Koutoulas: The column I never wanted to write

Published 9:38 am Thursday, August 8, 2019

As I write this, we are all trying to make sense of not one but two more mass shootings in the United States. Every time this happens, I think surely this time Americans will demand action. I felt that after Sandy Hook, and after Parkland.

Two shootings in 24 hours. At least 31 dead. Will this finally be the last straw? Thoughts and prayers only get you so far.

The issue of what to do about gun violence is fraught. Politicians, lobbyists, and cable news pundits would have you believe there is no possible compromise. They say we are between two extremes: those that would take away all our guns and those who want a return to the Wild West. I’m not buying that.

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I am not advocating taking away people’s guns. Nor am I advocating a free-for-all in which everyone walks around packing. I’m not supporting any particular new laws. What I am urging my fellow Americans to do is start taking this issue seriously.

I am a gun owner. I own a pistol, a shotgun and a .22 rifle. I taught my sons how to shoot and how to be safe, responsible gun owners.

It is absurd that we require higher standards of those seeking to operate a motor vehicle than we do of those who wish to own a firearm.

It is absurd that we refuse to consider all possible solutions when dealing with a problem that has become a national health crisis.

It is beyond absurd that we allow one organization to control the narrative — an organization that represents not the majority of gun owners, but gun manufacturers. Meanwhile, we allow our elected leaders to stifle attempts to conduct serious research into the causes of the epidemic of gun violence that has seized our nation.

No other nation experiences the level of gun violence that America does. No other country would tolerate it. What makes us different? The difference is that no other country has as many firearms readily available as America does.

I keep hearing that stricter gun laws would not prevent tragedies like mass shootings or the constant barrage of other incidents of gun violence. I don’t accept that. Australia, among other nations, has shown otherwise. Our friends down under experienced a drop in the homicide rate of 43 percent when they finally got fed up in 1996 and enacted stricter gun laws.

At the least, isn’t it worth a try? So why don’t we?

The truth is, we have — with some success. In 1994, a national assault weapons ban went into effect. The result was a 43 percent decrease in mass shootings. In 2004 — after heavy lobbying by the NRA — the ban was allowed to lapse. Gun deaths rose by more than 200 percent.

The NRA would have you believe that most Americans are against any new gun laws. That’s not true.

Recent polling has revealed:

— 96 percent of us favor universal background checks

— 75 percent support a 30-day waiting period

— 70 percent support registration of all private guns with the police

With these numbers, why don’t our elected leaders enact some of this legislation? The reason is the NRA has become such a powerful force on Capitol Hill that to go against their wishes is political suicide. Remember, they don’t represent us; they represent the gun manufacturers.

In 2016, The NRA spent a record $55 million on U.S. elections. They claim to represent American gun owners. As I said, I am a gun owner — as are many of my friends. Almost none of us support the actions of the NRA.

No one has ever seriously proposed that we ban hunting rifles or target shooting. But you don’t need a 200-round magazine to hunt deer.

What we have in effect is the manufacturers of a deadly product writing the laws that regulate — or fail to — those products.

What about the second amendment? Well, what about it? Here is the actual text:

“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

You have to torture that text to conclude that the framers meant to allow for the unregulated private ownership of weapons capable of massacring dozens of people in seconds. They were thinking of muskets, not assault rifles. And the word “regulated” is right there in the text. There is nothing unconstitutional about regulating gun ownership.

This column is the column I never wanted to write. I know many will agree with me, but many will strongly disagree. Some will be angry with me.

We’re talking about our loved ones. Our children. Our grandchildren. Aren’t they worth at least trying to do something about this horrific state of affairs?

Final thought: I know it’s painful to bring up, but the next mass shooting could easily be in Winchester. Let that sink in.

Pete Koutoulas is an IT professional working in Lexington. He and his wife have resided in Winchester since 2015. Pete can be reached at pete@koutoulas.me or follow him on Twitter @PeteKoutoulas.