Break the pattern

There’s a pattern in this country that needs to end. Every three or four months, some deranged man walks into a concert, a nightclub or a school and starts shooting people with an automatic or semi-automatic weapon. Between each of these big incidents are smaller incidents where only a person or two are killed. These stories don’t always even garner headlines anymore.

Meanwhile, the official responses are worthless “thoughts and prayers” followed by a “debate,” which in this case is just a euphemism for “Congressional Republicans ignore the obvious solutions so they can continue to accept big campaign donations from gun lobbyists.” They’re a bit like those rented “scientists” who deny that climate change is real, or the doctors who take kickbacks from pharmaceutical companies to prescribe their addictive drugs.

So, what are the obvious solutions? First of all, students need better access to mental health care. Second, schools, teachers and other educational professionals need to be better taken care of. (A teacher who’s stressed because she doesn’t know how she’s going to pay her rent is going to be less attentive to her students’ needs.) And third, there needs to be sensible reform of the gun laws in this country.

Weapons like the AR-15 used by the murderer in Parkland aren’t like a rifle you might use to shoot rabbits so they don’t raid your vegetable garden down on the farm. They’re not even like a handgun you might use to chase a burglar out of your house. They are killing tools, pure and simple, meant to murder many people quickly. They have no other function. There is absolutely no reason that an emotionally disturbed teenager in Florida should be able to buy one of these things.

We’re not calling for an all-out gun ban. This is not all-or-nothing, black-and-white thinking, which is lousy thinking. The Second Amendment itself—held up as a sacred document by gun advocates—calls for the right to “bear arms” in service of a “well regulated Militia.” The words “well regulated” are right there in the holy screed. (And that screed was written by human beings as fallible as the rest of us. Among other flaws, they owned slaves. We shouldn’t hold up their every utterance as holy scripture.) Gun regulation could work like automobile regulation—licensing, with written and practical exams, ownership registration, basic health requirements, annual renewals, and so forth. This is a sensible solution, and according to recent polls conducted by the Washington Post and ABC News, something favored by the majority of Americans. Those same polls found that most Americans feel that Congress has not done enough to prevent school shootings. They haven’t.

Will gun regulations prevent every murder? Of course not. They will prevent some. And the bottom line is this: The lives of children off at school, or revelers at a concert, or any people anywhere are more important than the misinterpretation of a legal document written more than 200 years ago.