Las Vegas Sun

May 22, 2015

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WHERE I STAND:

Urgency for sanity in gun culture

There are 20 dead children in Connecticut. We can no longer throw our hands up in the air and do nothing.

Every parent, every grandparent, every family member and friend to anyone with a 5-year-old child in this country cannot listen to the incredibly horrific news that flooded the airwaves Friday and ignore what that news means to every one of us.

These were our children. And we let them get slaughtered at school by some madman who came to their classrooms, armed to the teeth, with the ability to destroy them in seconds. Yes, we let that happen.

As a grandparent, I have been horrified since this news broke because I know that this sickness could have spilled onto any school in this country. It was not confined to the Sandy Hook School in Newtown, Conn. It could have been where my little ones go to school, looking forward only to playing and laughing and learning. Or where your kids or your neighbors’ kids or your friends’ little children go off every morning to school.

It’s easy to say that we can’t imagine what those parents and grandparents are feeling after having been told that their children will never go home with them from school again. That really isn’t true, is it? The fact of the matter is that every one of us is imagining the worst kind of horror.

And all that does, or should do, is force us to do something about the senseless tragedies that we allow to happen over and over again.

On the cable news channels Friday, in between the reports of the unfolding tragic circumstances, the mounting death toll and the images of parents in states of shock we would never wish upon our worst enemies, came various spokesmen from one group or another who, at the end of their reactive comments, all but threw their hands up as if to say, “But what can we do about some nutcase intent on destroying innocent life?”

That’s what we have been saying to ourselves for years. We said it after Columbine. We said it after other massacres in Colorado, California, Wisconsin and, most recently, after a shopping mall in Oregon. But this time that just won’t work. Nobody, no culture, no country should just be allowed to throw up its hands when faced with the murder of 20 little children.

The irony of what happened Friday was made clear to me when I reflected on a conversation I had the day before. A good friend of mine from Arizona, Mike, who is as Republican as a fellow can get, was telling me that even though he is a lifetime member of the National Rifle Association, that group refused to invite him to be on its board of directors. Why? Because he believes the NRA’s position on assault rifles and multi-round ammunition clips is absurd.

Simply put, my friend lives in a real world where slippery slopes really don’t exist but that psychotically driven madmen do exist — and they buy these weapons and turn them on innocent life with no rhyme or reason. And the last place the NRA wants to hear rational thought on the subject of sensible gun control is coming from the mouths of its own board members.

I thought immediately of that conversation when the news came of the sick human being who shot so many small children and adults in such a short period of time. Those babies didn’t have a chance.

But we do. We have a chance now to make sure those deaths were not in vain. President Barack Obama, unable to hold back the tears of the father he is, told this country that we must finally do something, regardless of the political consequences.

What that means is gun control. It should also mean a cultural change in the way we treat those in our midst who don’t appear “normal.” We need the freedom to question that which doesn’t seem right and those who don’t sound or act right. Not for any bad purpose but on the chance that someone may be close to that edge where an intervention could save lives and, frankly, help the individual in question.

As the investigation into this sickening act continues, we will learn more and perhaps learn lessons about how a repeat of such an incident can be avoided. But there is one truth we do not have to learn again, and that is that guns really do kill people. And automatic weapons with extra-large clips kill a lot of people. A lot of small, very young people. And that just can’t be tolerated anymore.

This can no longer be a fight between those who believe in the Second Amendment and those who don’t. Almost every person I know believes in the right of Americans to keep and bear arms. What it should be, though, is a fight between those who irrationally believe that reasonable regulation will lead to the government confiscation of our guns and those who think that common sense will save innocent children’s lives.

We can and should have the debate about whether we want to be one of the most culturally violent countries in the world or whether we want to be the kind of country where gun violence rarely exists.

Those kids could have lived and gone to school in Nevada, a place that reveres its guns and worships the Second Amendment. Had that happened here, the likelihood is that many of those children would have come from homes where guns were present and whose owners belonged to the NRA.

Imagine that. And then imagine the price you would have just paid for an argument that can’t possibly make sense anymore.

It is well past the time when we must put sanity back into a country that loves its guns. That’s because we should love our children more.

Brian Greenspun is publisher and editor of the Las Vegas Sun.

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