In the fall of 1965, while a freshman at Columbia, I took a date by the subway to Greenich Village. It was a warm Saturday evening (Columbia had lost another football game) and the place was abuzz with music and diverse people the likes of which this country boy from Idaho had never seen.. We wandered around for awhile looking at menus in windows and finally went into a coffee shop where a guy with straggle hair and an odd sounding voice was strumming his guitar and banjo while singing away.
The words were haunting though and one song in particular came to be a classic of the baby-boomer generation because it asked some of the unanswerable questions that remain mysteries throughout our lives. The last question of the lyrics sung that evening by then little known Robert Zimmerman from Minnesota (Who soon adopted the nom d’plume of Bob Dylan), popped into my mind early this morning as I watched the CNN coverage of the hate crime and terrorist motivated worst single massacre of innocent people in American history: “Yes, and how many deaths will it take ‘till he knows/That too many people have died?”
The question in the lyrics before is also relevant: “ Yes, and how many ears must one man have/Before he can hear people cry?”
Enough is enough. Too many innocent men, women and children have been killed by lunatics with assault rifles designed for one purpose only--- to kill the maximum number of people as quickly as one can load a new magazine.
For years I have accepted the argument that it would do no good to ban assault weapons and deny legitimate and responsible gun owners their qualified right to own even AR-15s.
No longer. Even the great saint of the NRA, the late Justice Antonin Scalia, said gun ownership can be regulated by society where the interests of public safety predominate over the individual’s qualified right. Thus, government can outlaw carrying weapons into schools, courthouses, and other public gathering places.
The time has come for the outright banning of assault weapons, but that in and of itself is not enough. Responsible gun onwers and the NRA better recognize the changing demographics of this nation especially more and more people living in cities and the suburbs. They are the majority, and if that majority decides their safey lies in banning gun ownership outright they can make it happen.
Thus, it behooves all those who want to preserve their qualified constitutional right to recognize the need to propose meaningful change which the public can see may make a difference and provide a greater degree of protection while lessening the likelihood of becoming a victim.
The answer is to set up a program similar to the programs states have for licensing drivers. Pick a date three years down the road. Anyone who turned 18 before that date is not impacted. Anyone who turns 18 after that date if he wants to own and operate a firearm has to have completed a firearm safety course. Before they can obtain a license they will have to pass a test and pay a fee that covers the cost of the safety course.
As far as I’m concerned the state can contract with the NRA to run the classes. Course instructors, however, must themselves take a course that will help them identify aberrant personalities and when these folks are spotted can require them to undergo a psychiatric evaluation.
Its not perfect, but lets not let the perfect be the enemy of the good. Some thing has to change though and responsible gun owners have to take the lead and step forward. The status quo is no longer going to be acceptable.
“Yes, and how many times can a man turn his head/And pretend that he just doesn’t see?”
The answer is no longer blowin’ in the wind. The answer is for responsible gun owners to step forwad and lead some reasonable changes.