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Gun Control: Time to Do it Right


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On March 13, 1996, at the Dunblane Primary School near Stirling, Stirlingshire, Scotland, a lone gunman named Thomas Hamilton barged into a class of first and second graders, randomly murdered 16 innocent children, killed their teacher and then turned the gun on himself. Scotland and the world were horrified at the senseless act. Outrage is the normal reaction, but outrage, alone, doesn't fix the problem. Instead of sitting around like President Donald Trump and his collection of slime—all boosted to power by the greatest gun lobby in the world (NRA)—the U.K. decided that such a tragedy would never happen again. It hasn't.

One must ask the question, "Why?" and the answer is simple. Before the sadness of the Dunblane shootings had been relegated to follow-up human interest stories on page 11, public outrage spawned the Snowdrop Campaign—named for the flower that had bloomed in the schoolyard as the children and teacher lay dying. That movement was successful in forcing enactment of a new law. In 1997, Parliament banned all private ownership of handguns. There has never been another school shooting under the Union Jack, nor have mass shootings become the epidemic we have here. Except for the Cumbria, England, rampage of a lone, shotgun-toting gunman in 2010, which left 12 people dead and another 11 wounded, there have been no other mass murders in the U.K. involving firearms.

Now our country is reeling from not one, but two mass murders in less than a 24-hour period. Thirty-one people lost their lives and dozens more were maimed and will never be the same. In both tragedies, the gunmen used military-style assault rifles and high-capacity magazines. (No doubt, Trump could hardly contain his excitement when he heard the news. After all, he understood that such tragedies would hand him a bonus photo-op and a chance to display his remarkable oratory skills.) Like I, many Americans heard the president's words delivered in a somber-but-impressive monotone, and possessing a distinctly hollow quality. Many of those words were well-chosen by the best speech writers, but, because they were not the president's words, they failed to ring true. Frankly, I almost choked on his plastic sincerity.

All POTUS could do was make excuses about who was to blame. While his own hateful rhetoric has been cited by many as one of the factors that encouraged the murders, he could not quite get his brain around that reality, choosing instead to blame the media's fake news, mental health, the internet and the proliferation of violent video games. Sadly, the online "manifesto" of one of the shooters used the same language Trump has viciously spewed—especially his indictment of Hispanics as "invaders" of our country. Yes, Mr. President, you are the author of America's hate, and, since the buck stops at the White House door, it's time for you to take ownership.

Of course, Trump expressed his shallow sympathies and prayers for the dead and bereaved, and he was careful to include a politically correct chastisement for his white supremacist supporters. But his mention of gun control centered only on finding a way to prevent the detectably-angry-and-crazy-nut-cases from being able to purchase firearms. Included in his words was a lame attempt to create a bill that combines gun purchasing requirements with immigration reform. (Really!) He went a step further, parroting the trite expression of how "It is not guns that kill people. People kill people." Charlton Heston could not have presented a more touching apology, and I suppose that Trump's personal pistol will have to be pried from his cold fingers when the last quarter-pounder does its job. I watched Trump talk on network television, and could see his eyes darting back and forth while trying to make out the more difficult words on the teleprompter: "Heartfelt," "sympathy" and "gun reform" seemed to give him the most trouble.

This is clearly the moment for a real president, not an infantile jerk who prefers his Tonka Toys and military parades to any attempt at being presidential. While this occasion requires a man of strength, character and decisive action, Trump has avoided the most pressing issue. Emotions are high and Americans are calling on their legislators: "Do something."

It's time for Americans to ask the questions: Do we need to own assault rifles and magazines with enough firepower to leave an entire stadium dead? Should our citizens be allowed to buy easily-concealable automatic handguns with high capacity clips? We don't need, like Trump, to get stuck on the rationalization that it is people, not guns, who kill. The U.K. has shown us how it's done. Now it's our turn to finally get it right.

The author is a former Vietnam-era Army assistant public information officer. He resides in Riverton with his wife, Carol, and one mongrel dog. Send feedback to