Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Too Many

Bob Herbert asks how many deaths by guns are enough.

We’ve allowed the extremists to carry the day when it comes to guns in the United States, and it’s the dead and the wounded and their families who have had to pay the awful price. The idea of having large numbers of college students packing heat in their classrooms and at their parties and sporting events, or at the local pub or frat house or gymnasium, or wherever, is too stupid for words.


Approximately 100,000 shootings occur in the United States every year. The number of people killed by guns should be enough to make our knees go weak. Monday was a national holiday celebrating the life of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. While the gun crazies are telling us that ever more Americans need to be walking around armed, we should keep in mind that more than a million people have died from gun violence — in murders, accidents and suicides — since Dr. King was shot to death in 1968.

We need fewer homicides, fewer accidental deaths and fewer suicides. That means fewer guns. That means stricter licensing and registration, more vigorous background checks and a ban on assault weapons. Start with that. Don’t tell me it’s too hard to achieve. Just get started.

For those of you who believe the Bill of Rights begins and ends with the 2nd Amendment, remember that just because the freedom to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed does not mean that it can’t be well-regulated. That would not infringe on the right any more than libel laws or those against child pornography infringe the rights of free speech. Besides, the amendment itself has the words “well-regulated” right in there. It’s surprising how many people skip over the first part to get to the second.

I’ve never understood the NRA’s fixation with the idea of getting as many guns into the hands of as many people as possible. You’d think that a group that supported the manufacture and sale of deadly weapons would want to make sure that they were kept out of the hands of people who do nothing but cast them in a bad light such as criminals and the mentally ill. But every time there’s a mass shooting and the candlelit memorials spring up at schools and Safeways, there is the NRA spokesman who will go on TV and sit with the families of the dead and smoothly explain that they’re sorry for their loss but any talk of adding more restrictions to gun ownership is the next step to tyranny. It’s enough to make people who have been neutral about the issue turn against them.

If the NRA truly wants to succeed in protecting guns and gun owners, they would make owning one a precious commodity: hard to achieve and worth the effort. And it might even save a few thousand lives, too. I’ll bet they never thought of that.