In the aftermath of the tragic events at Virginia Tech, I was reluctantly reminded of the anger and fear I experienced after 9/11. It’s all just so shattering – to my reality, my sense of justice and my belief in the goodness of mankind. And it really pisses me off. The dark side of me wishes the killer had survived just so we, as a society, could punish him, and cast our venom at him, at our leisure.
Soon enough, the anger, vengeance and frustration are replaced by a foreboding sense of hopelessness, and a sad resignation that this senseless tragedy can very well repeat itself. And that REALLY ticks me off.
But today I got an e-mail message from my friend, Becca Fuller, in which she passed along a suggestion that her brother-in-law, Jeff, made. A light came on at the end of the tunnel. And so I share that seed of hope with you. Thanks, Becca, and pass on my gratitude to your brother-in-law.
Hear me out.
Many American’s, I among them, feel that people should indeed have the right to bear arms. Though I personally prefer to not participate, I completely acknowledge that others are willing and able to own and responsibly use firearms. After all, it is a piece of who we are as a nation of cowboys, explorer’s, gold miners and pioneers.
But I’ll be damned if I think that right extends to the likes of Cho Seung-Hui. Don’t you dare wave the 2nd Amendment at me and decry the rights of everyone to own a handgun. There is no way in hell that Cho had a right to own a hand gun. He was a sicko, and what’s more, LOTS OF PEOPLE KNEW IT. But unfortunately, the guy selling him the gun didn’t know it. And the State of Virginia didn’t know it. And 25,999 of the 26,000 students at Virginia Tech didn’t know it.
I can’t help but think that if any one of the dozens of people who had encountered Cho’s psychotic behavior and violent tendencies (he was arrested and required treatment for mental health issues) had let the gun shops know that Cho was capable of doing something heinous, he wouldn’t have been able to buy that gun that killed 32 people. (And Puh-Lease don’t give me a ration of BS about “Guns don’t kill, people do.” I guaran-damn-tee you that nobody would have died if Cho had been using a slingshot.)
So, why didn’t anybody know that Cho had been in a mental institution and that he had been labeled by the State of Virginia as someone who could do harm to himself and others? AS Jeff asked:
“How is it that a disturbed student who frightened his classmates and teacher; who was reported to the university administration and police because his writings were so disturbed and violent; who was investigated by the police for stalking women; who was judged to be an imminent danger to himself and others as a result of mental illness; who had threatened suicide; who had prescription medication for his psychological problems — how is it that this young man was able to walk into a gun store and, with a one-minute background check, walk out with a gun that he used to kill 32 others and himself?”
Because the all-powerful NRA has effectively lobbied to make it virtually impossible to get this information into the hands of the people who sell the guns. In the name of the 2nd Amendment, this billion-dollar special interest group has stymied every responsible effort to control the unfettered sale of handguns. It took less than 30 minutes after the killings for NRA proponents to hit the airwaves cautioning people to not allow their emotions to allow them to be manipulated by those who seek to “gut the 2nd Amendment”. Wow! Don’t let your emotions about the senseless killing of innocent people by automatic weapons in the hands of lunatics influence your thinking about whether or not we need tighter control of these weapons. God forbid!
Let’s not turn this into a debate about whether or not responsible Americans should be allowed to own guns. They should. But crazy, whacked-out, psychotic, suicide-prone sociopaths SHOULD NOT be allowed to own guns. What’s so hard to understand about that? Does anyone really think it would “gut” the 2nd amendment right of Americans to bear arms if we implemented some effective level of control such that villains like Cho can’t massacre innocent people? Former NRA President Bob Corbin, who is also the former Arizona attorney general, says “they ought to look at the person, not the gun.”
Nice idea, Bob. Except that the NRA gun lobby has made it virtually impossible to “look at the person” until AFTER they shed the blood.
I applaud much of what the NRA does and I’m glad we have their perspective and their energy on many issues. I want the right to own a gun, whether I actually own one or not. And I want the freedom to protect my family and myself from violent attacks. But, the NRA seems to take the case that tragedies such as the Virginia Tech massacre are acceptable consequences to ensure that this right is totally unabridged. Indeed, the rhetoric that I hear attacking gun control efforts as “an un-American attack on the constitution of the United States” sounds a whole lot like the diatribe I’ve heard characterizing criticism of the Iraq war as “hating America” or “not supporting the troops”. Such mindless dribble only serves to deflect important and responsible discussions about how to preserve what’s good about the 2nd Amendment while ALSO dealing with the senseless slaughter that we have experience all to often at the hands of screwed up lunatics.
This isn’t about whether or not Americans, as a society, should have this right. It is about how we stop the Chos of the world from using that right to brutally attack that very society. The NRA and its supporters are unwilling to engage in that discussion. Indeed, they consider any attempt to control the sale of handguns is an all-out assault on their mission. What a shame that responsible hunters, sportsmen and shooters get painted with the same brush as sickos like Cho because the billion-dollar gun lobby refuses to support responsible gun control policies.
So, back to my friend Becca, and her brother-in-law, Jeff. Jeff suggested the following:
“My tribute to the victims is a $33 contribution — one small dollar for each life lost — to “http://www.bradycampaign.org” — to help … fight for strict gun control laws. I urge all who are outraged by Monday’s monumental tragedy to do the same.”
Sounds good to me. Maybe if millions of people translated their anger and grief into a few dollar donations we could combat the deep pockets of gun manufacturers and the NRA. Maybe we could look forward to a world where we don’t have to live in fear of sending our kids to high school or college. You can make a donation online using your ATM or credit card and what’s more, a generous anonymous donor has agreed to match all contributions this year up to $500,000! Your gift will be worth double today!
I pray that good, intelligent, loyal Americans of all political parties and persuasions will take a public and vigorous stand against this senseless violence. By all means, have your guns if you must. But for the sake of our society and our children, don’t ignore what has happened just to preserve your right to have those guns. Do something. Please.