A Necessary Conversation

December 19, 2012

My heart, like the rest of America's, has been broken over the massacre of innocent students and teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary.  As the news kept coming in (and being misreported quite a bit), it just got worse and worse.  At the end of the day, we knew the graveness of the situation and I know that I had a very difficult time processing what had occurred.  I find myself caught between wanting to turn off the television completely, but also wanting to know every victim's story and survivor's story and even the story of the gunman himself.  Why?  I desperately want to know why he chose this school.  What is the link there?  I want to know why his mother, given the history of mental instability in this boy, had firearms, especially a semi-automatic weapon, in her home. 

Naturally, both sides of the gun-control debate have voiced their opinions and concerns about the need (or not) for tighter restrictions on who can purchase weapons and what types of weapons should be legal.  I live in the South, the rural South.  By and large, people here like guns.  I grew up around guns.  My dad has always had rifles and handguns.  He used to hunt when Anna and I were little, but in the past two or three decades, he has enjoyed target shooting at a range and even here at my house.  I am not scared of guns.  I was taught to respect them.  I've fired them, but I'm not sure I could do it if my husband or my dad wasn't there to walk me through the process.  We have, at different times, had various types of guns in our house.  We have one right now even though my husband hasn't hunted in ten years or so. 

I do believe that the second amendment is still important to life as we know it in America.  I don't see any problem with law-abiding adults purchasing and keeping firearms in their homes.  I really don't have a problem with a private citizen who has been thoroughly trained carrying a weapon on their person.  But, a real conversation about gun control must take place if we want to look at ways to prevent further bloodshed of innocent and unsuspecting people.  Not everyone who wants a gun -- felon or not -- should be able to purchase one.  There are lots of possibilities to safeguard against guns getting into the wrong hands that wouldn't compromise the average sportsman's rights.

For the life of me, I cannot fathom why a responsible person would want or need an assault-style weapon in their home.  I assume they offer some sort of adrenaline rush, but so do certain serious illegal drugs.  I have such a problem with the statement "guns don't kill people, people do."  Well, yes, the gun has to have an operator.  (In general, I have a problem with any sort of one-liner response to anything -- it makes the person saying it sound uneducated -- like all they can offer in terms of an argument is one little line they've heard before.  Be original and think for yourselves, people.)  No one, even the person with the concealed handgun that they are legally permitted to carry, can efficiently arm themselves against a spray of bullets coming from a Bushmaster.

The NRA is supposed to be releasing a statement today about their willingness to contribute to serious discussion about gun control.  I am very interested in hearing what they will say.  Both sides of this issue are going to have to get real about rights and responsibilities and restrictions.  Those of us for whom guns are an important part of our culture are going to have to consider that the rest of the world isn't like us.  We may have to wait a longer period of time to receive clearance to purchase a weapon.  Gun shows may have to be shut down as those loopholes allow a huge number of illegal sales to happen.  We may have to pass a psychological test in order to buy a gun or have clearance from a physician.  I don't think any of those options are unrealistic.  I don't feel like they take away my rights.  I feel like they put into place a system that might work toward preventing future massacres of innocent people.

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