Lay down rhetoric, seek real change

When someone persuades me that I’m wrong, I change my mind. What do you do, sir? — Variously attributed.

As an honest answer, I’ve been persuaded and have changed my mind on something.

Readers of this column know that I own more than a few firearms. They also know that I’ve often written, positively, regarding responsible firearm use and ownership, and will continue to do so in the future.

However, I’m also the grandfather of a 7-year-old angel named Lori and, before she moved to Texas, I was a volunteer in her second-grade classroom. Because of that, and since the shootings in Newtown, there hasn’t been a waking hour wherein I haven’t thought, “There, but for the grace of God…”

I’ve been thinking about other things too. More so since hearing the speech given by Wayne LaPierre, CEO of the NRA.

I’d waited for that speech — hoping it would include an offer to throw the weight, resources, and expertise of the NRA into an all-out effort to find solutions to the mass killings that’ve occurred in this nation.

Unfortunately, I was disappointed. Disappointed that there wasn’t some acknowledgment that the right to “Keep and Bear Arms” must be balanced by a child’s right to live. Disappointed at the tone. Disappointed at the narrowness of the proposed plan. As one proposal in an “all fronts” effort to end these tragedies, certainly worthwhile, but as the sole solution? Hardly.

There isn’t a “one idea will fix everything” solution to what we’re facing and anything we do will, likely, not have provable effects in the short term. Society cooked this elephant and it’ll have to be eaten one bite at a time. Still, that’s not an excuse for us to avoid considering as many roadblocks to carnage as can be found to put in the paths of the killers amongst us.

If we want to consider possible steps, here’s one. We could stop caring about how a firearm looks. Looks are cosmetic. Where we need to focus is on “what” and, more importantly, “how many” come out of the muzzle. Simply put, we need to decrease the volume of fire.

In the area of military look-alike rifles, limiting the capacity of existing magazines or even banning “large capacity” magazines won’t be effective as long as electrical tape exists. Limit any magazine to “X” (5, 10, 15, etc.) rounds and anyone can tape three together and we’re back to square one in less time than it takes to read this sentence.

Think, instead, of requiring civilian versions of such rifles to be designed with fixed, non-detachable magazines holding fewer rounds (I’m now for low, single digits) that have to be hand-loaded through the ejection port. This would slow things down by an order of magnitude.

Further, every other idea must be on the table and given equal consideration. Better guidelines for identifying and getting the mentally disturbed into (funded) treatment. Denial of sales to those with serious and ongoing mental problems. Swift and harsh punishment for crimes involving the use of firearms. Legal accountability for incidents involving firearms not adequately secured. Ensuring that background checks occur with every purchase — no matter where made.

Consider a direct, federal tax credit equal to the current retail price of the firearm for anyone wishing to turn one in. Consider safety education in schools and required training when a firearm is purchased. Consider where media violence, games, movies, and a declining respect for authority and personal accountability have led us.

Neither side will get everything (See: Compromise, n.) they wish. The hard-over, anti-gun faction will shout that anything short of banning everything including (dull) butter knives isn’t enough and the pro-gun hardliners will swear that Dillon M134D Gatling Guns (chambered in 7.62mm Nato and capable of 3,000 rounds per minute) should be available to everyone — “just in case.”

I’ve changed my mind about round capacity in these firearms because I believe that it’s one, small “roadblock to carnage” that’s needed. Too, I keep imagining those kids facing a literal fusillade of bullets in their last moments and, in my own worst moments, I can put my granddaughter’s face into that picture.

And, if that image wouldn’t change a person’s mind, I’m not sure what would.

Finally, if such thinking makes someone the face of the “enemy” — to either side — then things are nowhere near as bad as we think.

They are, in fact, far worse. And headed downhill from there.

Larry Simoneaux lives in Edmonds. Send comments to: larrysim@comcast.net

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