Nine people were killed by a gunman at Umpqua Community College in Oregon
Jay Parini: Let's get rid of guns in this country, once and for all
Editor’s Note: Jay Parini, a poet and novelist, teaches at Middlebury College. He is the author of “Jesus: The Human Face of God.” The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.
This pope has put many urgent questions before us. Are you listening? Will you act?
We can hope this his shoot-from-the-lip nonsense will accomplish two things: Put a stop to this man’s political pretensions and, more importantly, draw attention to the madness of guns in this country.
How many more lives have to be ruined by guns before we finally take them away? And how often do we have to listen to crazy people (including members of the Supreme Court) telling us that the Second Amendment grants every American citizen the right to carry a weapon?
I’m tired of hearing about this “well-regulated militia” that is so necessary for American freedom.
OK, if you want a “well-regulated” militia, get some strong regulations in place. I don’t myself mind if, in addition to the police and the military, there are some self-appointed militias in old-fashioned breeches carrying muskets – that’s the sort of firearm our Founding Fathers knew about. But let’s regulate them.
I suspect that the framers of the Bill of Rights have long since rolled over in their graves. They never meant that ordinary citizens, including crackpots, should be able to buy weapons meant for battlefields. The only people who should be carrying military-style weapons are soldiers and police officers.
And Donald Trump is dead wrong: Teachers should not carry weapons.
I’ve been teaching full-time for 41 years at small colleges, and I can’t imagine what it would mean for me or my colleagues to be armed with handguns or rifles instead of books and a thorough knowledge of our chosen disciplines. In my view, an educational institution is the last place on Earth where anyone should ever dream of having a weapon on hand just in case a madman turns up.
Do we really want our campuses turned into armed camps?
Colleges and classrooms should be havens of tranquility, places where thoughtful discussions occur, where students work together with their teachers to acquire knowledge of the arts and sciences. A campus should be peaceful and peace-loving, and they should be places where arguments are made and defended rationally, with evidence.
The fact that Christopher Harper-Mercer was legally able to acquire so many guns was decried by his own father, Ian Mercer. “How was he able to compile that kind of arsenal?” he wondered aloud, decrying our lack of gun laws. Good for him to say that! It’s been the same problem again and again: madmen get their hands on dangerous weapons. And, too often, they do so legally.
Let me dream for a moment: I would much prefer to live in a country where only hunters who pass appropriately strict tests for mental competence and a knowledge of gun safety can still acquire rifles that are appropriate for hunting. Handguns and assault rifles would be banned, period.
It’s also obvious that handgun ownership, in particular, wildly increases the chances that somebody will die from suicide by using that gun. It’s harder to kill yourself with a knife or razor blade, as studies have shown again and again. And more police officers are killed in areas where there are more weapons around. The facts are not up for grabs here.
There is no safety in gun ownership. Only threat.
So let’s get rid of guns in this country, once and for all, making it a felony to possess a handgun or assault rifle. Over a period of years, illegal guns will gradually disappear. Guns don’t kill people, as they say. People who acquire guns – legally or illegally – do. And we should make it extremely difficult for them to get their hands on these weapons.
In the meantime, let’s send Donald Trump back to the world of skyscrapers and casinos, where he belongs.