Sandy Hook. Columbine. Virginia Tech. The Aurora movie theater shooting.
The names are way too familiar. And the scenes are etched in our minds.
All of these mass shootings have one thing in common; sensible talk about the role of guns in these increasingly common tragedies has faded so fast that nothing has been done to address preventing future incidents of gun violence.
There are those who say guns are to blame. The anti-gun groups will say that there is no need for any American civilian to own a semi-automatic weapon that can shoot a massive number of people in just seconds. They are calling for universal background checks, tighter controls of gun shows, and limiting high-capacity ammunition magazines.
On the other side are those who claim that the U.S. Constitution and the Second Amendment allows Americans to own any and all guns they want, whether it be for protection or for recreational use. These folks say it’s their right and they will not compromise on the number of guns they can own, the amount of ammunition that they can have or the places that they can carry their guns, concealed or not.
An example of that: those who went to Olympia with guns in full display to make a statement about gun rights. Or those who took their guns to an Oak Harbor City Council meeting to protest a council proposal to prohibit guns in city parks.
Somewhere in the middle of this debate are those who can see a compromise on allowing rightful responsible gun ownership but want to address the need for better mental health care in this country. They believe that individuals like those behind the terrible shootings of recent years would have been noticed and treated were there more mental health screenings in schools and other public institutions.
This year’s talk on gun control, on both the national and the state level, quickly moved to the extreme ends of the debate. On one extreme, in South Dakota, the state has passed legislation allowing and encouraging all teachers to carry handguns in their classrooms.
At the other end, here in Washington state, it was suggested that gun legislation carry a stipulation that anyone owning an automatic weapon would get a visit from the local sheriff, who would “inspect” their home to make sure guns were being stored safely.
All of the debate around new gun laws has prompted some gun supporters to stock up on weapons, in fear they might not be allowed to buy certain guns or ammunition in the future. In fact, last weekend’s gun show at the Kitsap County Fairgrounds had a record attendance, sponsors reported.
The extreme rhetoric needs to stop. The fear needs to stop. Common sense needs to prevail and compromise needs to take place.
Limitations on high-powered semi-automatic weapons and large ammunition clips needs to be coupled with protections for responsible gun owners. And anything that happens needs to include meaningful solutions on how we handle mental illness in the country.
Look at the faces of the parents of the Sandy Hook victims. Listen to them when they tell us that it will happen again unless change comes. We owe it to them to find answers.