When I was eight, I took the NRA safety and target training at a camp in Maine. Two years later, my parents gave me a Winchester .22 long rifle. We kids would peddle our bikes up to the dump after it closed on Saturday to “pop” rats. During deer season the high school boys brought their 30.06s to school and left them in the principal’s office so they could hunt right after school before sundown.
Today, our property is the only one in the neighborhood not “posted.” We have friends who hunt here and we welcome them. We have two old hunting guns in the house, and believe in hunting for food, sport, and to manage our wildlife populations.
But I draw the line at weapons that don’t remotely resemble hunting gear. No hunter I know would hunt wildlife with a machine that can fire a hundred rounds a minute. Nor can I imagine our much vaunted “founders” advocating for silencers, automatic weapons, or against trigger locks. They never envisaged the antipersonnel weaponry we’ve devised and protected under their still ambiguous second amendment.
Monday, I awoke to learn that more than fifty people had been killed and a rising toll were injured in the worst gun tragedy – among many – in recent U.S. history. We’ve since learned that a lone shooter managed to kill or injure a number equal to the population of the town I used to live in.
Our foreign exchange student asked me that morning if she’ll be safe here. And once again I’m getting emails from European friends asking, “What’s happening to your country.” Internationally, we’ve become an embarrassment to our increasingly skeptical nation-partners.
A seasoned national journalist visiting us this week, suggested wryly that perhaps we could manage this trend in gun-related violence by declaring a limited season on humans and regulating it, as we do with other species.
We’ve since learned that police discovered an arsenal of twenty-three weapons in the shooter’s room, including either banned but easily accessible automatic weapons - or semi’s that appeared to have been modified.
What’s next: grenade launchers perhaps – or maybe pocket nukes?
And please… enough with the “thoughts and prayers.”
We can’t predict or control all human behavior, but we can surely differentiate between hunting gear and the weapons of mass destruction that Stephen Paddock used in under fifteen minutes to kill or maim what’s nearing six-hundred people.