I could feel the anger seething out of George Parry's commentary in the Philadelphia Inquirer on December 20th. He accused "progressive politicians and their reliable amen chorus in the mainstream media" of having a contemptible brand of cynicism for cold-bloodedly exploiting the slaughter of innocent children to promote a political agenda. The agenda in Mr. Parry's eyes is a campaign against lawful gun ownership.
The writer also asks "when and where has gun control ever worked to thwart violent predators?" And then he blames antigun zealots for contributing to the grisly body count by creating gun-free zones. Parry believes would be killers intentionally choose these "target-rich environments" because they will be the only gunman in a gun free zone.
I must take issue with Mr. Parry's assertions. Firstly, no progressive politician is attempting to end the Second Amendment or take away citizens' legally owned guns. They are calling for a ban on assault weapons like the AR-15 rifle used at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut last week and the Aurora Movie Theater in Colorado in July.
We are calling for common sense and common ground by asking: Why are these guns that can fire hundreds of rounds in a few seconds needed (they are not used for hunting) and are so readily available and how can we do better in checking out the backgrounds of potential gun buyers so that weapons can't be bought by insane people who then go on rampages?
As for exploiting the tragedy, if we don't do something after 20 elementary school children and six teachers were gunned down, when will we? The horrendousness of this act has shaken the American public to the core. Do we just shrug our shoulders and carry on as we have after the last three or four massacres? I know I can't do that.
As for Mr. Parry's question about when and where has gun control worked, ironically the examples he used of Dunblane School in Scotland (17 victims) and Hungerford of England (31 victims) prove that gun control can lower murder rates. The UK banned handgun and rifles after these incidents and it significantly lowered deaths due to guns (by 53 percent).
As for the gun-free zones, we have no proof that these deranged killers seek out these environments. I guess in Mr. Parry's eyes everywhere in this country should be a gun zone because he says we should arm school staff members to be a deterrent. Why stop with schools? These violent predators have shown up in temples, churches, malls, movie theaters. Should we arm everyone in sight? Should we go back to the days of the wild west where cowboys wore guns in holsters ready for a gunfight at the OK corral?
Speaking of statistics, we are only 5 percent of the world's population but we own 50 percent of the guns (close to 300 million). Do we really need more weapons? Do we want vigilantes on every street corner ready to shoot anyone who looks suspicious? Remember what happened to Trayvon Martin in Florida?
The most disturbing thing about George Parry's commentary to me was the tone. Calling gun control advocates zealots, contemptible, dangerous, myth makers, cold-blooded, and exploiters does not help advance the national dialogue we now need to confront this epidemic. It only creates more discord and rancor. We have enough of that in DC.
My belief is we need an all of the above approach: tighten background checks, close loopholes in gun shows, improve mental health facilities, ban certain assault weapons and multiple magazines, tone down violence in video games, TV, and movies. I refuse to accept Mr. Parry's premise that "predators, mental patients, and deranged loners have and will continue to have illegal access to guns no matter what laws are passed." This defeatist attitude will get us nowhere. I reject the myth that with gun laws, only the bad guys will have guns. Better background checks will keep more guns out of the hands of criminals and the insane.
Mr. Parry, you call gun safety advocates contemptible. Really? What I find contemptible is that we as a nation have allowed mass killings to increase so drastically over the last four years. It is contemptible that there are 82 deaths by guns daily in this country. It is contemptible that illegal guns can so easily get into the hands of felons and the deranged. It is contemptible that we don't have a better background check system. It is contemptible that congress is controlled by the gun lobby. It is contemptible, Mr. Parry that gun rights advocates such as you and the NRA will not even look at any compromise as far as banning weapons of mass destruction.
I refuse to believe that there is nothing we can do. It may take time and effort, but we must try to find solutions to end this madness. We may not all agree on how we can achieve common sense gun safety but we need to have a sensible and civil conversation on the subject and then take action. We must not allow the Newtown students' and teachers' deaths to be in vain. That would be contemptible.