This is an updat­ed ver­sion of a col­umn I wrote for the Winchester Sun in 2019. 

As I write this, we are all try­ing to make sense of yet anoth­er mass shoot­ing at a school in the United States. In Uvalde, Texas, 22 chil­dren and teach­ers are dead and at least 15 oth­ers injured at Robb Elementary School. Yet anoth­er town and anoth­er school are added to the very long list of places seared into our mem­o­ries, for all the wrong reasons. 

10-year-old Xavier Lopez
10-year-old Xavier Lopez, shown with the Honor Roll cer­tifi­cate he was award­ed just hours before he and more than twen­ty of his class­mates and teach­ers were exe­cut­ed by gun in Uvalde, Texas.

We know the names of the places and the schools all too well. Littleton (Columbine.) Paducah (Heath). Blacksburg (Virginia Tech.) Red Lake. Newtown (Sandy Hook.) Parkland (Marjory Stoneman Douglas.) Marshall County. 

If you can stom­ach it, you can see the long list of all shoot­ings in American schools on Wikipedia.

Will this final­ly be the last straw? Thoughts and prayers are fine, but they only get you so far. The time is long past for action. 

The issue of what to do about gun vio­lence is fraught with pit­falls. Politicians, lob­by­ists, and cable news pun­dits would have you believe there is no pos­si­ble com­pro­mise. They say we are between two extremes: those that would take away all our guns and those who want a return to the Wild West. I’m not buy­ing that.

I’m not advo­cat­ing tak­ing away all guns. Nor am I advo­cat­ing a free-for-all in which every­one walks around pack­ing. I’m not sup­port­ing any par­tic­u­lar new laws. What I am urg­ing my fel­low Americans to do is start tak­ing this issue seri­ous­ly.

I am a gun own­er. I own a pis­tol, a shot­gun, and a .22 rifle. I taught my sons how to shoot and how to be safe, respon­si­ble gun own­ers. I am not com­ing for your hunt­ing rifle. 

But con­sid­er the following. 

It is absurd that we require high­er stan­dards of those seek­ing to oper­ate a motor vehi­cle than we do of those who wish to own a firearm.

It is absurd that we refuse to con­sid­er all pos­si­ble solu­tions when deal­ing with a prob­lem that has become a nation­al health crisis.

It is beyond absurd that we allow one orga­ni­za­tion to con­trol the nar­ra­tive — an orga­ni­za­tion that rep­re­sents not the major­i­ty of gun own­ers, but gun man­u­fac­tur­ers. Meanwhile, we allow our elect­ed lead­ers to sti­fle attempts to con­duct seri­ous research into the caus­es of the epi­dem­ic of gun vio­lence that has seized our nation.

No oth­er nation expe­ri­ences the lev­el of gun vio­lence that America does. No oth­er coun­try would tol­er­ate it. What makes us different? 

Some of the things we’ve seen bandied about include shoot­ers with men­tal health issues. Violence in media, video games, and music. One per­son even blamed it on our pub­lic schools, inti­mat­ing that pri­va­tiz­ing more schools would make the issue go away?

Do you buy any of that? 

Other coun­tries sim­i­lar to the U.S. also have issues with men­tal health. They have vio­lence por­trayed in the media. They have pub­lic schools. 

The dif­fer­ence is that no oth­er coun­try has as many firearms read­i­ly avail­able as America does.

I keep hear­ing that stricter gun laws would not pre­vent tragedies like mass shoot­ings or the con­stant bar­rage of oth­er inci­dents of gun vio­lence. I don’t accept that. Australia, among oth­er nations, has shown oth­er­wise. Our friends down under expe­ri­enced a drop in the homi­cide rate of 43 per­cent when they final­ly got fed up in 1996 and enact­ed stricter gun laws.

At the least, isn’t it worth a try? So why don’t we?

from Twitter: "When the 2nd Amendment was ratified, it took an average of 1-2 minutes to reload a flintlock rifle for each shot."
From Twitter.

The truth is, we have — with some suc­cess. In 1994, a nation­al assault weapons ban went into effect. The result was a 43 per­cent decrease in mass shoot­ings. In 2004 — after heavy lob­by­ing by the NRA — the ban was allowed to lapse. Gun deaths rose by more than 200 percent.

The NRA would have you believe that most Americans are against any new gun laws. That’s not true.

  • 96 per­cent of us favor uni­ver­sal back­ground checks
  • 75 per­cent sup­port a 30-day wait­ing period
  • 70 per­cent sup­port the reg­is­tra­tion of all pri­vate guns with the police

With these num­bers, why don’t our elect­ed lead­ers enact some of this leg­is­la­tion? The rea­son is the NRA has become such a pow­er­ful force on Capitol Hill that to go against their wish­es is polit­i­cal sui­cide. Remember, they don’t rep­re­sent us; they rep­re­sent the gun manufacturers.

In 2016, The NRA spent a record $55 mil­lion on U.S. elec­tions. They claim to rep­re­sent American gun own­ers. As I said, I am a gun own­er — as are many of my friends. Almost none of us sup­port the actions of the NRA.

No one has ever seri­ous­ly pro­posed that we ban hunt­ing rifles or tar­get shoot­ing. But you don’t need a 200-round mag­a­zine to hunt deer.

What we have in effect is the man­u­fac­tur­ers of a dead­ly prod­uct writ­ing the laws that reg­u­late — or fail to reg­u­late — those products.

What about the sec­ond amend­ment? Well, what about it? Here is the actu­al text:

“A well reg­u­lat­ed Militia, being nec­es­sary to the secu­ri­ty of a free State, the right of the peo­ple to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

You have to tor­ture that text to con­clude that the framers meant to allow for the unreg­u­lat­ed pri­vate own­er­ship of weapons capa­ble of mas­sacring dozens of peo­ple in sec­onds. They were think­ing of mus­kets, not assault rifles. And the word “reg­u­lat­ed” is right there in the text. There is noth­ing uncon­sti­tu­tion­al about reg­u­lat­ing gun ownership.

We’re talk­ing about our loved ones. Our chil­dren. Our grand­chil­dren. Aren’t they worth at least try­ing to do some­thing about this hor­rif­ic state of affairs?

  • Pete Koutoulas

    Pete is an IT pro­fes­sion­al work­ing in Lexington. Formerly of Campton, he and his wife have lived in Winchester since 2015. Pete is a for­mer week­ly news­pa­per pub­lish­er and for­mer colum­nist for the Winchester Sun. These days, when not work­ing he can often be found on his back porch read­ing or writ­ing, in the back­yard tend­ing to his toma­to plants, or put­ter­ing around in his garage or work­shop. Reach Pete at pete@wincitynews.org.