Dec 132013

Tomorrow is the Newtown anniversary — a haunting, horrible day that America must never forget. I intended to write about it today. As I sat down, I turned on the television.

There’s an active shooter in a Colorado school. Hundreds of high school students are marching out of the school with their hands up — a protocol designed so that potential shooters won’t pull a gun in the crowd.  Certainly not a typical afternoon at an American school.  Or is it?

Nothing has changed.  And I’m mad about it, and I don’t know what to do, how to help. I don’t totally fault the guns,  nor do I totally fault the failure of our healthcare system in dealing with the mentally ill. It’s complicated. But, damn it, mentally ill young men cannot shoot up a school and potentially kill and injury dozens if they have no access to a firearm.

This past March, I wrote this:

When will it happen again? Will I be a victim when I am volunteering as I did this morning at our local rehabilitation center? Or will it be my husband at the university? Will it be our son, interning on Capitol Hill? Or my nephew in his Big Ten university classroom?  Will it be my father, listening to his Representative at his senior center?

Last year Americans experienced 12 mass shootings.  When the last one happened at Newtown, CT, and 26 people, including 20 young children, were gunned down in a public school, the phrase of “never again” rang for a few weeks.

This week, U.S. Senator Harry Reid announced that the Senate will focus on other priorities. Today if you listen to the 24/7 punditocracy, the assault weapons bill is dead despite the hard work of U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein, for whom this is personal.  If you are too young to remember or didn’t see Sean Penn in “Milk,” Senator Feinstein was the San Francisco Board of Supervisors president when Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk were assassinated in 1978.  Feinstein discovered Milk’s body.

Who is to blame for the untimely death of this bill?  Is it the right, the NRA, or the Democrats who won’t get on board?  The Senate–which the last time I looked was flying the Blue Flag above the Red Flag–lacks twenty votes to pass it.

Our own Indiana junior Senator, the Democrat who beat Richard Mourdock, will apparently vote against the assault weapon bill. Senator Donnelly holds an A rating from the NRA.

If you’d asked any American last December if now is the time to ban high capacity magazines or pass legislation for universal registration, most would have said yes.  Who could have believed after the horror of Newtown that a new gun bill would be dead on arrival just three months later?

Yet CNN posted the following several days ago, “A new national poll suggests that support for major restrictions on guns may be fading, three months after the horrific shootings at an elementary school in Connecticut.”

Although a majority of Americans favored major restrictions on guns or an outright ban in the wake of the shootings in Newtown when a heavily armed gunman killed 20 young students and six adults, a new CNN/ORC International survey indicates that support has tumbled to just 43%, as more time has passed since that December tragedy.”

The article explained that support has dropped in primarily two groups — older Americans and those who live in rural areas.

As a slightly-past-middle-aged American who lives in a rural area, I can speak to this. Many of us in rural America are steeped in gun culture from the time we are born. I came from a farm background.  Believe me, most farmers don’t cry at the end of “Old Yeller.”

Throughout history, farmers and cowmen tamed the wild and the west with guns.  Right or wrong, that is how America was built. My husband’s father hunted raccoons for sport and raised “coon” dogs for that purpose.  My grandfather enjoyed hunting pheasant (quail) with his friends. When my son was in Boy Scouts, it was a natural he would take shooting class for a merit badge.

I also know people who collect guns and other weapons for sport.  When I served on hospital management teams, I was twice faced with employees who demanded they be allowed to bring their handgun to work.  One was a secretary and the other was a night nurse. Both the secretary and the nurse feared something – the secretary feared walking to the parking garage at night in this rough urban neighborhood in Tampa, Florida, while the nurse feared walked in the country parking lot of this rural hospital in southwestern Indiana.  This was before the federal policy against weapons in hospitals kicked in.  I later learned that many nurses kept handguns in surgery locker rooms.

Today things have changed.  You can’t have a weapon in a hospital. You don’t need a thirty-clip magazine to shoot one of the two white-tailed deer your hunting license allows each fall.  But the gun culture still prevails. Drive around my town and you’ll see plenty of trucks with gun racks.

I have a modest proposal that might make everyone happy. Let’s follow the Constitution to the letter of the law and give everyone a gun.  Every man, woman and child in the United States.  While current gun owners have more than 300 million guns which is more than the population of the US, that’s not what I’m talking about.
I want the federal government to issue everyone a gun.

A musket.

And a stack of musket balls.

That fulfills the Second Amendment and we are then all equally armed.

Who’s with me?  If this modest proposal doesn’t meet your needs, how about this instead?  How about writing your Democratic Senator and making sure he or she will get an affirmative vote on a reasonable assault weapons ban, one that supports universal background checks and reduces the ability of purchasing high capacity magazines. Easy to do.  Click on this link to find your person.

Published December 13, 2013 at The Broad Side. Please comment there.

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