I don’t often use this space for anything approaching political heavy-lifting; there are plenty of columnists better qualified than I to write about those weighty topics. But after the recent massacres in Buffalo and Uvalde, I feel compelled to say something about our insane addiction to guns and the divisive issue of gun control. Here I go…

First, I don’t hate guns or gun owners. When I was a kid, I had a .22 that I used for target practice. I’ve shot skeet; sometimes I even shattered a clay. While I’m not a hunter, I recognize that many people like to hunt, whether to put meat on their tables or for trophies. That’s their regulated right and I accept it.

Second, with regard to the argument that the Second Amendment of the Constitution guarantees the right to own a gun, I find it beyond ludicrous that the framers of the Constitution ever envisioned that one day there would be a weapon like an assault rifle with a high-capacity magazine, let alone that it would be used to murder defenseless children or their teachers or people shopping in a super market. It was James Madison who proposed the Second Amendment in 1791, and the original text provided for a “well-regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.” That this worthy 18th Century ideal has devolved into an argument for a general right to own and/or use a personal arsenal of weapons worthy of 21st Century warfare is a shameful misinterpretation of the Second Amendment’s original intent, one primarily perpetuated by National Rifle Association and its minions in the gun lobby.

Third, thoughts and prayers are a useless defense against the twisted psychology that sends someone into a school or a supermarket to commit mayhem. Making a school safer by arming its teachers or providing police protection at its entrance is a step too late. Universal background checks and more effective screening of individuals who want to purchase a gun are steps in a better direction. So is providing better mental health services to individuals with a record of unstable behavior although there are no guarantees that these services could ever foresee or prevent deadly aberrational intent. Closing loopholes in the few gun laws that do currently exist sounds about as effective as the little Dutch boy who stuck his finger in the dike.

We need strict laws that effectively regulate gun sales. We need universal background checks. We need a ban on the sale of assault weapons and tactical armor to individuals. Our police and military might require such offensive firepower or bodily protection, but you and I don’t. No other country in the world suffers so much senseless gun-related tragedy as we do and if we do nothing to stop it, it will only get worse. How long do you think it will be until the next mass shooting?

Our elected officials have failed us. Gun control needs to be a bi-partisan issue, not a red/blue, across-the-aisle shouting match. Commonsense legislation would not abrogate anyone’s right to own a gun. Rather, background checks and a ban on the sale of assault weapons would help heal a nation that is fighting for its soul and crying out for an end to this terrible national nightmare. 

Let’s begin again. President Biden said it best: “Turn this pain into action!”

I’ll be right back.

Jamie Kirkpatrick is a writer and photographer who lives in Chestertown. His work has appeared in the Washington Post, the Baltimore Sun, the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the Washington College Alumni Magazine, and American Cowboy Magazine.

Two collections of his essays (“Musing Right Along” and “I’ll Be Right Back”) are available on Amazon.

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