Letter: Tipping Point for Public Opinion

To the Editor:

I have thought for years that we won’t get serious about gun control until a major crisis — perhaps the killing of a senator’s daughter in a shooting spree — finally galvanizes public opinion. This may be that crisis.

After Friday’s horrific events, I heard a young girl behind a counter repeating the NRA’s tiresome mantra: “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people.” The proper rejoinder, I believe, is: Agreed, guns don’t walk around and kill on their own, but virtually unfettered access to assault weapons is turning this country into a free-shooting banana republic. If scissors or knives or poisons were freely available to small children, their death rate would rise. The point is to control the implements of harm. No response will be perfect, but what citizen, excepting military and law enforcement, needs rapid-fire weapons that can fire 30 rounds at a clip? How many Gabby Gifford episodes do we need?

Doubtless, the NRA is marshaling its formidable PR machine to fend off what it fears will be renewed attacks on its powerful lobbying effort. Doubtless the far right is bracing itself for its dreaded Obama-taking-our-guns-away scenario. Appropriate weapons should still be available to hunters for legal, controlled use at the right times and in the right places. But the Second Amendment — originally Article IV of the Bill of Rights, ratified on Dec. 15, 1791 — was formulated when British redcoats had occupied houses and bullied the colonists, and local militias were clearly necessary. Times have changed, and until serious gun control laws are passed (leaving the Second Amendment in place), we impotently await the countdowns that have already begun for the next mass shooting, and the next after that and yet the next ... .

A. E. Norton