Letter at Length

How many more deaths will it take?

"Shooter called a gifted, troubled student" read the Mail Tribune headline. No, it wasn't referring to the recent murders of at least 12 innocent moviegoers in Aurora, Colo. This headline was from earlier this year, in a March 11 article about a student who had killed a medical worker and wounded six others at a clinic in Pittsburgh.

As we lurch from one shooting tragedy to the other, it is becoming ever more evident that those disposed to such acts of violence can come from all walks of life and socioeconomic levels. There is no shortage of people near the ends of their ropes who can snap and commit horrendous, sometimes random rampages that snuff out innocent lives.

And our "entertainment" world is saturated with bloody examples of how to act out one's frustrations. Thus the only uncertainty now is when, not whether, another such tragedy will occur — and how many will die. That is, unless we seriously ramp up efforts at restricting the free flow of guns that are at the heart of the problem.

The Colorado "Dark Knight" shooter was using several weapons obtained "legally", including an AR-15 assault rifle with oversized magazines, and had stockpiled a reported 6,000 rounds of ammunition. Is there any reason the average person needs to have an assault rifle? And so-called "background checks," even when applied, clearly don't weed out those who want to acquire such firepower with murderous intent.

Some in the Second Amendment crowd would like as many of us to be armed as possible, supposedly to deter crime. GOP Congressman Louie Gohmert from Texas evidently would have wanted theater patrons carrying concealed weapons to have gunned down the "Dark Knight" assailant.

Is this the optimal solution to our ongoing spasms of gun violence? Gunfights in public places to keep the peace? Vigilante firepower may have worked in the wild west days, but most of us have moved on to more civilized and reasoned ways of interacting in our communities.

Unhinged individuals will always be among us — but for heaven's sake, let's not make it so easy for them to arm themselves to the teeth in preparation for whatever deranged plot they have concocted. Despite the predicted howls from the powerful NRA and their lobbyists ("Guns don't kill people," etc.) and their allies in Congress (is the NRA a wing of the Republican Party, or vice versa?), clearly the day must be approaching when we finally "bite the bullet" and rein in the ready availability of firearms in American society.

There remains a use for pistols and rifles in target shooting and hunting, for those so inclined. Yet there have to be ways of restricting and licensing such weapons to better limit them to those purposes. Regulating purchases on the Internet and at gun shows and excluding assault rifles, oversized ammunition magazines and heavier military arms from general commerce would seem reasonable places to begin.

John Kloetzel


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