What I do understand is words, reasoning, and legislation. I am not going to argue with the 2nd Amendment of the US constitution that says I have the right to bear arms--the right is there, enshrined in the Bill of Rights for hundreds of years, and repeatedly supported by US Supreme Court decisions. It's there to stay, at least for the foreseeable future.
What the 2nd Amendment does not say is that I have the right to fatally wound dozens of people (including children) on a psychotic whim.
Off the top of my head, I can recall at least 6 other mass shootings committed by people who were mentally unstable with access to legally purchased weaponry: Columbine, Virginia Tech, the DC Sniper, the shooting of Rep. Gifford, the Colorado movie theatre shooting, and this one in Newtown. I don't even want to do the total on the number of victims in all of these; if it's more than 1 (and it is), it's too many.
The price for the right to bear arms as it exists in practice in our daily lives is TOO HIGH: I am not willing to trade the life of a child (or any human being, for that matter) for my right to shoot at a hypothetical future intruder or attacker.
Because that's what this is, a trade. For every gun that's legally purchased and in the public sphere for no other reason than just because it can be is a trade of one or more innocent lives against the chance to shoot a hypothetical future intruder or attacker in an effort to save myself. I would not trade my own life for a beloved neighbor or friend or relative to have that right, so why should any gun owner feel at liberty (I choose that word intentionally) to trade the lives of twenty children for that right?
Maybe that makes me a dirty hippie, tree-hugging liberal. (Liberal? Guilty. Tree-hugger? Guilty! Dirty? Not guilty!) Maybe that makes me economical--what was the earning potential and social contribution that those 20 children and 6 adult victims could have made to our society? Maybe that makes me risk averse--I'm betting that the odds of me getting attacked are much lower than me not getting attacked. Maybe that makes me human. Maybe that makes me cheap on "liberty" or "freedom" that I'm not willing to sacrifice lives for a constitutionally-mandated right--would I not sacrifice lives for the right to freedom of speech? (I would.)
It definitely does not make me un-American--how much more American is it than to want to prevent the unnecessary and senseless deaths of the most vulnerable among us? Or even the least vulnerable--hell, I don't want anyone shot!! How much freer can we be than to live without fear of such senseless and wasteful death and sadness?
The assault rifle and handguns that were used on Friday were not meant for hunting--at least, not for hunting animals. I won't get into what I think about hunting (though it's probably not what you'd expect). This is about basic safety and sanity--that is, the sanity and reason among those of us who are fully mentally capable and in charge of shaping legislation and regulating, manufacturing, selling, and distributing guns.
There are people in my life that I love, that are part of my family either by blood or experience, for whom I would literally trade my life to protect their right to speak freely and live without fear of retribution for who they are or what they believe, people who I know to be absolutely, unquestionably responsible enough, smart enough, mentally stable enough, trained enough, and valuing of human life enough to entrust with gun ownership. These are not the people I am worried about having their access to guns coincide with their access to suburban strip malls and elementary schools.
Regardless, I am not willing to trade the life of any innocent person for these responsible and sane people who I love and trust's right to own a gun as easily as they can now.
"Firearms regulation" does not mean "firearms ban." It does, admittedly and, in my opinion, rightly, mean making it very difficult for everyone and impossible for the people who should not have access to get access.
POTUS has taken flack for not using strong enough words in his statement on Friday. But I think he was putting everyone on notice: "meaningful action... regardless of the politics" means the human lobby is stronger than the gun lobby, and things are about to change.
To close (because, aptly, I have to get back to writing a paper about post-conflict security...), here is the email I sent my parents after I learned of the shooting on Friday:
I have my Econ final in a few hours and have been pretty calm about it ever since I had that freak out a few weeks ago. I'm definitely not going to do well on the test,* but, more importantly, I understand the general concepts from the semester and, frankly, at the end of the day, it's just really not that big a deal. I've been saying that to people all week--just calm down, at the end of your life, you're not going to look back and be like, if only I'd gotten a B+ instead of a C+ on the microeconomics final.
I've been working calmly all morning just preparing my cheat sheet and working through practice problems. Some time between when I last listened to NPR this morning while getting ready for school and about an hour ago, some maniac went into a school an hour's drive from NYC and shot and killed at least 27 people, including 18 children. Literally, while people around me spent those hours freaking out about some relatively inconsequential grade on a relatively inconsequential test, children in a place we could drive to within an hour were having their opportunity to flake out on studying or do badly on a test taken away from them forever.
Thanks, mom and dad, for raising me to (sometimes) remember to keep things in perspective and for being the ones to remind me of this when I'm being ridiculous and freaking out about stuff that in the long run just isn't that big a deal.
So, can we talk?
* In case you're wondering, I think it actually went pretty well, much to my relief and surprise. Even more reason to not freak out about things that just aren't that big a deal... sometimes they turn out to be just fine.