As the ongoing debate over guns in America continues to polarize and rage, one thing is becoming eminently clear. Despite their best efforts to defend assault-type weapons and hi-capacity magazines, the defenders of unfettered gun-rights have not and cannot make a case for their utility among the citizen population of America.
I have asked, in a recent series of hotly contested gun-control articles (http://woodbury-middlebury.patch.com/search?keywords=a+note+to+you+%28the+gun+owner%29), for supporters of gun-rights to cite incidents where assault weapons with hi-capacity magazines have been used in home or self-defense. Their response has not been compelling or convincing. An episode at home from 2010 (less than 10 shots fired), an on-duty security guard (not civilian use) from 2007, an unfired/unloaded AR-15 used to frighten away intruders - in other words, nothing of consequence. This should come as no surprise since not even the NRA’s star “mommy defender” Gayle Trotter who testified before a Senate hearing on January 30th could come up with a single, real-world example of a hi-capacity assault weapon used by a mother for self-defense.
Instead, what we hear are hypotheticals from theatrical Republican Senators like Lyndsey Graham about victims cowering in closets, and how “Fifteen rounds in the hands of a mother trying to protect her children may not be enough.” Unfortunately, there is nothing hypothetical about the actual, real-world lethality of assault weapons as the victims of Aurora and Newtown can attest. Unfortunately, it is always possible to posit a hypothetical scenario where one more gun or one more bullet can be justified in self-defense. As a society we witnessed similar arguments in support of ever-expanding nuclear arsenals, but somehow we also understood the madness associated with that logic, and took great pains, and great expense to limit the number and accessibility of such weapons. It was equally true that “nukes don’t kill people, people kill people,” and that is precisely why we sought to remove those weapons from the hands of people.
There is also, in our largely cultural clash over guns, a heavy cost that is never tallied. And that is because it is so hard to calculate. Immediately after the Aurora shootings I noted this:
“Two days later (post Aurora) my community’s Sunday music concert, played on cool grass under great oaks, had the marked presence of extra police. The Colorado shooting was cited as the reason for this show of force. In the aftermath of that shooting, how many parents in my town feel the same way about letting their children go to a “late-show” or take in a peaceful summer concert? This week in Oak Creek, Wisconsin how many families feel comfortable praying in church? This, besides the tragedy and mayhem of the actual killings, is the price we, as a nation, pay for our love affair with guns - the pursuit of happiness impinged by a society that shows no inclination towards limiting the distribution and presence of guns.”
And now, with Newtown we can add one more incalculable but undeniably real cost - the absence of easy breathing and smiles as we say goodbye to our young children on their way to learn at school. That too has been taken from us. Not just by some random madman, but by our enabling culture of guns.