Is There A Middle Ground on Guns That Makes Sense?

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After the mass shooting two weeks ago that killed 17 at a high school in Parkland, Florida, gun advocate Chris Waltz said the murderer’s weapon, a semi-automatic rifle, was not to blame.

“It’s not a rifle problem,” he said in a recent Associated Press story. “It’s a societal problem.

“We need to get a handle on what’s going on that’s causing these kids to do these things.”

Waltz may have a point. But, because the societal problem is not being handled, semi-automatic rifles amplify the dilemma.

Waltz is hardly objective, being the president and CEO of an organization called AR15 Gun Owners of America.

The AR-15 is what the presumed murderer used at Stoneham Douglas High School. And what others used elsewhere (Las Vegas, Orlando, and Newtown, Connecticut among a long list).

Common sense dictates that we “get a handle” on these guns.

It is a conversation that needs to happen, if the emotion and hyperbole ever quiet down.

Two recent articles are both reasoned, and on opposite extremes with David French of National Review claiming that assault weapons must remain legal, and Greg Bates of Common Courage Press wanting all guns banned.

French:  “At its core, the [Second] Amendment protects a person’s individual inherent right to self-defense and empowers the collective obligation to defend liberty against state tyranny.”

Bates:  “We must have laws that keep Americans safe from gun technology that the Constitution’s framers never foresaw … even a simple revolver was beyond their conceptual horizons.”

While I have disagreements with both (I will risk the remote chance of state tyranny over the current bloodshed; but I do not see a complete ban on guns practical or prudent), at least their arguments attempt to use logic.

Others get carried away.

In a recent speech, National Rifle Association executive vice president Wayne LaPierre said the right to bear arms “is not bestowed by man, but granted by God to all Americans as our American birthright.”

Really, a divine mandate to carry an assault rifle – provided you’re an American citizen? I missed that one in my Theology studies.

But the NRA is not the villain here … no matter how exaggerated or irresponsible the journalistic reports.

You might have read about the New York Daily News headline:  “Trained By The NRA / School shooter excelled in marksmanship program sponsored by the gun group.” Misleading? The program was the Junior ROTC (sponsored by the U.S. Army) which received a donation from the NRA for training.

CNN has been all over this tragedy, with its televised “town hall” meeting, then its continual interviews with students from Stoneham Douglas High.

In the town hall meeting, the NRA was being blamed for the shooting. U.S. Senator Marco Rubio, who has received campaign donations from the NRA, was told by one parent:  “It’s hard to look at you and not look down a barrel of an AR-15, and not look at [the shooter].”

Comparing a senator to a mass murderer.

In other interviews on CNN, students referred to the NRA’s political donations as “blood money,” and called the group “child murderers.” CNN reporters never questioned the accusations.

Can we get one thing straight about NRA political contributions:  it’s not that much.

According to the Center of Responsive Politics, NRA donations in 2016 campaigns totaled $1.1 million, ranking the NRA 489th among organizations donating to federal politicians.

Compare that to Planned Parenthood’s donation ($4.1 million). Talk about a group that ends the life of children.

The teacher groups – National Education Association and American Federation of Teachers – gave a combined $5.9 million. No wonder school choice is always voted down.

So, the NRA is not lavishing candidates with cash. But there is sway.

“The influence of these groups comes not from money,” Rubio said in the town hall meeting. “The influence comes from the millions of people that agree with the agenda.”

The simple fact is many people believe in gun rights. But is there a difference in defending the right to own a gun – used for hunting or self-defense – and a semi-automatic rifle used for mass murder?

Will people ever concede their assault rifles? Apparently, some are after the Florida shooting. One man who had his AR-15 destroyed, admitted there are many reasons for the mass shootings but, “ultimately, it’s a gun like this one that takes away lives.”

Yes, there are social problems. Solutions are slow in coming, if they ever get here. Meanwhile, multiple shootings continue because weapons are available for such mass killings.


Kevin Thomas is a writer and former teacher, living with his wife and children in Standish, Maine.