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Time for public opinion to evolve on guns

We used to rationalize that drinking and driving was a minor offense and had some humor to it. We now have strict laws governing it and an ongoing national campaign to keep the dangers front and center. Public opinion and public policy have changed.

We used to think smoking was cool, and the majority of Americans understand how detrimental it is. We have an ongoing campaign to underscore that message, too. Public opinion and policy continue to change.

While better gun control and increased funding for mental health services must be lead components in any national conversation on ways to address recent mass gun killings and the plague of gun violence in our city and country, a missing element in the early discussion is an aggressive effort to change public opinion.

We have a love affair with guns and violence. So many pride themselves in believing that shoot-’em-up ruggedness is the hallmark of the American character. Much of that is as manufactured as the Marlboro man or the virtual world of Halo 4.

Strength is attractive, to be sure, but guns are not about strength; they are about violence. If we use the horror of Newtown to really examine ourselves, we need to put as much effort into recasting this issue in public opinion as we do in the legislative arena. Newtown must become Our Town.


Politicians, NRA an unholy alliance

An attempted massacre in Portland, Ore; an accomplished massacre in Newtown, Conn. Guns in the hands of deranged people. A litany of horrific events since Columbine and Virginia Tech. All witness to the cozy alliance between the gun lobby and spineless politicians such as Reps. Marlin Stutzman, Joe Donnelly and Mike Pence offers the most dangerous terrorist threat our nation may face.


Second Amendment can be taken literally

According to the media, Adam Lanza, who killed 27 people in Connecticut, didn’t buy the three guns and ammunition he used. His mother, Nancy Lanza, did. In Connecticut, a person must be age 21 to get a permit and buy a gun. He was only 20.

Solving the dual problems of gun proliferation and gun violence will require drastic, unpopular steps. For one, make the minimum age uniform at 21 nationwide. Second, the government should interpret the Second Amendment literally and require all states to create “militias” that every gun owner must join. Assault weapons would be banned. As members of “militias,” every gun owner would have an identity card, pay an annual “militia” fee, and be subject to military law. The Department of Defense would oversee these militias and the entire program, thus removing civilian gun control from the political process and the clamor of special-interest groups. Sayonara, NRA!

The gun community will claim, as it frequently does, that the vast majority of gun owners are law abiding. That is true – up to the point they become non-law abiding, and no one can predict when that may happen. Every gun owned by somebody has the potential for killing someone.

Another factor to consider regarding who should own guns is the rate of mental illness in the United States. Consult the website for the National Institute of Mental Health for information and stats on that.