Tuesday, December 18, 2012

We need gun control - NOW

This post marks the first time that I have ever addressed a domestic political issue in my blog.  Like everyone else in the USA and worldwide, I was stunned and horrified by the news of the murder of 20 innocent children and 6 adults at an elementary school.  I still find it unimaginable that parents could send their children to school, and those kids could be murdered at school.  The callous slaughter of 20 children aged 6 and 7 is horrific beyond belief.  I also remember that this murderer slaughtered his own mother before embarking on this carnage.  I thought I'd seen it all in terms of human atrocity, but apparently I was wrong.

Like many other people, I haven't really slept well since this horrific act of evil occurred.  I am stunned and outraged that parents are being forced to bury their small children.  Yesterday, Noah Pozner and Jack Pinto, aged 6, were buried.  This tragey seems almost incomprehensible to me.  Now the kids are afraid to go to school, and their parents are afraid to send them.  I believe this atrocity must be defined as an act of evil, as far beyond the pale or civilized human behavior.  I think that seeking 'explanations' for this atrocity is an insult to the victims and does nothing to solve the underlying problems which caused it.

I honestly didn't think we would ever get gun control back in this country again.  I remember the murder of 6 children at a school in Stockton, CA, in 1989, that led to the passage of an assault weapons ban in 1994.  Sadly the Columbine massacre that killed 12 high school kids occurred even when the ban was in place, thus showing that even such policies are an imperfect solution which cannot prevent every tragedy. 

But the ban was allowed to expire in 2004 under the Bush Administration, and since then our country has experienced a wave of increasing gun atrocities.  The slaughter began at Virginia Tech, where a deranged killer murdered 32 students and teachers.  Since President Obama took office, the U.S. has suffered more horrific incidents of gun violence.  The crimes include the murder of six people and the head injury to Congresswoman Gabby Giffords in Tuscon, AZ in January, 2011;; the movie theatre massacre of 12 people in Aurora, CO, in July, 2012; and the massacre of 6 people at a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, WI.  None of these events seemed to make any difference in terms of changing hearts and minds.

But something inside the hearts and minds of civilized society has changed because of the moral revulsion against the gun violence.  I applaud Joe Scarborough, a former Republican Congressman, for having the moral courage to re-evaluate his position on gun control in light of this slaughter.  Mr. Scarborough, like most Americans, is a father of four children.  And as a father, he knows that his first responsibility is to protect his children.  Mr. Scarborough is a gun rights supporter, but he now understands that assault rifles are a danger to public safety and should be banned. 
Even supporters of gun rights need to realize the necessity of limiting those rights in the interests of public safety.  I can understand the desire of some American families to own hunting rifles for purposes of sporting entertainment.  I recognize that some Americans choose to own handguns for their personal protection in their own homes.  But fully automatic and semi-automatic weapons are designed for military and police purposes, and they are not remotely necessary for anyone seeking legitimate measures of self-defense.  The worst massacres in recent times, such as Viriginia Tech in 2007, the Aurora slaughter in 2012, and now the Sandy Hook School shooting, have been committed by deranged young males carrying assault rifles and vast quantities of rapid fire ammunition.  Tehse weapons and ammunition are designed for hunting - human beings. 
These weapons, along with excessively large and fast magazine clips, must be banned immediately.  Daniel Barden, 6, was murdered in the Sandy Hook School shooting.  His bereaved older sister wrote a message to President Obama asking for gun control.   Anderson Cooper read aloud her plea on CNN tonight.  I second her plea, and I invite my Republican and Conservative friends to join me in supporting the ban on assault rifles and fast and dangerous magazine clips.  
I believe that gun control advocates must also treat our political opponents and their opinions with respect.  I greatly applaud Piers Morgan, host of a CNN political show, for his passionate advocacy of gun control from a British perspective.  But on two occasions he subjected gun rights advocates to verbal and psychological abuse on his show, berating them for their opinions and ideas, interrupting and bullying them, and attempting to silence them.   He said tonight to one gun rights advocate,"You are an incredibly stupid man."  I may not agree with the views of gun rights supporters, but I am obligated to treat them with elementary dignity.  A civilized dialogue must be based upon respect for gun rights advocates as human beings.  Gun rights advocates must be given the freedom to express their beliefs without being shouted down.  We must learn to respectfully disagree with our opponents and to express ideological differences without resorting to personal attacks and verbal abuse. 
My final point is in response to the African American commentator Tavis Smiley.  I think that as a result of racism and classism, the systematic murder of poor African-American children and youths  does not receive the media and public attention that it deserves.  African Americans represent 15 % of all children and youths in the U.S. but accounted for a staggering 45% of the child and teen victims of gun violence in 2008. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/tavis-smiley/blood-on-our-hands_1_b_2318962.html Thus, African-Americans children and teens are three times more likely to be murdered by guns than kids and teens of other races.  Any national discussion of gun control policies is incomplete and inadequate if it does not address the issue of gun violence among poor African-American inner city communities. 

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