We must ask if there’s more we can do

My colleague, Chuck Sigars, put it simply.

“America is broken.”

Looking at what happened in Newtown, Conn., I believe he’s right. So broken, in fact, that it seems we can’t even talk to each other — rationally and respectfully — about the problems we face.

Shouting at each other? No trouble at all. We hear it every day on any number of topics — including firearm ownership.

On that last, I’ve repeatedly stated my opinion and I stand by what I’ve said in the past. Such ownership is a right that I’ll not surrender.

That said, I can’t look at what’s going on and say nothing has to change. As a human being, I can’t even consider standing in front of one of the parents involved in this nightmare and telling them that my right to own a firearm of any capability extant trumps all else — including the right of their child to live.

That’s not even thinkable.

Like many of you, I’ve spent the past several days reading news stories, editorials, blogs, online comments, and watching endless television reports.

Even though it’s been a rehash of things that’ve been said over and over again, every now and then there’s been the kernel of an idea or the suggestion of a step that bore consideration.

To do so, however, would take an effort — from all sides — to both see things from differing perspectives and trust that an opposing opinion had been arrived at honestly and thoughtfully. In other words, it would take a miracle.

Still, one wonders if (wishes, actually) it would be possible to discuss ideas such as the following in a rational, reasonable, and responsible manner:

•Many of these killers seem to have a remarkably similar profile. Why are so many of them young, male, depressed, and suicidal? Have we cut mental health services so much or, worse, become so afraid of identifying these individuals that we’ve let them slip through the cracks?

Have firearms become so vilified that we refuse to even mention them in schools? Has even the knowledge of firearm safety become anathema? Could there not be regular courses taught in schools by certified instructors, police, and medical professionals on the safe handling, use, and effects of firearms?

Should those who purchase firearms have to pass a tough safety course? If you think not, ask yourself how many times you’ve been at the range or out hunting and seen something that left asking “How did that guy ever get a firearm?”

Do the various news media have to give these deranged individuals so much notoriety and exposure? Is the idea of possible copycat crimes even considered any more? Is relentless repetition that necessary?

These massacres weren’t an almost common occurrence 40 or 50 years ago. What’s changed? Have those changes contributed to what we’re seeing? Do television killings, movie carnage, loss of respect for authority, and endlessly violent video games have anything to do with what we’re experiencing on an ever increasing basis?

What’s caused the increasing interest in the purchase and ownership of military look-alike firearms, the increase in militias, the growing prevalence of survivalist mentalities, and the distrust and scorn of our government?

Do we truly need to consider whether we may need armed personnel in all of our schools, shopping malls, and government buildings? What about playgrounds, businesses, and other public places? If so, what does that tell us about ourselves?

If the perceived need for ever larger capacity magazines is real, is the next step a semi-automatic version of the M249 Squad Automatic Weapon — a gas-operated, belt-fed weapon? How many rounds available to fire is enough in an open and sane society?

Does anyone truly believe outlawing all firearms is an option? Has outlawing heroin, crack cocaine, meth, or similar items ever deterred those determined to find and use such? Does anyone truly believe that a determined killer couldn’t manufacture a pipe bomb or an incendiary or poison gas device capable of wreaking havoc on large numbers of people?

There are many other questions, but I’ll close with this thought:

Yes, firearms are only a tool and, yes, the ultimate common factor in every one of these incidents is a deranged human, but we firearm owners need to silently think about the last moments of, and the abject terror felt by, the children who were slaughtered and ask ourselves if there’s more that we can do.

If not, I believe we’re going to be the receiving end of a harsh backlash that’s building amongst the majority in society who are neither pro- nor anti-gun, but who are tired of the increasing carnage.

And that’s truly something for us to consider.

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

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