Frank Harris III
6:24 PM EST, January 16, 2013
Like the addict who dies of a potent overdose, the other addicts want some of that.
So it is with gun sales after a mass shooting. They rise before the dead are even buried. Mass shootings are like one killer ad — and gun lovers want some of what's being advertised.
No matter how many Americans go down to guns, no matter who, no matter where — gun lovers want some of that.
So gun sales rise before the tears dry, before the dead are buried.
While the need for protection in this crazy world is understood, the world today is no crazier than it has always been. The difference is there are more ways to kill masses of people in a short time and more ways for the rest of the world to know about it.
All this partly accounts for the desire to own and acquire more guns.
Of course, the Second Amendment provides for the right to bear arms, which, according to a recent Washington Post poll, 44 percent of Americans exercise through gun ownership in the home. But should that right include the right to bear assault rifles, weapons that, as their name suggests, are for assault, as in attack and kill masses of people in a short time?
Does the right to bear arms supersede the right not to be shot by the bearer of arms?
The focus is on assault rifles because they make news with the burst of horrendous mass killings. But according to FBI statistics for 2011, such rifles account for less than 4 percent of the 8,583 people murdered with guns. "Regular" guns account for most of these murders. These guns are owned by friends and strangers, neighbors and co-workers, lovers and spouses, drug dealers and everyday people.
Among the armed and the unarmed, is the shared anguish over what happened at Newtown. The thought of children being killed is tough for most folks to stomach.
Newtown is, in many ways, our Sunday morning Birmingham 1963 church bombing moment. On that day, four little girls were blown up in a church. It became a tipping point, though it did not end the violence that was part of the civil rights movement.
Newtown is that tipping point. It can be the catalyst against the prevalence of gun violence. But it has to be directed toward the violence that occurs each day. If it only focuses on the assault rifles, then it ignores the accumulative mass killings.
The question is: How far are we, as a nation, willing to go to pry all these guns from the warm, live fingers of gun owners?
The easy thing is to say let them have their shotguns and revolvers, their Glocks and their sawed-offs, their hunting rifles and assault rifles. Let them have them so they can make their day, if not some other dead Americans'.
Terrorists abroad could save time and money just by leaving us alone and letting us kill each other. According to the Violence Policy Center, a Washington-based organization for stopping gun violence, more than 30,000 Americans are killed each year, which includes homicides, suicides and accidental shootings. Of the 12,000-plus murders each year, guns account for nearly 70 percent of them, according to FBI statistics.
Americans kill Americans better than anybody.
So there's no way to guarantee that what happened at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown does not happen again. If not in a school, then in some other place. Not with all the guns out there.
There is no way to prevent it unless we start doing what we do at our courthouses — putting metal detectors in our food stores and libraries, in our hospitals and shopping malls, at our playgrounds and beaches and wherever else we go.
Even that would not be going far enough. We would need metal detectors at the front doors of our homes.
Not for those who might come in, but for those of us going out.
Of course, there's the unthinkable — banning future sales of guns and bullets in America.
Frank Harris III is chairman of the journalism department at Southern Connecticut State University in New Haven. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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