I'm baffled. Floored. Oh, who am I kidding... I'm outraged by some of the twisted logic being thrown around in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook school shooting to justify the gun worship culture in this country. I believe in the Constitution as strongly as I believe in the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. But that liberty includes a fundamental peace of mind that when I drop my children off at school, they will be safe from semiautomatic weapons.
What was it that Spiderman's Uncle Ben said? "With great power comes great responsibility"? A right as powerful as the right to bear arms is a big deal, and should indeed be wielded by only the most responsible of adults, ones who are willing to adhere to hefty rules, regulations, boundaries, limits and yes -- even jump through a few hoops.
Rights do not come without making some concessions. I have the basic right to wear Pumas and drink Poland Spring, yet I'm intelligent enough to understand that society is safer because I agree to take off my sneakers and leave my liquid containers behind when I pass through airport security. I love me a margarita on occasion, but I know not to give one to my kids or operate a vehicle with one in my hand. We vilify cigarette smokers and segregate them to clearly designated smoking areas because of the potential harm their smoke can cause others, yet we can't imagine a world in which we designate our school buildings as "no gun" zones. Why can't gun rights activists realize that for the greater good and safety of our nation -- and our children! -- stricter gun laws are a must?
No one is proposing to take away the second amendment. What society is asking -- at least the part of society that is sick and tired of burying innocent victims of gun violence -- is that we put some restrictions in place all across the country, and get a little more selective as to who is worthy of this precious right to bear arms.
I'm thrilled to say that President Obama just unveiled his recommendations for stricter gun laws, which so far has been the most intelligent response to the Sandy Hook tragedy I've seen (second only to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo's NY SAFE legislation). Here's a quick summary:
- Ban the sale of assault weapons
- Limiting ammunition magazines to those that can hold 10 rounds or less
- Requiring that all gun sales -- even private ones at gun shows -- are subject to criminal background checks
- Toughening criminal penalties for gun trafficking
I'm not a Constitutional scholar, so can someone explain to me how any of the above common sense regulations infringe on anyone's rights? What I am is a concerned and distraught parent who thinks it should be harder to buy a gun than it is to buy cough medicine. I want to live in a world where the vetting process for becoming a gun owner is more intense than a McDonald's job application.
Opponents of stricter gun control have stayed on the offensive over the last month, pointing fingers at Hollywood and video games and rock music. (Ironic side note: The NRA just released a shooting video game app.) Apparently, everything else in our society is to blame except the guns. In fact, they say more guns can help solve the problem of gun violence. Maybe it's because I was never a fan of the Western movie genre, but something about that logic is just off. Are we to buy into the idea that the quickest trigger finger will always prevail and protect the innocent?
Look, I get that store owners carrying large amounts of cash want to own a gun for protection. I get that hunters enjoy using firearms in their sport. I get why someone living in a rural area where bears come to hang out on the front porch would want to own a powerful weapon. I even get the thrill that shooting at a gun range might provide (it's not my thing, but I get it). I'm also not completely opposed to having an armed law enforcement presence in or around our schools, although asking our teachers and principals to add combat training to their resumes reaches news heights of absurdity.
That being said, I can't think of any scenario in civilian life that justifies needing to fire off 30 rounds of ammunition in mere seconds. And all gun owners -- just like drivers, voters, job seekers and insurance applicants -- should be subject to intense identity and background checks, training and certification qualifications, and strict consequences if they break the rules or try to cheat the system.
Like I said, I'm no history professor or legal expert, but I know my rights. Chief among them is the right to raise my children in a country that cares more about their well being than inconveniencing a few would-be gun owners.
CORRECTION: This post previously referred to automatic weapons rather than semiautomatic weapons.
Follow Dawn Papandrea on Twitter: www.twitter.com/dawnpapandrea