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Friday, March 8, 2013
Tucson. Aurora. Columbine. Newtown. The list of places -- and lives -- scarred by mass shootings continues to grow. There were at least seven mass shootings in 2012, the worst year on record in terms of casualties. In every incident, semi-automatic or assault weapons were used. 151 people died, and numerous lives were forever altered.
Shoot-outs were rarer in the Wild West than they are now. Even Dodge City, Tombstone and Deadwood had gun-control measures. Frontiersmen owned guns for hunting and protection, but when they entered towns, they were requested to hand them over to the sheriff in exchange for a receipt to reclaim them later. The result? Gun violence in the Wild West was far less prevalent than TV Westerns would have us believe.
If rugged frontiersmen could see the benefit in gun control, why can't we in modern society do likewise?
What drives the way we live our lives? Fear or love?
As members of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers), we adhere to the principles of peace and nonviolence that are prominent in most of humankind's spiritual teachings. Jesus' commandment to love your neighbor as yourself is not a quaint proverb but a call to action, a code to live by.
If we seek to love one another, then we must live our lives in such a way that we make a positive impact on others. All of us have the power to bring about changes that can promote a safer environment for our fellow citizens to live in peace and security.
Some would argue that guns provide that security, but we need to establish ways to be secure that don't end up endangering ourselves and others. The sentiment that the only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun does not hold up in light of recent events. Columbine had an armed guard on duty at the school. Virginia Tech had a campus police force.
There have been 62 mass shootings in the U.S. over the past 30 years, and not one was stopped by an armed civilian.
Gandhi was right when he said, "An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind."
There is another way: We can choose to live our lives out of love and freedom, not fear. We can work on behalf of our communities by urging Congress to pass relevant and rational gun safety legislation.
That does not mean relinquishment of gun ownership by responsible gun owners, sportsmen and hunters, but there is an urgency to limit the potential for irresponsible gun use.
As Friends (Quakers), we support the suggested actions of Friends Committee on National Legislation, a Quaker organization lobbying in the public interest.
Act now. Make your voice heard. Contact your legislators and demand that they enact the following:
1. Require universal background checks. Every person who buys a gun should pass a criminal background check via the National Instant Criminal Background Check System.
2. Renew and update the federal assault weapons ban that expired in 2004. High-capacity weapons and ammunition magazines should not be available to citizens.
3. Make gun trafficking a federal crime. We should empower law enforcement to investigate and prosecute straw purchasers, gun traffickers and their entire criminal networks.
None of these measures would prevent responsible citizens from owning guns, but if these actions are legislated, they would go far in limiting mayhem committed by the irresponsible.
Will these actions guarantee an absolute end to mayhem and mass shooting?
More than 30,000 people die annually due to gun violence and misuse.
Although there can never be an absolute guarantee that passing legislation will avert all tragedies, enacting the above changes will surely make a difference and save lives.
Inaction solves nothing, changes nothing.
Isn't it better, then, to demand change, to act? And to act out of love, not fear?
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