Gun control issues continue to plague society

Amanda Cook-Fesperman, Letter To Editor

Dear Editor,
In the immediate aftermath of the Sandy Hook shooting, I, like many Americans, was outraged.  How could this kind of event happen in an elementary school?  What kind of monster shoots little children multiple times, insuring their death?
These questions and my anger also led me to look at one of the factors that made this and thousands of other senseless killings possible – the relatively unregulated firearms industry.
We have a problem with guns in this country.  We also have a problem with violence, mental illness, and a laundry list of other issues that affect our gun violence rates.
But we also have a gun problem.  That any person can purchase a gun on the internet, from a family member or friend, or at a gun show without a background check is evidence of this problem.  That the firearms industry manufactures and sells every year more guns than there are legal permits for shows we have a problem with guns.  That weapons designed for killing on the battlefield are readily available shows we have a problem with guns.  That people can legally purchase guns, not register them, and then not be held accountable when they are used in the killing of another person shows that we have a problem with guns.
Right after Sandy Hook took place, I wanted to have a conversation about guns, but I was literally shouted down by those who didn’t.  I heard the tired NRA arguments – “guns don’t kill people, people do”, “we don’t need more regulations on guns, we just need to enforce the laws we have”, and, “people can kill someone with a spork, but we don’t regulate sporks”.
After 21 innocent children were murdered in their classroom, and thousands of Americans continue to die, the Senate is set to vote on a gun bill that is doomed to fail.  They were supposed to have this vote yesterday, but it was delayed due to the bombings at the Boston Marathon, which brings me to the impetus for this article.
Like the Sandy Hook killings, I was outraged by the attacks that killed and maimed nearly 200 innocent men, women and children.  How could this kind of event happen at a marathon?  What kind of monster blows up innocent families?
Yes, in many ways, my reaction to the Boston Marathon bombings was the same as Sandy Hook.  However, as many of the same people who didn’t want to talk about guns after Sandy Hook have so self-righteously pointed out, my focus is not on the bomb itself, but the individual responsible for the bombings, and for this, they say, I am a hypocrite.
But I don’t think I am and here’s why.  You can’t buy a bomb meant to kill hundreds of people in a store, at a show or online.  The government tracks known bomb-making materials, such as fertilizer and investigates people who are buying unusual amounts.
We learned this lesson after the Oklahoma City bombings, and have thwarted many would-be terrorist attempts by doing so.  The suspicion that a person is believed to be possessing bomb making materials is enough for the police to get a warrant and search
that person’s home.  The government monitors Web sites that provide instructions on how to make bombs and investigates people who visit them frequently.
No, it isn’t possible for the government to track every device that can be used in making a bomb, and, sadly, sometimes the terrorists will find a way to carry out their heinous acts anyway.  But no one, not a single person, is standing up after the Boston bombings to protest the government’s anti-terrorist activities.
In fact, many of the same people who won’t support even universal background checks are blaming the government for not doing more.
So I ask you, which position is hypocritical?  The one that says we know that thousands of Americans will die as a result of gun violence every year, but we are going to block all attempts to try to prevent more deaths from occurring, but a single act of terrorism shows the government is not doing enough to crack down on would-be-terrorists, or the one that says the policies put in place after Oklahoma City should also be put in place when it comes to the terrorist activities perpetrated against 21 little children?  To me, the answer is obvious.
We need to have a conversation about violence in this country.
We need to have a conversation about mental health problems in this country.
We need to have a conversation about terrorism and how to keep our people safe.
But we also need to have a conversation about guns.
Amanda Cook-Fesperman
Political Science/History Professor