US majority wants stronger gun regulation | Other views

Gun Rights

A few decades ago, firearms fanatics set the nation on a crazed course toward ubiquitous gun ownership, and that course has led us inevitably to where we are now: a society in which there is no safety, no sanctuary, no haven. You may be shot dead or grievously wounded in church, in school, in a hospital, in your own home.

This year, the United States has already seen at least 192 mass shootings, defined as incidents in which at least four people (not including the shooter) were injured or killed, according to the Gun Violence Archive. With more than one a day so far, this year is set to outpace last year’s total of 647 verified mass shootings.

As Trace.org notes, several studies have shown that gun deaths rise as more guns are available, and the U.S. has more guns than people — enough for every man, woman, child and infant, with millions left over. Guns have become the scratch for every itch, the solution to every problem, the hammer for every nail. As Rutgers University criminologist Daniel Semenza has pointed out, “When there are more guns, it just increases risk.” Common sense, folks.

You’ve heard the news reports: A teenager is shot for ringing the wrong doorbell. A college student is killed for driving into the wrong driveway. Cheerleaders are shot for getting in the wrong car. A father is seriously wounded after a kid’s basketball rolls into the wrong yard. Family members are murdered in their home after asking a neighbor to stop firing his gun late at night.

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On Wednesday (May 3), Deion Patterson, a former member of the Coast Guard, opened fire at an Atlanta medical facility where he had an outpatient appointment. He killed 39-year-old Amy St. Pierre and wounded four others. His mother told reporters he had “mental instability” and needed to be treated for anxiety and depression. Nevertheless, he had a weapon.

How did we get here?

Having grown up in gun country with a father who owned firearms and loved hunting, I know the U.S. has not always been on this murder-suicide mission. In my childhood, hunting was still popular in rural areas, such as my small southern Alabama hometown, for sport and dietary supplement. Back then, the National Rifle Association focused on firearms training and safety and was largely — believe it or not — nonpartisan.

That changed in the 1970s, when the NRA was taken over by ultraconservative radicals who wanted to abolish even modest gun regulations. The gun lobby entered into a marriage of convenience with the Republican Party, supporting GOP pols who joined the cult and opposing those who didn’t do its bidding. By the 21st century, the gun lobby’s radicals were joined by a right-wing Supreme Court, which upended a century of jurisprudence on firearms by sanctifying an individual’s right to own a gun.

Recognizing the opportunity to make money, gun manufacturers happily signed up, buying ads that equated owning military weapons with virile manhood. Meanwhile, Congress had inoculated gun manufacturers against lawsuits over the dangers associated with their products. For GOP candidates, it’s now de rigueur to shoot a campaign ad toting firearms, sometimes with small children in the family carrying them, too. Where else could such a mad course have carried us but here to an unending roll call of carnage?

To be clear, most Americans say they want to live in a safer, saner country. According to Gallup, more than half are dissatisfied with current gun laws. According to a Fox News poll, 61% support banning the sale of assault-style rifles, and 77% support a 30-day waiting period for all gun purchases. But they don’t care enough to vote out the gun lobby’s lap dogs and elect leaders who would pass tougher laws.

After a rash of Atlanta-area mass shootings in 2021, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution quoted a state legislator as saying: “We don’t have to live like this.” No, we don’t. But we choose to.

Cynthia Tucker won the Pulitzer Prize for commentary in 2007. She can be reached at cynthia@cynthiatucker.com.

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