To the politicians in our country who actually have the power to do something about it: if you are part of the "thoughts and prayers" crowd, then you are part of the problem and this continuing epidemic of mass murder, the likes of which is only seen in the US, is blood on your hands. Over and over again, we see Republican politicians offering their "thoughts and prayers" to families who have been torn apart in the worst way imaginable, and then they offer nothing else. These same politicians say "now is not the time" to talk about how or why these murders have occurred, and that the families of victims must have "time to mourn" before any political action takes place. These platitudes have become code words that mean "we are not going to do anything to change this terrible situation," and those same families are left behind to mourn the senseless deaths of their children along with the knowledge that their children will not be the last to die in this way. I watched an interview this morning with the mother of a child who had been killed in the Sandy Hook massacre and it was utterly heartbreaking. She explained how every time one of these killings take place, she re-experiences the moment that she knew her own child had been murdered. We claim, here in the US, to be the most advanced, even perhaps the greatest, society that has ever existed on Earth. If that were true, how can this be happening? Why can't we do anything to stop this?
I do NOT want the government to come to the homes of sane, law-abiding citizens and take away their guns. I recognize that complete disarmament in the way that Australia and other countries have done is not possible here. What I hope for is that we can move towards a time when the citizens of this country will no longer feel like they need to have lethal weapons in their homes to protect themselves, and everyone will give up their guns willingly. Until such a time, there are some things that really need to happen. I am in favor of a wide variety of effortsthat can be made right now to increase gun safety, that have been suggested by people on both the left and right political poles of this debate. Here are a few of them:
1) Sadly, I think that armed security guards (preferably police) may be needed on site at schools to protect the children. This is an awful thing to think about, but the reality is that there are already so many guns out there now that any enforcement measures we put in place will not be fully comprehensive. Until such a time as those measures can become fully effective, the children of this country need to be protected as best as we can do it. I think asking teachers to carry guns is a ridiculous idea, schools need to be protected by professionals who are trained to handle these situations.
2) Background checks with no loopholes must be done on ALL transfers of firearms to screen for mental illness and/or a documented history of domestic violence and other violent crimes. Sales of guns at stores and conventions should ALL be subject to these background checks, no exceptions. Also, lets not forget that the gun Dylan Roof used to commit mass murder in Charleston, SC, last year was given to him as a gift by his father. If a background check had been done, his mental illness and violent ideology might have been uncovered and he might have been prevented from committing that crime. So I say ALL transfers of gun ownership - purchases, gifts, inheritance, whatever - must be subject to a background check. So, as I said above, if you are a sane, law-abiding citizen, nothing about your right to own a gun will change.
3) The more harsh side of this is that I think that anyone who enables someone else to obtain a firearm without going through the proper background checks should also be punished, severely. There must be consequences on the supply side of all of this. If you supply a gun to someone without following the law to the letter, I think you should be held partly responsible for whatever crimes are committed with that gun. There needs to be some reason why gun sellers should follow the law, the threat of prison time would be a good reason. Likewise, leaving your gun unsecured where it can easily be stolen (like in the glove compartment of your car), should make you liable for whatever the thief does with your gun. There has to be accountability here. Nobody is saying you can't own a gun, but if you do choose to own a weapon that can be used to commit mass murder, then you should be responsible for that weapon and whatever is done with it. If Republicans really wanted to end illegal immigration, they would do something like this. By creating stiffer penalties and actually enforcing existing laws against American citizens who HIRE illegal immigrants, the problem of illegal immigration would be largely wiped out. The same could be true of background checks.
4) Background check laws MUST be enacted at the federal level, it is not OK to leave it up to the states. Let's be totally clear - there is not a rush of illegal firearms crossing the border from Mexico and ending up in the hands of murderers here in the US. The guns used to commit crimes are, for the most part, purchased legally in the US and then turned to criminal purposes sometime later. Whether it be through a legal transaction, straw man purchase, gun show loophole, or whatever, the guns are originating in the US - border security is not a solution. Background checks must be a federal law, because the states have too much variability in their policies. Everyone is aware that gun crimes among the African American communities in Chicago are totally out of control, but do you also know that Illinois has some of the strongest gun control laws in the US? The problem is that Indiana, right next door, has some of the weakest gun control laws (thanks Mike Pence!), so someone who would be ineligible to buy a gun in Illinois needs only to drive across the border to Indiana and suddenly the gun may be available. This subverts the entire system and makes it meaningless. A federal law that affects all states equally is the only way to reign in the inequalities of the system. A fun fact is that there is currently an epidemic of illegal firearms in the hands of drug cartels in Mexico, and the biggest source for those guns has been legal purchases in the US!
5) Finally, gun manufacturers need to step up on this. So far, the gun manufacturers and their propaganda machine which we call the National Rifle Association have done nothing except weaken existing laws and terrorize any Republican politician who even whispers the phrase "gun control." My phone has a lock on it that I can open with my thumb print instantly, why can't guns have this security feature? The utterly sickening statistics of young children who accidentally kill themselves, or someone else, with unsecured, loaded guns could be wiped out by this one requirement. If the law said that all guns need to have fingerprint ID locks, so much of what we are going through now could be avoided. For home defense, the gun could be kept safely by your bedside with no worries that your child might accidentally fire it off, but it could be ready to protect you and your family just by touching your finger to the trigger. Thieves who steal guns would have to go through the difficult process of hacking into the gun's computer code before the gun could be used, so gun-related crimes would plummet. This more than anything would change the nature of this debate - a simple safety feature easily available with today's technology. And yet, we can't get it done.
The time is coming when we may have a choice on the direction our country is proceeding. The entire House of Representatives is up for election this year, as are many Senate seats and literally thousands of state legislature positions. We could make common sense gun legislation, that keeps deadly weapons capable of mass murder out of the hands of criminals, children, and insane people, a major part of this election cycle. Vote out those who are weak on this issue and vote in those who take a strong stance against irresponsible gun use. How many more of these tragedies will we endure and then forget? At least if it is not our child that was murdered... Is this who we are? Is this what America is? Your vote counts this year. Ignore the vagaries of personality/public image and FOCUS on the issues that are important to you. Look for those politicians who are speaking out against the insanity of our gun culture and are proposing solutions and vote them into office. I pledge to do so. We, the citizens of this nation, have not yet lost our fundamental power, our ability to vote according to our conscience, but if we do not use it, even for such obvious things as this, then we may find that it is truly gone when we need it the most.