Enough: Time to Do Something About Guns
By barbara mcallisTER
Special to The Pilot
On Sunday, Dec. 16, I watched TV coverage of one of the most horrifying shootings in our nation's history.
One week later, I read an opinion piece in The Pilot in which Robert Levy attempted to convince us that no legal remedy is needed to what has become an epidemic in our society.
Instead, Mr. Levy talked about antibiotics and viruses, and offered his diagnosis of Adam Lanza as a "depraved narcissist."
He stated: "If Newtown has spurred us to any action, it should be a professional search for the root cause and cure for a worldwide public mental health problem." He offered no support for legislation that would strengthen regulations relating to the sale of weapons. Instead, he talked about the right to bear arms.
Certainly Adam Lanza had the right to bear arms, as did his mother, who purchased a .223-caliber Bushmaster rifle and two pistols (a Glock and a Sig Sauer) and apparently taught her son to fire them efficiently - well enough to kill 20 young children in less than 10 minutes.
Last year, 32,000 Ameri-cans died from gunshot wounds; 11,000 of those deaths were homicides - a rate 12 times the average of other civilized countries. Other countries do experience mass shootings despite strict gun control laws.
Levy cites a 1996 school shooting in the United Kingdom as evidence that gun control does not work - but fails to mention that there are only about 50 homicides every year in England and Wales. The U.S. rate is 30 times the rate in France and Australia.
Of course, Levy does not believe these low homicide rates are due to the limited number of guns available in other countries. He believes, instead, that we cannot "stop school shootings by disarming everyone in hopes that a murderer will be disarmed too." Sensible gun regulation does not demand that an individual's right to bear arms be denied, but it does require the recognition that gun ownership carries enormous responsibilities.
Laws should require thorough background checks for every firearm that is sold (or gifted), whether at a gun show, in a gun shop, or between private parties. Laws should regulate the size of clips that can be manufactured for semi-automatic weapons. Assault weapons should be banned for purchase by any private citizen.
And gun ownership should require at least the same degree of training necessary for anyone wishing to drive an automobile. None of these requirements would affect Mr. Levy's - or any qualified American's - ability to buy a gun for hunting, sport shooting or home protection.
But now we are told by Levy and others that mental health is the issue, or that pop culture is to blame. The truth is there will always be disturbed people. But such people are not just in America. They exist all over the world, in many countries with significantly lower shooting deaths. And they exist even where mental health support is available.
For example, Robert Stewart sought help from a mental health treatment center in Robbins on the Friday before he used a .357 caliber handgun, a .22 Magnum semi-automatic pistol, and a 12-gauge shotgun to kill seven elderly residents and a nurse at Pinelake Health and Rehab in Carthage the following Sunday.
And there are people all over the world who are influenced by the violence that is often part of modern popular culture. For example, the Japanese are on the cutting edge of video games, but their gun homicide rate is close to zero. Perhaps it's because they have the tightest gun laws in the industrialized world.
I was a teacher for 38 years, and I am a mother. As I watched reports from Newtown and listened to the anguished sobs of parents whose children had been killed, I thought about the kids I taught - and my own grandchildren. I thought about their right to live, their right to grow and learn, and their right to be all they can be - rights denied the children of Newtown by a troubled young man who had a right to carry the weapons he used.
I must admit that Adam Lanza's right to bear arms never entered my head. Instead, I thought: "This is enough."
Barbara McAllister is a retired teacher living in Southern Pines.
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