Every sane person in this country agrees that there are too many mass shootings, and something needs to be done about it.
What that something is is where the nation diverges.
The gun rights crowd says the answer is to convince more of the law-abiding to arm themselves so as to fend off the mass killers, such as the pair of 18-year-olds who recently killed between them 31 people in shooting sprees just 10 days apart.
The gun control crowd says the answer is more restrictions on guns, especially semi-automatic assault rifles like those used in the carnage at the Buffalo, New York, supermarket and the Uvalde, Texas, elementary school.
The gun rights crowd’s answer has already been tried and failed, with the number of guns in circulation never higher than it is today. It is past time to give the gun control crowd’s solution a try.
The idea that people can arm themselves sufficiently to ward off attacks like this is ludicrous. We’d all have to be walking around in body armor and have an AR-15 slung over our shoulder.
In Buffalo, there was an armed security guard, a retired policeman, but his handgun was no match for the assailant’s body armor and semi-automatic killing machine.
In Uvalde, there were armed officers on the scene within minutes of the shooter entering the elementary school, but it took almost an hour and a half, and tactical reinforcements, before they were able to take him down.
There is a reason that these mass shooters often arm themselves with menacing semi-automatic weapons such as the AR-15. Those weapons allow them to not only look the part but to kill a lot of people very quickly.
There is no good reason why any adult civilian, whatever their age, needs to be able to own a military-style rifle, or to have ammunition magazines that can hold 100 bullets. To turn such weapons and ammo over to 18-year-olds, though, is total insanity.
The ideal gun reform would be to draft a real ban on assault weapons, not the loophole-riddled one that Congress tried before and eventually shelved. At a minimum, though, we should be able to agree that a buyer has to be at least 21 years old to acquire a weapon of this type. Some states have such requirements. It should be nationwide.
Some will argue that if 18-year-olds are mature enough to carry an assault weapon in the military, they are mature enough to have one in civilian life, too. The military, though, screens those in whose hands it puts such firearms to ensure that they can be trusted with them. And the military trains these men and women to respect the weapon’s power.
Nothing even close to that happens in civilian gun transactions. Yes, there are background checks, but obviously, as these two mass shootings show, the background checks are either too weak or not detailed enough to determine a person’s state of mind or propensity for violence.
We can be enraged and horrified that anyone would target innocent people for slaughter solely because of their race or schoolchildren because of their vulnerability. These kinds of massacres, though, are going to persist as long as this nation continues to make it easy to obtain the weapons that enable most of the killing.