Bob Franken

King Features Column

(As always, this column appears here a week after its newspaper release per my deal with the syndicator)

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Let’s be direct: Those well-financed gun lobbyists who have so intimidated our craven politicians are complicit in the slaughter of the children in Newtown, Conn. That’s an opinion about the immorality of their bullying. The possession of weapons of mass destruction they promote is not a crime because our lawmakers have cowered and refused to make laws that would help end these increasingly common slaughters. The legislators also are complicit because of their dereliction of duty.
We need to abruptly change direction. The nation needs to be disarmed. Nothing less than that. The reality that there are pistols and rifles in nearly half of America’s homes, all capable of ending a precious life at the twitch of a finger, is insane. The fact that states are expanding the right to carry concealed weapons is a disgrace. Michigan is the latest to consider such action. Connecticut, where those innocent youngsters were massacred by a deranged young man who had easy access to a family arsenal, has stricter requirements, but obviously not strict enough.
President Barack Obama’s emotional response was shared by the entire country. But will his call for “meaningful action” be more than empty words? We have mourned the carnage so many times, and yet our leaders are afraid to eliminate the instruments that make such bloodshed so easy.
How many times must we go through this? How is it that after Columbine, Virginia Tech, Aurora and Gabby Giffords, we have new bursts of horror that we mourn and then consign to apathy? While such atrocities sometimes do occur elsewhere — Norway comes to mind — it also is true that in countries where there is stringent control, gun deaths are vastly reduced. Here, it is not only the shock of the heinous incidents, but the evil of the routine. In the United States last year, there were more than 11,000 firearm homicides. Add to that those who were accidentally mowed down.

About now, someone will recite that mindless cliché that “Guns don’t kill, people do.” It’s glib but dull-witted, because people kill so easily with guns. Also nonsense is the argument that staunch prohibitions would infringe on our individual freedom. Freedom for one ends where danger to others begins. And the danger is obvious.
If we want to make exceptions for hunters, let’s create them under tough controls. Access for the military and the police are obvious, but for the rest of us, the time has come to give up our guns. Rigorous enforcement of new laws that bring lengthy prison time for illegal possession must be a police priority. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg has it right when he describes this as a “national tragedy, and it demands a national response.”
While our officeholders can be faulted, the real blame lies with all of us. We have an obsession with guns. As a society, we look at the death and destruction they cause as part of some video game or violent movie. That’s how we’ve been conditioned over generations. So we need to examine those primal barbaric beliefs and replace them. Instead of tolerating those who pressure for the widespread possession of these lethal devices, we need to ostracize them and shun those who are actually armed.
When our candidates pander to organizations that glorify these instruments of death, they need to be ridiculed and rejected. Right now, a visit to the meetings of the National Rifle Association has become a pilgrimage for those who will do or say anything to get votes. If they succeed in getting elected, they continue to grovel before the all-powerful
NRA, whose former president, the late Charlton Heston, declared his guns would have to be pried “from my cold, dead hands.” It is time for our leaders to turn their backs on cold political calculation and end the carnage.

© 2012 Bob Franken
Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.

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