Jay Wissot is a resident of Denver and Vail.
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