The bitter irony of the recent history of opposition to gun control in America is that those who have fought so hard to hold off such legislation have taken away from the rest of us the freedom to assemble without fear. Maybe some will take comfort in the statistics being quoted in the media that mass-shooting incidents per year are not actually on the rise. But, in fact, it takes a lot of psychological denial to go to a public place without fearing that gunfire will open up at any moment.

We have a serious public health problem in the United States. I define it as too many bullet holes in people. I'd like to see the National Rifle Association, along with its supporters in Congress and on the Supreme Court, tell us what will be done about this public-health threat besides deflecting the issue with slogans. But I doubt I will live long enough to see such an effort. So we have come to this: Those of you who support the maximum liberty to possess and carry firearms need to stand down. You are in the minority, and the rest of us want our country back.


• • •

Mass killings provoke thought and comment, but when honest emotions cool enough for rational thinking, several points are clear. Among them are answers to questions such as: "What is a sustainable social environment in the midst of mass killers?" and "What does history tell us about prohibition?"

Clearly, our well-intended fiction of establishing "gun-free zones" is not sustainable. For rational burglars, the gun-free zones of banks and businesses represent easy pickings. For the mentally unhinged, these signs placed at public places such as schools factor into their last rational thought. They're not completely insane, you see. They're almost always rational enough to select a gun-free zone for their lasting stain on humanity.

And, how does the social science of human behavior school us on the use of contraband? Simply put, legally banned products are always available. If it were not the case, Prohibition would have succeeded and the "war on drugs" would have been won long ago.

We must face the immutable fact that guns will always be available, long after the strictest ban. The worst mass killing in world history recently took place in Norway, home of some of the most restrictive gun ownership laws in the world.

Self-defense is practically never permitted as a reason for gun ownership there, yet Anders Breivik was able to kill 77 people without difficulty. Why? Because, in Norway, no one he encountered that day was permitted the personal freedom of self-protection.


• • •

I recently took a gun course for a permit to carry. The instructor emphasized the fact that the last course of action you want to take is to USE your gun. Class members came away with a deep respect for the responsibility of owning a gun.

Contrast that with the video games, music and movies that glorify the mayhem and gore of violence and cruelty -- with a gun or whatever weapon is available. Fewer unarmed citizens is not what this country needs. What we need is a return to civility instead of becoming apathetic to atrocities thanks to the "entertainment" industry.


• • •

Guns are surely the weapon of choice; but what if we did manage to get rid of most of them? Where would the terrorists and mentally ill turn? Be careful what you ask for.

We talk of knives or swords being less lethal, but in countries where guns are ineffective due to lack of access or good protection for potential victims, it is bombs that become the destructor of choice. Those suicidal bombers seem to share attributes with the mass-murdering gunmen; they kill innocents, and then either the police kill them or they kill themselves.

I would like the gun violence to subside, but I am not sure I want to trade it in for bombs.


• • •

Is this not the opportunity for the NRA to take the lead and take one small action -- support for a ban on individual ownership of assault weapons? The NRA's public respect would rise immediately. It conceivably could produce a unanimous act by Congress and the president, maybe even before or just after Jan. 1. What a great testimony and unifying action that would be. The Connecticut victims would not have died in vain.


• • •

My son is about to graduate from college and has his heart set on being a teacher and coach. In addition to learning how to teach all styles of learners, and how to motivate, inspire and close the achievement gap, I now understand, according to the Gun Owners of America, that his job should include learning how to be a sharpshooter, in case he needs to defend his classroom. God help us if this is what we expect will protect our teachers and children.


• • •

Fledgling democracies all over the world are watching. How will the United States resolve the right to bear arms with the right to go to school and movies without fear? Our claim to be an effective role model will fall on deaf ears unless we act quickly to resolve this issue.


• • •

Is it possible that, in the mind of someone who is not centered on right and wrong, creating a reenactment of violence is all right? We continue to watch programs of extreme weapons usage, on TV, in movie houses or while playing electronic games. People being murdered is commonplace in front of us.

Isn't it time that each of us reexamine what we are watching and supporting with our dollars? Maybe the adage "what we see is what we get" is the catalyst for the horrific events we are seeing all too frequently.


* * *


The Washington Post's Ezra Klein has posted a correction to a commentary published on the Opinion Exchange cover Sunday ("Another shooting: Here's the context," Dec. 16). Regarding gun laws and gun violence in Israel and Switzerland, Klein says: "The info is out of date, if not completely wrong. Israel and Switzerland have tightened their gun laws substantially, and now pursue an entirely different approach than the United States." More information is available online: go here.