The scenario has become all too common in our country: You're sitting in your office, working on the forecast for the coming quarter, and then it happens. Loud explosions split the silence, and you hear a scream in the office that adjoins yours.
There is no mistaking the sound; you've heard it over and over at the shooting range. Fear launches you into the fight-or-flight mode. The danger is too great for an unarmed man, so getting the hell out of there is your only choice. You lunge through the door and run into the hallway, then enter the stairwell for the six flights to the street outside.
By time you alight on the pavement, you can already hear the din of sirens headed your way. Police swarm the building and more shots ring out. Five minutes later you hear one of the policemen announce, "The shooter's dead; he shot himself."
Ambulances are lined up on the street, and stretchers are being loaded for the trip to the hospital. You try to count the bleeding victims as they're shuttled away, but you get distracted by a hysterical brunette. It's Betty James, and she's crying unconsolably. There's a smear of blood across her blouse. Now your count is all messed up. You think it was 12, but it could have been more.
A disheveled man appears at the office buildings front entrance. It's your boss, and he has his head buried in his hands. There's are tears running down his face. He sees you, standing there at the curb. His voice cracks as he says it: "Bill, no more work today. Just go home." He offers no details, and you understand that this is no time to ask.
None of these mass shootings are exactly the same. Sometimes, it's a disgruntled ex-employee—maybe a loyal minion who believed the promotion should have been his. Sometimes, it's a customer who didn't like what your company did. And, more than once, it's been just another whacko who wants to go down in, what he sees as, a blaze of glory.
The scenarios are many, but mass shootings all share one essential: Any time there are multiple injuries and deaths in fast succession, it's because someone has a gun. It's not being used for hunting or sport, and it's yet another manifestation of a true, American epidemic—the perpetual, politically fueled misreading of what the Founding Fathers intended.
While it's true that gun ownership is a protected right in our country, George Washington and his fellow patriots were only familiar with muzzle-loading muskets. Those guns were capable, in the hands of an experienced soldier, of firing one single shot only a few times per minute. No one back then envisioned an age when Americans would have automatic weapons, capable of cyclic firing rates of over 500 shots per minute. Nor did they imagine magazines that could hold dozens—or even hundreds—of rounds.
Now, I realize that there are Americans—and Utahns—who somehow got confused, believing that whatever the Founding Fathers wrote would carry our republic through the centuries. These people cling tenaciously to a strict interpretation of the Constitution, despite how weapons have changed. The Second Amendment is still the standard for unrestricted gun ownership of both militias and private citizens. As a lifetime shooter, I can certainly sympathize with those who have a passion for guns. And yet, we can no longer tolerate the maiming and loss of life that occur every day in our country.
In the deadliest year our country has ever seen, there have been mass shootings daily—people with AK47s and assault rifles, each with enough ammo to have won a Civil War battle. Reasonable citizens are, for the lack of a better expression, "up in arms" over crimes that can only be accomplished because of the efficiency of modern weaponry. Today, a single shooter, is capable of bringing down thousands, and there seems to be no end in sight.
Among the most seriously deluded is Utah's own U.S. senator, Mike Lee, who sees his extreme views on gun accessibility as a way of getting free press—and holding on to the crazies in his base. His commitment is to keep gun rights as they were at our country's inception, and he doesn't seem to care that the polls show a majority of Utahns actually want to see more restrictive gun laws. Not only does he want guns to be generally available, but now he's pushing a bill to make silencers and noise suppressors more accessible.
Just think of the office building with the shooter. Silencers can mute a gunshot to sound more like a BB gun or a stapler. If the person in my story hadn't been alerted by the unmistakable reports of gunfire, he might have just sat in his office until the shooter got to him. Guns are lethal, so it makes perfect sense that we're immediately alerted to a shooting.
Mike Lee uses the excuse that silencers will save the hearing of shooters, and that restrictions on noise suppression equipment is just a back-door way of restricting guns in general. Get real, Mike! The standard shooting-range ear protectors work just fine.
It's time for Americans to be shouting, "Enough is enough." Gun-related violence can only be controlled by enacting and enforcing effective gun laws. It's time to tell Mike Lee that he's on the wrong side of the issue, and that his persistence can only help ensure a more dangerous America.
The author is a retired businessman, novelist, columnist and former Vietnam-era Army assistant public information officer. He resides in Riverton with his wife, Carol, and the beloved ashes of their mongrel dog.