Once again we are challenged as a nation to deal with a tragedy that is the result of gun violence. We must ask ourselves: What price are we willing to pay to protect our freedom to own and carry firearms?
This time it is 12 Americans dead and 58 injured. Not long ago, we were shocked by the brutal shooting of one of our colleagues, Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords--shot in the head along with 18 others at a Safeway store in Arizona--six people died.
On April 16, 2007, 33 people were shot and killed and 17 were wounded by a student at Virginia Tech University. And we have never fully recovered from the massacre at Columbine High School where two students gunned down 12 classmates and a teacher.
I could go on and on--the list is long: in 1993 five people were killed on the Long Island Railroad; there were massacres in Kileen, Texas in 1991 and at the University of Texas in 2010. We've lost presidents to gun violence. The Prince of Non-violence, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was gunned down by an assassin. Medgar Evers and Malcolm X were lost to gun violence. President John Kennedy and Senator Robert Kennedy were lost to gun violence.
There are roughly 300 million privately-owned guns in America--almost enough for every man, woman, and child!!
My question today is: When can we have a level-headed conversation about getting some control over guns in this country?
We can debate about what the founders meant in the Second Amendment that gives citizens the right to bear arms, but I wonder what that amendment might be if the founders knew about some of the guns we are making today. You don't need an AK-47 to go hunting.
I find it difficult to believe that the founders would be okay with ammunition clips that fire 60 rounds per minute. Sixty rounds per minute . . . a round per second. For what purpose would anyone need a weapon of that magnitude other than to kill people?
The National Rifle Association has pretty much shut down the debate on gun control by holding legislators hostage to their campaign contributions. They say there is no such thing as reasonable gun control laws. But it's obvious that we need some federal restrictions on guns. We cannot rely on a state by state approach to ensure that guns don't get into the wrong hands.
It is obvious that the Aurora gunman James Holmes has mental problems, yet he was able to purchase an arsenal of weapons and ammunition--legally--some of it over the Internet.
As a professional social worker, I am keenly aware that people with mental problems often do not get the help they need until something tragic happens. There must be sufficient time for adequate background checks if we are to keep guns out of the hands of the wrong people.
We should not wait for another tragedy to happen to begin this conversation. The time to act is now.