To the Editor:
If we want to discuss guns in America, why not begin with something almost everyone can agree on? There are too many tragic mass shootings and gun deaths in our country. According to the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, every day, on average, 270 Americans, 47 of them children and teens, are shot in murders, assaults, suicides, accidents and police intervention. Every day, on average, 87 Americans, 8 of them children and teens, die from gun violence. Perhaps we could have a less emotional discussion about guns if we talked, not about "gun control" but instead talked about "gun safety." If 270 Americans got sick every day from tainted fruits and vegetables, and 87 of those Americans died every day, everyone would be demanding greater "food safety." Why aren't we demanding greater "gun safety?"
Many contend that "they are trying to take all of our guns away" or that "they are trying to disarm the civilian population." There is no evidence to back up these statements. Actually, what they are trying to do is to prevent 270 Americans from getting shot every day.
Many advocate armed guards in every school. Would the presence of an armed guard at Sandy Hook Elementary School prevented or minimized the slaughter? Perhaps. But Columbine High School had an armed guard present during that massacre and his presence did not prevent the slaughter. Let's ask ourselves "Is this the best we can offer our children?" It's Johnny's first day of kindergarten and his principal greets him with a 9mm strapped to her waist. Is that really what we want? But if it keeps Johnny safe, it's one option. Another option is to get rid of semi-automatic assault weapons with high-capacity clips. These weapons are designed to kill a lot of people and to do it quickly. They were designed for military, not civilian use. They are offensive, not defensive weapons.
An important question is: "Exactly which 'arms' does the Second Amendment give us the right to bear?" When the Second Amendment was ratified in 1791, most "arms" were muskets. Does the Second Amendment cover other "arms?" Handguns? Shotguns? Semi-automatic assault rifles? Automatic assault rifles? Shoulder-held rocket launchers? Grenades? Nuclear, Biological and Chemical Weapons? It makes sense to draw a line somewhere on this list to indicate which weapons, we as a society, are willing to let our citizens bear. Does the Second Amendment give citizens the right to possess nerve gas? I sincerely hope not! And I do not believe it gives citizens the right to possess military-style, offensive semi-automatic assault weapons with high-capacity clips.
Some point out that the American Revolution was successful because the civilian population was armed. That's a small part of the story. The Continental Army and Continental Navy were supplemented by colonial militias. There were more than 400 Militia Groups during the American Revolution, all paid for and regulated by the colony they represented. Vermont had three different militias in 1777, including Ethan Allen's Green Mountain Boys. Today Vermont has two well-regulated militias, the Vermont Army National Guard and the Vermont Air National Guard, collectively referred to as the "Green Mountain Boys." In 1777, if you joined the Green Mountain Boys, you had to BYOG (Bring your own gun). Today's National Guard is not a BYOG organization. Today's National Guard provides weapons and weapons training to those who join. There's no longer any need for citizens to bring their own arms to the battlefield.
No doubt I'll be labeled an "anti-gun zealot" because I have an opinion about gun safety that is not consistent with the NRA's philosophy. I just want Americans to think about the kind of society we want to live in. To this day, I remember how shocked I was to de-board a plane in 1983 in Adana, Turkey and to see soldiers equipped with assault weapons walking around everywhere. Is this what we want? Armed guards in every school, every mall, every theater, every McDonald's, every workplace, every church, every temple, every college campus, every nursing home, every immigration center, every city hall? These are just a few of the places where mass murders have occurred in the US. No, that's not the America I dream of. It's not the America I want my children to grow up in. As a society, surely we can figure out a way to keep 270 Americans from becoming victims of gun violence every day.