There were many responses to the Newtown, Conn., shooting in this newspaper, ranging from those who believe the 2nd Amendment “rules” without exception and those who believe our “right to bear arms” was never intended to support the right of ordinary citizens to own assault weapons.
When I first heard that the National Rifle Association was going to make a statement, I hoped that a sane policy would emerge on the subject, with a serious discussion of the issues, but instead, Wayne LaPierre’s speech was just another “right” vs. “left” argument, although I agreed with him on one subject.
It’s not only guns that have changed America in my lifetime. It’s also been the dumbing down of American education, the disparaging of ethical and moral standards, the acceptance of video game violence and our preoccupation with individual rights instead of personal responsibilities.
Fifteen years ago, I wrote an article called “Another look at gun control” and I haven’t changed my opinion on the subject since then.
You don’t have to be a conservative to realize that many gun control laws are little more than cosmetic attempts to resolve the problems of assault weapons in the hands of disturbed children and adults, and it’s not only liberals who believe there are too many military style weapons in the hands of people who believe they need to “protect themselves from the government.”
As a police officer and a competitive shooter in New York City in the 1960s and ‘70s, I owned three revolvers and would have been subject to an automatic 10-day suspension without pay if I lost any of them, even in a burglary. So I installed an expensive alarm lock on my apartment door and kept them secured and inaccessible to guests of any age. When I traveled out of New York, I was obligated to report weapons in my possession to police agencies in other states.
We also had to demonstrate proficiency at the pistol range several times a year and if necessary, attend training sessions to improve our skills. Safe handling, cleaning and storing weapons was an essential part of that training.
Why not require accountability and some level of proficiency from civilian gun owners? In a nation where portable “weapons of mass destruction” are readily available, we need screening methods, background checks and training requirements.
But enacting and enforcing sensible gun laws will not stem the tide of violence in this country. Parents and other adults must also demonstrate and teach children standards of honor, integrity and responsibility, for unless they are guided from within by a moral compass, few people adjust their behavior because of laws.
Rightfully proud of our constitutional rights, we have distorted the meaning of the word “freedom” to excuse just about anything anyone wants to do at any time anywhere, effectively ignoring our responsibilities to ourselves and each other.
Due to a lack of consensus on “right and wrong,” as well as a lack of stable family relationships, we devise legal remedies for moral and ethical problems, proclaiming our “right to choose, right to bear arms and right to free speech,” while too many children live and often die in a moral and ethical vacuum.
Neither Republican nor Democratic Party members of Congress dare oppose the demands of groups with the power and funds to remove them from office.
There are too many guns in this country and too many wrongs allegedly protected by the U.S. Constitution. And as long as politicians concentrate on re-election and the rest of us demand rights unfettered by responsibilities, the violence will continue.
Eileen Ford is a Rockport resident and a regular Times columnist.