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Newtown: The Wake-Up

by John on 12/16/2012

Like you, I am still wobbly.  Yet, as a nation, we need to talk and discuss gun control.  But more specifically, we need to delve into the causes of this unthinkable massacre – and they go hand in hand with — and beyond – gun control.  This is also a health care issue.

Let’s look at the overall facts.

  • December 14, 2012 will change our thinking.  Gabby Giffords and the Aurora shootings were horrific.  Newtown was something the worst horror writer wouldn’t have imagined.  This one is not going away.
  • Gun control advocates are right.  The time to talk is now.  As a nation, there is something wrong.  Too many Americans die from guns compared to the nations.  Too often we say the criminals are better armed than law enforcement.  We have stupid incidents like Plaxico Burress shooting himself accidentally at a night club. 
  • Informed Not Inflamed bottom line: Not talking is only denial.  But we need an all-inclusive discussion that includes gun rights advocates too.
  • Tougher gun laws probably wouldn’t have stopped this tragedy.  These guns were legally bought and stolen.
  • However, tougher gun laws on the type of guns sold might have reduced the carnage.  Assault rifles and large clips of bullets are ridiculous.
  • This is really a Health Care Issue.  The major cause of this massacre is mental illness.  We don’t know what the shooter really suffered from; that will take time to decipher.  The truth is this: we have too many people who are depressed or mentally imbalanced who are walking our streets, living among us, who need help.  
  • Knowing this, or failing to do anything about the mental health issues, leads us to making tougher gun laws.  It’s true that this killer was probably going to kill no matter what.  He could have used a car, fire, electricity, or natural gas to kill. Still, shouldn’t we remove as many temptations to exercise his sickness?  The answer is of course.
  • Applaud Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s efforts.  We need a voice that can compete with the NRA which, I think, has gone unchecked.

Let me give you my personal take.

I have seen both sides of the issue.

I lived and worked in the liberal northeast and in some major cities while also living in the libertarian desert southwest and the conservative south.

Some places need massive gun control like major cities; other places, like Las Vegas with open spaces and a lower tax rate and fewer police, need more lax gun laws.  However, and this is Bloomberg’s argument, lax gun laws elsewhere can easily lead to guns in places like New York City with tougher laws.

This is where I think the NRA needs some competition.

  • First, no one denies the role guns played in our history.  But so did the cotton gin – and we don’t use them much anymore.
  • Second, we are not going to ban guns.  We can’t.  Guns are part of the personal independence of most Americans.
  • Third, and conversely, we expect injuries and deaths from guns.  A lot of people die each year from cars or electricity.  We aren’t banning them.
  • Fourth, The NRA speaks to an historical psyche of our nation.  But the nation also expects our kids and teachers to be safe in a school.  Therefore, we need other voices to be heard also.

Let me explain further with two discussions I had – that have stuck with me.

About ten years ago, I played golf with Wayne LaPierre, the head of the NRA.  It was a celebrity golf event and he was paired with me.  Wayne seems like a good guy.  (Yes, most people you play golf with are decent folks.)  Wayne and I talked politics and what was happening in Washington at the time.  He knows his stuff and he is a brilliant operative.

But a lot of his success, and the success of the NRA, are based on their ability to monopolize the debate and garner huge amounts of money to dictate – and distort – the issues.  This most recent campaign shows the massive distortions of the NRA.

The NRA plays to a large audience.  A lot of folks own guns.  Unfortunately, a portion of gun owners are conspiracy theorists who think the government wants to control us.  Sure, government does infringe on our lives, and at times, too much.  But for the NRA to say Obama is coming after your guns is pure fiction.

Therefore, I think Bloomberg’s effort to fund a special interest group against guns is good.  An advocacy group like this will moderate the NRA and get them to re-think their extremist views while highlighting the common sense gun owners.

Another incident from about ten years ago has stayed with me.

I was emceeing an event in Southern California.  When the event was over, late at night, the woman who had hired me was heading to her car and a dark parking lot, as I was.  So, I offered to walk her to her car.  She said, “No thank you.”  Trying to be a gentleman, I insisted.  But my insistence probably came across as chauvinistic – or worse.  Now understand, my father drilled chivalry into me as a boy.  I always try to open a door for a woman, stand when a woman enters a room, hold a chair before a woman sits, or take a woman’s arm if her footing is unstable.  However, that is somewhat old fashioned or orthodox in today’s world.  And to this woman, I might have come across as either creepy or, worse, a conniving serial killer or rapist.

Finally, she told me to stop insisting because, as she said, she was safer than I was.  She held up a small purse.  In the purse was a small handgun.  “How cool is that!” I said.

This woman who will remain nameless for security reasons has become a friend over the years.  I joked with her about why she didn’t walk me to my car.

Later, we discussed the gun issue.  She is very liberal in her politics.  But she is very pro-gun and pro-gun control.   And this makes sense.  She was a businessperson who spent a lot of time in a major metropolitan city.  She purchased her gun legally.  And she was someone who was all in favor of background checks.  But she thought allowing assault weapons sales were ridiculous.  She wants to protect herself – not be able to kill someone ten times over.

I want people like her to have a small weapon to protect herself.

Give me your takes.  Use reason along with your passion.

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