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Prayers and Sensible Gun Regulations

The Second Amendment is not a guarantee of a right to an AR-15.

"As for guns deterring the overreach of government, how have our guns deterred the current administration from stripping consumer protections from payday loan sharks, or preventing the administration from gutting environmental protections of our air, water, and public lands?"

"As for guns deterring the overreach of government, how have our guns deterred the current administration from stripping consumer protections from payday loan sharks, or preventing the administration from gutting environmental protections of our air, water, and public lands?"(Photo: Don Juan Moore/Getty Images)

Sorry, but prayers are not being answered and sensible gun regulations are not forthcoming. We need to stand back and focus on the steady accumulation of mass shootings. First, we need to separate gun suicides and one-on-one gun homicides from mass shootings.  These acts of gun violence, demoralizing and unacceptable as they are, are different from the school shootings in Parkland and the others dating back to Columbine, not to mention the shootings in churches, Las Vegas, a nightclub in Florida, and a Christmas office party in southern California, to name only the most recent of the mass shootings. Suicides and one-on-one homicides affect immediate families and only in rare circumstances make national news.

By contrast, the shooting at Parkland cuts to the core of our collective sense of order. The day after Parkland, I drove my granddaughters to school. Ordinarily, we might talk about the news of the day but how could we possibly talk about what just happened in Parkland? Could it happen in the school I was driving them to? The answer has to be "YES." Parkland, Newtown, Columbine--rural, urban, suburban: who could know where calamity will strike next? Conservatives offer prayers to the grieving families; liberals offer "sensible regulations."  Prayers may give solace to the grieving but they have not stopped the carnage. The supporters of an unrestricted Second Amendment access to all weapons claim this access is a God-given right. By the evidence before us, they may be right: maybe that's why God seems to be unmoved by all the prayers.

As for "sensible" gun control laws, more rigorous background checks, while overdue, won't prevent someone intent on creating mayhem from legally or illegally purchasing an AR-15 and scads of ammunition.

Let's be honest with one another. The sensible thing to do is to ban the private possession of high capacity, semi-automatic assault weapons and high capacity semi-automatic pistols. Ban new sales and launch an aggressive program to buy back these guns.  The deranged 19 year old who killed seventeen people did so in four minutes, getting off at least 100 hundred rounds. These weapons have no place in civil society.  They are designed to inflict maximum damage to an enemy--they need to be restricted to the military and law enforcement personnel.  Banning them won't stop suicides or "ordinary" homicides but experience shows that a ban will make mass shootings rare and less lethal.

I'm an avid bird hunter and have several shotguns, a couple of deer rifles, and a couple of handguns. I enjoy target shooting with friends. I am not anti-gun. But I am appalled by the NRA's and Republican allies' refusal to get assault weapons off the street. Sure, it's about mental illness but it's also about the GUN.

Easy access to these weapons of mass murder have nothing to do with insuring our freedom. In fact, they make us less free. The mass shootings of the past decade have blighted a generation of youngsters who have had to endure active shooter drills. When I was a kid, fire drills were occasions of levity, almost as good as recess. Ask yourself in which nation do school children feel freer from the specter of mass murder: Denmark or England or the U.S.?

As for guns deterring the overreach of government, how have our guns deterred the current administration from stripping consumer protections from payday loan sharks, or preventing the administration from gutting environmental protections of our air, water, and public lands? How have guns deterred the rise of neo-Nazis and racists in our midst?

The only threat to my right to own a gun to go afield with my dog to hunt upland birds and waterfowl is the threat that the continuing horror of mass shootings will eventually move enough reasonable citizens to demand a blanket ban on all guns. The Second Amendment is not a guarantee of a right to an AR-15. It's not a license to kill school children, worshippers, or attendees at a movie or concert.

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Jan Dizard

Jan Dizard recently retired from Amherst College where he was the Charles Hamilton Houston Professor of American Culture.

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