Have we, as a society, decided that our peace of mind and the lives of our children and our loved ones are less important than our unfettered access to weapons that hurl lead projectiles faster than the speed of sound? It would appear so.
After the news is blasted in front of our eyes and across the air waves of another mass shooting (350 or so this year, but who's counting?) in the United States, our only response is to gnash our teeth and send prayers to the families of people killed and wounded. That doesn't even take into account the daily toll of suicides, domestic murders, accidents and crime-related deaths as a result of guns.
On one side, the absolutists say the Constitution guarantees citizens the unconditional right to possess firearms and the other side the absolutists say all guns should be taken out of the hands of everybody and scrapped. The heated rhetoric, fueled by the National Rifle Association and the average person who feels helpless in the face of the onslaught, serves no one in the quest to find a way to take guns out of the hands of people who would do harm. Unfortunately, as things stand today, there is no good way to cull the "bad actors" from the ranks of gun owners because many people are only one incident away from a flash of uncontrollable rage that ends in the pull of a trigger.
Nonetheless, there are things we can be doing as a nation to reduce the use of firearms in mass shootings and other crimes.
First and foremost should be national gun laws rather than a hodgepodge of state laws that defeat each other. Second, universal background checks for all gun sales including between friends and family members, at guns shows and out of the back of your trunk. Third, 48-hour waiting periods between purchase and receipt of firearms. Fifth, training and licensing of all people who own guns, especially those who feel a need to carry a weapon on their bodies, and a requirement that they belong to a local regulated militia that is certified by local law enforcement.
The Second Amendment doesn't guarantee unregulated free access to firearms for everyone. Nor does it guarantee access to any type of weaponry you think you need to protect yourself from tyranny. Because if that is your reasoning, then you should be able to have rocket-propelled grenades, surface-to-air missiles and anti-tank rockets, because that's the only way you might be able to stop the government from leveling your house with an air strike from an F-16 or squashing it with an M1 Abrams Tank. And that's assuming the government can rally our men and women in uniform to actually take up arms against their fellow citizens.
And if you think a gun can protect you from a home invasion, while that might be true in the unlikely circumstance your front door is kicked in by a criminal, chances are that gun will be used against a loved one or yourself in a fit of anger, which is statistically more likely than you shooting someone breaking into your home to rape your child or steal your precious flat-screen TV.
We're not going to touch on the inanity of "gun free zones" either, because plenty of mass shootings have happened where guns are allowed or not allowed. It's a ridiculous straw dog argument meant to deflect from the debate on how we protect ourselves, our loved ones and our community from people with tools whose sole utility is to kill a human.
Without a serious national debate on how best to keep firearms out of the hands of those who would misuse them, the alternative is to walk down the street with a rifle slung over a should or a gun in hand at all times, looking in all directions for the next threat. Or maybe we should just cower in our armories in the basements of our homes waiting for the worst to happen. And when we pack our children off to school, we should all make sure they are outfitted with the latest and greatest in bullet-proof gear.
It's time for us to turn down the volume on both extremes of the gun control debate and find a middle ground where we all can feel safe while not disarming our peaceful, law-abiding neighbors who keep their firearms locked and away from children and criminals.
It's also time for us to address mental illness, white male entitlement, societal alienation and religious extremism of all types, but it's going to require all hands on deck and it's going to require a willingness to compromise. Can we manage that? The alternative is to just keep on keeping on.