One hundred people in the USA died yesterday of gunshot wounds and most of us did not notice. In the last few weeks there have been two hateful events which left 18 innocent people murdered, which did not go unnoticed.
I am trying try to think of what I or others might have done that would have somehow curbed the violence. Since the 2014 murder of the Sandy Hook schoolchildren and teachers in Connecticut, I have believed that nothing short of congressional action can stop these massacres. Yet, I have been silent – No More!
What's even worse, is that many in our Congress (as well as some citizens of Franklin County) immediately find refuge in the Second Amendment and claim that it is a most sacred right. There is no question that we all have the "right to bear arms.” What is also true, however, is that the Second Amendment never mentions the right to choose an AR-15 (Vietnam war weapon) or to buy a gun without a background check.
There is no question that many citizens have guns and use them responsibly and safely. However, the very presence of the assault weapon as the weapon of choice in the hands of an inebriated, angry or disturbed person can be very deadly, as we all have seen. We have to develop a commitment to gun safety. How did the proliferation of guns of all types, as well as other issues such as the ability of abusers of women to pass background checks and buy a weapon, come to pass? A brief history based on my personal knowledge follows.
In 1871 enter a new organization called the National Rifle Association (NRA) which was created for purposes of ensuring that men should have marksman skills and be prepared if the USA faced war in the future. In addition, it was to be an organization which sponsored elite shooting events with trophies and prize money. In 1920 marksmanship became an Olympic sport.
The NRA was fairly quiet until the mid-1900s when money in large amounts began to flow to the organization from gun manufacturers. Republicans began a campaign to convince America that Democrats were coming for their guns when common sense gun controls were mentioned.
Over the next 10 years the NRA became highly politicized as well as rich and is recognized as influential in the election of Ronald Reagan. (Interestingly, Reagan's, press secretary was injured in the assassination attempt on Reagan, and the Brady Bill was put forth and initially was defeated, largely because of lobbying efforts of the NRA.)
From this time forward, the NRA became one of the most powerful and richest lobby groups in the US Congress and statehouses and graded persons (A-F) running for office. An “A” was given only if the candidate had never voted for any gun safety measures, and if the NRA supported your candidacy, you were more likely to be elected!
In 1994 President Clinton and Congress were able to ratify the limited background check components of the Brady Bill. Also at this time assault weapons were banned for a 10-year period. During the ban period, gun-related deaths dropped 40 percent. Congressional Republicans let the ban expire in 2004 and there was an increase of approximately 200 percent gun deaths. There have not been any successful gun control initiatives in the recent past.
Some states have responded to gun control at schools by placing police at the schools and some even have sought to arm teachers. In addition, some schools have safety drills for students. I do not have statistics about the success of these initiatives, but thankfully there have been no large shooting events at schools since 2017 of which I am aware.
So where do we go from here? I urge you to be absolutely open about your concerns about gun safety. Don't just use the worthless phone systems to which you are automatically connected to communicate with elected officials; write a very personal letter about any opinions you have. If any elected officials happen to make a trip to Franklin County, clear your calendar and go visit to talk with them about gun control. Write another note to the Times. If you are a member of an organization, make an announcement about the need to contact legislators, both state and federal. Talk with your neighbors and any confidants. Someone, please, organize a postcard-writing party and let's overwhelm legislators with our concerns. We must all be involved if possible.
I want to assure you and all readers that I am not interested in taking your guns (except assault weapons which are war weapons). I am afraid of guns and have never fired one and have no plans of doing so!
This article originally appeared on The Apalachicola Times: Letters: Second Amendment doesn't address assault weapons