Out of the Woods / Gun control is needed now
Published 10:46 pm, Wednesday, January 19, 2011
Many years ago when I served on the Representative Town Meeting's Fire and Police Committee, a friend of mine, a doctor, called me and asked for a letter of character recommendation to accompany his application for a gun permit.
My first reaction was not to do it.
But figuring he was an upstanding constituent in my district, I set my personal feelings aside and agreed to support him. To this day, I do not know why he wanted a gun.
Today, in sharp contrast, I would not only refuse to recommend anybody for a gun permit, but I would try my best to discourage them from having anything to do with guns -- especially hand guns.
Hunters aside, I cannot for the life of me understand why anybody would want -- or need -- a gun.
It's just that simple.
I am well aware of the perennial rationale, which some of my friends have trotted out since the recent massacre in Tucson -- "It's not guns that kill people. People kill people."
But people cannot kill other people as effectively or as horrendously as they can with a gun. So I simply do not buy that twisted logic.
The killing of six people and wounding of 13 others more than a week ago adds one more compelling reason for the Congress to stand up to the National Rifle Association, a self-styled patriotic organization that steadfastly rejects any limits on control whatsoever as an attack on our Second Amendment rights.
To add insult to injury, literally, it is nothing less than appalling that only a week after a crazed gunman attacked our very democratic process of public officials meeting with constituents, that a gun show took place at the Pima County Fairgrounds, one of five annually in Tucson.
According to a New York Times story Sunday, the show's organizers "asked themselves: "Are we really being insensitive?" He said they concluded they were not and failed to cancel the show, which sold every conceivable kind of gun, including a Glock 19, ironically, the model that was used in the shooting of Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, among others.
Unfortunately, here are no hopeful signs that the topic of gun control will be revived in Congress in the immediate future, as a result of the latest in a series of violent events that have taken the lives of scores of people.
New York Times columnist Frank Rich wrote on Sunday that a "senior Republican senator told Politico that he saw the Tucson bloodbath as a `cautionary tale' for his party -- yet he refused to be named." Rich wrote: "What are they and their peers so afraid of? No doubt that someone might reload [a word first attributed to Sarah Palin] -- the same fears that prompted Gabrielle Giffords to speak up, calmy, last March.
Unless and until they can match her courage and speak out, too, it' hard to see what will change."
Meanwhile, another Times columnist whose writings I admire, Bob Herbert, wrote a column last Saturday headlined Helpless in the Face of Madness, in which he asked rhetorically: "What is the matter with us? Are we really helpless in the face of the astounding toll that guns take on this society?"
Herbert, a longtime advocate of gun control, pointed out some shocking figures: He said more than 30,000 people die from gunfire every year and another 66,000 or so are wounded, "which means that nearly 100,000 men, women and children are shot in the United States annually." Herbert then added: "Have we really become so impotent as a society, so pathetically fearful in the face of the extremists, that we can't even take the most modest of steps to begin curbing this horror? Where is the leadership on the side of sanity? For starters, assault weapons should be banned.
Their raison d'être is to kill the maximum number of people -- people. Not animals -- in the shortest amount of time." Indeed, this is a longstanding political issue that must be thoroughly hashed out by both Republicans and Democrats in the coming months as we move into the pre-2012 presidential election season.
Who in public life will have the guts to put gun control back on the front burner?
Will President Barack Obama, who gave such a brilliant, passionate speech in Tucson about the desperate need for civility in politics, have the "audacity" to do so?
That is my hope.
Then -- and only then -- will members of Congress dare to follow.