The Salem News
---- — To the editor:
Almost immediately following the Dec. 14 Sandy Hook Elementary mass shooting in Newtown, Conn., public calls for tighter gun control in the U.S. began to pour in, via the media and the Internet, spurring renewed national focus on the issue.
Prior to these most recent semi-automatic assault weapon-style slayings, efforts to increase gun control were out there, but they were far from being at the fore of the American public dialogue.
The real, driving question now is: What will really, finally be done about gun control in the United States, in order to address our fears — both long-standing and newfound — and keep our citizens, especially our children, safer from gun violence, especially in our schools?
I’d like to offer, first, a possible explanation of how we’ve managed to get to this dire state here in the U.S., and secondly, to offer a “best-possible” solution to the problem.
Currently, depending upon the state you live in, virtually anyone is allowed to purchase virtually any kind of assault weapon — and virtually any kind of ammunition.
I include the word and the concept of ammunition here for a very specific reason. When the question of gun control in the U.S. is mentioned in the media, the word — and the concept of — ammunition is rarely, if ever, mentioned in the same dialogue. I’ll come to this word and concept again in a moment.
As we all know, there are currently many mentally ill and unstable individuals in society today. These range from severely depressed individuals to teens who are contemplating suicide to sociopaths and psychopaths.
According to a 2002 U.S. Secret Service Safe School Initiative study, in all of the mass shootings that have occurred in the United States within the past decade or so since the Columbine shootings, the individuals, usually teens, who have carried out the shootings had been previously diagnosed as or thought to be mentally ill, suffering from depression and other severe mental illnesses.
In the case of the Newtown, Conn., slayings, the 20-year-old gunman, believed to have Asperger’s syndrome, a form of autism, had access to assault-style weapons that were bought by his mother. No need even to purchase — he simply had to take from the home and use them to kill 26 innocent people in his hometown.
Question: Who purchased the ammunition that he used? What if the sale of ammunition were banned to private individuals in moving forward?
We — in theory — have the power to prevent mass shootings from occurring.
Our current process of enacting laws, including gun laws, is democratic, and it’s clear that Americans want this democratic process to continue into the future. No one can deny this — nor should we.
Yet in light of the very dramatic, horrific and incredibly sad mass shootings that have occurred in the U.S. over the course of the past decade —and especially following this recent shooting in Newtown — we might be begin to wonder if some more expedient emergency measures might be enacted at this time.
The argument might be made if handguns, assault weapons and their ammunition were banned tomorrow, there would be a mass shooting the next day. People find ways to get what they want. Possession of heroin is illegal, but many people still obtain and use heroin on a daily basis here in the United States.
While anyone — including those in foreign counties — can grow poppies and manufacture heroin in any back-room setup, not just anyone can MAKE a handgun, an assault weapon, ammunition or even a knife. That takes a highly specialized manufacturing facility, which is harder to come by than a poppy field and a back-room operation.
If the United States were to place the manufacture and distribution of all weapons and their ammunition in the hands of the federal government, the way it currently oversees the manufacture and distribution of minted coin and dollar bills, then it could effectively control precisely who, on American soil, possesses handguns and ammunition at any given time.
If the U.S. were to do this, beginning say in 2013, or as soon as possible, no one — except of course for members of the military and law enforcement officials — would be acquiring any additional ammunition or guns in the United States.
Companies who current manufacture guns and ammunition in the U.S. would be eligible to compete for U.S. government and military contracts — thus keeping the U.S. economy humming without allowing any guns or ammunition into civilian hands.
As for our rights? Amendments to the U.S. Constitution — namely the Second Amendment right to bear arms — can and should be repealed.
Once these changes occur, it would then only be a matter of disallowing or prohibiting any gun and ammunition imports into the U.S. from other countries, and maintaining a tighter rein on border crossings and possible smuggling operations.
While the smuggling of ammunition could still technically occur at the borders, this would be minute in comparison with what is presently available to virtually anyone over the counter — to a kindergarten teacher or her son, for instance. Smuggling is a coordinated activity, not usually conducted by mass shooters at schools and shopping malls.
It appears, at the time of this writing, that President Obama is at long last, following this last, most tragic Newtown incident — expediting the matter of stricter gun control measures with the appointment of Vice President Biden to a special task force, or gun control commission.
But given the Obama administration’s painfully slow pace of change, one has to pause to wonder, will Mr. Obama and Mr. Biden really, finally be able to follow through in an effective, resolute way when it comes to gun control and ammunition control in the United States?
Only time will tell.