Once a week, I gather with friends at the Broadway Brewery to solve the ills of the world over food, drink and talk. We rarely succeed.
My friend Steve recently asked a serious question during one of our gatherings: What makes a person think it is right to enter a grade school and murder 19 kids and two teachers?
A June 1 opinion piece written by CNN’s Philip Alpers started with this strong statement:
“A man — almost always a man — commonly with no criminal history and no diagnosis of mental illness, armed with a lawfully obtained semiautomatic ‘assault’ weapon, kills and injures a large number of innocents in a place they imagined to be safe.”
The first mass shooting that I remember occurred when I was 14 years old. In the early morning hours on Aug. 1, 1966, Charles Whitman stabbed his mother and wife to death.
Later that day, Whitman climbed to the observation deck of the clock tower at the University of Texas at Austin with multiple rifles, killing 15 other people and injuring 31 others over a 96-minute shooting spree.
The University of Texas shootings were tragic, but there were no video phones in 1966.
On April 20, 1999, I was living five miles from Columbine High School in Colorado and knew kids who went to the school. The results of the Columbine massacre — 13 people murdered, more than 20 injured — were televised live for the world to see.
From April 20, 1999, to June 1, 2022, there have been 14 mass shootings at schools and colleges, killing almost 170 students and adults, excluding the shooters. This number includes the May 24 bloodbath at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas.
A “mass shooting” is defined as four or more victims injured or killed, excluding the perpetrator, at one location. As of June 1, there were 246 mass shootings in the U.S. during the first 165 days of this year.
That is 1.5 mass shootings per day, excluding another 51 wounded and 11 killed in Tulsa, Chattanooga, Philadelphia and Clarendon County, South Carolina, during the weekend of June 4 and 5. Like car accidents, mass shootings have become so frequent that we only hear of the most horrific ones.
As a reminder to my regular readers and for those who are new to these pages, I am a firearms owner and work for a company that sells firearms. I don’t want to take firearms away from lawful owners.
I am also an avid opponent of the National Rifle Association and its CEO and Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre, who declared one week after the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings: “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.”
Tell me, what exactly do “bad guys” look and sound like so we can better identify them before they legally purchase assault-style rifles?
The alleged Boston and Uvalde shooters passed background checks and were considered “good guys,” who purchased semi-automatic military-style rifles because our Republican friends in Congress will do nothing about it.
Like 53% of Americans, I want to see an age limit of 21 to purchase a long gun; red flag laws; universal background checks; and mandatory waiting periods of at least seven days.
House Democrats have done this. Congressional Republicans will not.
My dinner friends and I could not answer Steve’s question. We speculated that part of the problem is easy access to high-powered firearms and large-capacity magazines. We discussed how voluntary gun buy-back programs and tightening gun laws in the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand significantly reduced the number of shooting deaths, including suicides by gun.
In the U.S, the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act became law on Feb. 28, 1994, but it was not renewed on Nov. 30, 1998. During the Brady bill period, we saw a serious decrease in gun-related killings and suicides. When Brady was not renewed in 1998, the number of gun-related deaths markedly increased.
Still Congress has done nothing to stem the tide of mass shootings. It seems our Republican legislators care more about abortion and “religious rights” than curbing the violence killing our kids.
I sent a letter to Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler advocating common-sense gun laws. Her first response concerned the coronavirus.
It wasn’t until four days later that I received an unconvincing email about her role in stemming gun violence in the U.S. And she wants to be our next senator?
We are not going to convince the NRA, Republican legislators and conspiracy theorists that the Second Amendment is not absolute.
But we can vote in a new Congress that will protect the citizens of this nation.
David Rosman is an award winning editor, writer and professional speaker. David is the Missouri state director of American Atheists and a bi-weekly columnist for the Columbia Missourian at ColumbiaMissourian.com.