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A guy buys weapons that Marines typically use. He stockpiles more ammo than the National Guard Armory. He applies his advanced intellect to build a lethal mousetrap in the apartment building where he lives.
Then he dons armor and opens fire with as semi-automatic assault rifle, killing a dozen people and almost 58 more who are sitting calmly and happily watching the latest episode of Batman at a big-screen movie complex.
That would seem more like a movie plot within a plot, wouldn’t it?
Could anything seem more inconceivable, more foreign, more fictitious?
Call me naïve. Here is my relationship to guns. When I was a boy, they constantly were strapped around my waist and to my leg to allow the fastest draw possible. Mattel Fanner 50s were my model. Shootin’ Shell was my caliber. I was the sheriff who brought in the bad guys, the cowboy who rode the range.
I owned air rifles, BB guns and water pistols.
I had toys that I loved, but at about age 9 or 10 I realized greater joys from baseball, basketball and football and hung up my shooting irons forever.
Only once have I shot a real weapon, when my brother handed me a shotgun and told me how to shoot at clay pigeons. I yelled “pull” twice, shot twice, broke two pigeons and retired from that as well.
I just never conceived of having a gun in my house, much less my hand.
That’s foreign language to many of you, I realize. You are outdoorsmen, hunters, target shooters, law-enforcement officers, defenders of our nation.
To you, the presence of guns provides warmth and security like having a parka in the closet, something to pull out for extra defense in cold and difficult times.
I know many of you. I am from the lineage of men who have kept arsenals at home. I love people who legally carry concealed weapons for the protection they provide.
I respect those choices.
But I simply don’t understand them.
Then this terrible assault on innocent people in Colorado erupts out of the night, and my ignorance only deepens.
Why must it be legal to buy the sort of weapons my son carries in Afghanistan? Why can mass-killing ammo be acquired and hoarded?
Why must our Constitutional right to bear arms include these types of arms?
Why were there more weapons of mass destruction found in a graduate student’s apartment outside Denver than by George W. Bush’s men and women after months of war in Iraq?
That may seem flip – and this is not a topic that merits any sort of humor – but I’m just overwhelmed that one obviously intelligent but deeply flawed human (loosely defined) could accomplish all of this.
Yes, there have been greater numbers murdered by other deranged individuals. Yes, there have been more random rampages, more gruesome acts. But this one…so many innocent, so much mayhem, unfathomable and unconscionable murder.
Can you imagine sitting in a movie theater, hearing a door open and then seeing a man enter and simply start killing people – your friends, your loved ones, your children?
This is not a time to turn politician and start an oral assault, if you will, of word bombs from the left or the right on the need or not for a new interpretation of the Second Amendment.
The time is right, however, for reasonable people to sit down and ask reasonable questions about why any citizen needs such weapons at easy disposal. Surely gun makers sell enough of them to foreign countries to make their profits without these volume killers being available at the closest discount store.
But there they are, like toys for a 9-year-old, only instead of being replicas these days of the old six-shooter – deadly as those were – they now are right there for the kid to see, the same sorts of tools used in pixels by Bruce Willis or Sylvester Stallone or Matt Damon or any other shoot-‘em-up star of this era.
These weapons are there to kill something, surely not simply a deer, a squirrel or the occasional sick farm animal that has to be put down.
In Kentucky, what other purpose would there be for something that can shoot 30 rounds in a minute with enough force that one shot does sufficient and deadly damage?
I don’t know the answer. I don’t know what sort of act might be required before gun enthusiasts recognize that not every weapon needs to be sold to every individual.
I realize there are thefts and outlaw sales and illegal transactions everywhere.
I realize that it’s not guns who kill people but those who own them.
I grasp that the awful accidents in homes that take the lives of children who have found loaded weapons are no more common than non-swimming infants falling into pools.
I understand the Constitution and why its words were written .
But what I never, ever will understand is why we need our laws about the acquisition and ownership of firearms to be so open and airy that any fly-by-night mass murderer can build his ordinance without flashing lights going off somewhere.
Nothing we say or do now will bring back those people who died in Colorado. Nothing will quell the pain and anger in their survivors or the families of those gravely injured.
But doing nothing in their wake only will make that pain deepen and broaden and the scars grow indelible.
In Happy Valley, Pa., a university is paying its debt to victims of a rampaging rapist of children by committing to change and donating $60 million to help prevent these kinds of crimes from happening again.
In Colorado, many have paid with their lives and their health. Let’s hope that’s sufficient to signal a new future in which others may be protected as well.