“We are healthy only to the extent that our ideas are humane.” — Kilgore Trout, in Breakfast of Champions by Kurt Vonnegut
I have some bona fides about guns. I carried an M-16 as an infantryman in Vietnam. I carried a .38 caliber revolver during a ten-year portion of my career. I believe that in the U.S., there is a crisis of epic proportions.
Other countries don’t have the mass killings as often as we do. As the horror in Uvalde, Texas, was revealed, one commentator said, “Guns don’t kill people. Americans kill people.”
Our citizenry has similar frequencies of mental illness as other counties. Similar frequency of criminality. What’s different here? We have availability of guns unknown in comparable countries.
We have the availability of weapons like the AR-15, and its many clones. Magazines with high capacities for rifles and handguns. In Texas, turning 18 years of age is sufficient to qualify for buying guns.Yet, one needs to be 21 to legally buy a beer.
One needs to be licensed to operate an automobile, and must be tested periodically to renew the operator’s license. Conviction of a felony, and court ordered commitment for psychiatric hospitalization may disqualify one from legally buying a gun – otherwise, go get ‘em.
We have one party in our country that seeks to advance “gun rights,” the one that likes to be called the “Pro Life Party.” Luminaries of the Republican Party are to speak this weekend at the NRA convention. I suppose they will address the Uvalde massacre, and may offer some thoughts and prayers and other pabulum on the issue.
One commentator last night said, “Americans love guns more than we love our children.” He cited the recent killings at Robb Elementary School, in Uvalde, Texas, and other horrific examples, as proof of that contention.
I did some work in a county south of Grand Rapids. One of my appointments was to assess the suitability of grandparents to serve as legal guardians of a boy of elementary school age. At my initial home visit, I found that the grandparents had a gun cabinet that contained numerous long guns, handguns and ammunition. It was out in the open, and it was unlocked.
The grandfather was proud of his collection of firearms. There were no trigger locks. No lock on the doors of the gun cabinet. I asked the grandfather how he insured that the child, who was living there, was kept away from the guns.
“Oh,” he said, “I told him not to go by the guns.” Sure, what could ever go wrong with that? Grandpa thought that was just fine, and instructing the young child provided sufficient protection. I did not.
We reached an accommodation that was agreeable to the family, and to the court. Some safeguards were put into place to monitor compliance.
What are common sense gun laws? We hear that question from time to time, usually after someone cites how most Americans favor common sense gun laws. I think it might be worth considering what might NOT be common sense. For example:
• Is it common sense to sell military weaponry to civilians, for hunting and target practice?
• Is it common sense to expect that if someone finds themselves in the unlikely position of having to defend their home from dangerous intruders, that a hunting rifle would be insufficient for that purpose?
• Is it common sense that high capacity magazines for rifles and handguns serve some sort of useful purpose?
• Is it common sense that an elderly, untrained, obviously somewhat confused person can, by virtue of attaining the age of majority, and being felony free, be unfettered from purchasing a gun? (I watched that happen one day, at the Sheriff’s Department, and saw the man walk out with a permit to purchase a handgun).
• Is it common sense that safe storage of firearms is suggested, but not required?
• Is it common sense that more attention to prayerfulness will make a difference? Haven’t the believers been praying since Sandy Hook?