Friday, October 02, 2015

We need to talk about guns

I have often described myself — somewhat in jest — as a crazy gun nut.

I have long believed that the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution entitles "We the People" to the finest of weaponry that money can buy. If the government can have automatic weapons, bazookas and tanks, then by golly, we should be allowed to, too.

This isn't satire. That's not hyperbole. I believe that the Second Amendment is about the only thing that assures that power can be returned to the people when government gets too big for its figurative britches. We're not going to be able to do that with muskets or pointy sticks so we'll need to stay on-par with whatever the armed forces are handing out.

But — and this is where it gets confusing for me — we have a serious gun problem in this country. My heart can't take whatever tragedy is going to happen at a community college, church or movie theatre next month. Too many people have lost their lives these past few years from senseless violence made possible from guns.

We live in a country where in order to get birth control, a woman has to get permission from her insurance company to get permission from her doctor to get permission from her pharmacist to get the birth control. But to get a gun, just show a photo ID and you're good.

We live in a country where to get psychological help, you have to get permission from your insurance company to get permission from your doctor to get a referral to a psychologist. Or shoot someone. You move to the front of the line if you shoot someone.

We live in a country where its harder to vote than to get a gun, where it's harder to get a college diploma than a gun — a high school diploma for that matter. Hell, some might even say it's harder to get a job than a gun. And I'm not talking about illegally obtaining a gun. I'm talking about getting one through legal means.

Of course, the NRA and the radical right will tell you that if you create any sort of gun control, that will only prevent honest people from legally obtaining guns. But all the criminals will still get theirs on the black market. And they're right.

But the same radical right has no problem outlawing abortion and pushing women to back-alley doctors with coat hangers, or outlawing drugs and creating an unregulated black-market drug industry that's currently destroying our youth.

So are laws good? Or bad? I can never tell with the right. Or the left for that matter.

I'll be completely honest with you: I'm flummoxed. I don't know what the solution is. The Second Amendment is good for the country. It's good for the people of this country. But raving lunatics with mommy issues, loner syndrome or blackened hearts having access to those guns is not good for the country.

So what do we do? Honestly, what is the answer?

I think it's time to dig Charlton Heston up and have a serious face-to-face with his cold, dead hand. I think it's time to drop the bravado and sit down and figure out what's really best for this country. Because there's no way anyone can think that another dozen dead college students next month is what's best for this country.

The Andrew Cuomos and Barack Obamas of the world are bound to pounce on Thursday's tragedy and try to make political hay of it. The Wayne LaPierres and Mitch McConnells of the world will say that "guns don't kill people, lunatics do." Or something like that.

So how about a compromise? How about we stop letting lunatics have guns? How about some sort of mental health test before people are allowed to purchase something that blasts a projectile at 1,700 miles per hour?

Sure the lunatics will still be able to get the guns from the black market. Just like every American is capable of breaking every law if they really want to. Just because people speed down Transit Road doesn't mean they should do away with the speed limit, does it? (although they should ... and that's a topic for another day)

I'm not saying ban. I'm saying discussion. A serious one. Starting today. Now, even. Comment on this column to get involved.

***

As a completely unrelated side note, I'd like to tip my East Niagara Post baseball cap to the men and women on the Lockport Police and Fire departments for the fine work they did Sunday night.

Both departments responded in force to the report of a male who had jumped into the Erie Canal. LPD officers Mike Stover and Toby Trowbridge met and exceeded their job descriptions of protecting and serving when they clung to the male and to the canal's south wall, keeping him afloat for nearly an hour. LFD Chief Pat Brady and crew assisted admirably in the effort, providing lighting, manpower and supplies.

I had an interesting conversation with LPD Chief Larry Eggert the afternoon following the rescue. At the time, he had yet to hear the name of the man he helped save. And during the rescue, he was so focused on what was going on in the canal that he didn't realize there were 100 people watching from the Big Bridge.

To those folks on the Big Bridge who spontaneously applauded when the young male was pulled into the rescue boat, thank you. You restored some of my faith in humanity. And you probably also made those from LFD and LPD remember — if only for a minute — why they chose the line of work they did.

+Scott Leffler is no longer a crazy gun nut. Gun nut, yes. Crazy, yes. But no longer shall the twain meet. Follow him on Twitter @scottleffler or email him at scott.leffler@gmai.com.


This column was originally published on East Niagara Post