Greensburg Daily News, Greensburg, IN

Opinion

January 16, 2013

The Newtown victims belonged to us all, part 1

Sensible, rational gun control and our responsibility to our children

Greensburg — As a Daily News writer, I work hard not to inject my opinions or personal biases into the stories I cover and write about.

That’s easier accomplished with certain stories than with others, but I believe I’ve largely — though certainly not flawlessly — been successful at doing so during my time here.

The recent (and latest) school massacre in Newtown, Conn., however, is sufficient occasion, I think — if only briefly — to shed my objectivity and make my opinions on this terrible, unspeakable evil public.

It’s not hard to guess that said opinions revolve around guns, their role in society and, more specifically, gun control.

Mind you, my intention isn’t to preach, and it’s certainly not to climb atop a soapbox and pound away at or belittle people with differing opinions (I realize you’re the majority in Decatur County). Those approaches to such emotionally-charged issues rarely — if ever — accomplish anything anyway.

No, my goal is simply to start a dialogue, to get people talking about — and thinking about — guns and gun violence in this country and to perhaps stimulate readers to consider the issue from new angles.

Why, you might ask, if I work so hard to be objective, would I decide now, on such a volatile issue, to risk reader trust?

I can answer that question only by describing my own reaction to the horror of Dec. 14.

The president summarized my feelings best, I think, when, upon addressing the nation, he said, “These were our children.”

To be sure, these 20, aged 6-and-7-year-old innocent little boys and girls weren’t from Decatur County or even from Indiana. Neither was any of them, that I’m aware of, related to anyone in Decatur County.

But they were from America.

That may sound overly simplistic, but these were the sons and daughters of every community in this country — large and small, affluent, middle class or poor, urban or rural. These precious little lives were part of the same America that binds each of us, to varying degrees, in common experience as citizens of this great nation.

They were just at the outset, these young lives, seemingly headed down the same path each of us is set upon merely by being born in this great land: Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Then the unthinkable happened, and 20 young lives are simply gone, their pieces of the American dream forever unrealized.

Those were pieces of MY American dream, too. And yours.

Those deaths represent further cracks in our collective illusion of a safe, rational society wherein we can keep our children safe; another crack in the illusion that it can’t happen here — or anywhere else in America, for that matter.

So while these children weren’t mine by kin or acquaintance, they were indeed MY children, and their deaths affected more profoundly than I would’ve guessed.

I know; I know. No matter how eloquent my words or impassioned my plea, I’ve already lost some of you with two little words I used near the beginning of this piece: Gun control.

For those still with me, let me assure you (or, at least, TRY to assure you), that I’m not advocating against law-abiding Americans out to “bag a buck” (or whatever woodland creature of your choice) or the average Jane or Joe protecting themselves or their families with a licensed, responsibly-owned handgun or hunting rifle.

No, I’m talking to semi-automatic- and fully-automatic weapons advocates — all you believers in the right to own clips with enough ammo and weapons with sufficient firing rates to mow down a herd of elephants — or two classrooms full of innocent children — in a matter of minutes.

A few days after the Dec. 14 tragedy, during a conversation with a staunchly pro-gun Decatur Countian, I asked if he might feel differently about gun control for semi- and fully-automatic weapons if one of his own grandchildren had been among the Newtown victims.

I suppose such a question might sound snotty or condescending, but I certainly didn’t ask the question in that spirit, and I certainly hope  this person didn’t take the query as such.

No, I asked the question then — as I ask it here — out of a genuine sense of curiosity and perplexity.

I honestly don’t understand how a rational society who loves its children and values human life above all else can support allowing these weapons to be available to civilians — to people with no military training whatsoever, many of whom have absolutely zero qualification for owning and using such weapons other than having passed a background check.

Why does the general public need such weapons? Is there some government coup or imminent civil war in the works of which I’m not aware? What other use for weapons whose sole purpose is to kill as many human beings in as short a time as possible?

I’m also bothered by the so-called “gun show loophole.”

According to an article at about.com (http://civilliberty.about.com/od/guncontrol/a/Gun-Shows.htm): “In 33 states, private gun owners are not restricted from selling guns at gun shows. Buyers who purchase guns from individuals are not required to submit to the federal background checks in place for licensed dealers.”

What this means is that if Joe or Jane-Q-Public attend a gun show with one or more guns to sell, he or she is free to sell those weapons without performing the required background checks that vendors with a Federal Firearms License are required to perform.

Contact: Rob Cox at 812-663-3111 x7011.

 

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