One of the men murdered at Accent Signage in Minneapolis in 2012 was a friend of mine. All of the victims of that mass shooting were honorable, gentle men. They did not deserve to die at the hand of uncontrollable anger. Nobody does. Gun violence is taking the lives of men, women and children daily.
I believe that it’s time to take a page out of the nonsmokers’ playbook. Make gun violence as politically incorrect as smoking cigars, cigarettes and pipes in restaurants, schools and grocery stores.
Apples and oranges — comparing smoking to guns? (One is a choice, and the other is a “right,” protected by the Second Amendment.) No, not really; it’s about mind-sets. Because, taking that page out of the nonsmokers’ guide, even adults with “rights” can no longer smoke on an airplane or at church or in hospitals. Shopping malls have designated areas for smoking. That’s all because of the — wait for it — common good.
A person cannot smoke on school grounds, but in 18 states adults can legally carry guns onto school property — not to mention the likelihood that students illegally bring guns into schools. And there is no smoking in most religious institutions, and many have “no guns” signs posted, yet, let’s all pray that handgun is locked when it hits the floor or falls out of a purse. Or becomes an item to be investigated by a curious child.
We’ve managed to get a lot done when we’ve united for the health of all Americans. We took on the big tobacco companies. Clean indoor air is an example of what we can do when we put the common good ahead of the “wants” of a few. The National Rifle Association (NRA) wants more guns available and accessible; it “wants” less regulation and oversight. Bigger, faster and better weapons, more rounds. I and many people like me just want an end to the violence. I want lockdowns in classrooms to become obsolete.
You want a smoke? There is a time and a place for it, just as there is a time and a place for guns: at shooting ranges, at clay targets or tin cans on fence posts in the middle of nowhere, and during long-held family traditions of hunting.
So what can we all do to take the violence out of the guns? We desperately need to curb the “you can’t make me” attitude.” The “come and get it” grandstanding. (Thank you, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, and how much good did that little tantrum do? Another donation from the NRA?) That type of divisive rhetoric is part of the problem, not part of the solution. Gun owners and gun safety advocates should be able to sit down together, to look for reasonable compromises to end gun violence without resorting to name-calling and intimidation. I think we can agree to disagree on some issues; however, children shooting children is unacceptable. This is about the common good.
How can anyone tell the difference between a good guy with a gun and the bad guys? Seems to me the one with a badge and a uniform is generally the good guy. And how can the good guys with badges tell the difference between the two other guys with the guns? It’s like trying to tell the difference between a Camel and a Marlboro from 20 yards.
People ask: “Do you mind if I smoke?” Why is the question “Do you have guns in your home?” so hard to ask and answer? It’s not a personal challenge; it’s a simple question. People are still buying cigarettes. They are still smoking, just no longer in places that affect the health of others.
People will be able to purchase guns, but it may take longer. How about better and ongoing gun-safety training? As with driving, some of us get rusty with age.
Shooting a gun at another person to solve a disagreement is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. Where did we ever get the idea that was OK? And how are we going to change it? Got a problem, grab your gun — that knee-jerk reaction is deadly. Please, before you reach for the gun: stop, think, breathe. Is this the enemy? Before you shoot, breathe. It could save a life.
I know we have all heard it: “Guns don’t kill people, people do.” It takes a human hand to pull the trigger. Unfortunately, sometimes that human hand is that of a child, or a teenager, or someone who’s suffering from depression, mental illness or uncontrollable rage, is under the influence, or is just plain ticked-off about something, and that gun is a handy, but deadly, solution to a problem.
We can do better. We’ve done it before, and we can do it again.
Linda Carvel lives in Plymouth.