As a key figure in the creation of the atom bomb and one of the greatest intellects in history, Albert Einstein would seem to have a unique perspective on the intersection of weapons of mass destruction and human frailty.
"I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones." - Albert Einstein
This notion seems to explain it all. Violence in one form or another, for good or ill, for defense or aggression, has always existed in human society. What has changed is the technology used for violence.
"Technological progress is like an axe in the hands of a pathological criminal." - Albert Einstein
And in this horrific Sandy Hook Elementary School atrocity, that is precisely what we have: A semiautomatic assault rifle, a technologically advanced killing machine, in the hands of a pathological criminal used to commit murder so vile and unspeakable it seems incomprehensible that it actually occurred.
"The world is a dangerous place to live; not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don't do anything about it." -Albert Einstein
Which brings us to where we are today. In light of a seemingly endless stream of horrific and nonsensical mass shootings, what do we do?
The instinctual answer is obvious, ban assault rifles, ban extended clips. They're called "assault rifles" for a reason right? Perhaps, because they are designed to shoot as many bullets as rapidly as possible and kill as many people as quickly as possible. And that is precisely how they are used. Killing innocents, tearing apart families and firing an endless magazine of hollow point bullets into the heart of our collective national psyche.
Assault rifles with extended clips are not used in hunting. Unless you have found a way to travel in time and are hunting a Tyrannosaurus Rex.
Assault rifles with extended clips are not used in self defense. Unless you are Charlie Sheen in Red Dawn and the Russian Communist Army is taking over the local high school.
Our Domestic WMDs
This seems maddeningly obvious. Assault rifles with extended clips make America a more dangerous and lawless nation, not a safer more lawful nation. Assault rifles are clearly, obviously Weapons of Mass Destruction. What happened at Aurora, what happened at Columbine, what happened at Virginia Tech, what happened at Sandy Hook if not mass destruction?
We spend trillions of dollars, put tens of thousands of brave young Americans in harms way, send them half way around the globe and keep them there for a decade because we suspected Saddam Hussein had WMDs. Yet we have WMDs here at home, in our malls, in our schools, in our places of worship, in our work places and we do nothing. We can't ever agree to reinstate the Assault Weapons Ban passed by Clinton in 1994 which lapsed under W in 2004. After all this senseless carnage committed with domestic WMDs, we can't do a damn thing. And why? Because spineless politicians fear the National Rifle Association. Actually, considering the NRA's shameful behavior, wouldn't it be more appropriate to call them the "NARA" (The National Assault Rifle Association)?
The National Rifle Association's Position
"The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun." - Wayne LaPierre NRA VP
"We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them." - Albert Einstein
Here's a bold idea Mr. LaPierre. Why don't we stop bad guys from getting guns in the first place? Perhaps, if we closed the gun show loop hole which allows anyone to purchase any gun without any background check that might help keep the guns out of the hands of bad guys, right? Reinstate the assault weapons ban? End the sale of extended clips of ammunition? Seems sensible. Not perfect, not fool proof, not guaranteed to stop all future tragedies, but a solid and reasonable step in the right direction, right? Hell No! It infringes on The Second Amendment right to bear arms say our friends at the NARA. Their solution... drum roll please:
"A good guy with a gun (in every school)" - Wayne LaPierre NRA VP
"It is appallingly obvious our technology has exceeded our humanity" - Albert Einstein
The armed guards at Columbine didn't seem to ameliorate that terrible situation. How could the solution to mass gun violence be more guns? Who would suggest the solution to gun violence was to make sure everyone had guns? On its website, the NRA claims to be "the premier firearms education organization in the world." It's not behaving that way. It's behaving like an arms dealer. Warren Buffet said, "Never ask a barber if you need a hair cut." I suppose you should never ask an arms dealer if you should regulate the sale of guns.
I'm sure a vast majority of its members are lawful hunting and collecting enthusiasts among whom, gun safety and responsible gun use is their highest priority. Perhaps, those individuals who believe in the reasonable and responsible exercise of their Second Amendment rights should form a new organization dedicated to that purpose.
According the NRA, assault rifles don't kill people. What does? Drum role please...
Newsflash, NRA! Violence in art and entertainment has been around since the beginning of art and entertainment. Oedipus (429 B.C.) kills his father, marries his mother then pokes his eyes out. Macbeth (1606) kills the king and his guards, kills Banquo, kills Macduff's family and then (spoiler alert!) is himself killed by Macduff. Also, Lady Macbeth kills herself for good measure. How about "Little Red Riding Hood"? In this children's tale, a wolf actually eats a poor sweet grandma!
How about violence in sports entertainment? A family today may spend their Sunday watching the Detroit Lions. Two thousand years ago a family might spend their Sunday watching real lions eat real Christians.
And the notion of hanging these tragedies around the neck of video games doesn't comport with any statistical analysis. Viewing the top 10 video game consuming nations, the U.S. is alone as an outlier in extremely high levels of gun violence. Violence in entertainment is nothing new. As the saying goes, "If you want to draw a crowd, start a fight."
Effectively caring for the mentally ill who cannot distinguish between reality and fantasy is important and certainly must be dealt with. But, the notion that we cannot reasonably regulate firearms until society comes up with a satisfactory way to solve this difficult problem is absurd.
"The release of atomic energy has not created a new problem. It has merely made more urgent the necessity of solving an existing one." - Albert Einstein
Perhaps, this is true of assault rifles as well. Senseless violence has always existed in one form or another throughout human history. But, unfettered access to these increasingly technologically advanced domestic WMDs has exponentially increased the carnage that one despicable individual can unleash.
The rights granted by the Second Amendment, like any rights granted by the Constitution, are not infinite, under any circumstances without any regard for our fellow citizens. The First Amendment grants us freedom of speech, but we are still not legally allowed to shout "Fire!" in a crowded theater. As Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. stated: "The right to swing my fist ends where the other man's nose begins."
"God does not play dice (with the Universe)." - Albert Einstein
But we are not God, we are mere mortals. By allowing the arms dealers at the National Rifle Association to block reasonable gun regulations we are rolling the dice with the lives of our children, our families, our co-workers, our fellow citizens. All the innocent victims of gun violence, especially the 20 young children killed at Sandy Hook Elementary on December 14, 2012, deserve better. They deserve much better.
"Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius -- and a lot of courage -- to move in the opposite direction." - Albert Einstein