Former Governor Cecil D. Andrus said it best: I never met a deer armed with an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle.
He’s well known as a sportsman who gets his elk and deer annually for the family larder, and fills the edges of the freezer with pheasants, ducks, geese, wild turkeys and chukars, all of which he hunts annually. This past fall he nailed his six-point bull elk with one shot at 340 yards.
He fundamentally supports the Second Amendment right of a citizen to keep and bear arms. He does not believe, as some interpreters of the Constitution do, that the right is meant just for a militia. That said he also believes common sense has to be applied. That means society can through Congress sanction reasonable curbs such as banning cop-killer bullets and imposing waiting periods before purchase.
The tragedy and the carnage at Sandy Hill Elementary demands at a minimum re-opening the debate on whether there should be a restoration of an outright ban on the sale of semi-automatic assault rifles and their incredibly lethal magazines (up to a hundred rounds in some cases.).
AR-15’s and other semi-automatic rifles are built for one purpose: to kill human beings. They are neither a hunting rifle, nor usually a sporting or target shooting rifle. They are a lethal weapon meant to kill. Only police agencies and the military should have them. One can defend his castle from any home invader with a Glock 21 semi-automatic .45 caliber pistol, or a shotgun.
The problem of course is when the Brady Bill ban on the sale of these weapons and their magazines was allowed by Congress to expire, people could legally buy them and many gun collectors as well as individuals have. Common sense says we’re not going to confiscate these legally acquired weapons.
Rather than focus first on the irresolvable debate over whether stricter controls on the sale of these weapons could make elementary schools safer, there ought to be a focus on establishing ways of identifying and intervening with individuals who have mental issues and almost always are heard by someone saying they are going to exit this world and take a bunch of innocent people with them.
Meaningful intervention means society is going to have to cough up a lot more funding to address mental health issues and fund campaigns on television and radio urging people to report on “rats.” Set up toll free lines that can be directed to agencies who can legally engage in preventative detention and also direct concerned parents to services that will help them deal with a troubled son or daughter.
We also have to make part of the debate some way of discouraging these awful video games young people are consumed with playing which glorify action heroes who gun down their enemies by the hundreds. Bottom line is in our culture we glorify violence and encourage people to think they can be Lone Rangers taking the law into their own hand to wreak vengeance.
In the debate over possible restoration of the ban on automatic weapons, if not a ban then we should insist on examining better registration requirements as well as longer waiting periods before sanctioning a sale. Additionally, we should consider prohibiting gifting these weapons as well as an outright ban on their sale at gun shows across the nation.
There is no single simple answer to trying to minimize the circumstances that lead to these tragedies. Placing more restrictions on the millions of legitimate owners is simply feel good legislation that harasses the law abiding.
A combination though of both ways to identify and intervene with these deranged individuals, while making it tougher for them to acquire the kind of lethal fire power an AR-15 has to create absolute carnage seems to be a good starting point.
Let’s not fool ourselves either. It will take more money to fund properly mental health intervention programs as well as monitor the stricter controls on sales of automatic weapons and place more police “resource officers” in public schools.
We all pay lip service though to the belief that children are the future. As a society we just have no choice but to step up to the responsibility to ensure they are truly protected in their schools, their homes and on the streets. We best walk the talk.
President Obama can get the debate going by unilaterally announcing in six months he will sign executive orders placing more funding through ObamaCare into mental health prevention programs and the reinstating tighter controls on the sale of assault weapons.
Let the debate begin.