It’s been one week since 31 people were killed in mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio. It’s worth pointing out that those two shootings followed another, one week earlier, in Gilroy, California, where three people, including a 6-year-old and a 13-year-old, were killed by an angry guy with a gun.
Amid all this, many Americans are calling for more gun laws. Democrats have offered a wide array, from universal background checks and raising the minimum-age requirements to suing gun manufacturers and banning assault-style weapons.
Some Republican lawmakers have expressed an openness, but how sincere and serious they are remains to be seen.
For years, I’ve gone on television and made the case for the Second Amendment – the right to bear arms. I’ve pointed out that criminals don’t follow gun laws, and I’ve defended the NRA and its members – law-abiding gun owners like me who have nothing to do with mass shootings or violent gun crimes. I’ve done that because I am a gun owner and a gun-rights advocate. And I believed it was true.
But I am no longer a NRA member. Being right no longer feels righteous. Because in the wake of more mass shootings, acts of senseless violence that sent innocent people running for their lives, leaving children orphaned and loved ones dead on the ground, I know we must do something about guns.
We have a problem in this country – and the problem is hate.
One of the things we must do to begin to solve our hate problem is to put down our metaphorical weapons, our defenses, our special interests – and be honest about the role that guns play in this culture of hate in America.
And the honest, simple answer is, it is too easy for too many sick people to get their hands on guns. People with the kind of hate in their hearts as the El Paso and Dayton shooters, the Sutherland Springs and Charleston church shooters, the Las Vegas and San Bernardino shooters – they’re not going to be cured of their hate by taking away their guns.
But we also don’t need to just hand them a killing device and 100 rounds of ammunition and say, “don’t do anything bad with these.”
A kid whose ex-girlfriend says he showed her a video of a mass shooting on a first date, whose former classmates say he had a “hit list” of people he wanted to kill or rape, should never have had access to a gun of any kind. Period.
Domestic abusers should never have access to a gun of any kind. Period. People who make violent threats against individuals or groups of people should be taken extremely seriously, investigated thoroughly and ultimately (maybe) never have access to a gun of any kind. Period.
Our guns laws should make it harder, if not impossible, for people who hate to carry out their violent fantasies. And, right now, our gun laws make it too damn easy.
Where to begin? How about passing universal background checks, instituting violence restraining orders, raising the age of gun purchases to 21, banning 100-round drums, fixing our National Instant Criminal Background Check System and investing in mental health inside our schools? These things cannot wait.
I am so sick and tired of participating in this predictable cycle of politics, where a mass shooting happens, the left calls for new gun laws – some meaningful, some unproductive – the right yells “slippery slope” and hides behind the Constitution.
Nothing happens, nothing changes. And with the next mass shooting, we do it all over again.
I love the Constitution. But it’s still a document, meant to protect human beings and ensure their life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
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What lives are we protecting when we arm a 21-year-old alleged white supremacist with 100 rounds of ammunition only so he can shoot up dozens of people at a Walmart, including the parents of a 2-month-old child? What liberty are we protecting if we don’t feel safe at the mall or walking down the street? What happiness are we protecting if our children are afraid to go to school?
I know, I will be accused of letting my emotions get in the way of facts here. I’ve made that accusation before myself. But this is an emotional issue. How could it not be? In fact, it should be more emotional – and to my friends in the Republican Party, at the NRA, on the side of gun rights, if you’re not emotional about this – join me, won’t you?
Let’s start with emotion. There’s a lot we can accomplish if we start as humans – not as NRA lobbyists or gun control lobbyists, not as special interest groups or politicians. But humans – moms and dads, brothers and sisters, friends and colleagues – because we have everything to lose if we don’t.